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What makes some people act and be successful when others don’t? This is one of the most fundamental questions. Why do some people succeed and others who also want to be successful don’t?
The vast majority of people know what they should do in order to achieve their goals. So, why is it that relatively few people will actually do it? Why is it that so few people take the road that leads them to achieving their goals?
You are keen, enthusiastic, driven and eager to make significant changes in your life. This is not that difficult and many ‘success gurus' will tell you that this is all you need to do in order to succeed.
For many people it's obviously not that simple. Why? What happens? Let’s say you know what you want to achieve. This is, of course, a most important and essential step if you want to be successful.
It is imperative to specifically know what is important to you and why you want to achieve a certain goal.
Okay, so you’ve got a goal and you are very clear about why specifically you want to achieve that goal. With great intentions you start moving forward and taking action...and then something happens!
Or, perhaps you wanted to take action but haven’t got around to it. You might have filled out some forms to enrol in a course, but then something happens, something seems to be pulling you back.
Imagine being tied to one end of an elastic band with the other end fastened to an immovable object and you can’t see what it is tied to. At first, when you start moving forward, it will take up the slack but then the band tightens and it tries to pull you back. This pull back factor influences much of human behavior and it is something you need to address if you want to be successful.
So why does this occur? What is happening on the other side of the elastic band? What is pulling you back? In psychology we use the term payoff. A payoff in this context is a benefit. So what is this benefit your (subconscious) mind does not want to let go of? What does that subconscious part of you fear you will lose by doing something different?
Remember as far as the primitive part of the brain is concerned, ‘all behavior is purposeful’. In other words, we do everything for a reason even if the reason does not appear reasonable to the conscious, logical part of the brain. While hard to understand at first, even the most destructive behaviors have a payoff, a benefit.
So your conscious 'desires' and your subconscious ‘needs’ are competing. Like a tuck of war of benefits. The conscious mind wants one thing and the subconscious mind wants something else, perhaps even the opposite.
For example; in order to lose weight, you might have to get up half an hour earlier each morning to exercise. The immediate sacrifice is sleep. The payoff or benefit for not getting up half an hour earlier is not having to do anything and just stay in bed.
Often the winner is short term gain, the short term payoff or benefit. Just think of a child that chooses to have one sweet right now rather than 4 sweets in 2 week’s time.
Unfortunately most of the time your subconscious comes out the winner. This is when nothing really changes. Your subconscious wants to hold on to the perceived ‘benefits’ of your current situation.
Here are some other examples of competing behavior, some less obvious than the half an hour less sleep: If I go and study at night to get a degree or qualification, I lose the comfort of lying on the couch relaxing and watching TV. If I become successful, people will make more demands on me. If I achieve my goals, I might be given a hard time by some of my friends or family.
If I take positive action I can no longer play the ‘poor me game’ and then no one will look after me. If I succeed it contradicts my image of myself, and so on. Your subconscious creates very compelling reasons for not acting, for not disturbing the status quo and for not taking a different course of action.
Sadly most people will never be successful and achieve what's important to them. Why? Because they don't address the real reason of what holds them back. At first it might not be obvious and it may take some digging to unearth the subconscious reasoning, payoff or benefit.
In order to understand how these current behaviors ‘serve you’, you need to bring them to light, examine and question this behaviour. You need to uncover how this behavior actually serves or hinders you.
For example: Not being successful keeps me safe, I don’t stand out, I don’t have people making demands on me, I cannot fail, others will look after me, I can hide and be comfortable, I don’t have to make decisions etc. Then you need to question: does this truly serve me, or does this hinder me from achieving what I want in the long term? Remember, you can't change what you don’t acknowledge.
A great technique is to examine a particular thought or behavior and ask yourself 5 times, ‘and how does this serve me?’ This might get you to the bottom of what really stops you from achieving what you want. When you understand and address what pulls you back you will make a giant leap forward on your path to success.
But remember, when you are on the other side of ‘the elastic band’ and you start walking towards your goal, you will feel the elastic band starting to pull you back the more your stretch it. Know that this will create more resistance. Remember that this resistance is caused by that part of you that does not want to let go of the original payoff or benefit.
But what happens when you keep stretching an elastic band? Correct, it breaks! The most resistance however occurs the moment just before the elastic band snaps. By the way this is when most people give up! Just before the moment of breakthrough as that is often the time of most resistance.
If you don’t pull through at that time, you will literally fly back to where you came from, but if you understand this process and pull through you will hurdle towards your goal with great momentum. Remember also that this pullback factor lasts around 30 to 60 days.
So the choice is yours, will you allow yourself to be pulled back or will you hurdle towards your success?
Those who don’t succeed often give in to the short term 'payoff' or benefit, thinking tomorrow offers better options. Successful people keep going. They are always on the road to success; they don’t give up. When the pull-back factor beckons them, they push forward and they pull thorough.
Tao de Haas is a registered Psychotherapist, Social Ecologist and Corporate trainer. He is the co-founder of Minds with Integrity, an i4 Practitioner and one of the co-authors of 'Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution".