5 Things To Avoid If You Want To Get Ahead

We all want to succeed and get ahead in life.

And for most of us, getting ahead equals success.

Having a focus on the prize is useful and sometimes drives us to let our ambition take us to places we might not choose to go or be.

However, for some people trying to get ahead in life can lead to the following:

  • stress
  • discouragement
  • saying and doing things they might not like

Getting ahead in life is not a solo journey

We all need the help of others if we are going to succeed.

We can only do this by understanding what they are good at, how their strengths support our weaknesses, how we can learn from their experiences to create new possibilities, etc.

No one person can do everything.

So choosing to go at it alone can cause isolation, misunderstandings, and conflict.

Regardless of where you are, if you want to get ahead, here are five things to avoid so you can be your most successful self.

Top 5 Things To Avoid Doing If You Want To Get Ahead 

1) Telling Others What To Do

tell others what to do

We all want to be experts in our lives, and with that comes the thrill of telling others what to do and how to do it.

We think and feel that “the best way” helps solve a problem, making it easier to just tell how to get things done.

Think about it, how do you like it when others tell you what to do?

Research is showing that when leaders go into a conversation thinking that they know the answer or have the “right” answer, their brains shut down.

They no longer listen to others or are open to learning about new perspectives.

This narrows our learning, discoveries, opportunities, and possibilities to get ahead.

Telling also doesn’t support learning.

So when we tell someone what to do, they may do it right then, but chances are, they will continue coming back to you with the same issue.

How effective is that?

Telling can also bring blaming and shaming.

It can imply that the person being told could not figure out what to do.

This causes conflict and makes it incredibly challenging to build trust.

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Like with anything, there is a time and a place for telling.

It is extremely useful when there is an emergency.

In such a situation, there is an expectation that one person will become the directive leader and tell everyone what to do.

Otherwise, telling is extremely limiting and unproductive.

Tip: When you feel the need to tell, pause and ask an open question instead (e.g., what do you think needs to be done? How do you want to complete this?).

Asking open questions helps others learn and entrusts the other person to handle matters without being told. 

It also tests our assumptions (more on that below) and allows us to learn from others.

This is how we collaborate and innovate. 

It opens up opportunities and possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t be available to us.

Hint: Put ‘what’ or ‘how’ in front of whatever you want to say.

This is the fastest and easiest way to shift from telling to asking.

This helps you understand how other people learn and think for themselves.

2) Judging Others

Sadly, we live in a very judgmental world.

judge others

It’s easy for any of us to notice someone say or do something, and we automatically judge them for it.

Thoughts such as ‘I can’t believe she would say that’ or ‘how can he think that would work?’ all limit our thinking, narrow our options, and create the belief we know best or have the right solution.

Everyone has their own perspective, their own opinion on anything.

When we judge them, we send them the message that we know better.

This diminishes their sense of worth and makes them feel we think they are less worthy and less intelligent.

Again, this creates friction and conflict and limits your ability to build trust with others.

Tip: When you find yourself judging others, or wanting to judge others just to get ahead, pause and get curious.

Turn down the voices in your head and be open with others by actively listening and understanding their perspectives and ideas.

Everyone has something to offer, which contributes to everyone else’s success. 

This doesn’t mean you must agree or even like what they say.

It means judging is one thing to avoid.

3) Being Closed To New Ideas

Closed To New Ideas

We have all heard the ‘ya but’ in our head as we listen to someone else share an idea that may seem counterintuitive to us.

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Perhaps the idea challenges a belief we have had for years, which may no longer serve us if we want to get ahead.

Albert Einstein once said:

“We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Well, it seems to ring true, and it makes sense why it would keep us from getting ahead in life.

We fail when we stay stuck in our old beliefs and try to use the same thought process to create new solutions.

Staying open to new ideas, especially ones that challenge old beliefs, allows us to look at things through a new lens.

Collaborating with others and being open and curious about the ideas of others—regardless of how you feel about them—leads to the innovation that supports our success.

4) Assuming


Ever heard the expression, “assumptions make an ass out of you and me?”

Based on our experience, people are almost always 99.99 percent wrong when they assume anything.

Assumptions keep us from gaining clarity and succeeding.

When in a conversation or meeting multiple people, it is important to remember that each person in the conversation is hearing it from their own perspective and processing it through their own experience and outlook.

When assumptions are not tested, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and misinterpretation, which cause friction and can be extremely unproductive.

Tip: Testing assumptions helps us gain clarity where everyone can be on the same page. 

The fastest and easiest way to do this is by asking open, curious questions that begin with who, what, where, when, and how.  

Curiosity comes with active listening and being open/non-judging.

This helps us deeply understand what is going on.

This supports us in achieving the clarity needed to move forward to enhance productivity and eliminate unnecessary errors.


5) Multitasking

In our over-scheduled, hyper-connected worlds, more is being asked of people than ever before.

The “need to multitask” comes to many: doing more than one thing at once to get ahead in life.

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We think we are being more productive when we aren’t.

Research is now showing that multitasking doesn’t work.

Multitasking makes us commit more mistakes and disconnects us from others instead of increasing productivity.

We can’t do two or more things effectively at the same time.

Don’t believe us?

Try reading a menu and having a conversation simultaneously—you won’t be able to do either effectively!

When we multitask, we are never fully present in any one thing, making it hard to succeed.

This makes it easy to miss things and make mistakes.

We aren’t ever giving any one thing our full attention.

It can also be very dangerous.

Take texting and walking or texting and driving, for example.

In both cases, you are never fully present and aware of your surroundings, putting yourself and others in danger as you shift focus from text to road and vice versa.

Nothing is that important to put yourself, and others, in danger.

When we multitask, we miss out on a lot in life.

Whether it is a meal with a friend or colleague, a casual conversation, or walking from place to place, our focus is rarely on each other or our surroundings.

Relationships and reflection are essential to our success.

And we can’t do either effectively when focusing on something else.

Tip: Focus on finishing one task before beginning another.

For example: when you are completing a task and find yourself interrupted by another, you can either stop what you are doing and give your full attention to the other task or schedule it for a more convenient time.

Giving people your undivided attention conveys respect and a desire to connect with them fully.

We all want to get ahead in life

Curiosity is your most powerful tool.

It will support you in keeping these things in check, so you can successfully achieve what you want and get ahead.

Which of these things did you recognize you need to work on?

Do you have any other tips to add about getting ahead in life?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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