The 7 Lies That Keep Us From Success

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It’s not the box society puts us in that limits who we become, it’s the box we put ourselves in.


We are the primary authors of the thoughts, words and limitations that tend to do the most damage to our potential. It’s the stories we tell ourselves. The lies that stop us from taking action.

There is no mystery to success in any field. It’s a process of moving through The Thrash, honing direction, then acting consistently. Every. Single. Day.

Action, however, ain’t easy. Especially action that exposes you to judgment. Or to the unknown. Joseph Campbell’s abyss. We don’t like being in that place where we don’t know how things are going to turn out. So our “seemingly” rational brains conjure up all manner of reasons not to act. But, in doing so, they also keep us from what Campbell said lies deep inside that abyss. Our treasure.

This post is the first in 7-part series about the 7 lies we tell ourselves that keep us from success. With each new offering in the series, we’ll do a bit of myth-busting and box-breaking, then offer something to do.

First up…

I don’t have time.

There are people in this world for whom this claim is valid. If you’re a single parent working multiple jobs to keep a roof over your kids’ heads and put food on the table, that may be you. If you live in a developing country and spend every waking hour providing for your security and sustainability, that may be you.

If you have little access to education and no online or local access to tools, mentors and resources, you likely qualify. If you’ve eliminated all non-productive activities like TV, web-surfing, social-media, passive non-learning media consumption, drinking, smoking, killing time, then you’re probably that rare individual who gets a pass.

But, simply by the fact that you’re here, reading this now, makes it unlikely that you are that person. For the rest of us (#raiseshand), the “I don’t have time” lie simply doesn’t apply.

Because, with the exception of the above, time is never really about time, it’s about:

  • Awareness
  • Intentionality
  • Prioritization, and
  • Action.

1. Awareness.

In order to change your behavior, become a master of time and an action-investor, you first need to become aware of how you’re spending your time. Awareness is the precursor of deliberate change. Most of us have no idea how much time we’re really wasting on a daily basis. Especially because an increasing volume is being lost to the digital divide in hundreds or thousands of micro-bursts. A few seconds texting or status-updating here and a few minutes surfing there add up to hours a day, without you being even remotely aware of cumulative attention sinkhole you’re digging.

Three ideas to build awareness…

One, install RescueTime on your computer. It tracks where you’re spending your time in the background all day long. If you use an Android-based mobile-device, you can install it there and track track mobile time-obliteration, too. iPhone users are out of luck, at least for now.

Two, assess end-of-day time-allocation. Before you go to bed for 7-days, walk through your day and write down your RescueTime data, time on the phone that was non-growth-oriented, time consuming non-growth-oriented screen or other entertainment (videos, games, TV, etc.). Then count the total number of text/sms messages sent and received and multiply by 1-minute. Why one minute? Because, even though it only took you 5-10 seconds to compose or read each text, there is also a cognitive “ramping cost” for every single interruption. Meaning, it takes you time for your brain to get back to where it was and refocus again. Add up all the time and record the total number for each day.

Three, build a meditation practice. More specifically, a mindfulness practice. This is not an instant solution, but over time, it trains you to more easily notice where you are placing your attention. The best way to learn is live instruction. If you don’t have access to a mindfulness teacher locally, check out the Headspace app. It’s a great way to ease into the practice with guided instruction, starting only 10-minutes a day. And, by the way, those 10-minutes count as growth-oriented and awareness-building. So no need to note them on your daily time-sink journal.

All these awareness increasing processes set you up to be better able to…

2. Be More Intentional and Prioritize.

Once you start to become more aware (and, all too often horrified) at how you’re really spending your time, you also tend to awaken to the possibility of redirecting your efforts in a way that fuels the outcomes you truly want, rather than outcomes that come from a reactive and distracted approach to life.

Awareness creates both the inspiration and the space to become more intentional about how you invest your time and prioritize what matters most.

Write down what truly matters to you. Write down what success looks like to you. In all areas of life. Then, deconstruct it. What are the steps along the way that would bring you closer? And what are the actions you’d need to take to make each step happen?

Write it all down. Take time, this is hard work.

Then, before you go to bed each night, write down the 1 to 3 actions you can take the next day that will move the needle most in the direction of your most meaningful outcomes. Only write down what can be accomplished with assurance in a single day. If it’s part of a longer-term process, that’s fine. But for this exercise, chunk the action down to a single-day task. Do not wait until the morning to do this. If you do, it will rarely ever happen.

