7 Things You Have to Stop Believing to Live a Successful Life On Your Own Terms

7 Things You Have to Stop Believing to Live a Successful Life On Your Own Terms






Since the mind drives the body, it’s the way we think that ultimately makes the dreams we dream possible or impossible.  Our reality is almost entirely a reflection of our thoughts and the way we routinely behave based on what we believe to be true.

The problem is, what we believe to be true, isn’t always the truth.

And unrealized dreams – and regrets – are gradually born in our lives when our misguided beliefs stop us from being our best.

This phenomenon occurs in our lives more frequently than most of us realize.

Our course students come to us almost every day with questions and concerns about ongoing problems and regrets they have that are fueled primarily by their own misperceptions of reality.  And while their personal circumstances tend to vary, the core beliefs leading them astray almost always overlap.

The truth is, no matter how smart or educated you are, your subconscious mind will sometimes attach itself to beliefs that habitually push you farther and farther away from where you want to be in life.  Or as one of our course students put it on a coaching call this morning: “My mind seems to be jam-packed with all these beliefs that just lead me in the opposite direction of my dreams, which is living a successful life on my own terms.”

So, in light of our student’s realization, and our collective human struggle to think better and live better, here are some super common faulty beliefs you need to let go of if you want to live a successful (and happier) life on your own terms…

1.  Stop believing that someone else has already defined “success” and the path that must be followed to get there.

When I was growing up there was a silent yet unanimously agreed upon definition of what success looked like in my family.  Although it was never openly discussed, it was implied through various conversations and decisions I was directly or indirectly included in.

All of my immediate and extended family members were in one of two groups:

  • College educated with a comfortable salaried job at a large corporation
  • Blue-collar worker who diligently worked his or her way up the corporate ladder at a large corporation

The commonality being a steady paycheck from a large corporation.

That was the implicitly agreed upon definition of success in my family.

And by this definition, I was a failure, and still am.

I earned a college degree, but I opted to hop between several small startup companies out of college instead.  My paychecks were low and the stability of my work was inconsistent at best (but I was learning).  Then, a few years down the road, amidst a landslide of personal tragedies, I quit my day job to focus full-time on a side project called Marc and Angel Hack Life (you may have heard of it) that Angel and I had been gradually developing and supporting on nights and weekends.

Needless to say, my family was very skeptical of my evolving career path and decisions.

At some point, however, I realized I had to give up my family’s definition of success.

And I had to give up everyone else’s definition of success too.

Of course, doing so was easier said than done.  The definitions of success that I had grown up around, and the beliefs they carried, were so deeply embedded in the cultural narratives I was accustomed to that they had very much become a benchmark by which I subconsciously measured my life.  So it took me awhile to get my head straight about what success meant to me.  And to a certain extent, I’m sure you can relate.  Because no one is immune to this phenomena.  Even the most seasoned entrepreneurs and creative types I know, who basically live on their own terms in every imaginable way, still get caught up in the overplayed idea of fame and fortune being symbols of success.

The bottom line is that, although challenging, giving up other people’s definition of success is incredibly liberating and ultimately leads to the fullest expression of who you are.

Just think about it…

Other people aren’t going to live with the results of your choices.  So why would you live according to their contrived definition of success?

Have you ever honestly asked yourself what success means to YOU?

Or have you simply adopted your definition and beliefs from everyone around you?

For far too many us, the answer is the latter.

A coaching client recently told Angel and me that she wanted to become a millionaire to satisfy certain milestones for success that she had set for herself.  But as we dug deeper into her story and her reasoning, it became evident that a number of her reasons for wanting to be a millionaire didn’t require a million dollars to achieve.  She had just been conditioned to believe they did.  And she literally laughed out loud when she realized this.

By understanding the essence of your goals and how YOU define success, it’s easier to give up other people’s contrived definitions and beliefs.

And remember, the point is not that one measure of success is any better or worse than another.  The point is that you get to choose how you define it for yourself.

Simply recognize that the more conscious and deliberate you can be about what success means for YOU, the more empowered you will be to pursue the path that’s true for you.

2.  Stop believing that you should feel more confident before you take the next step.

Most people misinterpret how confidence works.  They think confidence is something they have to possess before they can perform at their best.  So they make a (subconscious) decision to wait until they feel more confident before taking the next step.  But waiting around isn’t a confidence-building activity, so they never feel more confident, and they never take action.

Let this be your wake-up call…

Confidence is not a prerequisite to present and future performance.  Rather, confidence is a direct bi-product of past performance.

For example, if you start your day on the right foot, you’re likely to have improved confidence throughout the rest of your day.  Conversely, if you start your day poorly and fall flat on your face, that prior performance will likely lower your confidence for a little while (until your confidence level inevitably cycles again).

