The world wants you to stick to the status quo. And it starts with schools (traditional schools, that is).
The status quo is memorizing information without applying it to current problems. The status quo is regurgitating what you crammed the night before onto standardized tests, getting a great mark, and forgetting everything you learned after a few days. The status quo is only focusing on getting great marks, but not looking ahead at how to prepare for a changing world.
Society has a weird way of trying to make you blend in, leaving you to figure out for yourself what you can do to stand out, how you can prepare for the next stage of life, and how you can get the right skills to succeed in today’s world — without losing your sanity.
Nobody will come right out and say those exact words, though.
Instead, they’ll say things like:
- “Are you really throwing away money doing THAT summer program?”
- “Learn social skills? Networking? You should stick to just learning Math and Sciences.”
- “You need more AP courses. Why would you waste time with university preparation or resume writing courses?”
- “Why bother learning ahead? Your already have good grades.”
If you’re one of our readers, you’re probably going to make some out-of-the-box choices in your life. Maybe you’ll spend your free time in enrichment classes. Maybe you’ll start a small business. Maybe you’ll do something as crazy as spend an extravagant amount on extracurriculars and private coaching.
As you build your Successful Life vision, you will encounter obstacles that can detour, delay, and even dead-end it. Other people have all kinds of opinions about how they think you should live your life.
Look out for these 8 Successful Life common pitfalls that most people make.
Successful Life trap #1: Thinking “successful” has to mean a bunch of awards, scholarships, and AP classes
Many students and parents have the misconception that success means having a bunch of awards and advanced classes in as many things as possible. But what if plenty of other students are already involved in dozens of extracurriculars, taking every AP course, and winning several awards? How can you stand out?
Besides that, success can mean a lot of things:
- Better grades with less stress
- More confidence knowing that your application stands out
- Increased safety and security in your program and university decision
- Reaching ahead, challenging yourself to not be stagnant
Define what “Success” means to you. Don’t fall into the trap of society’s stereotypes.
Successful Life trap #2: It’s tragic not to live up to your potential
What a tragedy to get to the later years of your life and realize who you could have been.
- You followed the script, graduated from university, and landed a full-time job… but you know it could have been so much better.
- You worried about going on that second vacation… but you could have made great memories and enjoyed every destination you ever wanted.
You likely don’t want to end up as a 70-year-old with $8 million in the bank, having stressed over every bill and day off the entire time. What would you even do with that kind of time or money at 70? Would you know?
Too many people end up keeping it ‘vanilla’… but never learn the skill of spending time and money wisely.
Successful Life trap #3: Most good advice begins with “yes”, not “no”
Why is it that these days, so much life advice is based on restriction?
- “No, you don’t have time to read that. You have enough to deal with”
- “No, you can’t get a personal trainer”
- “No, you shouldn’t want a better job (just be happy with the one you have)”
I believe that a Successful Life begins by saying YES to the right things:
Yes, this is what I want in my life. Yes, with some guidance, I can make the most of my time and gain the skills to achieve my goals. Yes, I can be grateful for what I have now and also work hard to reach the next level.
Successful Life trap #4: Watch out for the vicious negative spiral
In my sessions, I ask students to tell me what their Successful Life looks like.
What do I notice? Most students have no idea what they want. They have never been asked to think about it. And when they start to think about it, many say things like…
- “Doesn’t need to be anything special”
- “Just want enough to live and have 2 weeks off to take some trips”
When I ask someone what their Successful Life is, they’ll usually start off with a few general things like a good work schedule or travel. And then, they quickly start telling me all the things they don’t want: “It’s not like I need to have a big mansion with 20 rooms” or “I don’t want to be chained to my desk.”
That becomes a vicious cycle because talking about what we don’t want is much easier than figuring out what we actually do want and how we can get it. It makes us feel like we’re in control but in reality, just slows our progress.
Successful Life trap #5: Having blinders and hyper-focusing on only one area
Many people get stuck in one area of their life and ignore almost everything else. I’ve been there, done that, so I know from experience.
This can go on for years, or sometimes decades.
Focus is a good thing. But the risk of not diversifying enough is that later in life, after you’ve reached the pinnacle of success in one field, you may have left yourself with blind spots. (In my case, the cost was meaningful friendships and relationships, but that’s a story for another time.) Shifting your focus is a challenge at this stage because you wouldn’t have built the skills to be effective in other areas.
Inertia is a powerful force. Missed opportunities don’t feel great.
Successful Life trap #6: Beware of endless scrolling for “advanced” tips
I do believe there’s a lot of value in getting strategic guidance from people who know what they’re talking about.
The issue comes when so many people seek out high-level solutions and avoid the tough, hard work of improving consistently. How many millionaire morning routine videos are out on YouTube? It’s easier to dream about being the next Jeff Bezos than to spend 10 minutes every day reading about personal finance and developing new skills.
Sometimes the most advanced thing you can do is get the foundation right, and be consistent.
Rich Life trap #7: Not evolving
Your Successful Life vision WILL LIKELY change over time.
As you grow and accomplish your goals, how do you think your Successful Life vision will evolve? For example, when I was in my teens, a Successful Life meant being at the top of my class, winning all the awards, and being able to buy a full set of eyeshadow at Sephora guilt-free. Now it’s about more than that, like being generous with my clients and staff, and experiencing fun adventures.
Successful Life trap #8: Being around the wrong people
I don’t believe ‘self-made’ can truly exist, because no one achieves their wildest dreams on their own. We surround ourselves with (hopefully) great people.
You’ve likely heard that you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.
- Who do you surround yourself with? Who’s in your ‘community’?
- Do they whine all the time?
- Do they have an idea of what they really want in life — and a plan to reach it?
- Do they motivate and inspire you to move forward?
P.S. Would you like to learn how your teen can get a competitive edge and take their future to the next level?
There are 8 University Prep and Career Planning Pillars that successful students know and use to their advantage. Students can learn to take control of their future and plan ahead so they know exactly what direction to take and how they can stand out to reach their goals.
Click here to get more information about Successful Students: University Preparation and Career Planning.
Francesca Cadhit is the founder of Top Class Edge Learning who offers high-performance English, Math, and Science Private Tutoring + Academic Coaching to high school students across Canada. They empower students to get grades for a semester and gain skills for a lifetime. Learn with them right at home.