3. Take High-Leverage Action BEFORE Anything Else. 

When you arise the next day, re-examine your short list of actions. Your willpower is always at its highest levels in the morning. As the day unfolds, your self-regulation tank runs pretty close to dry. So, do these high-leverage actions as early in the day as possible.

So, if your action is to meditate or exercise, do it first thing in the morning. Even if it means waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier to make it happen.

Mini Case-Study.

We’ve got someone on our Good Life Project team, Kristoffer Carter, whose unofficial title is “Time Bender.” He works a full-time job with a fair amount of travel. He has a wife and three little kids. He spends a lot of time with all. Not just face-time, quality-time. He runs and exercises nearly every day and meditates another hour to two hours a day.

He writes and performs music. He’s building his own outside-brand as a mindfulness-in-business evangelist, trainer and speaker. And that full-time job, it’s not with GLP. He works for us “on the side” and gets more accomplished in the time he gives us than any human I’ve ever seen.

A full-time, high-level job with travel, a wife and 3 kiddies and mantaining a home would be enough for your average bear to say “that’s it, I simply don’t have time for more.” No time for exercise, or meditation, or music, or friends or a future business side-hustle or a second-job with a completely different venture. He has every reason in the world to justify inaction beyond his core commitments. But, instead, he gets up every morning at 5:30 and optimizes nearly every minute of every day on a level that allows him to do what no one else does.

Notice, I didn’t say what no one else “can,” because, with rare exception YOU can. He does all this because he has cultivated a fierce awareness practice, he chooses every day, even when it’s brutally hard, to focus entirely on what matters. On high-leverage action. Or what he’d call “Right Action.”

Your turn…

Are you ready to take the challenge? To do the work to move through the first big lie that keeps you from success? As always, if you have more ideas, strategies, tips or tools, feel free to share them in the comments below.

With gratitude,


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36 responses

36 responses to “The 7 Lies That Keep Us From Success”

  1. Glen says:

    I think this post/series is going to resonate with a LOT of people. Well done, amigo.

  2. “Time Bender…” I love that title. I want it, too. We don’t just take time, we make time. We make a choice, we make an investment and it pays us back, or it doesn’t. Great post, really inspiring.

  3. Jonathan, you make excellent points as usual, but this post raises a question that has fascinated me for a long time. (And I suspect there are as many different answers as there are people.)

    Where do we draw the line between: (1) the “be all that you can be,” “go big or go home,” [insert your favorite goal-oriented aphorism here] philosophy that our overdriven culture teaches us to find so attractive and (2) the gentler mindset of knowing when to say, “okay, this is enough, I’m content with where I am”?

    Of course most of us (with maybe the exception of Kris!) can always do better in the self-awareness, intentionality and focus departments. But how do we do that based on a true desire for self-growth without turning these things into yet another list of self-imposed shoulds because we’re told that we should not box ourselves in?

    Not necessarily looking for a cut-and-dried answer here, because I don’t think there is one. At least not a one-size-fits-all answer. But I’d be really interested in what people think if this kicks off a discussion. 🙂

  4. Kim says:

    What an exciting series! I am looking forward to reading the next six lies. I am sure I tell myself all of them – and probably a few more, to boot. I am very creative!

    I am also nit-picky. You might want to change “asses” in the fourth paragraph under Awareness. I do believe you meant to write assess.

  5. Jude LeMoine says:

    I am an action taker. This new idea grabs me. I will begin today. Love it!

  6. Hey Michelle,

    I love your question and it’s one I’ve had too, so I’ll respond with what I am working on. It’s in line with what Jonathan refers to when he talks about mindfulness.

    I have learned how my ‘okay, enough’ feels in my body and mind and emotions. Since I’ve noticed my line in the sand, it’s easier to pay attention to it. Kinda like when we eat and actually pay attention to when we’re full. (For me it’s often when I’ve eaten only half of what’s in front of me.)

    When you know your edge for creating and consuming, you have the responsibility to honor it. That’s the hard part! But when we’re able to do that, it feels so powerful. Then we get to live, on a daily basis, our right-sized life.

    So I’d say look for your early warning signals that say you’ve worked enough, spent enough time online, charted the right-sized goals, etc.

    Hope this resonates!

