Too many people judge success by the day — which isn’t realistic, and here’s why.

They set a really big goal, usually something that combines the proficiency of multiple skill sets, each of which would take years to master. That goal is then tied to some sort of hope relating to external validation: “When I achieve this, then everyone will respect me!” And finally, to top it all off, they vow to themselves to work relentlessly toward said goal, all without first examining their daily and questioning where in their busy schedule they are actually going to put pen to pad, brush to easel, nose to the grindstone and do the work required.

In short: they have failed before they’ve even begun.

Chances are, you are one of those people.

That’s because everyone on earth is “one of those people.” We all, no matter how goal oriented we proclaim ourselves to be, have a knack for expecting things of ourselves that are unrealistic.

The dream chasers take a statement like that and say, “You can’t stop me!” But even they fail to realize that their own success is not the result of brute force. Succeeding over the long term has far more to do with stepping back and subtracting distractions, rather than voraciously pushing forward. The latter is how you burn out.

All of that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are the real reasons people give up on their goals far too early:

1. They want the outcome more than they want to obtain a skill.

How many people do you know that speak often of something prestigious they want to be, and yet never actually take the necessary steps in order to become that very thing?

A lot.

Human beings love to fall in love with the idea of something grand. We love the thought of being a famous tech entrepreneur, far more than we love sitting in a dark room for years on end learning how to code. And what happens when that first road block is reached? Failure is assumed and the whole path is given up entirely. Because knowledge and mastery over a skill wasn’t the driving force — the shiny reward at the end was.

2. They care too much about what people think (and fear judgment in failure).


It’s what people do to avoid the fear of rejection. You see, by sabotaging yourself, you can see the failure coming ahead of time. You can prepare for it. You can make up a whole story about how it wasn’t your fault. And all of that is much safer than putting it all on the line and giving the world a front row seat.

People give up because they fear what other people will think if they fail.

3. They mistake failure for lessons learned.

The best goal-setters know that failure is nothing more than a lesson in disguise.

In fact, a quote I live by is, “Never mistakes, always lessons, forever masters.” This is the motto for the path of true mastery.

Those that give up on their goals, however, treat failure as a label. “I’ve failed,” they repeat to themselves over and over, entirely missing the opportunity right in front of their eyes.

It’s only a failure if you see it that way. To everyone else succeeding, it’s nothing more than a hard-earned lesson.

4. They would rather throw in the towel than pivot.

Find me one company that knew exactly what it was going to be in every way, shape, and form from the onset.

It doesn’t exist.

That’s because companies, brands, ideas, and visions are not stationary ships. They are not constructed at a table in advance and then brought to life in exact form. They evolve over time, they grow, they gather feedback and adjust.

People who give up on their goals stay entirely too attached to what their vision was at the onset, unwilling to compromise with the new information their journey has provided. They would rather chalk it all up as a failed venture than take what they’ve learned along the way, apply it, and allow their idea to change shape.

In short: they can’t let go of their original expectation.

5. They do not have the discipline to stick with their idea long enough to see it live.

Everybody wants to be “the idea guy” (or girl).

Everybody wants to walk into the room, listen for five minutes, shout out a crazy thought, and then drop the mic and leave. Very few people want to get in the weeds and bring that idea to life.

The reason is because being in the weeds is hard work. You have to get your hands dirty. You have to really, really know your stuff. You have to embrace the unknown every single day, and push forward regardless of what challenges arise.

Most of the time, people give up on their goals simply because they lack discipline. They can’t get themselves to see something through to the end, regardless of how small the project. They haven’t yet cultivated the habits required to work not just on the days they feel inspired, but the days they feel uninspired as well.

6. They get distracted by what someone else is doing.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for wanting to build the company someone else is building successfully.

In an analogy, people give up eating what’s on their plate because they want what they see on someone else’s. Especially when what you’re looking at appears to be an easier-to-execute business model (which it rarely, if ever, is), it can be so easy to be distracted.

What this leads to is a lack of patience, which encourages a lack of discipline, which only speeds up the process of your giving up.

7. They don’t believe in themselves enough.

And of course, the most overused but brutally true cliché known to man: the fastest route to abandoning your goals is a lack of self belief.

Mindset is everything, and without an iron clad and positive frame of mind, you will fail. That’s just the cold hard truth of it all. No matter how talented you are, no matter how many opportunities are handed to you on a silver platter, if you lack belief in yourself you will find a way to squander it all.

On the flip-side, those with a finely tuned mindset prepared to endure can and will see an idea through to its success. An average person with average skill sets but a persistent mind can make it past the finish line. A talented individual with no self belief cannot.

If any of the above resonate with you, I highly suggest you question how you can begin forming positive habits to shift its direction.

Success is yours for the taking.

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.

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