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10 Primary Reasons Why People Fail in Life (And How to Overcome Them)

why people fail in life

One of the keys to success is failure. It may sound contradictory, but failure is inevitable in your journey. If you look closely at most of the successful people who have created extraordinary results in life, you will notice they all screwed up and failed big times.

However, they don’t let their failures stop them. Instead, they learn from their failures. They evolve. They change. They improve. And they transform into someone better for success.

Let’s face it, failures are an important part of life, especially if you want to be successful.

Without failure, there is no way you can be successful. It’s like a rainbow. You need rain to produce a rainbow. Without the rain, there will be no rainbow.

Hence, rather than always looking and studying how people become successful, it can be a great idea to learn why people fail in life and how they overcome setbacks.

And you just need to learn the experience and avoid making similar mistakes those people have made.

You have to understand that success is not the result of making things right in your first attempt. Instead, it is something that you gradually discover NOT to do.

It’s like driving. When you drive on the road, the car will sway left and right. And in order to maintain the direction and to keep your car on the lane, you will have to make small adjustments here and there.

The same thing happens to everyone in life. If you want to be successful, you must learn to make adjustments and learn from your mistakes and failures.

Below are the 10 primary reasons why people fail in life. And the good news is that I have also included methods how you can overcome them…

1. They don’t believe they can be successful

One of the most common reasons people fail to achieve what they want in life is that they don’t believe they can do it. When you don’t believe you can do it, you will never put in all your ability into the work.

Think about it, if you don’t think that what you do will amount to success, will you still go all out for it? No, you won’t.

Will Smith said it wisely, “The first step is you have to say that you can.”

Will you buy a lottery ticket if you don’t believe you stand a chance to win the prize?

Think about it. If you don’t believe it, you will never bother buying a lottery ticket. People buy lottery because somehow, they believe that they stand a chance to win.

They hope, wish, and believe that they can win.

Similarly, if you don’t believe you can achieve your goals or dreams, guess what will happen?

You will do things with a half-hearted attempt. You will never go full out. You will hold yourself back.

That’s the power of your belief system.

When you truly believe in something, you will do it with your best effort.

How to Believe in Yourself, Your Dreams and Your Goals

Building an empowering belief that supports your life and success is no easy task, but it can be done.

Imagine your belief is like a table top. In order for it to stand tall, it must be supported by legs. And the legs are your reasons and proofs that support the belief.

For instance, do you think you are smart? And why?

Belief – you think you are smart

Supports – you score A’s in maths and science, your teacher says you’re smart, you score better than your friends, etc.

A belief must be supported by reasons. Without a strong reason (legs), the belief (table top) cannot stand. Do you get it?

Hence, if you want to build a strong belief system to believe that you can be successful, you must have reasons to support it.

So, write down all the reasons why you can and deserve to be successful. What are the abilities, talents, characters, and good habits that can support you to achieve the success you desire?

If you want to learn more about changing your beliefs, read this article from GoalCast.com below:

4 Steps to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

2. They are addicted to living a soft life

Another main reason people fail in life is they are too addicted to living the soft life. They refuse to change because it is just way too comfortable to do things they get used to.

Here’s the meaning of soft life from Google:

“A life that is typified by or filled with ease and comfort, without requiring any hard work, sacrifice, or unpleasantness.”

After reading the sentence above, do you think that people who are living a soft life can be successful? Hardly.

When you are not willing to work hard, to change, to get out of your comfort zone, or to sacrifice your short-term leisure for the long-term gain, you will never be successful.

Be honest, are you living this kind of life right now?

If you are, it is time to make a change.

How to Get Rid of Your Addiction to the Soft Life

The first thing you need to do is to be aware of it.

  • Are you living a life without any improvement?
  • Do you refuse to change or venture out of your comfort zone?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your leisure for your goals?
  • Are you willing to work hard?

Then, challenge yourself. Yes, each day or each week, do something that challenges yourself to go further.

If you’re a blogger, maybe you can challenge yourself to write a quality and detailed article with 10,000 words.

If you’re in sales, perhaps, you can challenge yourself to over-deliver and impress your customers.

If you want to lose the additional fat on your body, maybe you can sign up for a gym membership or get a workout partner to exercise together.

Whatever you do, you must constantly challenge yourself to venture out of your comfort zone.

You want to improve yourself and become better each day. Thus, do something difficult and something challenging so that you will grow.

3. They refuse to change

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.

Most people refuse to change. Why? Well, because change can be scary most of the time.

Change can make people feel that they have lost control over what they have known. When things change, it means that things will be different. And when that happens, it creates discomfort in your mind.

