There are many things you can do to create a better life for yourself — habits to implement, thought-patterns to adopt, and systems to create — but there are even more things that can derail your path towards life-improvement.
These pitfalls are often quite subtle and can even get the most motivated and ambitious people. Make these mistakes for too long, and it can push you toward mediocrity — despite your good intentions.
I’ve been there myself…
Therefore, I’ll uncover eight of the most common mistakes that lead to a mediocre life, so that you can prevent from falling into these traps.
Mistake #1: Letting Others Dictate How To Live Your Life
According to Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, one of the biggest regrets of people on their deathbed is:
‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.’
Many highly motivated and ambitious people fall into mediocrity because they let themselves become a victim of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, which is the tendency for the crowd (friends, family, society) to cut down those who strive for more success in the same way that the tallest poppies get cut in a field so that they’re all even.
If you have certain ambitions, goals, and passions, pursue them regardless of what other people think. Take control of your own life. Even though it may feel like it, no one can dictate how you should live your life — only if you allow them to.
Life is too short to live it according to other people’s standards and requests, so go out and live life on your terms. I’m not saying it’s easy, but you don’t want to end up with the same regrets that most other people do.
Mistake #2: Giving Up At The First Signs Of Resistance
I’ve seen it many times. Someone starts something ambitious and gives up at the first sign of resistance. If their idea doesn’t immediately work out as expected, they throw in the towel and claim that ‘it doesn’t work.’ They touched the potential of an extraordinary life but, unfortunately, slipped back into mediocrity.
Inherent to chasing an ambitious endeavor is that you will fail at least once and encounter many obstacles along the way. This is part of pursuing something ambitious.
Remember, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be ambitious. So you should expect to fail. You should expect to encounter resistance. Not only expect it but embrace it.
Every failure or obstacle forms an opportunity for exponential personal or professional growth. They contain valuable lessons that you wouldn’t have gained otherwise. This, in turn, makes you a better-equipped person, capable of achieving success in any endeavor.
Failures and obstacles are an essential part of the process, and giving up at the first signs of resistance means that you don’t respect the process. Remember, it is because of the failures that you eventually succeed, not despite them.
Mistake #3: Letting Fear Control Your Decisions
You want to start that business, but let the fear of failure take over. You want to make that vulnerable post on Instagram, but let the fear of ridicule and rejection take over. You want to write a book, but let the fear of ‘what if it’s not good enough?’ take over.
Fear causes many people to stay in mediocrity. It can kill the enthusiasm of an idea within seconds. But, as John Major said in his song The Heart of Life, ‘fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.’
What if fear is actually excitement dressed up in a different outfit than we’re used to?
One of my daily affirmations is that ‘fear is a compass for action.’ This is because, often, the most meaningful things in life come with a certain degree of fear.
When I’m doing public speaking, I experience a degree of fear. When I’m a guest on a podcast, I experience a degree of fear. When I launch a new product, I experience a degree of fear.
But I don’t let these fears stop me anymore. Nowadays, I use fear as a compass for action, which has lead to the most meaningful results and most memorable experiences in my life.
Remember, experiencing fear is normal. We all experience fear at some points. In most cases, fear is actually an indicator of excitement. A sign that you value something — that something is important to you.
Fear is an indicator that you’ve got an opportunity to do something meaningful and memorable. So, despite the fears, go out and do it. That’s real courage.
Mistake #4: Letting Distractions Derail Your Focus
Letting distractions derail your focus is a common pitfall that leads to mediocrity — whether we’re talking about macro-distractions in the form of other ideas & opportunities or micro-distractions in the form of mindlessly checking social media.
When you regularly let yourself get distracted, you can’t get any meaningful work done. At least not in a time-efficient way. Your productivity is negatively impacted, and your productivity has a direct correlation with your level of success.
Micro-distractions are the most common form of distractions. It’s when you’re supposed to work on something important — write an article, formulate a strategy or read a research paper — but you let email notifications, social media, news websites, and instant messages hijack your focus.
Before you know it, you get sucked into a vortex of distractions and waste hours of valuable time that could’ve been spent productively.
Then, there are macro-distractions. These distractions are less obvious and can pull you into mediocrity without even realizing it. It’s when other opportunities — projects, business ideas, strategies — seem more appealing than the current one. It leads you to drop whatever you’re doing to pursue the next thing.
It’s the entrepreneur who hops from business to business, never building anything substantial. It’s the writer who gets distracted by creating other forms of content instead, simply because it’s the trend. It’s the ‘shiny object syndrome’ that leads to the false belief that the next project, strategy, or tactic will be more rewarding.
Because of macro-distractions, you’ll hardly build anything meaningful. You’ll struggle with finishing projects and following through with goals, simply because other opportunities seem more appealing to you — again and again.
Distractions cause you to take ten steps in a million directions instead of 10,000 steps into one clear direction. Instead of going deep — which is what mastery in any area requires — it tempts you into going shallow and broad.
Mistake #5: Trying To Do It All
Paradoxically, ‘trying to do it all’ is something that sabotages your potential success and sucks you into mediocrity. Most people assume that to be successful, they need to ‘do it all.’ This is far from the truth.