But the real kicker is the fact that today is tomorrow’s past.  Your confidence going into tomorrow is directly dependent on you taking positive action today and learning from it.  And this means two things…

  1. You can leverage your present actions to improve your future confidence.
  2. Forcing yourself to take the next step is the first step to feeling more confident.

So whenever you catch yourself waiting around for more confidence to magically arrive before you start working on the task in front of you, remind yourself of how confidence works, and then force yourself to start before you feel ready.

Back in 2006 Angel and I started the blog that would ultimately become Marc and Angel Hack Life.  We didn’t know how to design a website.  We didn’t know what a blog was.  We didn’t even really know how to write very well.  All we knew were five things:

  • We recently lost two loved ones, unexpectedly, to illness and suicide.
  • We were struggling in our personal and professional lives.
  • We needed an outlet.
  • We were passionate about writing, and improving our writing.
  • We had not been writing enough.

How did we learn to start a website and build a blog?  How did we find the confidence necessary to do so?  Same way anyone else does it.  Bit by bit, step by step, one page at a time.

You start reading and learning.  You make decisions and take action.  You make mistakes.  You learn some more.  You try again.  You get a little better.  You get a little more confident.  You learn some more.  You make more decisions and take more action…

And before we knew it, we were blogging daily on Marc and Angel Hack Life.

This process is at the core of all effective confidence-building and goal-achieving initiatives, and it’s one of the most essential skills you need to develop to succeed in life.  It doesn’t matter if you want to be a blogger, an entrepreneur, an artist, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  Learn to start before you feel ready, and you will learn how to succeed, step by step, before you even realize that you’re good enough.

Today is the day!

It’s time to set your plans into motion and make a daily ritual of generating small wins for yourself.  Do so, and I guarantee that your small wins will add up quickly, and you’ll grow more confident and closer to what you ultimately want to achieve with each passing day.

3.  Stop believing that more (and more) planning and thinking will yield you better results.

Just as you don’t need more confidence to take the next smallest step forward, you don’t likely need more planning and overthinking either.

Stephen King once said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”  I have that quote taped above my work desk.  It reminds me that while proper planning, strategizing and masterminding is important as you move through a project, it’s also extremely easy to lose yourself indefinitely in doing so.

When our great ideas are still just concepts floating around in our minds, we tend to think really BIG.  And while thinking big isn’t inherently bad, the downside is that it often makes the barrier for taking action quite high.  In other words, we tend to overthink our projects to the point where they seem more complicated than they actually are, and so we stall again and again to give ourselves more time to prepare for the next step.

To avoid “big thinking paralysis,” pare your ideas down into smaller, immediately testable activities.  Can you trial-run the idea of a larger scale conference by hosting a series of smaller local events (just like Angel and I did to prepare for Think Better, Live Better)?  Can you take an idea for a book and test it by writing several related blog posts (just like Angel and I did with 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently)?  Can you draw it before you build it?  Can you prototype it?  Once you’ve tested your idea on a smaller scale, you’ll have the insight and data you need to take your idea and project to the next level.

The concept of taking action, just one step at a time, might seem ridiculously obvious, but at some point we all get caught up in the moment and find ourselves over-planning and overthinking things.  Our minds are working hard but nothing is getting done.  Angel and I have seen this transpire hundreds of times over the years – a coaching client/course student wants to achieve a big goal, and can’t choose just one or two important steps to focus on, so nothing worthwhile ever gets done.  Let this be a reminder to you.  Remind yourself that you can’t lift a thousand pounds all at once, yet you can easily lift one pound a thousand times.  Small, repeated, incremental efforts will get you there.  It doesn’t happen in an instant, but it does happen a lot faster than not getting there at all.  More on this below…

4.  Stop believing that focusing more on your goals is the answer.

Angel and I have mentioned this numerous times in the past, but it’s so darn important that it can’t possibly be overstated…

Goals don’t make positive changes happen, daily rituals do.

Seriously, meditate on that for a moment.

Because too often we obsess ourselves with a big goal – a big end result – but are completely unfocused when it comes to the ritual – the recurring steps – that ultimately make the goal happen.  And so the weight of this big, unrealized goal sits heavy on our mind and brings our progress down to a crawl.

Does that sound at all familiar?

If so, it’s time to shift your focus AWAY from your goals.  Think about this…

If you completely ignored one of your goals for the next few weeks and instead focused solely on the daily rituals that reinforce this goal, would you still get positive results?

For example, if you were trying to lose weight and you ignored your goal to lose 25 pounds, and instead focused only on eating healthy and exercising each day, would you still get results?

