Why Chasing Success Won’t Make You Successful

Why Chasing Success Won't Make You Successful

I believe in confidence. I like to be confident and my closest friends are strongly confident people. That’s why Steve Errey caught my eye a long time ago, and not just because his blog was fuchsia pink at the time. (It was a bold, confident color, but I like the current blue better.) Steve is a confident, insightful person who knows a hell of a lot about the subject – well, he would, considering he’s THE Confidence Guy.

So I was glad when he sent me a post about success and confidence, because I know many, many freelancers struggle with both. Here it is; enjoy.

So you’re building something. A business. An enterprise. A freelance lifestyle. Whoop-de-doo.

I hope it works out for you. I really do. But before I call the mayor and get a parade organised to celebrate your success, I just want to ask you something:

This thing you’re building… You are doing it for the right reasons, aren’t you?

You may not be.

Here are a few of the wrong reasons to build a business:

  • To blow other people away with what you’ve built
  • To earn yourself some great money
  • To impress your peers
  • To bring about a better lifestyle
  • To be your own boss
  • To work on your own terms
  • To feel successful; to feel like you’ve “made it”
  • To finish it, because you already decided to build it
  • To take vacation time when you want
  • To be respected by your peers, mentors, family and friends

Sure, those reasons sound pretty darned great, but if the pursuit of them is the reason you’re so busy, let me wave a red flag and ring the alarm bell right now.

Wave-wave. Ring-ring.

See, far too many people fail to create their own definition of success. Instead, they chase an idea they’ve patched together from what they’ve read, observed, or think they should be aiming for.

They go after the wrong kind of success and wonder why it feels hollow when they get there.

You might be motivated by the qualities you think success delivers when it arrives, but whether it’s the feeling that you’ve “made it”, that you’ll be free of worry and stress or just feel able to buy nice stuff, these are all externalized projections about what success will bring you.

When you make decisions based on an external motivator, you’re making room for struggle, second-guessing and doubt.

Success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it isn’t all you think it will be. In fact, success often increases worry and fear, as you question how to sustain it, how you can repeat it or stress over losing it.

Being successful does not change how your brain works. Unless you change your thinking, no amount of success will work for you.

There’s only one reason to go about building a business:

Because it matters.

Let’s say you want to become the best tennis player in the world. You could place your sights on winning grand slam after grand slam. You could focus on lifting the trophy cup and hearing the roar of the crowd. You could think of breaking records or enjoying the lifestyle fame brings.

But none of that answers the question why you want your dream, and none of that helps you become the best tennis player you can be. Your dream only happens if you get enjoyment from the act of playing tennis itself and only if you decide to jump in and play more.

Like you, I’m building a business. Sometimes, it’s almost impossibly tough. I’m saddled with a mountain of debt, which means I have to spend time and energy working another job to pay it off. I have an illness that prevents me from hustling as much as I might want to, and sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks for weeks at a time.

But I’m still in the game. I’m still playing. I’ll bet against anyone or anything stopping me from building this business, for the simple reason that building this business matters to me. It just does.

I don’t think about whether success will come, because I know that success is transient, just like screwing up or failing. Success and failure happen sometimes as a result of what I do, but those events don’t define what I do or how I do it.

It’s causal – what I do determines the shape of the success or failure. Success or failure doesn’t determine what I do.

So I know that my best chance of experiencing more success in my business is by engaging with what matters to me and playing the best game I can.

The same goes for you. It’s the choice to engage with what matters to you, and doing so aligns your efforts with whatever has personal relevance and meaning. It also ensures that you’re intrinsically motivated to play to the best of your ability.

And that intrinsic motivation is priceless. It ensures that your decisions and behaviour are born from that spark, and having that congruence of thought brings grace and confidence to your efforts that just aren’t there otherwise.

That’s why (and this flies in the face of conventional wisdom), you should shift your thinking away from being a successful person.

Don’t be successful. Be confident.

People aren’t successful or unsuccessful. Success and failure are peppered throughout your life and they’re just… well, things that happen. Building your behaviour around these external events is building your life in a reactionary way. You’re smart enough to know how crazy that is!

Have implicit trust in your behaviour rather than focusing on the outcome of that behaviour. Funnily enough, that’s how you’ll increase your chances of experiencing meaningful success more often.

Don’t go about your business or your life based on external, meaningless motivators. Blow yourself away with how much of a great player you’re becoming. Blow yourself away with how much value you get from playing the game. Blow yourself away with what you’re building.

If you do, success and failure become meaningless. And you’ll have all the confidence you need to reach your vision of meaningful success.

About the Author: Steve is a leading confidence coach who dances like Ernest Borgnine. While he may not be able to improve your dance moves, he can build your confidence. Grab his RSS feed here and follow him on Twitter.

If you really struggle with confidence, check out Staying Up When You're Put Down by Steve Errey.

It's a brilliant resource for people who've been put down so often by others they've lost faith in themselves. If that's you, pick up a copy today.

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