Change can be hard and uncomfortable, but change is necessary if you want to move your life out from failure to extraordinary.

When you refuse to change, you will continue to do what you do. And when you do what you have always done, you can only get the same old results as what you have always gotten.

Improvement comes with change. If you are not willing to change, you cannot improve. You cannot do better by sticking to doing what you have been doing all these while.

So, don’t be afraid to change because the discomfort and stress that it brings are just temporary.

How to Make a Positive Change in Your Life

When it comes to change, most people think that change must happen drastically and quickly. This is not always the case.

In fact, change is better when it is small and slow.

For example, if you want to change your life for the better, you don’t have to make a big change like changing a job or move to another city.

If you want to lose weight, you just need to start with a small habit like exercising for 15 minutes each day or eat more healthy foods. You don’t really need to make a drastic change.

Success is not going to happen overnight, so aim for the small improvement that is sustainable rather than making a big wave that disrupts everything in your life.

Big change requires a huge effort, stress, and a lot of discomforts. Small change requires consistency.

So, identify what is the one small thing you can change right now so that many months down the future, you can live a more successful life.

Perhaps, you can make it a habit to read for 30 minutes a day. Or maybe exercise for better health and energy for 30 minutes every day.

Here’s a great article was written by Leo Babauta about change:

7 Little Habits That Can Change Your Life

4. They have a limited perspective

By now, you should understand that you can’t live a successful life without change. And the change also includes your perspective.

I like how Oprah Winfrey puts it:

“Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at the age of three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.”

How do you know you are doing your best and you how much you can really achieve in life?

The answer is your perspective.

For example, if you think that earning $100,000 a month is a lot, wait until you meet someone who makes that amount in a week or even a day.

Your perspective will change and it makes you think that there is so much more out there waiting for you.

People fail in life because they limit themselves with their own perspective. They think that they know it all, but it is not.

I like how Tony Robbins explained his encounter to expand his vision and what he is capable of in his book, Awaken The Giant Within:

“I’ll never forget the first time I met architect and hotel magnate Chris Hemmeter. Becky and I had the privilege of being among the first people to be invited to visit Chris’s new home, along with his family, in Hawaii—a $70 million residence that is beyond verbal description. The front door alone cost $1 million to create.

While your rules may say, “That’s an incredible waste of money,” it was also an unbelievably expanding experience of what is possible in terms of business or economic growth.

Suddenly, my $4 million Castle was put in perspective. It barely covered the cost of his front door and marble stairway! Certainly, there was room in my life for thinking bigger, pushing limits, imagining the unimaginable.”

Your perspective will determine how much you can achieve in life.

If you want to achieve more and live a better life, you must constantly expand your vision and perspective.

How to Expand Your Perspective

Since you’re going to be thinking anyway, why don’t you think big?

Thinking big is crucial to living an extraordinary life. People who refuse to change and always think small will fail eventually.

Successful people think big. They dream big and they imagine all the great possibilities they can create. Understand this:

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Therefore, if you want to enlarge your perspective, you must start with your vision. Here’s my previous article that can help you with this:

7 Ways How to Think Big to Achieve Big Success in Life

5. They lack persistence

Yes, most people lack persistence when it comes to achieving their goals and pursuing their dreams.

First, they quit and give up on their plan whenever they encounter something difficult or challenging. They don’t work for the solution, instead, they make excuses to justify their failure.

Next, a lot of them are easily distracted by something else. There is even a term for this, it’s called the “shiny object syndrome”.

When you pursue a goal, say you want to build a successful blog. After a couple of days of hard work, you encounter an opportunity to become an affiliate for a product that says you can earn without a website.

You jump on the opportunity because maintaining a blog is difficult. So you try the brand new affiliate marketing program.

And before long, you receive another email offer about dropshipping that shows you how to sell and profit within 24 hours.

Guess what, you buy into the idea and work on the new dropshipping project. And the story goes on and on.

This is what is happening to ordinary people. They lack persistence in pursuing their goals and the ability to stick to their plan.

Stop chasing the next big thing, instead, stick to the plan and goal that you have set.

And don’t compare yourself with others. You know what? The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

So put in consistent effort in your plan/project/goal/business. No matter what business you try to pursue, you can make it big and turn it successful as long as you don’t give up on it.

How to Be Persistent in What You Do

As humans, we tend to be more committed to things when there is a consequence or a stake.

Think about it, people are less likely to be late for business meetings than normal social meetings with friends. Why?

The answer is because the consequence for the former is more severe. Your boss may screw you for being late or worst, it could get you fired.

