9 myths and misconceptions about success (and 10 ways you can succeed)

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Feb 16, 2024

9 myths and misconceptions about success (and 10 ways you can succeed)

Do some people really have a better shot at achieving their dreams than others? Can anyone be successful, or is it all down to luck? We’re exploring the truth about what it really takes to triumph

When you stop to think about success, what comes to mind? High-earning entrepreneurs, tech innovators, influential activists, bestselling authors? Success comes in many different forms, yet if we’re honest with ourselves, there are a lot of assumptions we make about how others become successful – and what’s holding us back from reaching the same heights.

Here, we’re putting some of the most common misconceptions about achievements under a microscope, to shine a spotlight on the true secrets of the successful.

Myth: Success means the same thing to everyone

In reality, there’s no single ‘look’ for success. Some people see success as having a big house or money in the bank. Others see it as how they impact the environment, local communities, or give back to charity. Focus on what you value most, and how you define it, and strive for that.

Myth: Only certain personality types can succeed

You don’t have to be an aggressive extrovert to be successful – introverts can succeed, too! From sports star Michael Jordan to philanthropist Bill Gates, success can happen for any and all personality types.

Myth: Following your passion is enough to succeed

Unfortunately, passion alone isn’t enough. Loving what you do can be a great starting point, but taking things to the next level requires hard work, too. You need a 360 approach that allows you growth in various areas – from improving existing skills or learning new ones, to understanding your market, and being open to feedback in order to see progress.

Myth: Success is dependent on your upbringing

Having a solid start in life can give you a big advantage. Knowing you have people to support you (financially or emotionally) makes a huge difference, giving you access to resources others may not have. Yet it’s not the only path to success. Oprah was born to a poor family, and is now worth an estimated $2.6 billion. Ed Sheeran, a big name in the music industry, dropped out of school and slept rough before making it big. Anything is possible.

Myth: You need luck to succeed

Luck can give you a boost, but sitting back and waiting for something magic to happen rarely leads to success. Make your own luck by working hard and seeking out new opportunities.

Myth: You can’t succeed without stepping on other people

You don’t have to be ruthless, put others down, or take unearned credit to succeed. Focus, determination, confidence, and building a strong network that you can rely on (and that can trust you) is key.


Myth: You can make it overnight

Overnight success stories may make great headlines, but they rarely reflect reality for the majority. Who wants to hear about someone’s 15 failed business ventures, when their 16th went viral? What we read about is often only the tip of the time, effort, and learning iceberg that led to their success.

Myth: Success is about having what everyone else wants

Who doesn’t want others to look up to them? But the goal of success isn’t to make others jealous. It’s to achieve something – whether that’s financial security, giving back to your community, or creating something that helps others in some small way. Success isn’t stuff – it’s how we make a difference, and leave things just a little bit better than how we found them.

Myth: Successful people never make mistakes

We all make mistakes. Big ones, small ones, life-changing ones, forgettable ones. Successful people make just as many as the rest of us. But they make sure to learn from them, and find new ways to move forward.

How can I succeed?

1. Define what success looks like to you.

What is it that you want to achieve – in life, in your career, as a whole? Take time to consider what you value, what you want from life, and how you want to measure your success. This can help guide you towards making attainable milestones, bigger goals, and prioritising what to focus on now, and in the future.

2. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

Success isn’t a destination that you can reach. It’s a process, born from working hard, making improvements, and striving to do more. Once you lose momentum, you risk faltering, and undoing that hard-won progress.

3. Work together to achieve more.

Few people can go it alone, and you can only learn so much by reading up on your industry. Trying to do everything on your own, and holding all the responsibilities on your shoulders, can slow your progress and increase frustration. Many successful people have worked with a coach or mentor, which can be a great next step to help turn your ideas and dreams into a navigable pathway.


4. Consistency is key.

Little and often can be a beneficial approach. Spending 30 minutes a day trying to improve will see more sustainable change over time, than waiting to have a whole afternoon or day free. Putting out smaller, regular updates will build brand awareness more consistently than one big push. Keep showing up, keep putting in the effort, and you will start to see improvements.

5. Don’t get caught up in the future – enjoy the moment.

Looking to the future and anticipating problems can be helpful, but when you constantly focus on what’s next, you can forget to live in the present. Take time to enjoy the moment, celebrate your successes, and appreciate the progress you have made.

6. Start now – don’t wait for perfection.

The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now. We can wait forever for the ‘right time’ to begin our journey to success, but what if there is no perfect time? Once you have got started, all you can do is improve.

7. Remind yourself: success is about happiness, not money.

Success is about a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and progress. Money isn’t the benchmark of your triumphs. Focus on making good choices, and the rest will follow.

8. Play to your strengths.

Knowing what you are good at is a great starting point, but don’t be afraid to expand your knowledge to areas outside of your comfort zone. And remember, you can always work together with others to fill any gaps in your experience, too.

9. It’s never too late.

Success doesn’t have a cut-off point in your 20s or 30s. You may not discover your big dream until later in life, or circumstances may hold you back – and that’s OK. As long as you have the drive to try, you have the opportunity to succeed.

10. Remember: there’s life beyond success

Success can give us a sense of purpose, but it’s not the only point of life. Just as only you can decide what is most important in your life, only you can decide where the benchmark for success is – and if it’s worth giving up everything else to achieve that. Ensuring you have balance is important. Take time to look after your relationships, focus on your wellbeing, and make sure life isn’t passing you by as you pursue your goals.

Visit the Life Coach Directory for more information, or speak to a qualified life coach.

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