8 Life Mistakes You Can’t Afford To Make

Several years ago I made a list of mistakes that I identified through personal experience and professional observation that we can’t afford to make. I recently found that list. I realized that as a result of time passing and seasons changing, it needed an update. My intention in sharing my mistakes is to make your journey easier. So here they are:

Mistake #1 – Not loving what you do. 

Many people find themselves in a career they think they “should” be in rather than one they “want” to be in. When individuals are experiencing a supreme case of being stuck, it’s most often because they aren’t following their heart’s desire and inner ambition. When you don’t follow your passion, your creative self won’t assist in making your career or life successful because you’re going against what you really want. Not only will you wind up frustrated by limiting your career and financial potential, additionally your relationships and personal well-being will suffer. If your work is costing you mentally, physically, or emotionally, or if you find yourself saying, “I can’t do this anymore,” it’s time to find the work you love and pursue it.

Remedy: Commit to designing a future that rewards you in all ways. It is 100% possible to get paid to do what you love—and be wildly successful! 

Mistake #2  — Living in a constant battle with time. 

Far too many of us spend the majority of our days attempting to get everything we think we need done. The mistake we make is being run by an illusion that we can get it all done and when we do we will feel in control of our life — an absolute impossibility. It only gets more stressful the more we try to manage our time with the goal of feeling that we will be enough when we do or that then we will be in control.

Remedy: You can get out of this struggle and any associated anxiety by simply accepting instead of resisting the truth: you will never get it all done and you are not supposed to. Your question is “what things do I want to get done and what things do I want to drop?” Our challenge isn’t about managing getting everything done nor getting everything done that others want —-that’s never going to happen —- but instead to decide what not to do and feel at peace about not doing it. When you surrender your battle with time, you will find it does not make you feel defeated — it actually calms you down. There is a relief of surrendering to ‘I can’t do it all,’  because then you’re not holding yourself to an impossible standard. 

Mistake #3 – Prioritizing what’s most important to you. 

Many go through life never getting clear on how they will measure a successful life or what is really important to them. If they do know, too often their days don’t reflect it. Research confirms that left-brain achievers delay gratitude consistently resulting in high levels of dissatisfaction and burnout.

Remedy: Get clear on what is important to you in this particular season of your life — not what was important five years ago, one year ago or even three months ago. The seasons of life continually change and knowing what is important to you right now is vital to living a life that you will one day look back on as a success. Schedule time to assess what is most important to you and whether or not you are prioritizing what it is you say is most valuable. When you know what’s important to you, you know what to say ‘no’ to.

Mistake #4: – Not practicing the 80:20 rule. 

Most of us know if we spend 20% of our time on our most important work, we’ll get 80% of our results. Yet, many fall prey to not doing this. How often do you find yourself invested in trying to accomplish everything and be everywhere that we say work and life “requires”? 

Remedy: Knowing your high-value or most important work (MIW) is your first step. To do this, make a list of your greatest successes last year. Jot down what attributed to each. Then identify the 2-3 activities that were repeatedly responsible for your greatest successes. These are your vital few — the 20% responsible for 80% of your success. This is your system but you must possess the boldness to follow through. Boldness is the willingness to follow through on your priorities and use your systems, regardless of what chaos, interruptions, or distractions you encounter during your day. Leverage the first two hours of your day to do your top 20% high-value work. You’ll enjoy the feeling of achieving 80% of your results—without getting burned out!

Mistake #5 – Waiting until you’re confident to take the next step. 

Confidence is overrated. What I’ve witnessed is that every rung of the corporate ladder and every age group is filled with individuals who (when they get honest with themselves) wish they were more confident and less afraid. I’ve often wondered how much more civilized our society would be if we truly understood that everyone is dealing with fear on some level. The difference between those who truly thrive and those who merely survive is that the successful ones don’t use fear to make their decisions and they don’t wait to get confident. 

Remedy: Leap before you think you’re ready. Sign up for a project you may think is over your head. Make a call to someone who you think is outside of your league. The reality is you may not be entirely ready for your next move. Stop thinking you’ll ever be ready the first time out. Consciously decide to make your decisions from your inspiration rather than your fear. Then take small bite-size actions daily. Confidence arrives while doing, not while preparing!  

Mistake #6 – Not investing in your greatest asset—YOU. 

Jim Rohn stated: “If you want to have more, you first have to BECOME more.” In essence, YOU—not your career—is what needs to be invested in. Your career and success will only be as great as you are.

Remedy: I’ve learned that nothing has a higher ROI than honest self-reflection and self-awareness. Both increase personal growth. Continue and never stop working on making yourself more skilled, knowledgeable, and attractive—both inside and out. To do this, create your own university by listening to audios, reading books, and attending workshops, lectures and classes. Read, study, grow, expand, travel, reflect, provide value, give more—become a better you. Additionally, get support, collaboration, and feedback from good mentors and strong coaches. Working with someone who can see what you’re not seeing and share what you’re not noticing can help you get where you’re going faster and with less pain than doing it alone. You’re worth it! 

Mistake #7 – Not understanding that you’re in the business of relationships. 

Regardless of what business you’re in (financial consulting, consumer products, manufacturing light bulbs, or your own photography business), you’re REALLY in the business of relationships, in other words, people. We can’t do our best work or make the impact we’re here to make without other people. Your relationships with people will either catapult you to the top or be the anchor impeding your progress in every category of your life. 

Remedy: Cultivate and invest in your relationships. If you’re within an organization, know the teams and the direct reports you serve—their needs, their fears—and work to support them. Be more interested than interesting. Listen and care. Be curious. Talk less. Ask more. Be a steady giver of high-value content, information, tools, and insights. Few people make it to the top without other people wanting them to get there. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Love is the #1 Leadership Principle. Love and care for people! 

Mistake #8 – Not realizing that taking others to the top is essential to making it to the top. 

Individuals who have individual success, and may even be intellectually brilliant, but do so at the expense of others’ growth and improvement, have limited careers. 

Remedy: The job for every existing and up-and-coming, driven career professional is to develop, add value and help others become better versions of themselves. Teaching others is the best way to learn and sharing your success increases the success of everyone around you!  

I’ve learned that mistakes aren’t inherently bad and there’s no way to avoid some. They are often catalysts for superb change and creation. They provide us with information about what is not working and point us in a new direction. Perhaps the biggest challenge with our mistakes is our resistance and unwillingness to acknowledge them.  

Is there room for growth in your life? Is there room for reckoning? I know there is in mine. And the best part of life is often turning what we see as mistakes into gold. 

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