11 ways you’re sabotaging your own success without realizing it

What do you want most in the world?

We all have different answers to that question. In fact, our different answers to that question are part of what makes us unique individuals.

For some, it’s a nice house, a great car, or lots of foreign travel. For others, it’s a loving family. And for others, it’s a fulfilling life of creative artistic work.

But although we all have different goals, the path to get there can often be very similar. And when it comes to success – whatever that means for you – you may be your own worst enemy.

Here are some ways you are sabotaging your own success without even realizing it.

1) Not developing strong boundaries

This is an often-overlooked component of success, but it’s one worth talking about.

Ever heard the expression, good fences make good neighbors? Well, it turns out that boundaries are important for more than just your backyard.

Boundaries are the nonnegotiable rules we established that tell the people around us how to treat us. Boundaries determine the behavior we do not find acceptable and will not tolerate.

And having good boundaries is important for success.

Here’s why:

As career coach Kathy Caprino writes, not having strong boundaries can mean we put up with disrespectful, rude, or even abusive behavior. And over time, that can start to negatively affect your self-esteem as well as your career performance.

Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to say no. And having a good understanding of what you will and won’t tolerate from other people is a key stepping stone to success.

2) Dreaming too small

We like to tell kids that they can be anything they want to be, but secretly, we all know that isn’t true. For example, I’m never going to play in the NBA, even if I wanted it really badly.

With that said, it’s important to make sure you’re not dreaming too small and settling for less.

If you’re happy having a regular job that pays the bills, good for you. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and you’re lucky to have found what makes you happy.

But if you want more, don’t be afraid to go and get it. It’s important to keep your dreams achievable, but at the same time, it’s people who dream big who change the world.

Don’t let your doubts and fears cause you to dream small and miss out on what could be a beautiful life.

3) Waiting for permission

Pursuing any goal can be scary. And the more ambitious the goal, the greater the fear that comes with it.

So it’s no wonder that sometimes, we don’t feel like the right person to do what we dream of doing. Or we wait for other people to tell us how to get what we want and give us permission to pursue our goals.

But this is your life, and not anybody else’s. You don’t need anyone’s permission to chase what you want.

And sometimes, waiting can cost you everything. A dream delayed is often a dream denied, so don’t wait too long when it comes to pursuing what you want.

4) Being in too much of a hurry

At the same time, you can be in too much of a hurry to get what you want.

I always wanted to be a writer. And I started young. I was eight years old when I entered my first writing contest, and although I didn’t win, I did pretty well.

So by the time I was 20, working an unfulfilling job in a warehouse, it already felt like I had been chasing my dream forever. It also felt as though I would never achieve it because I hadn’t already.

The media loves a story about a young success. Kylie Jenner was worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the age of 25. Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar at 22.

Unfortunately, all this focus on youth can give us a distorted perception of what it takes to be successful.

Because most of the time, what it takes to be successful is a ton of hard work. And that’s an effort you’ll need to maintain over the long term instead of in a short burst.

Don’t compare your success to others, and don’t be in too much of a hurry. We are all running our own race, and it doesn’t matter when you get where you want to be. It just matters that you make it in the end.

5) Being indecisive

red flags youre not living up to your full potential 11 ways you’re sabotaging your own success without realizing it

I have some talented friends. Some are successful in their chosen fields, and some are not.

But one thing I’ve noticed about those who tend to succeed is that they have no problem making decisions.

The thing is, not making a decision can often be worse than any decision you might make. By not deciding, you allow your energy to be dispersed over multiple different projects. 

Soon, self-doubt starts to creep in, and success becomes even more difficult when you no longer believe in yourself.

Think carefully about what you want out of life. But then, decide. Because if you don’t, the world will decide for you how you end up living. And that’s almost never the way you want to live.

6) Trying to do it all yourself

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this one.

Often, it’s the most independent people who are most ready to follow their dreams. At the same time, no one gets to the top by themselves.

Personal and professional relationships are often critical to anything you want to achieve. As career expert Amanda Augustine writes, the most connected people are often the most successful. 

A strong professional network can provide you with guidance, advice, and opportunities you might not get any other way.

And it’s not just your professional network you need to develop. Emotional support from the people you love is just as important. So don’t forget to maintain your relationships on your way to success.

7) Following other people

Mentorship can be a powerful way to achieve great things. But remember that this is your journey, and there’s only so much somebody else can teach you – even if they have been there before.

The thing is, unusual success requires unusual thinking. And following what others have done will only get you what they have – or often less.

8) Chasing too many things at once

Sometimes, a single dream may seem too small.

Perhaps you are one of those lucky people who is talented in multiple fields. You may be a natural athlete with a gift for sports but also have a creative side that you express through writing, painting, music, or some other artistic endeavor.

But think about it: have you ever heard of a professional athlete who is also a gifted poet? Or a talented actor who was also a leading physicist?

Multitalented people do exist. But often, they become successful and even famous in one particular field and then explore their other interests. After all, Bob Dylan might be a painter, but nobody would care if he hadn’t been a musician first.

9) Not appreciating incremental improvements

It’s a long road to success. When you have your eyes on the prize, it’s easy to forget to focus on the journey.

But that’s how lots of people get discouraged from following their dreams.

Even if you haven’t achieved the success you want yet, it’s important to pay attention to the incremental improvement you make along the way.

Maybe your skills are getting better. Maybe your business is growing.

Whatever it is, take pride in even a little bit of progress. Because great success is built out of hundreds of small steps toward a singular goal.

10) Procrastinating

When faced with something difficult, many people procrastinate. They put off acting, telling themselves that they will do it later.

As counselor Itamar Shatz points out, many procrastinators don’t want to procrastinate but struggle with issues like exhaustion and fear.

The thing is, none of us know how much time we have on this earth. And sooner or later, we run out of laters.

Often, when we wait too long, the opportunities we were waiting for slip away from us.

11) Being a perfectionist

Finally, don’t get too hung up on everything being perfect.

I’ve been lucky enough to achieve some of my biggest dreams in my lifetime. And it’s taught me that often, your dreams look very different up close than they did from a long way away.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth chasing.

But it does mean you need to be flexible. 

Once you reach the top of the mountain, it might not be everything you thought it would be. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a beautiful journey getting there.

Picture of Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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