Your personal and professional lives make up your entire life. Though they are often viewed as separate functions to your being, they contribute to the mass product that is yourself.

They make up who you are as a person. They are your life, so, no matter which fragment you are considering, the factors expressed in this post are ones you should keep top of mind when it comes to moving forward in life, and finding your own success and balance.

You can research many motivational and inspirational sayings, post them to your favorite social media channels, peruse articles, background-listen to TED talks, or engage in other half-minded addresses of finding whole wellness and success.

But, until you learn to truly embrace your authentic self, face what holds you back, and solve the internal challenges that whisper to you to put the brakes on your life, you will not be able to move forward and earn the life you envision for yourself.

I’ll spoil this post a bit in saying that you are the only thing that holds you back, but let me explain further …

1. Fear
To say there are many things people are afraid of in the world is an understatement, but, one of the most common and unspoken types of fears is the fear of being happy. The road to success isn’t easy. Failures happen along the way.

Those who succeed learn from their failures instead of falling down and staying down because of them. Failure should not break you. Failure should make you stronger and help you develop. In all situations in life, when we learn, we either have the opportunity to grow or work against ourselves.

Arianna Huffington once said something like “we must believe everything that happens to us in life is in our favor”. This falls into the precedent. If we believe the world is working against us, we are working against our lives. If that is the ideology we carry on our backs every day, how are we to work with ourselves to succeed or redefine success?

Success isn’t burnout, and it certainly isn’t a black and white picture. Success is shaped by how we respond to what happens to us.

We must solve problems that are solvable and learn to live with problems we cannot solve. There are simply some factors that are out of our control in this life. We must accept that. Human beings are not limitless, as much as some of us would like to believe that, and, trust me — I’ve been there.

At the end of our lives, we will regret the things we did not do out of fear. We will always remember and relive the moments we said yes to courage and bravery — the moments we said yes to ourselves and went for it.

2. Excuses
You can make up why you should do something or make up why you shouldn’t. Why do most of us tend to believe the latter? Because it’s easier. Nothing worth working for or having in life ever came easy to anyone … Accomplishments and earning our successes will never be a result of saying no or feeling bad for ourselves because we believe something is out of reach.

Take it from Shonda Rhimes’ “year of yes”. The more she said “yes” to new experiences, the more she grew as a person and the more opportunities arose.

Yes, we’re talking about Shonda Rhimes here, but the same can apply to your life, too. Don’t make up excuses to not participate. Being an active and connected member of your community, and more so, being fully connected to your own life will help you develop and grow, and get that much closer to achieving the successes you envision achieving.

3. Living Your Life to Make Others Happy
The people who care about you most will support your decisions. Don’t let others make your big or small life choices for you. It’s good to get a second opinion, sometimes, but the person we must live with and listen to most at the end of the day is ourselves.

What is your mind telling you? How is your body reacting to those choices or feelings? Are you in tune with your authentic self, or are you defaulting to the opinion of others because you don’t want to make big choices? Are you defaulting to them because it’s easier for you or less painful?

As we grow older, we must make more and tougher choices regarding what we want or need, or don’t want or need out of life. The more you can rely on yourself, the better off you will be.

I’ll spoil another grand life lesson for you — you are the only person you can rely on.

This isn’t to say your loved ones can’t be there for you. Of course, they can, but they are human beings. Human beings are complicated, multi-layered creatures, and, as much as we love and support each other when times are tough (or good), we can’t always lean 100% on others. It’s an unfair expectation, and we need to do better at being more realistic about self-reliance.

We’re all human, and though we’re running the race together, we all have separate paths we must guide ourselves down.

We must stand on our own two feet with pride, strength, and persistence. This doesn’t mean having to live alone or free from the care or support of others. It means knowing when to seek advice or support, then acting on that advice or support for yourself.

You will know what is right for you. The person who follows through will always have to be you. No one can live your life for you. Only you can do that. Discover optimal balance.

4. Not Facing Yourself or Your Problems
The earlier in life you face and accept what has happened to you, the sooner you can be free of your former burdens and create new experiences. Learn from what has happened to you and make the conscious choice to develop from it. Your past experiences are not who you are. How you respond to it shows who you are.

The nature of humanity is this, in that good and bad happens to us all. No one of us is safe from it, but that’s okay. How would we know what’s bad without the good, and vice-versa? As you experience more difficulty and problems in life, you will become better at handling and managing them.

Don’t be so overwhelmed by present trouble. Embrace the way you (healthily) manage yourself in troubling moments and lean on the positive side of bad feelings. Even in our worst moments, there is one, even if it’s .01% there.

