Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Many people think of success as something glamorous, far away, and unattainable. They may envision the material things they don’t have, the status they can’t achieve, and the relationships they can’t find.

In other words, success is an abstraction; an impossibility. Something for other people.

Even the most optimistic among us are guilty of this type of thinking, usually just often enough that they don’t notice it.

If we observe these thoughts in ourselves, we can assess their influence over our decisions, adapt, and aim for the greatest success we are capable of.



If we hope to accurately appraise how this type of thinking influences us, we need to consider why it emerges in the first place.

We don’t learn these habits for no reason. We learn these habits as an adaptation to realities that we have to come to terms with every day.

The hard fact is that it’s probably not realistic for a single person to bring about world peace, explore Mars, and become a trillionaire, all from a late stage in their life.

This is obvious, and we take it for granted without much fuss. Yet, there are many sacrifices that we must make, according to our life circumstances, that are far more difficult to come to terms with.

We may have people to take care of. We may be cynical because of past disappointments. We may be trapped by our financial circumstances. It may seem like the time for our ambitions has passed.

Despite all this, many of us go too far when we lower our expectations of what we can achieve with the time we have.

We need to hold on to our idealism while tempering it with realism. If we do, we can push up against the edge of possibility. We will see for ourselves just how far we can go, and how incredibly we can defy the odds.


If we are to set realistic goals, then we need to develop a realistic view of what is possible for us.

Usually, the answer is: more than we think. It is possible for some people to have aspirations that are unrealistically high, but as the years wear on, we generally tend to expect less and less.

It’s valuable to consider why we might have this bias towards achieving less, rather than more.

It’s due to a sense of resignation, which itself is due to a combination of variables. Disappointment, low self-esteem, laziness, or a feeling of being locked in to the status quo can lead us to accept less than we could really have.

In brief, resignation is easier. Overcoming these mental hurdles requires us to expend ourselves in the short-term. Resignation, on the other hand, allows us to avoid confronting these challenges. Like anything, the dilemma is between short-term gratification and long-term benefit.


If we are to be persuaded to expend all this energy, we need a good incentive.

Quite simply, you attract what you think. People prefer to surround themselves with others who validate and reinforce their own way of thinking. This is part of human nature; it comes from a deeply ingrained instinct to blend in and become socially integrated.

This applies to the people you will find yourself surrounded by, both romantically and platonically. Since people carry opportunity, it also applies to the opportunities you will encounter, both personally and professionally.

All this is to say that if we want to be surrounded by certain people and become successful, we need to become one of those people and have an attitude and work ethic that leads to success. Your success depends on it.

As we evaluate whether we are attracting (and therefore, thinking) things that are helping us or hurting us, we need to consider two main variables.



The first is positivity vs negativity.

Those who have a positive mindset will keep aiming higher for themselves, and seek greater opportunity. They will attract and be attracted by other positive people, who themselves carry opportunity and offer connections.

Positive people may be unwilling to spend too much time around negative people, since negativity subdues the natural sense of enterprise that positive people benefit from.

If you are positive, on the other hand, positive people will offer you their connections and opportunities simply because they like you. This, again, is part of a natural social instinct to cooperate, reciprocate, and integrate.

The connections we draw in will share the positive mindset that we attracted them with. As we find ourselves surrounded by positivity, we will automatically become integrated into a broader culture of positivity which rewards positivity.

These connections will also share our personal interests and goals; we will find ourselves immersed in a subculture in which we feel understood. Our friends will cooperate with us to help us reach our goals, and our future spouses may have a vision for the future that matches ours.

But what about negativity? It is true: we might be drawn to choose negativity over positivity if life’s challenges are too much for us.

We might choose to surround ourselves with negative people who understand us better. Negative people may find positive people to be superficial, insincere, and unwilling to acknowledge the darker side of things.

But even in negativity, we find positivity. Those who seek out negative people are actually seeking out acceptance, understanding, and compassion. Of course, these are decidedly positive qualities. Seeking out positivity, therefore, is the natural progression. Some of us just need more time.

But what determines whether an individual needs more or less time, and how do they avoid getting stuck in a plateau?


This brings us to our second variable: openness vs narrowness.

It is only when we are faced with the unknown that we learn, and only when we struggle that we adapt. These confrontations with the other are what push us towards new heights of positivity.

These confrontations exhaust us. Even so, it is possible to use new positivity as fuel towards these confrontations. If we do, we can incrementally expose ourselves to more and more of the world, and grow. This is why we must be mindful to make good use of the positivity we earn along the way.

So get involved in new things. Meet new people with differing views, attitudes, and opinions, and to try and understand them.

If we do this over time, we will find ourselves borrowing the best from each thing we encounter, and becoming something more than we were. We also become more tolerant and loving towards others, and we learn so much along the way.

It may be more comfortable to stay where we are, surround ourselves with people who will reinforce our current attitudes, behaviours and interests, and convince ourselves that we are already at our potential. But there is a choice to be made, whether we are aware of the dilemma or not.


So we can see that it is true that we attract what we think. But we also create what we think; this means that success is a state of mind. This makes it even more urgent that we choose our attitudes carefully.

If somebody’s actions are informed by their negativity, they may decide not to bother with any of this extra effort. They may be convinced that things are going to turn out badly anyway.

With the lack of effort, things slip into decay, and their “prediction” comes true. Conversely, if we expect our efforts to be rewarded, we will put in the requisite effort. This involves developing the resiliency to withstand the inevitable setbacks we encounter along the way. We must also develop a willingness to adapt.

Likewise, our predictions are realized.

In either case, the power of suggestion controls our outcome. This is what it means to create your own reality.


Between positivity and negativity, the shared goal is to find others who are like-minded. This should be our first priority. If you choose to be the energy you want to attract, you will find others who will support you. Such a support system can act as a springboard for further growth.

From this point of support, we should develop an open-mindedness and curiosity about new things. The more we learn from our open-mindedness, the more quickly we will find our curiosity turning into positivity.

In particular, we should target those negative tendencies in ourselves that are limiting us. We should learn that there is plenty more we can do from where we are with the time we have.

And finally, those who are already positive should learn that positivity is not a zero-sum equation. By spreading positivity, you create positivity.

So try these, in any order.

  • Find emotional support

  • Learn to be open to new ideas and people

  • Try new things

  • Work on self-esteem

  • Reevaluate your current life circumstances

  • Set goals that are realistic and meaningful to you

  • Develop a sense of optimistic determination, and set it towards your goals

  • Spread your positivity

And as a parting thought, consider that, by showing enough curiosity to read this article, you have already taken the first step on a hopeful new path.


Background by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

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