So the answer is clear, one of the best ways to stay persistent with what you do is to increase your commitment to it.

When you put in higher stakes for something, you are less likely to procrastinate and more likely to make it work.

Besides increasing your commitment, there are also other effective methods to make things work. Check out this article on PickTheBrain.com:

6 Powerful Ways to Become More Persistent

6. They don’t have a desire and are not hungry enough

Your desire to change must be stronger than your desire to stay the same.

The problem with most people is not the lack of talent or ability, but the lack of desire and willpower. People are just not hungry enough for success.

They want to be successful, they hope to get it, and they wish to achieve all their goals, but when the tough times come, they choose to give up and quit.

If you are serious about achieving the great success you desire, you must be hungry enough to do whatever it takes to get it.

Napoleon Hill, the famous author of Think and Grow Rich once said:

“The starting point of all achievement is desire.”

Without desire, nothing will work. You will never want to do something inconvenient if you don’t have the desire for it.

So if you want to avoid failure and create more success in life, learn to grow your desire for the success you want.

How to Develop Your Desire for Success

Are you willing to do whatever it takes or you are just willing to do what is convenient?

You want to learn from Hernan Cortes, who ordered his men to burn down their own ships so that they have no escape but to win the battle and take the island.

People are absolutely fine if they don’t achieve their goals. And this is exactly why they fail in the first place.

When something is not a must-achieve to you, you will never do your best. And it is okay if you did not achieve it, right?

So if you want to achieve great success in life, burn the ships. Raise your commitment and leave yourself no options but to press on until you get it.

In one of my previous article, I shared 5 powerful methods for how you can increase your desire for success. I strongly suggest you read the article.

7. They focus on the short-term gain rather than the long-term success

Another primary reason people fail in life is that they focus on the short-term rather than the long-term.

Remember this, what is good usually will never come quick and what comes quickly usually will do you no good over the long-term.

For example, if you need to write a blog post but your favorite TV program is showing now, which one will you choose? Are you going to work on your blog post or are you going to procrastinate and watch TV?

Your ability to resist temptations in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the key to your success.

Success is not something you can create in the short term. And because of this, it requires a lot of your discipline and willpower to stick to your daily hustle.

If you fail to resist the short term temptations, you will abandon your plan and do what is convenient.

Do you know how Muhammad Ali became the boxing champion? Here’s what he said:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion!’”

Thus, develop your ability to delay gratification and aim for the long term reward.

How to Delay Gratification and Focus on the Long Term

One of the most creative ways to delay gratification is to build a supportive environment.

You don’t always hear people tell you to build a winning environment. When it comes to success, people will tell you that willpower, motivation, effort, and hard work are important, but not much people will talk about the environment.

Imagine if you need to read a book in a noisy wet market, can you do it? Hardly. It will be extremely difficult for you to focus on the reading.

And this is how your environment plays an important role in your success. You want to design it in such a way that you can win.

For instance, make your environment suitable to work. Design your surrounding so that it supports your goals and dreams.

If you want to write an article, find a workplace that is quiet and where you can focus.

If you want to be healthy, throw away all the junk foods in your kitchen and fridge.

If you want to do yoga every morning, put the yoga mat in your room so it is highly visible to you.

The above are just some of the environment hacks that you can use to support your goals.

If you want to learn more about delay gratification and building the right environment, read this article below:

Why Delay Gratification Can Greatly Impact Your Success in Life

8. They let their fears control their lives

One reason people are not living the life they want is that they are living their fears.

Most people are afraid of success because they are afraid of failure. While it is true that failure is difficult to swallow, it is something necessary to grow you into someone better.

Never get it wrong by thinking failure is the opposite of success, it is not. Failure is on the same side with success. Without failure, you will never learn. As what Tony Robbins said:

“Success in life is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. And experience is usually the result of bad judgment.”

Hence, welcome mistakes and failures. And don’t be afraid of them for they are there to make you more successful.

Every extraordinary person out there is able to create outstanding results in life because they are not afraid of failure.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

First, understand that failure is an event, not a person. When you fail at something, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.

You’re only a failure when you stop trying and give up.

Failure is an event. If you fail now, it means that what you did isn’t right and you need to change your approach.

Michael Jordan is no doubt one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but do you know that he was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach thinks he didn’t have the skill?

And Jordan overcomes his failure with tremendous effort and training.

Hence, be more analytical. Think about all the potential outcomes that you may encounter. You have to understand that you may need to fight a battle more than once to win it.

So if you fail, so what? Try again. And what if you fail again? Well, try again. You should keep on trying and improving your method until you achieve the result you want.