If you look at highly successful people, you’ll be surprised how most of them relentlessly focus on just a handful of skills and tasks — while outsourcing or eliminating the rest.
First of all, they realize that focusing on just one or two skills is essential to attain mastery, which is a catalyst for success.
Second of all, they understand that ‘trying to do it all’ takes valuable resources — time, energy, attention — away from the few things that truly matter.
Instead of trying to do it all, the most successful people utilize the 80/20 rule, which states that only 20% of input — tasks, skills, projects — lead to 80% of results. The remaining 80% of input only contributes to 20% of the results.
Where most people waste their time away on the 80% of tasks, skills, and projects that only lead to 20% of results, the most effective performers focus relentlessly on the 20% of input that leads to 80% of results.
For Warren Buffett, his 20% is researching potential new investments. For Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s practicing his finishing ability. For Adele, it’s writing new songs and practicing her vocal skills. For Will Smith, it’s perfecting his acting and entertainment skills.
All in all, stop trying to do it all. It only spreads your valuable resources too thin, causing none of your projects to turn into real success stories. Furthermore, it limits you from attaining mastery in the few vital skills that truly matter in your endeavor. Instead, identify the few essential things and focus relentlessly on it.
Mistake #6: Staying Stuck As The Hero In Your Mind Instead Of Making It A Reality
One of the biggest pitfalls that almost pulled me into mediocrity was the fact that I was a ‘knowledge junkie’ without taking any action upon the knowledge I gained.
While I was reading hundreds of self-development books and following dozens of courses that gained me valuable lessons on life & business, I hardly took any real action upon it. Consuming self-development content became a goal of itself instead of serving as a means to an end.
Because of all the personal growth, I became the hero in my mind. I dreamed and visualized about how successful I would become. But in reality, I wasn’t executing on my dreams as I should.
I was stuck in a loop of fantasizing about my future success, without being willing to take daily action towards it.
I was stuck being the hero in my mind, and it was only after I decided to become an ‘action junkie’ instead of ‘knowledge junkie’ that I started to see real and meaningful results in my life.
Unfortunately, the pitfall of being the hero in your mind is all-too-common…
How many times did you see hear the ‘entrepreneur’ talk about starting their business instead of seeing them build their business?
How many times did you hear the wannabe writer talk about writing a book instead of seeing them write the book?
By keeping the fantasy alive, you might gain pleasure, but it’s a false pleasure. A misleading feeling that only pulls you into mediocrity. Go out an execute. And do it in silence. Let your creation do the talking.
Mistake #7: Allowing Yourself To ‘Do It Later’
Procrastination is one of the most common pitfalls that lead to mediocrity. It’s when you have certain goals or ideas but postpone taking action on it.
We tell ourselves ‘I’ll do it later,’ but later turns into ‘never’ more than we’d like to admit. In reality, it’s the action takers who get ahead in life, not the ones who allow themselves to ‘do it later.’
“I think if there’s one rule to success, it’s doing what you goddamn say you’re going to do.” — Nir Eyal (author of Indistractable)
Those who have an idea and immediately execute on it can validate it quickly, while those who do it later stay stuck fantasizing about it.
Those who have goals and consistently take action upon it make the fastest and most meaningful progress, and have the best odds of succeeding — the ones who ‘do it tomorrow’ make slow and frustrating progress.
As humans, we aren’t perfect. We’re simply going to procrastinate every now and then. But if you do so, procrastinate on the lesser important stuff. Never procrastinate on the most important tasks or projects.
Mistake #8: Starting Your Day Reactively Instead of Proactively
One of the reasons why many people underperform is because they start the majority of their days by underperforming:
- They start it reactively by checking their phone or social media, immediately being influenced by the thoughts and agenda of other people
- They start it hurried and stressed instead of calm and focused
- They start it by eating an unhealthy breakfast that causes them to feel sluggish and tired
- They feed their mind distractive and mindless entertainment instead of high-quality information that sparks new ideas and motivation
You might have goals and ambitions, but if you start the day unmotivated, unproductive and reactive to distractions and other people’s requests, you’ll have an incredibly hard time turning the rest of the day into a productive success.
That’s why it’s critical to start your day proactively focused on your goals, personal development, and priorities by following a morning routine.
I clearly notice how my most frustrating and unproductive days are the ones where I didn’t follow my morning routine. On the other hand, on the days that I do follow my morning routine, I’m a lot more productive, my writing is of higher quality, my mood is much better, and I have more long-lasting energy throughout the rest of the day.
To consistently generate focused, productive and successful days, start the day by priming your mind for a productive and successful day through habits like meditation, journaling, reading, goal-setting, prioritizing, affirmations or visualization.
Furthermore, start the day by priming your body through exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, drinking enough water, doing Wim Hof breathing, or taking a cold shower. Generate the energy you need to perform at peak levels throughout the rest of your day.
Starting the day by priming your mind and body is the most reliable tool for consistent peak performance, which is precisely why nearly all top performers have an empowering morning routine.
Now Do It
Remember, change only comes from taking action, not just from knowing about it. Therefore, I encourage you to truthfully reflect on which of these mistakes you recognize in your own life — and make the decision to solve it.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab