People have been failing at life since the first caveman thought it was a good idea to try and ride a sabertooth tiger.
Although we’ve evolved as a species, the reasons why we fail at work, fail to meet goals, and fail in life today are the same reasons why our ancestors would fail to survive thousands of years ago.
There are lots of reasons why people fail at things. Some of these reasons are physical reasons that we’re in control of, some are mental reasons that we’re in control of, and sometimes we fail at no fault of our own.
In this article, we’ll explore different perspectives, expert opinions, and the latest science to gain a deeper understanding of why people fail and how to prevent failing yourself.
Let’s Dive In.
Physical vs. Psychological Reasons Why People Fail
Most people fail at whatever they’re doing for one of two reasons.
Either A, they’re physically not able (yet). For example, not strong enough or not knowledgeable enough.
Or B, they have the wrong mindset. For example, they give up too early or lack the self-discipline to gain the skills that they need to succeed.
Mindset: Psychology Behind Failing
1. Quitting When Things Get Tough
As long as you don’t quit then you haven’t failed. You’re just on the way to success, but haven’t got there yet.
As long as you don’t quit, then you haven’t failed.
Even if your goal is to run 2 miles, and you only run 1, did you fail ? NO. You just haven’t succeeded yet. It might take a few weeks of training but if you commit to the process of slowly improving your skillset, then you will succeed.
Most people quit when things get tough, plain and simple. After-all, quitting is easy and most people like easy. We’ve largely become a society of comfort seekers, adverse to taking risks and shying away from embracing the more difficult paths in life.
It’s not just your average Joe who wants to quit when things get tough. A study from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that it’s quite common for top performers to quit when things get tough also.
We all seem to be in a perpetual cycle of giving up when things get hard.
But quitting can be more multi-dimensional than that. There is a plethora of reasons that evoke the urge to throw in the towel and call it quits ultimately leading to failure.
2. Lack Of Self-Discipline
Walter Mischel, an American psychologist specializing in personality theory and social psychology once said…,
Distractions can make us quit because they interfere with our executive control processes and working memory capacity, leading to decreased motivation and decision fatigue.
Distractions such as social media and smart phones are omni-present in our daily lives and reduce our ability to prioritize tasks, allocate attention, and regulate our behavior, making it difficult to maintain focus and complete tasks.
Here’s a guide we wrote with 38 Tips To Help You Use Social Media More Consciously
This can ultimately lead to us feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, which will increase the likelihood of quitting or failing.
Many factors can cause a lack of focus, including:
- Distractions (e.g. noise, notifications, social media)
- Fatigue or sleep deprivation
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor physical health (e.g. hunger, illness)
- Boredom with task
- Substance abuse
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Environmental factors (e.g. temperature, lighting)
It’s important to identify the underlying cause of a lack of focus in order to address it effectively.
Self-awareness and self-recognition are the first steps towards improving self-discipline. Personally, (and this may sound hokey) I’ve found yoga, meditation, and exercise as some of the best ways to organically build self-discipline.
3. Lack of Awareness (self-awareness)
Dr. Carol Dweck, a prominent psychologist, and researcher in the field of motivation and personality stated….,
Dr. Carol’s words shine a light on the importance of self-awareness in understanding the sources of our behavior and motivation, and in turn, the role that self-awareness plays in our ability to persist and overcome challenges.
Here’s a guide we wrote identifying 21 Signs That You’re Becoming More Self-Aware (Habits of Highly Self-Aware People)
4. Not Enough Self-Motivation
A study from the University of New York shows us that Poor Self-Esteem can be devastating when it comes to building motivation. When individuals have low self-esteem, they may be more likely to experience negative thoughts and emotions, such as feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.
These negative thoughts and emotions can affect motivation and make it harder to persist in tasks and goals, even in the face of challenges.
If you don’t believe that it’s possible, self-doubt will become a slippery slope toward wanting to give up and call it quits. A short, vicious road towards failure.
Self-doubt can grow like an internal virus that constantly picks at our confidence and motivation.
These negative thoughts and emotions can interfere with our ability to focus and persist in tasks and goals, making it more likely that we will quit when the road gets rough.\
5. Lack of Purpose in Life
Lack of purpose has been proven to affect the quality and well-being of your life in many detrimental ways.
Lack of purpose is like a ship without a rudder. You’re just aimlessly floating on the sea of life, tossed about by the winds of boredom and uncertainty.
When the waves of adversity come crashing in, you’ve got no anchor, no foundation, and no reason to hold on and fight. You’ll ultimately become a quitter/failure waiting to happen.
Dr. Abraham Maslow, an esteemed psychologist and founder of humanistic psychology provides a realistic look at why a sense of purpose is essential.
6. Not Taking Responsibility
Excuses, excuses, excuses… We are all full of them. But when we make excuses we don’t take responsibility. And when we don’t take responsibility we give away our control.
By taking full responsibility, we put ourselves in control of ourselves which can feel very empowering.
But why do we make excuses and not take responsibility? Let’s first look at the list of reasons behind our excuses.
- Avoid accountability or responsibility
- Protect their ego or self-esteem
- Shift blame to others or external factors
- Justify their behavior or choices
- Avoid confrontation or disappointment
- Preserve relationships or avoid conflict
- Minimize the impact of their actions
- Maintain a desired self-image
- Conceal their lack of effort or progress
- Avoid difficult or unpleasant tasks
Excuses serve as a way for individuals to manage their self-esteem and social relationships, as well as to explain or justify their behavior.
For example, I had to quit because…. [insert excuse here]
However, making excuses can also limit personal growth and prevent individuals from taking action and making positive changes. Or in other words, excuses lead to us becoming a failure.
Rationalizing is a form of excuse making which can help us at times but when it comes to failure, it often is nothing more than a mask to hide the cold, hard reality of our shortcomings.
For example, I only failed because…[insert rationalization here]
When we rationalize, this can become a form of self-deception and can limit our personal growth. There is firm importance in facing the truth and accepting responsibility so that we can evolve and develop as individuals.
7. Being Resistant To Advice
Advice can be like a stray bullet in a gunfight. It can come at you fast and hard, but you never know if it’s going to hit the mark or wiz right on by. We’re all resistant to advice because we think we’ve got it figured out, we think we know what’s best for us.
Advice can feel like a personal attack. As if we’re doing something wrong.
The truth is, we’re all just shooting in the dark, just trying to make our way in this crazy world. So, when someone comes at us with their two cents, a new perspective, or some advice, we feel like they’re trying to take away from what we’re already doing.
But sometimes, just sometimes, that advice can be worth its weight in gold. It can show us a new way, a better way, a way to avoid the bullets and make it out of the gunfight in one piece.
When someone offers advice it doesn’t mean you have to take it, but by keeping an open mind to new ideas and new ways of doing something you never know what kind of riches that advice might bring.
8. Failure to Learn From Mistakes / An Unwillingness To Change
Many individuals struggle to learn from their mistakes and embrace change, despite the benefits that can be gained from these experiences.
Failing is one of the best ways to learn. Success can happen by accident, but by failing and learning you can learn much more about success than hitting the lottery.
We often fail to learn from past mistakes due to a range of factors, including fear of failure or criticism, a lack of self-awareness or insight, a comfort in familiar habits, resistance to change or uncertainty, inflated ego or pride, external pressure or reinforcement, a lack of motivation or drive, insecurity or self-doubt, insufficient resources or support, and cognitive biases or blind spots.
It is important to recognize that these barriers are common and that everyone makes mistakes, but it is equally important to work towards overcoming them.
By taking time to yourself and reflecting on past experiences, seeking feedback, and embracing new perspectives and challenges, we can increase our capacity to learn from our mistakes and make positive changes in our lives.
9. Scared of Success or Scared of Failure
Dr. Joy Browne, the syndicated radio and television psychologist once said, “Success is often just as terrifying as failure because it requires change.”
This highlights the notion that success can be scary because it often requires leaving one’s comfort zone and facing new challenges. For some individuals, the fear of the unknown or the fear of not being able to live up to their expectations can make success seem more intimidating than failure.