Find a bit of gold dust in your dirt cloud. We can never escape problems. We choose the types and levels of problems we want to or can deal with within our lives. You have the option.

Imagine you are a banker, for example, but went to school for journalism and are paying off your debts working a banking job because there are no openings for journalism careers in your area. You frequently complain and feel sorry for yourself that a few years out of school you aren’t in the job you want. Yet, you have steady pay, good benefits, and your co-workers aren’t half bad.

You still believe you are in the worst-case scenario. However, the flip side would be, being unemployed and scouting jobs that sort-of fit your education and internship experiences in your area. You live random gig to random gig and can barely afford rent, and are still not in the full-time role you want, but are chasing it between projects.

Which problems do you choose? Some may chase the first, and others, the second. Your problems are up to you. You choose your choices. Own them and don’t blame the randomness of happenstance.

While you may not get to control what’s thrown into the middle of the road of your life, you can at least navigate the steering wheel to the best of your ability.

5. Living Inauthentically
We all know the “mom pleaser”, right? So much as we love our moms and are grateful for them, we can’t exactly live our lives for them. We can invite our parents, siblings, partners, etc., but we can’t let their opinions or feelings navigate every choice.

We can be considerate and thoughtful, but if we are not living for ourselves or our dreams, we will not be happy, and perhaps even become resentful.

Life isn’t all about being happy all of the time. We need our “whatever” moments, or even our sad ones. Life is a spectrum of feelings and experiences.

We aren’t ever compartmentalized in one box unless we let ourselves live there. Despite advances in A.I., we aren’t all robots yet. We shouldn’t act like them. Humans have a great gift in expressing emotion.

I encourage you to express more positive ones, though you may be struggling to. Express love, care, compassion, kindness, open-mindedness, generosity. You will feel a whole lot better and live a more fulfilled life carrying yourself with this attitude.

Be open to being uncomfortable and embracing your authentic self. Life is way too damn short to not be who you are. Don’t apologize for whoever that is.

Don’t be comfortable with being comfortable. Shake things up. Settling in some ways is good — we all need forms of security and safety, but we must also do things that scare us.

Time isn’t always on our side. We don’t have unlimited time in this world, so don’t put off being yourself and doing the things you want in life so long. We all have an inevitable expiration date.

It’s the honest truth. Don’t be frightened by it. Embrace the timeline, whatever it is, and act now. Be the person you want to be, and act on your goals.

6. Assuming Time is On Your Side
Need I say more? We’re all going to pass someday. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. We can’t live forever, and, at the end of our lives, we will be known by the way we treated and interacted with others and how we handled situations, not by how we climbed corporate ladders or did something incredible at work.

This reflection might not apply to Elon Musk, though. I’m not sure, honestly. He may live forever on Mars and have a slew of people raving about his inventions at his … 158th birthday?

I digress —

Success isn’t always defined by a career. It certainly isn’t defined by burnout, so while some of us are career-oriented, we can’t let ourselves collapse on the way to getting there.

Whatever our life goals are, the way we work with or love others along the way is what will matter most. The basic art of human connection and I’m not talking about on social media, is what will matter most.

Spend a lot of face time with people throughout your life, whether you’re a person who needs a big or small group, spends time with that group. They are what matter.

People, and the way you love, are loved, care, are cared for, show compassion, and receive it, are what truly matter.

7. Not Holding Yourself Responsible or Taking Accountability for Your Choices
This is my absolute pet peeve. We all need to do better at admitting to our faults, bad choices, bad actions, and, frankly — our humanity. None of us are perfect, and no one of us is better than the other. We’re just different.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some cruel people you and I both know about who’ve made terrible choices, and I’m not de-validating their awfulness, but more so speaking to the value of remaining humble in life despite achieving success or not.

The real point I want to make clear is that we don’t all do great at treating others right all the time or even making the best choices professionally. It’s not possible to be 100% all the time. We’re all just doing our best, and that’s tremendous.

My generation especially struggles with thinking if we’re not ultra-famous and at a higher level of humanity, we certainly aren’t enough or doing enough, but that’s not true. There are many levels of success and accomplishment worth celebrating. Normal is underrated. There is so much to value about living privately or “normally”.

Everyone has their own journey and definition of normal. Whatever your path, actions, experiences, or feelings, be accountable for the choices you make. Hold yourself responsible when it is necessary and know when others have wronged you so that you can work on your relationships with them.

What will always hold you back most is you. There is nothing else in life that does it best as yourself. You can convince yourself otherwise, but once you put work into your own development, you will come to understand that your core is your greatest compass.

Shape it wisely — with love, great passion, direction, and confidence. Your life is yours. Don’t let you hold you back.