Key learning outcomes:

  • Acknowledge that you are responsible for your own success (or otherwise).
  • Learn about the benefits of self-evaluation and reflection in guiding your success.
  • Determine the relationship between effort and the end result.
  • Recognise the value of listening to others, not just to the sound of your own voice.


Why is it that the person next to you outperforms you week after week, month after month, year after year?

How can it be? Like you, they only have one head and only have 24 hours in a day. And they look like you, walk like you, talk like you and think like you … or do they?

Most often the only thing holding you back from success is you!

When we have looked at what holds people back from success, we have found some common threads. In this article we explore them one by one. Use it as a checklist to look for areas of self-improvement. Remember that acknowledging you have some things to address is the first step in making a giant leap forward in your results.

Lack of consistency

One of the key things we see in people that do not seem to be reaching their full potential is that there is a lack of consistency in what they do. They will have a hot week or bursts of high productivity, but we will also see periods where their performance and effort fall short. This pattern of highs and lows becomes exhausting not just for them but also for those around them. A more consistent effort over the longer term would produce a better result.

The 5% rule

People who underperform often fail to realise just how close they may be to achieving success. Just a 5% increase in effort every day will make a huge difference over the course of a year. Take a look at the following graph, which illustrates this point very effectively. Over the course of a year the difference between putting in 90%, 95% and 100% effort is magnified, and the differences in the end result are quite dramatic. It is important to remember little things add up to make a big difference over time. Imagine how these gaps widen over two years, five years or worse, over the span of your career!


Believing your own publicity

Positive self-reinforcement is healthy and it is a good thing to focus on what you are good at; however, it starts to become a problem when it is not balanced. It is essential to look at your strengths and build on them, but more importantly to look at your weaknesses as these are the areas where we are most likely to get the biggest gains. Self-evaluation is essential to success, and tools such as our “Personal SWOT” will help you to take a helicopter view and look at yourself, your performance and your abilities from a more objective point of view. We recommend asking someone that you trust to complete a SWOT for you as it can be a great way to get some perspective on the areas of potential improvement.

Not taking responsibility

“If only” and “but” are dangerous words and they might just be holding you back from success. It is important to monitor how you are reacting to situations, especially if things have not quite gone to plan. Over and over again we see people who are not getting results, always finding an excuse and blaming others. For example, if you have not acheived a target or goal, you should listen to yourself. If the reason why is always something “external”, then perhaps you are not taking enough responsibility for your own lack of success “Would haves”, “should haves” and “could haves” do not count at the end of the day as we will be judged on what we actually have done and on the results we have achieved.

Too smart for you own good

From our experience people can hold themselves back from success by being just a little too smart for their own good. They are the ones who always have an answer for everything; they have often done it all and know it all. By doing a little less talking and a little more listening you will find that you can pick up useful tips and ideas from others if you spend all the time telling others what you know rather than being on the lookout for what you don’t know.

Smoke screening

Smoke screening is a diversion tactic that is used effectively in warfare and other combat situations. Often those who don’t show their true potential become experts at using this tactic. You come away from a session with them thinking that there is a lot of activity and action happening only to find that the results do not seem to follow. These people will often ask questions and divert your attention by getting you to do all the talking. The problem with this is that sooner or later the smoke settles and the true picture emerges; and it is generally not quite as pretty as you thought. If you know that you do this, it is time for some self-evaluation and reflection. Again the “Personal SWOT” will be helpful along with our article “Self-leadership”.


This is one of the things we see most often in those who do not quite realise their potential or who fall just short of their targets over and over again. It really comes down to fear and a lack of self-belief. You see it in sport, in business and in life where someone who is just about to make a breakthrough suffers a setback or their performance suddenly drops. It comes down to believing that you are good enough, that you are worthy of success and knowing that failure is something that can be overcome. Sometimes people don’t give it their best shot because it leaves them with an excuse if they fail. Remember, you will learn more from your losses than your wins, so it is important to put in your best effort every time. Work on building your self-confidence through working on the “Personal Development” section of the website.

You have the power!

Successful or not, at the end of the day it is up to each individual to acknowledge that they are responsible for their own success. William H Johnsen sums this up perfectly in his quote, “If it is to be, it is up to me”. We all hold the power to be successful, to improve through others and ourselves, to get motivated in whichever way works for us, to be as healthy as we possibly can and to give it our best shot every single day. If you believe this, success is inevitable.

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