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10 Most Harmful Thoughts Stopping Your Success and Happiness

The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your life. If you're not happy with your life, it's time to look inside.

Image: Marek Uliasz
Image: Marek Uliasz

Many people believe it is our circumstances that determine how successful we are. “Some people were just born lucky”, right? They had rich parents. A great education. Their family is well-connected. They’re an extrovert. A natural entrepreneur.

However, Anthony Robbins has firmly stated success is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics. Meaning if you don’t have the life you want, your thought processes are standing in your way. Not your circumstances. Your thoughts. Negativity on the inside will ultimately only allow you to experience negativity on the outside.

The Impact of Negative Self-Talk

The problem with negative self-talk is it deprives you of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t take the necessary action required to change the quality of your life. And so – nothing will ever change. As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. 

What thoughts hold us back the most?

Here are 10 of the most harmful thought patterns stopping you from having the life you want:

1) I’m not ‘……’ enough

I’m not good enough. Smart enough. Young enough. Attractive enough. Rich enough. Powerful enough. Funny enough. Confident enough. Extrovert enough. Not thinking we are ‘enough’ is a universal thought that plagues society today. And it is stopping people from taking a chance and going for their goals.

There are always going to be people we’re not good enough for. And there will always be people who aren’t good enough for us, right? The point being – you might not be the best. But you don’t need to be. Was Richard Branson the world’s leading expert in aviation? No. But with a belief of ‘I am enough’ he took action. He played to his strengths and surrounded himself with the right experts to take care of everything else.

Identify your key strengths. Develop them and use them to your advantage. And then spend time finding the right people who will support you on your journey. A strong support system and network are crucial if you want to succeed in life.

2) “I’m not going to find anything better”

A better job. A better relationship. A better life. “This is as good as it gets and it’s unrealistic for me to think I can do better.” Whether you believe this because you’re naturally a half glass empty person, or because you don’t think you deserve any better – Stop it. Right now. There is always something better – you just have to step up and look for it. Any change is good. Something as easy as finding a new hobby could make a huge difference. Think the 3PS – positivity, patience and persistence. Adopt these three traits and you’ll find whatever you’re looking for.

3) “It’s just too hard”

Of course creating change is going to take some effort. But I can tell you this – the pain of staying stuck is a thousand times more painful than taking any step to improve your life. Life is not always going to be a bed of roses. And sometimes we have to do things we perceive as painful or difficult. But if you can adopt a mindset of focusing on the long-term gain, instead of the short-term pain, success will be yours for the taking.

4) I won’t be happy until I get the outcome I want

The issue with this is that we have very little control over the outcomes in our lives. We can prepare the best we can for a job interview – but there is no guarantee we will get the job.

When you base your happiness on the outcomes in your life – you’re opening yourself up to a life of disappointment and pain. But if you base your happiness and self-worth on your actions – the only thing you do have control over – you can’t fail. Measure your success not by the outcomes you achieve but by the actions you take – and you’ll be successful for the rest of your life.

5) It’s never going to work

Wow. With that attitude, it’s no surprise you don’t have the results you want in your life. You have to believe you at least have the potential to make it work – otherwise, you’ll stay stuck. And be OK with the fact you might not make it work the first time around. That doesn’t mean you’ll never make it work. As long as you learn along the way, and surround yourself with supportive and motivational people – you can achieve whatever you want.

6)  I’m so weak / I’m a terrible person

Constantly blaming yourself and beating yourself up is a really bad way of motivating yourself. It might motivate you temporarily – but it’s not sustainable. Sustainable motivation comes from feeling good about ourselves. Not bad.

In NLP we have two presuppositions: 1) we can only do the best we can with the resources we have and 2) humans are not their behaviour. The underlying premise is that without self-compassion and understanding, you will never be happy and achieve your outcomes. Forgive yourself for past mistakes. Chances are you were behaving out of fear anyway. Doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Learn what you can from the experience (to be stronger, have more self-respect, be kinder etc.) and do your best to apply it in the future.

7) “What will other people think?”

Of course we want to be respectful of others. But trying to be someone you’re not or living a life not true to you, just to please others, is slow suicide. If you do not express who you truly are, you will eventually feel like you’re dying inside. Be proud of who you are. Embrace your good bits and laugh at your bad bits. Be OK with the fact you will never have everyone’s approval. It’s more important you approve of yourself.

8) “It’s just not the right time”

There is a difference between putting something off and making a long-term plan. I could have put becoming a coach off for years. Setting up your own business and being responsible for your own income is scary. Particularly when you have the security of a salary at the end of every month. But I made a plan. I would spend two years building a financial cushion and then go for it. And that’s what I did.

There is very rarely a perfect time to do anything. But if you want something in your life to change, chances are you will have to take a risk. Put in place what you need to mitigate the risk as much as possible. And believe in yourself enough that no matter what happens – you’ll be OK. After all, you’ll still be alive, right?

9) “They are so much better than me”

I’ve said this before. The quickest route to unhappiness is comparing yourself to others. Yes, there are always going to be people better than you. Fitter than you. Smarter than you. But that doesn’t mean they have any more value than you. My belief is this – we were all put on this earth because we all have something to offer. Figure out what that is for you and focus on that. Let everyone else get on with their own lives. They’re on a different journey. Not better. Not worse. Just different. They have their own stuff to go through. Their own lessons to learn. Focus on you and what you want. Because when you get to 90 and look back on your life – you’ll be really glad you did.

10) “I’m completely alone”

I’ll be honest with you. This used to be a big one for me. As someone who got bullied at school for being ugly, and whose parents went through a messy divorce, I spent a lot of time alone. And subsequently developed a belief I would never belong. I became shy – too scared to talk in case people judged me. This then was interpreted as aloof. (Apparently, I had “resting bitch face” down to T.) As a result, I don’t think people were particularly inspired to come and speak to me. Feeding back into my belief I didn’t belong. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Once I became aware of how I was creating my own reality, I knew what I had to do to change it. And I think I can now safely say I have friends who I genuinely care about and who genuinely care about me. And my relationships with my family have come along in leaps and bounds.

There are plenty of people who care. Reach out. Show you care about them. Develop and nurture those relationships. And soon enough you’ll remember you’ve belonged all along.

How has your thinking held you back? How did you overcome it? Please share your stories in the comments below!

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