The Single Biggest Barrier to Success

I’ve been a student of self improvement for nearly twenty years. I’ve read a library full of books on success. I’ve absorbed a ton of information on what it takes to be successful.

Yet here I sit at forty-one years old fairly mediocre. I’ve only sometimes achieved what I’d call success. And then only very modest success at that.

I’m a pretty smart guy. I already know what I need to do to succeed. Yet I routinely fail to do what I know I should do, what I know I could do if I just would do it.

Over the past couple months I have become acutely aware of the fact that even though it feel like something is holding me back from doing the things I know I need to do, in reality I am my own worst enemy. I am my problem. I just couldn’t figure out why I was so thoroughly and effectively sabotaging my own success.

Until last night.

Ah-Ha Moment

Last night I read something in yet another self improvement book, The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life, on page 28, that was like a light bulb going off in my brain. For me it was one of those powerful “Ah, ha!” moments that comes along and can change the course of your life.

I’d figured out the first half of the equation on my own, even before reading those powerful words last night.

Easy To Do

I already knew that the deep down, core truth is this: everything that we need to do to become successful is relatively easy to do. And, for the most part they aren’t secrets either.

Do you want to lose weight and be healthier?

We all know that the surest way to lose weight is to eat smaller portions and increase physical activity by exercising regularly. And eating healthier foods will make our bodies healthier. These are all relatively easy things for most all of us to do. It’s just going to take a little time.

Do you want to improve your financial situation?

The basic steps involve reducing expenditures, paying off debt, increasing savings, investments and ultimately increasing income. While there are a number of strategies for accomplishing this, it really isn’t rocket science. But even following a good plan financial success isn’t going to happen overnight.

The way to succeed at most anything we want to achieve has already been mapped out by someone. Someone out there has done it and left a record for us to follow.

Often we find that road map with the things we need to do to achieve our desired goals laid out in easy to follow step by step fashion. We know how to follow directions, especially when the individual steps are so easy.

And yet in the overwhelming majority of the time we fail to follow the steps laid out for us and the weight doesn’t come off, the debt mounts and the years flow by while we plod along in the very mediocrity that sucks the life out of our spirits.

It’s like there is a huge mountain barrier that keeps us from following the steps so clearly laid out for us.

The mountain of a barrier blocking our success.

The mountain of a barrier blocking our success.

Easy Not To Do

Last night I discovered the reason I don’t do those things that I already know I could, should, and really need to do to become successful is because, not only are they easy to do, but they are easy not to do.

What do I mean?

Success and failure are both made up of the sum of thousands of tiny decisions, do this thing or don’t do this thing, that when compounded over time lead in one direction or the other. But each individual decision taken by itself is small enough that it won’t make or break you.

Just as it is fairly easy to choose to eat smaller portions, it’s easy to choose not to as well. I mean really, it’s not like you eat one fast food meal or skip one work out and you’ll have a near fatal heart attack that same day.

Truth is, if we don’t make that deposit in savings from this paycheck we won’t end up in bankruptcy court tomorrow.

Because the consequences of any one decision are incredibly small it is very easy to loose sight of the fact that they string together into a series of decisions, most of which we make out of habit, that march us down an unwavering path.

It is just as easy to choose not to do the things we know will lead to success as it is to choose to do them. We won’t see the effects of either choice until some time later down the road. Whether you eat a healthy meal or nothing but junk food today, you probably won’t see a difference in your weight today. Both meals are easy to choose.

Charge that next purchase or make one extra principle payment won’t have a dramatic influence on your portfolio either way today.

Because doing the right thing and not doing the right thing are both easy choices to make, all too often we find ourselves choosing poorly because it is just as easy & feels a little more comfortable. Well it’s more comfortable today anyway.

Eventually we’ll see the cumulative results of our daily choices. What we may not realize is that those results were inevitable because they naturally resulted from all those little, easy, choices we made along the way.

How To Make Better Choices

So then the key getting choosing to do those things that we know we should be doing is to put each and every decision, every little choice, into the larger context of where it will take us. We’ve got change our habits.

Instead of making the easy choices to not do those things we know we should, we’ll start making the equally easy choices to do those things.

To help keep this new insight in front of me I’m printing out a sign and posting it on my desk right in my face. Here is what it says:

Easy to do… Easy not to do…
You Decide!

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