There is an old Chinese saying that speaks to the here and now issue of the need for life-long learning and continuous self-improvement. The saying is this, "Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back."

A more modern reflection on this theme comes from Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Mr. Gladwell states that, "We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction."

What follows are 7 thought provoking examples of common barriers to success and self-defeating behaviors. Take some time to reflect on each barrier, and then select one or two that are meaningful to you. Write each barrier down on an index card and create a mini action plan for improvement (API). Review each index card and implement your API daily for 30 days and you'll be amazed at the progress you can achieve in that short period of time.

Inadequate Feelings of Self-worth. Focusing on negative feelings, fear and doubt only creates more of each. Develop the capacity to relive your successes. Understand that we are always in the process of fine tuning and making minor course corrections and adjustments to our plans and actions. Stop your negative thought pattern and recognize your strengths. Consider keeping a Success Journal© of your accomplishments.

Lack of Focus I. Most people aim at nothing, yet hit that target with amazing accuracy. Having clear, specific, measurable goals that are written and include target dates for completion will dramatically improve your chances on their timely achievement. Don't think you need to write out your goals? Think again. Goals that are written down simply get accomplished more often than those goals you think you can keep in your head alone. The very act of writing down your goals releases a subconscious goal seeking homing device within us that will work as your ally for success and achievement.

Lack of Focus II. The energy that is required to achieve a goal is released in abundant quantity when the goal is clear and is in alignment with your values and your fervent belief in your ability to attain them.

Perfectionist or Controlling Nature. Most successful people would agree that you can't go it alone. You need to enlist the help of others to grow your business and/or achieve your goals. Delegating tasks is one way you can spend more time doing those things that are your strengths and by applying those strengths you will create a more major impact on your success. Learn how to delegate effectively. Perhaps the delegated task won't get accomplished in the same way as you would have done it, but the end result still might be the same. Taking the "my way or else" approach will only create resentment in others and might even undermine your possibility of success.

Destructive Support Systems. Negativism is highly contagious. It drains your energy, zaps your strength, and derails the proper focus from your goals. Surround yourself with nutritious people. If you can't avoid negative people and associates, then do your best to limit your exposure to them, just as you would for second hand smoke! If you are a manager, do your best to mimic what Southwest Airlines does. They screen candidates carefully to ensure that they are hiring the "right attitudes."

Be All Things To Everyone. As the saying goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none." Attempting to please everyone is a lesson in frustration and will dramatically diminish your ability to achieve what is important to you. Learn to be "selfish." A better, happier, more fulfilled you is the best way to give to others.

Waiting to Speak Instead of Listening. Whether you are a salesperson, manager, boss, co-worker, parent, or friend; at one time or another you'll need to persuade someone to do something. Some people believe that you need to use the spoken word to convince people to see it your way. While the spoken word and the logic of your argument are important, effective and active listening is one of the highest forms of persuasion. By being an exceptionally good listener, people will gain confidence and trust in you. Most people have a deep desire to be understood. When you connect with people at that level, you develop a strong relationship with them that's hard to beat.
Think of success and achievement as driving forward in your car toward a specific destination with 100% pressure on the gas pedal and 0% pressure on the brake pedal. These 7 self-defeating behaviors represent varying degrees of brake pressure. Applying self-defeating brake pressure doesn't mean that you won't reach your goals or desired results. What is does mean is that it will take you longer to get there.

To speed ahead to your destination, write out your mini action plans for improvement on index cards and then review and implement your plan each day. Then record your progress and take time to reflect upon your successes.

Good luck on your journey to success.