MindTools.com shared a very good article about overcoming the fear of failure, you can read it here.

9. They are not willing to put in the hard work

A dream doesn't become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work.

It is true that hard work cannot guarantee your success, but without hard work, you will surely fail.

In fact, it is one of the most common reasons people fail to produce outstanding success in life. They want success, but they’re not willing to work for it.

You see, most people are lazy (I know you’re not). And you can outdo them if you are willing to put in more hard work than them.

When people are partying, gaming, and having fun, choose to work on your goals. You may not have better skills than your competitor and you may be less talented than them, but you can definitely work harder than them.

Read the stories of most successful people out there and you will notice that almost every one of them work extremely hard for their dreams and their goals.

  • When Michael Jordan first entered the league, his jump shot wasn’t good enough. He spent his offseason taking hundreds of jumpers a day until it was perfect.
  • After his return to Starbucks, CEO Howard Schultz gets into the office by 6 in the morning and stays until 7. And he continues talking to overseas employees even later at night from home.
  • When Mark Cuban first started his company, he routinely stayed up until two in the morning reading about new software and went seven years without a vacation.

You can read more on these hard working extraordinary people from this article on Business Insider.

How to Motivate Yourself to Work Hard

You already know that working hard is compulsory. Without hard work, your competitor can easily put you out of the game.

However, it is easy to say “I want to work hard” than actually putting in the work.

This is especially true when you don’t have the motivation but you know you have to put in the work. So how can you solve this?

There are many ways how you can motivate yourself to work hard, and here are 7 methods from Business Insider:

7 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Work Harder

10. They lack the meaning for what they pursue in life

Of all the reasons why people fail in life, this is the most crucial. Without having a meaningful purpose to work, you will never want to work or even learn to improve.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take once conducted an experiment for the paid employees in a university’s fundraising call center. Their job was to call potential donors for contributions.

Grant divided the employees into 3 groups:

  • Group A: The control group where they just did their work.
  • Group B: The employees are required to read stories from other employees about the personal benefits of the job.
  • Group C: The employees are required to read stories from scholarship recipients about how the scholarships had changed their lives.

Here’s the conclusion, Group A and B saw no difference in performance, but Group C grew their weekly pledges by 155% (from 9 to 23) and improved fundraising by 143% (from $1,288 to $3,130).

Does this give you any clue about work performance?

If you want to work better and create more success, work for a purpose that could impact others.

In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy visited NASA, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and asked him what he was doing. This was how the janitor responded:

“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

When you have a purposeful vision, your work becomes meaningful and fun. You will want to work harder, work more, and improve to serve others better.

Rather than sweeping the floor, you look at your job as serving and helping put a man on the moon.

How to Find Meaning in Life and at Work

First, let’s talk about finding meaning in life. This subject itself can be as thick as deep as you want. So I’m going to make it short and point you in the right direction.

I love how Lachlan Brown puts it in his blog. He said that the key towards finding meaning in life is to not look for it, just enjoy.

You don’t have to throw away your possessions or quit your job, you just need to take a moment to live in the moment. I suggest you read his blog post for further explanation.

Next, let’s talk about finding meaning at work.

When you believe that you are working at something bigger than yourself and that you are creating something significant to the world and society, you will work harder.

So how do you find the meaning at work? Greater Good Magazine once published a study on this subject. And the writers, Morten Hansen, and Dacher Keltner explain how you can find more meaning at work:

Eight Ways to Find More Meaning at Work

There you have it, finding the purpose and meaning in both life and work. You just need to spend a few minutes to read and understand. And after that, perhaps, you should do a reflection and review your life and work.

Conclusion

You have come a long way to reach this point. And if you are reading this, it means that you truly serious about achieving success and you want to avoid living in mediocrity.

I congratulate you. But your journey is far from over.

You see, people fail in life not because of what they do once. People fail in life because of the things they do day-in and day-out.

  • They choose to smoke for 20 years. And that’s how they get lung cancer.
  • They choose to waste their time on social media rather than working on their goals, not for one day, but for years.
  • They choose to eat junk foods for years, and now they’re overweight.

So you see, success and failure are not created in an instant. It is created through years of conscious and unconscious choices.

If you think that you have failed in life right now, don’t worry, apply what you have above and try again.

You now know the reason people fail, so don’t repeat them.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

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About Shawn Lim

I'm a blogger, writer, and also an internet entrepreneur. If you want to learn more about me, kindly go to the About page. By the way, have you downloaded your FREE copy of Active Goal Setting? Don't forget to do so. :)

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