According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. While 95% of these thoughts are exactly the same as the day before, 80% of them are negative.
Another study by the Cornell University found that 85% of our fears never turn into reality and that 97% of our worries are a result of pessimistic perception rather than rational thinking.
And while there’s no proper definition of a successful person, almost anyone you ask will tell you they want to be successful in one way or the other. For some, this means financial success; for others, it means fulfillment, prestige, or a sense of happiness.
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One of the definitions that most resonate with me is one by Bob Dylan:
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Unsuccessful people, on the contrary, are often frustrated, outraged, and pessimistic. And in most cases, they’re not angry because they fail, but the other way around: They fail because of their destructive thought patterns and belief systems.
They constantly complain about being a victim and how the world is unfair. As a result, they don’t believe in themselves, don’t perform at their best, and fail even more.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but the thoughts about it.”
— Eckhart Tolle
Here are seven common thought patterns of unsuccessful and frustrated people and how to change them one thought at a time:
“I Always Did It That Way.”
That’s the worst reason to keep doing something the way you’ve always been doing it.
Unsuccessful people are often stuck because they aren’t open to changes. They think they know everything better than anyone else and they even hold their fellows and teammates back from implementing fresh, innovative ideas.
The world is changing faster than ever before and new challenges are arising every single day. Additionally, according to the Knowledge Doubling Curve, human knowledge is doubling every few months.
Considering the speed of change in our world, doing things the way you always did it is the surest way to end up in frustration. Why? Because tomorrow, things might not work out the way they did yesterday. And if you don’t educate yourself on current trends and developments now, you might be out of the game in your industry quite soon.
Successful people are open to change, don’t fear innovation, and embrace the fact that they always need to challenge the status quo, even when certain structures and processes worked well in the past.
“I Don’t Have Time.”
In most cases, “I don’t have time” is synonymous with one of the following statements:
- It’s not a priority.
- I don’t want to do it.
- I can’t manage my time.
We all have 24 hours per day. And while some people have tighter daily schedules than others, it’s always you creating your reality.
Yes, going to work, doing the housework and looking after the kids might be challenging but let’s be honest: You created that reality.
The life you’re living right now is the result of millions of tiny decisions you made in the past decades. Shit happens to all of us and while taking time off when you feel overwhelmed is totally okay, feeling sorry for yourself isn’t. No matter how much you pity yourself, nobody will come to save you. You need to be your own hero and your biggest cheerleader.
The good news, however, is that you can start changing that reality right now by shifting your thinking patterns and eliminating one destructive habit at a time.
“I Already Know That.”
Did you ever come across advice in a book, article, or seminar and think:
“I already know that.”
You likely did.
We all think that way from time to time. Yet, by claiming to be knowledgable, frustrated people miss opportunities for growth.
Unsuccessful people believe they’re done once they know something. The reality, however, is that your subconscious mind needs to hear the same things over and over again for you to finally take action and change your behavior.
Successful people don’t aim to be right or omniscient. Instead, they seek opportunities for growth. They know they can learn something new from almost anyone, any book, and any challenge they face.
As Tony Robbins states:
“Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only potential power. Action is power.”
Reading the same books, listening to the same advice, and spending time on understanding and applying the strategies you already know about are not wastes of time or a shame. These activities might actually be the most powerful things to do to become a better version of yourself and find your way out of harmful thought patterns.
“It’s Not My Fault.”
Nobody likes to be at fault. Yet, what differentiates unsuccessful, frustrated people from the rest is that they don’t admit their mistakes. Instead, they blame anyone and anything: Politics, the weather, their partner, their boss, the traffic, and anything else that might come to their mind.
When you’re unhappy, unsatisfied, and frustrated, it’s hard to admit your faults. You feel as if apologizing would make you even more vulnerable and thus accuse others instead of accepting your mistakes and asking for help.
Happy and successful people, however, don’t freak out when they mess things up. They know that failures are the foundation of success and thus try to learn lessons by screwing things up.
Now, you certainly don’t need to mess things up to learn how to accept mistakes, but you get the point: Next time you make a mistake, try to genuinely accept it. Embrace the fact that you’re just a human and don’t try to cover your flaws.
Once you accept your mistakes, you’ll realize how the world doesn’t judge you as much as you might’ve expected.
“That’s Not Fair.”
I won’t sugarcoat the fact that life’s not fair.
Life just isn’t fair. Whether you’re born in a third world country and fighting hunger or born as the child of a billionaire is pure luck.
Millions of people are happier, healthier, and wealthier than you. On the other side, considering that you have a digital device and internet connection to read this post right now, you are more prosperous and healthier than millions of people on our planet.
Instead of complaining about how unfair life is, focus on compensating the lack of luck, talent, or wealthy parents with hard and smart work.
Complaining about inequity won’t help you to get any further in life. Fighting injustice, however, will. Next time you find yourself thinking “That’s not fair”, stop for a minute and ask yourself what you could do to actively change your situation.
How to Change Your Thinking
Everything you think and believe right now is the result of all the things you heard, read, experienced, and feared in the past.
It’s no secret that our thoughts create our reality. And while changing your pattern of thinking is easier said than done, it actually comes down to a 3-step process:
- Locate your misbeliefs: Noticing toxic beliefs is the first step to changing them.
- Acceptance: Once you catch yourself drowning in negative thoughts, embrace them. Instead of fighting your thoughts, accept them and ask yourself why the negative belief even came up.
- Replace them with positive beliefs and look for solutions: After locating and accepting your negative feelings, it’s all about replacing them with positive affirmations and finding solutions.
Next time you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time”, ask yourself why you thought that way:
Do you feel overwhelmed?
Are you doing too many things you don’t enjoy?
Do you even want to have more time?
Once you know why that thought came up, brainstorm ideas on how to change the situation:
Maybe you need a new way to schedule your appointments and to-dos?
What about hiring someone to help with the household?
What about sharing your struggles with your partner, kids, or parents and asking them for support?
Instead of accepting the stress and the lack of time, look for ways to improve your time-management and remind yourself of positive affirmations such as:
”I always have more time than I need.” or “I’m always on time and relaxed.”
Spotting yourself trapped in negative thoughts is no shame, yet it’s a warning signal. Being frustrated is not only a waste of time, but it’s also exhausting.
Don’t be a servant to your life. Instead, take full responsibility for your actions, control your thoughts, and focus your mind on the reality you want to create.
You might find yourself thinking and saying some of the five statements off and on. Yet, the good news is that recognizing these patterns is the first step to changing them.
Now that you’re aware of these toxic statements, you can start to change them one thought at a time. It’ll likely take time until you can fully let go of these wrong beliefs. Yet, it will be worth it.
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