The mindset differences that set successful people apart

It never ceases to amaze me that the successful people I meet all have an incredibly packed schedule.

Part of me has this illusion that as success picks up somehow life will stop feeling so darn busy, hectic, overwhelming, exhausting, etc. And yet these same people remind me that it is just an illusion, that your calendar seems to leave less room for you to just be and enjoy the things you enjoy for enjoyment’s sake as you climb the hierarchies of success.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Lucy, this really isn’t that surprising. I mean, of course people who are successful have a packed schedule. How else do you think they ‘made it’?”

The reason I’m amazed by it is because this sense of a “packed schedule” unifies successful people with their less successful peers. People who don’t feel like they’ve achieved the success they want to achieve most likely do feel like they’re “so busy”, stressed, & overwhelmed.

So, for most of us, we go our whole lives feeling overworked, tired, busy, & stressed, and then when we make it to the success we’ve been striving for, we still have a jammed schedule? Haven’t we earned our time to chill?

As I got to thinking about this, I realized that there are underlying mindset differences between the people who are busy and “make it” to the level of success they set out to achieve and people who are busy but never quite live to see their idea of success play out.

Before I go into what this difference is, I have two distinctions I want to make. First, everyone’s idea of success is different. For the sake of this post, I’m going to build on the idea that success is freedom from financial stress. Second, everyone’s idea of what constitutes a busy schedule is different, but the feeling of busy is pretty similar across all of us. If someone complains about being really busy, what they’re typically saying is that the number of things on my plate has reached a point of making me feel stressed and/or anxious.

Now that that’s cleared up, I want to go into those differences between those people who reach their success and those who seem to always be just out of reach.

As you succeed, continue to give your best

As you succeed, continue to give your best

No. 1: A packed schedule doesn’t (necessarily) equal stress

It’s not that someone who has “made it” suddenly has fewer meetings and events filling his/her schedule. The most successful people I know have more on their schedule, but don’t have the same sort of resentment for all the things that fill their calendars.

You don’t get to your level of success and suddenly the only things that are on your schedule are things you fully enjoy. We will always have things in our day to day lives that we have to do that aren’t exactly our source of joy. Regardless, we have to do them, but there is a sense of passion and purpose that successful people bring to everything they do, even if it is a dreaded activity.

While we may never get to the end of feeling like our schedule is jammed packed, we can, at any point, stop resenting the things that fill our schedule and instead bring a greater sense of passion and purpose to them.


No. 2: If you’re flexible enough, failure isn’t even a consideration

When we write down our goals, we will often also map out or at least brainstorm our path for achieving those goals. As we all know, however, what we have brainstormed for achieving our goals has a tendency to be interrupted or thrown off course.

While I highly recommend brainstorming your path for how you will achieve the goals you set out to, I would never suggest that you stick to that path at all cost.

This is one of the trickiest things to learn and something I talk about constantly with friends and family who are struggling with feeling stressed. Here is how “sticking to your path at all cost” will end up costing you your goal.

The path we brainstorm creates expectations for how things are going to go. As humans, we don’t like being uncertain about what’s going to happen. That’s why we have schedules, routines, habits. Things that are predictable have a comforting quality for us and create certain expectations which allow for only a certain amount of deviation before we start feeling frustrated or annoyed.

My morning routine

My morning routine

Let’s put it into an example. Say your morning routine is to exercise for an hour, head to work, put your stuff down, go get a coffee from the kitchen, and then sit down to hammer out some of your highest priority tasks. If your morning went as you expected it to, you would have tons of patience to get through the rest of your day.

Instead, however, you get to the gym and all the cardio equipment is taken. No big deal, you’ll just do a few weights until one opens up. On your way to work, the normal road you take is closed down due to an accident. You re-route which makes for an extra 15 minutes of travel time. When you get into the office, the coffee pot is dry and there are no more beans left to make a new pot. You head to the Starbucks next door and wait in line for 10 minutes. When you finally get to your desk, you can’t help but feel on edge, like if one more interruption happens today, you’re going to lose your sh**.

Sound familiar? It happens to me all the time which is why one of my mantras is “As my expectations fall, my flexibility rises.” I am far from perfect at staying flexible when all the frustration from failed expectations sets in, but repeating this to myself at least helps me recognize how important it is to stay flexible especially when you’re feeling frustrated.

This flexibility may mean that you have to change your path. It may be just a small tweak or it may be a drastic overhaul. You can always reach your goal if you are willing to be flexible in your approach. Successful people cultivate this kind of flexibility which makes failure highly unlikely because they’re always flexible enough to adjust their approach when their expectations for how things should go aren’t quite met.


No. 3: Not knowing the answer doesn’t scare you

Most people can’t see past their own “I don’t knows”. This isn’t the case for the most successful people. Not having all the answers doesn’t make them feel as if they’ve run into a brick wall with no way forward.

This is a killer mindset that can make or break your success. There is no doubt that you will come to a point in your own path to success where you don’t know what the next step is and you don’t know how to figure it out, either. When this happens you have the choice to feel defeated or get determined.

Feeling defeated means that this is as high as you’ll fly. Getting determined, on the other hand, doesn’t mean that everything becomes immediately clear but eventually the next step will fold and you’ll break through that wall.

Cultivate this sort of determination in even the smallest areas of your life and you’ll find it much more accessible in the bigger areas that are on your path to success.

I wanted to write this post in order to break from the trend I’ve seen across the internet that there are “10 habits that successful people have”. Most of what separates the successful from those constantly striving goes back to our mindsets.

Don’t get me wrong: habits have a lot to do with it, but just changing your habits without looking at your underlying mindsets about what it takes to reach success won’t get you far.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What do you consider “success” and what path do you imagine will get you there? What other secret mindsets have you noticed successful people have that those of us “still striving” should aim to foster?

And for those of you who have the chaos of an appointment-filled schedule, reduce your stress and boost your bottom line (hey, that’s success too, right?) by signing up for a free web scheduler with TimeTap: