Happiness and success come from choices. You do the best you can to make the right ones along the way but so many things can distract or derail you. Some wayward decisions won't amount to much more than learning opportunities for you down the road. But others can lead to something far more substantial: regret.
That's where I come in, to help increase awareness of three quite common, but quite caustic, decisions any of us can get lulled into making. With awareness comes action, the ability for you to decide differently.
Here are three corrosive choices to avoid, as doing the opposite is certain to lead to greater career and life success.
1. Giving in to fear born out of practicality.
We do so many things either out of love or fear, and quite often fear is disguised as practicality. "I'd love to, but..." is the most quietly debilitating refrain you can utter.
There are always reasons not to take that business risk, not to make the leap and start that entrepreneurial venture, not to switch industries and pursue a completely different job, not to turn down that money and instead go teach, and so on.
Try this language instead: "I'm going to, and..."
And I know I can only fail if I quit, don't improve, or never try. And I know that failure is never a person, it's only an event, a point in time. And I know that the worst that can happen is eminently manageable and nowhere close to living with never having tried.
And I know if I don't try, practicality wins yet again.
Happiness and success come from choosing not to rationalize away things that help you realize a better version of yourself.
Start small. The next time you catch yourself saying "I'd love to, but...," quickly switch to "I'm going to, and...," then spend your time sorting through the "and." You'll see that as you take on bigger and bigger risks, the "and" becomes less and less daunting.
2. Settling for a "good enough" narrative.
You worked a long life in corporate. You hated the last decade of it, but hey, you made great money, provided for your family, and saved for retirement. Or you stayed in that nonprofit sector job out of a sense of duty even though you burned out on it years ago. It wasn't great, but you paid the bills and stayed in a life of service.
Good enough? No, not good enough. Don't ignore the call for greatness, whatever greatness means to you.
Here's the thing: We're all made up of stories. What will those stories say about you when all is said and done? What will they say about how you lived your life? Life is one long narrative and it's up to you to craft the kind of stories you'd be proud of, one chapter at a time, before "The End." It's up to you to live your great story.
It starts by admitting that you're living someone else's story or by recognizing that you've been derailed from the story you want your life to tell (for whatever understandable reason that's happened).
After 25 years in corporate, I finally admitted to myself I was settling for good enough, finding convenient excuses to keep me from entering a life of servitude and entrepreneurialism that was calling me. I've defined the difference between good and great in my life, I'm pursuing the latter, and I've never been happier or more successful by my definition of success.
3. Quieting your curiosity.
Happiness and success are fed by life-long learning, which feeds personal growth. There are so many reasons to de-prioritize your curiosity. I experienced in corporate that chances to learn something new, build a skill, feed my curiosity, were quite often subjugated to the business crisis of the moment.
I've also found in my personal life how easy it is to not pursue what I'm curious about, to not pick up that book, take that class, or experiment with that new revenue stream for my entrepreneurial venture.
Some of the happiest, most successful people credit their insatiable curiosity as a driver of both their happiness and success, as well as their willingness to prioritize feeding it. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, on and on--lifelong learners. You can be too.
Once again, start small. Fall back in love with knowing more. Never be satisfied that you know enough. Grow to think of curiosity as a value, a virtue. Don't muffle it, muster it.
In truth, regrets are often something we inadvertently choose to have. Choose not to.