    • Hi, Cynthia–thanks for continuing the conversation! And yeah, that does resonate with me. [I’m laughing at your food analogy because that’s what I find, too–the more aware I am when I eat, the less I need. And then I look at my over-full plate . . . 🙂 ]

      In particular, I like the idea of checking in to see how my *body* feels. I’m pretty aware of my mind’s activity (often too much so!), but I frequently forget to check in with my physical self. This is something I’m working on, and I’m trying to learn to trust my body’s intuitive wisdom even if I can’t explain what it feels like in words.

      Love the phrase “know your edge for creating and consuming,” too. 🙂

      • Jonathan Fields says:

        So glad you brought this up. Loving the super useful conversation between you and Cynthia, too. The mindfulness element is great as it builds awareness that expands into nearly every context and can be harnessed as a lens to create more joy in everything we do.

      • Michelle,

        I learned something really important from jet lag – let the body lead. And then I realized that’s a good practice all the time! The body knows the way.

        It’s crazy how we can override such a physical and incontrovertible thing! But Jonathan is right – mindfulness, one small sip of awareness at a time. That’s one thing I’ve found sitting meditation very useful for. There’s not a lot to distract, so you really feel the body.

        I’m always learning and glad you are too!

  7. Graham says:

    Great post and true as you say in most cases we can all improve. If we can hang a specific task to a daily ritual we can do so much more. You are right will power seems to start as the day begins and ebbs away as there will be some unplanned distractions that need to be dealt with.

    However some times even a structured focus can be interrupted if we have a real challenge that demands our undivided attention. Some cannot be avoided like a big health challenge for example. To my experience when you overwhelm a real challenge, simple steps and solutions do present themselves as the subconscious mind works on this and we tend to gravitate to a series of eureka moments.

    I look forward to future posts

  8. Laura says:

    Thank you, this is wonderful!

  9. Bambi says:

    This really intimidates me. I’m not sure I’ll be able to break many years of time wasting habits but I want to try!

  10. Ryan says:

    1. THANK YOU JF and GLP
    2. Committed to Timebending (sans Adrenal backlash)
    3. Committed to this series and unraveling any roadblocks. Have big plans for this last quarter and this is just the kick in the (harem) pants I need.
    4. Have a great — and productive — day everyone!

    Hugs and high fives,
    RDA from Ag^

  11. What an awesome post for a Monday…extremely well done. Secret to life is surrounding yourself by what you want to become and leveraging your time effectively. Beautifully put so that it wasn’t attacking, you have no other choice but to implement the advice. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  12. davidp says:

    Hi Jonathan – great topic. I love the measurement concept and to throw in another metric it’s important to look at the pie chart of where your time goes and ask ‘which of these activities made me feel happy’. Track this over time, move from one axis to two, think about quality and quantity. Choose quality every time.

    P.S. Love the time bender guy 😉


  13. Jonathan says:

    Hi Jonathan, I don’t know what to say aside from “You Keep inspiring me from Good Life Project interviews and with your articles”.

  14. Timely Once Again!

    I am in the midst of evaluating how I move through the day, and this is beneficial.

    Thank you,


  15. Matt Maresca says:

    But does time really exist? And if it does exist, what does it really mean? I kid, I kid, those things hurt my brain to think about. This post got me rethinking about how I spend my day. I’ve been away from meditation and attention/cognition training for too long.

    I think a lot of people would be surprised what they can accomplish if more presence is devoted to the task at hand. I like to try to begin with one small sprint of presence/total awareness. Even if it’s only 15-20 minutes of effort, I’ve found that I can sometimes accomplish more in that work sprint than in several hours of semi-focus.

    My advice, like with meditation, start small and build. When you sit down to work, set a timer to go off in 10, 15, or 20 minutes and see if you can devote full presence to the task at hand until it goes off. Then build from there. I guess this is sorta the micro approach to time-bending while becoming more aware of the time sucks is the macro. I guess I went on a tangent here but the post got me thinking so I figured I’d start typing!

  16. I love this invitation to live consciously…. life is so short but when we do one task at a time mindfully it becomes a journey of joy and not just trying to get somewhere (ie. the end of the list!).

    I bet that Kristoffer Carter has one thing: ENTHUSIASM in what he does…. when we follow what we are enthusiastic about work becomes play, life becomes a creation and for some strange reason, there is more time!

  17. Mindfulness is a beautiful thing, which unlocks true power within us. So simple, yet profound. Thanks brother.

  18. I don’t have time to be here reading this but I did anyway! Because it’s stuff like this that keeps me with my nose to the grindstone. I can relate to Kristoffer as I also have three kids, several businesses (I just sold one and started a new one!) and I get up at 5.30am every day to exercise. I also just finished my daily meditation practice.

