It’s a great time to be alive! You can do almost anything you want to, while exploring hobbies and living a full and happy life. Nonetheless, many people find themselves lost, bored, confused and frustrated. Many more are finding it hard to achieve any type of measurable success. What gives? Is it possible that modern life is simultaneously affording us with more opportunities for success while also setting us up to fail? Is it possible we are being bombarded with mindset-changing paradigms that are hurting our chances of achievement?
Here are four ways the modern world is setting you up for failure:
It is very easy and cheap to buy that snack, marathon that show (hello, Netflix weekends!) and distract yourself in the most pleasurable ways. This should be a good thing, but it’s also a really bad thing. Why? Because of instant gratification. A lot of us are hooked on that “high” that comes when you do something to please yourself, and it’s destroying our ability to work through things that are hard in order to achieve our goals. Instead, we find ourselves fixed on the pleasure of the moment. We can’t seem to focus for a long time; we can’t seem to endure through unpleasant activities.
But here’s the thing: we have to. No way around it. There is no success that comes with only doing things that please you. Even if you love what you do, you’ll still have to write that report or that budget, you’ll still have to deal with that one client. By bombarding us with opportunities for instant gratification, the modern world is setting us up for failure.
Schedule time for pleasure and reward yourself for effective work. ThePomodoro method is great for this. Have your breaks be time to check your Instagram, text friends, watch an episode of a show, etc. This way, you’ll easily balance out the unpleasant, but necessary, and the pleasurable but futile.
In a world which idolizes the Kardashians, we see people who seem to not do “anything” all day have a boat load of money and success. It’s easy to get roped in to the idea that we should be after this “easy ride,” but there is usually no such a thing. Unless you were born extremely rich, everyone has to work for something they want.
Those Instagram stars spend hours editing and expertly posing for pictures. YouTubers spend hours editing and creating content. Bloggers have to learn Photoshop or HTML and also spend tons of time on image management and content creation. Even the Kardashians carefully manage apps, beauty and clothing lines, appearances, etc. There’s always work involved. But because these people make it seem like their success was effortless, lots of young people think that it’s possible to achieve greatness in an effortless way. It’s not. If you think success is effortless, you’ll be less inclined to put in any effort at all. The modern world is setting you up to fail by making you think success can be an easy ride.
When you catch yourself expecting things to be easy, go through the steps in your head of what it will actually take to get to where you want to go. Bypass your expectations of how things should go, and think of the actual necessary steps. Then, set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) intermediate goals to achieve your end goal. Another good idea is to also get hooked on biographies. Nothing makes you understand the process of success more than reading about all the obstacles a person had to go through to achieve success.
To be fair, sometimes a person does achieve success through an easy ride. There are several Vine, Instagram and YouTube stars that became famous after one particular video or photo, through very little effort of their own. And these types of successes keep us chained to the idea that success must be swift and big to be worthwhile. However, there’s very little we can do to predict who will become viral and who won’t. Therefore, we cannot expect our success to be viral. We cannot get upset or disappointed when something we do doesn’t automatically blow up with success. We only have the right to predict what we control.
The viral generation is setting you up to fail by making you think success has to be explosive and instant to be gratifying. But to every viral success, there are thousands more where success only came after deliberate, excruciating, constant honing of their craft, and after a lot of trial and error.
Focus on the end goal, not on how to get there. Again, set SMART goals and look at them every day. That will help you get focused on the process you actually have control over. And if along the way you’re inducted into the viral hall of fame, great for you. But never let that be your focus.
Follow Your Passion
Out of the many ways the world is setting you up to fail, this is the most devastating. The idea that you have to follow your passion is leading many young people down a path of demotivating failure and deception. Running from passion to passion, waiting for that lightning moment where they’ll fall in love with something and will be so successful working on their passion that work will never feel like work. The reality, however, is far far far from this.
Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit shows us that passion truly means the act of fostering your passion, often through a lot of tedious work. Instead of looking for what you feel passionate about, you can pick something you like and foster a true passion for it – by working at it. Most successful people that are truly passionate about what they do foster a deliberate passion by putting in work that does feel like work every single day.
It’s very important to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you don’t have a passion in life. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life since you were two years old. There’s nothing wrong with not feeling passion for any one career. You can foster passion by finding something you enjoy and then putting in the work to reach an end goal in your chosen path. The modern world is setting you up to fail by making you think your work is not worthwhile if it’s not your undying passion.
Pay attention to what you don’t like. You really need to be in tune with that and, often, you instinctively know what you don’t like. If you don’t like it, don’t waste time doing it. You cannot foster a passion for what you don’t like. Once you figure that out, then make a list of things you like and would enjoy doing. This is the time to do some soul searching, but don’t beat yourself up if one of those things don’t excite you like a godly calling. This is the time to get realistic and pick something that you think would be the best fit for you and your life. Then, think about how to become successful in that field and have a major end goal in mind. Focus on that goal, every single day. Work hard to get better by doing lots and lots of work – work that will feel like work.
If what you chose is a great pick for you, it will get easier and easier to foster your passion. If not, and you find yourself mid-career hating that thing, then adapt and change. You’ll have more experience and know yourself better and will be in a better position to foster a new passion. The most important thing is to know that passion is not the end-all-be-all of success.
Did you find yourself falling into these modern world mental traps? If so, you can fight back! By detaching yourself from a viral, instant gratification, passion-obsessed, easy-ride-loving culture, you’ll find yourself in control of your future and your success.