YES, you would!  Gradually, you would get closer and closer to your goal without even thinking about it.

Watch this quick video Angel and I recorded for you – let’s take a closer look at the power of daily rituals…

(Note: Angel and I build small, daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)

5.  Stop believing that you must always be right.

To be successful on your own terms, you have to not mind being wrong in the short term.  You have to take a stand, test your theory, and then admit it if you realize that your theory was wrong.  It’s a process of trial and error that helps you discover what is right.  And finding out what is right is a lot more important than always being right.

The process of trial and error is an essential part of any effective person’s life.  Truth be told, when any human being executes a new idea for the first time, the outcome is rarely glamorous.  The important thing is to synthesize the lessons learned during the process to refine the initial idea, and create a new-and-improved strategy, and perhaps a new and improved daily ritual that supports it.

The bottom line here is that expecting to get it right the first time is an exercise in futility.  Prototyping, testing and iteration is vital to transforming a decent idea into an outcome of value.  Rather than being discouraged by your “failures,” watch closely and learn from them.  Then use what you’ve learned to build something slightly better.  And then do it again and again – small steps.  Sooner or later, you’ll find the level of success you had envisioned.

6.  Stop believing that you have to say, “Yes.”

Besides the intelligent art of getting the right things done, there is the often-forgotten art of leaving the wrong things undone.

You must practice saying “no” even if it feels foreign to you.  Your time and energy is not infinite – in fact, it’s incredibly limited.  Seasoned achievers who live on their own terms know they must guard their time and energy (and their focus) closely.

Not to toot our own horns, but Angel and I have done pretty well for ourselves over the past decade.  Our writing and coaching business has flourished beyond our wildest dreams.  We’ve sold almost 40,000 copies of our first book, we have hundreds of students actively enrolled in our Getting Back to Happy course, and we’ve sold out and delivered very successful (lots of positive feedback) personal-growth conferences (Think Better Live Better).  Our expertise and insights are in demand.  However, even though we could easily scale up our business offerings to the next level, doing so wouldn’t leave enough time and energy to focus on the personal (family) objectives that are even higher on our priority list, and it also wouldn’t leave us enough time and energy to make substantial, intimate connections with our current students and readers.

Always keep in mind that you don’t have to accept every great opportunity you’re invited to.  When you’re in execution mode, remember that new and unexpected opportunities can also mean distraction from your core objectives and priorities.  Saying “no” is an essential part of living effectively on your own terms.

7.  Stop believing that you have enough willpower to overcome the limitations and temptations of an unhealthy environment.

No matter how much determination and willpower you have, if you keep yourself positioned in an environment that works against your best intentions, you will eventually succumb to that environment.

This is where so many of us make life-altering missteps.  When we find ourselves struggling to make progress in an unhealthy environment, we somehow believe that we have no other choice – that positioning ourselves in a more supportive environment, even for short intervals, is impossible.

So, rather than working in a supportive environment that pushes us forward, we expend all our energy trying to pull the baggage of an unhealthy environment along with us.  And eventually, despite our best efforts, we run out of energy.

The key thing to remember here is that, as a human being, your environment immensely affects you.  And, consequently, one of the best uses of your energy is to consciously choose and design working environments for yourself that support and facilitate the outcomes you intend to achieve.

For example, if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, you must…

  1. Spend less time around people that consume alcohol.
  2. Spend less time in social environments that promote alcohol consumption.

Because if you don’t your willpower will eventually collapse…

“One more drink won’t hurt, right?”


You need to set clear boundaries, commit, and then reconfigure your environment to make the achievement of your commitment possible.

Let’s think about some other examples…

  • If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to spend more time in healthy environments with people who eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis.
  • If you want to become a paid, professional comedian – a goal one of our Think Better, Live Better conference attendees recently achieved – your best bet is to surround yourself with professional comedians, do gigs together, share experiences, and orient your living and working environment to that goal.
  • If you want to overcome your struggles and live a happier life, your best bet is to spend more time communicating with people who share these same intentions.  This can be achieved through local support groups, personal-growth conferences like Think Better, Live Better, or online via courses and supportive communities like Getting Back to Happy.

The bottom line is that determination and willpower alone will only get you so far.  If you want to make a substantial, positive, long-term change in your life, you also have to gradually change your environment accordingly.  This is truly the foundation of how we grow and evolve as human beings.  We mold and adapt to our environments.  Thus, conscious growth and evolution involves decisively choosing or creating enriching environments that force you to progressively mold and adapt into the human being you want to become.

Your turn…

Please leave a comment below and let us know:

Which point above resonates the most with you today, and why?

Anything else to share?

We would love to hear from YOU.  🙂

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