    But we really do put ourselves into boxes. Even though I’m pretty fit and into clean living I still think of myself as a party animal circa 1992. It’s hard to change your habits but doable. What’s really hard is changing the way you think about yourself.

    For anyone reading this who thinks it all sounds great but they could never change – you can. Small changes maintained over time build up to create major life changes. After a lot of false starts this really happened to me in my forties even though I’d given up hope of ever being able to change because nothing seemed to stick.

    Just by trying again and again you will get results in the end and can even start to get good at living a healthy, productive life. It takes practice but it’s amazing how even things you loathed start to be enjoyable when you get them into your regular routine. I feel like I’m just getting started.

  19. Josh says:

    This has come just at the right time. Thanks heaps. I’m 1 week into my 30 day Experiment in Trust.

    One of things that i’ve doing for the 30 days, is meditation practise, mindfulness and … no facebook. I feel better already!

  20. Andrea says:

    Love it, Jonathan, thanks so much.

  21. Arbaz K says:

    This is my very first visit to your blog and man, you have something really awesome going on here. Awesome write-up mate!
    Thanks for writing about the lies that keep us and many people away from success.

  22. Jorge says:

    Great to see how you have evolved in your quest…from the FEAR book, to GLP, to the jam sessions and blog…you’re a role model and inspiration to me. Thank you.

  23. Paola says:

    What a timely post. I am the procrastinator, time waster, wallowing in my sink hole, addicted to technology. Today will be different. You have jogged the sleeping giant within me to examine my behavior and to take action…Ignighting the spark in remembering what I already know deep within. Fear….That first step, that line in the sand propels one to achieve greater heights…It’s just taking that first step, putting that initial mark on paper and moving forward, building momentum. Thank you…I truly needed this push today.

  24. Nancie says:

    Hi Jonathan! This is one of the best posts you have ever written (IMO). I recently sat down and identified the major time wasters in my life, and I am working on eliminating them one by one (no easy task). Time Bender really has me thinking!

    Looking forward to each post in this series. Thank you!

  25. JB says:

    Of course, for many who say they do not have enough time, it would be more accurate to say:

    “I choose to spend so much time helping my kids, staying current in my chosen field, working at (and retaining) the job that feeds my family, investing time in my marriage and other family relationships, keeping my body (and mind) fit with interesting, challenging activities outdoors, keeping my mind fit with educational reading — that the amount of time it takes to launch some major project I’m interested in doing is simply not practical for me. I don’t choose to sacrifice these critical life activities in the “now” to go build something that may or may not actually provide enough financial reward to justify the time I took away from my wife, my kids, my extended family, my body and my mind.”

    I think it’s critical to be aware that great success is usually built on what significant things you were willing to give up. Trust me – 4 kids take up geometrically more time than 1. The amount of time you can squeeze out of being disciplined with texting, etc. is not likely to be enough to get your 10,000 hours in any time soon.

    In the end, what matters is the way we held up our commitments to family – not how many businesses or projects we build.

    –my .25 worth anyway

  26. […] Check out the first big lie here. […]

  27. Rick says:

    Morning Jonathan, I’m new to your blog (but prompted by Scotty and Dan)…

    An interesting read and thought provoking which helps rather than being a solution in its own right., I’m certainly looking forward to the next in the series…


  28. Cody Mann says:


    That story about the “time bender” is really interesting. It sounds like a super hero, “Kristoffer…. The Time Bender.” But that is quite incredible having that level of focus. I like how you focused on being intentional, because that is something that is where we choose to channel our energy. The power of intention was shown by Dr. Emoto that the crystalline structure of the water, when frozen, actually changed with the person and when a different affirmation was used for each water sample. But this article was packed with valuable content, thank you 🙂

  29. KW Stout says:

    Great post! I find that taking high-leverage action first thing in the morning builds momentum for my entire day. It’s a great feeling to get something valuable done before most people even start their day.

  30. Sanjeev says:

    Great article indeed…!!
    True but unfortunately, most oppression comes not from others but from a source we least suspect: “ourselves”

    Boxing ourselves is an inside job by burdening our spirits with worry, fear, doubt, delay and excuse of lack of time. We don’t want to be the cause of our own failure, yet most often we are and we look to the world the cause of our don’t box yourself

    Go our everyday of your life..!!!