There’s a comfort and routine that people get used to, and both success and failure can disrupt that comfortable routine.
This fear can hold people back and prevent them from reaching their full potential. That’s why it’s critical to recognize these internal fears so that you can begin the process of working them out.
Logistics: Physical Reasons Why People Fail
Mindset and psychological factors aside, there are also physical barriers to success that, if not taken into account, can set people up on the path towards failure.
By understanding and tackling the physical logistics towards success, you can put yourself in a much better position and at greater odds to achieve success.
10. Failing to Network And Build Strong Relationships
Networking provides opportunities to meet new people, build connections, and gain new exposure to ideas . Building strong relationships also allows individuals to have support and access to resources in both their personal and professional lives. lacking social skills are a big part of why people fail.
Building a strong network gives us a stronger support system to lean on when we feel like quitting or when we need new ideas, new perspectives, and new advice.
Without these connections, we can miss out on opportunities for growth, collaboration, and success. Having a strong network can provide a safety net and a source of encouragement during difficult times, helping us to stay motivated and focused on our goals.
Ultimately, in the world of business, networking, and building strong relationships are the backbone of success.
11. Don’t See The Bigger Picture / Don’t Have A Vision or Plan
If we can’t see the bigger picture or we don’t have a vision, then its difficult to start because you don’t have a plan on where to go or how ot get there.
Starting something new can be difficult if not impossible with out a plan and bigger picture vision.
But by setting realistic goals, seeking support, and focusing on small manageable steps, individuals can find the courage to start and achieve their goals.
Psychologist and celebrated author Dr. Stephen Covey said it best, “Without a vision, a dream remains just a dream.”
Without a defined vision, it can be difficult to take action, prioritize efforts, and measure progress toward a desired outcome. A strong vision provides direction and motivation, helping individuals to overcome obstacles and stay focused on what is important.
Having a vision helps to bring purpose and clarity to one’s life, enabling individuals to take small steps that build overtime towards creating a better future for themselves and those around them.
12. Insufficient Education / Knowledge
Education doesn’t necessarily mean school, college, or universities. Education is knowledge and deep understanding of something no matter how you achieve it.
Education provides the foundation for personal and professional growth, providing us with the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to achieve our visions.
Without proper education, we may face challenges in our personal and professional lives, such as limited job opportunities, difficulties in navigating complex problems, or a lack of self-confidence and feelings of failure
The beauty is that we live in the age of technology and education is always at the tips of our fingers. Even if you can’t afford a formal education, there are hundreds of free courses online to help you grow and expand your mind.
Whatever skill you need to learn is available for free on the internet as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn and understand.
With Google alone, there are over 50 free courses that can help you educate yourself and make steps toward a better future.
It’s important to prioritize education in our lives and continuously seek opportunities to learn and grow. This is an essential stepping stone toward reaching your full potential.
Upgrading our education and understanding fore the world can open new ways of thinking, new opportunities, and improve our chances of achieving succerss and avoiding failure
Final Thoughts: Why People Fail
People fail because they quit to early, lack the vision, courage, and discipline to relentlessly pursue their goals. They fall into the trap of mediocrity, conformity, and complacency. They surrender to fear, doubt, and procrastination. But we don’t have to!
Fear of failure make us cling to comfort, security, and familiarity. But we can overcome this by tapping into our wild, untamed spirit. We can harness the power of our imagination, intuition, and creativity.
We can channel our rage, passion, and purpose into a fierce, relentless pursuit of our dreams.
We can cultivate the courage, confidence, and resilience to face our fears, embrace our failures, and celebrate our victories.
We are not mere mortals, bound by the limitations of our circumstances. We are warriors, destined to blaze a trail of glory, adventure, and freedom. As long as we don’t quit on the way.
So let us rise up, shake off the dust of our failures, and set our sights on the horizon.
Let us charge forward, with the courage of our convictions, and the fire of our spirit. Let us live life on our own terms, and make the world a little wilder, a little brighter, and a little more beautiful.
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