In the never-ending quest to improve ourselves, we sometimes need to take a step back and look at some things we need to let go. We need to take a look at the habits successful people avoid.
Building new positive habits is always a good thing, but we can’t ignore the negative ones that might be holding us back.
Successful people identify these negative habits, remove them, and avoid them in the future.
Routine behavior such as smoking, excessive drinking, eating junk food, and not exercising are all things that most people recognize as bad habits. There are, however, more subtle ways in which we behave habitually that could be killing our chances of success.
These subtle behaviors can have a negative impact to the point where we stop making progress. If you’ve built some positive new habits yet haven’t noticed any change in your circumstances, chances are some of the things in this list may be hanging around.
Courage is very near and dear to me because it has been a personal struggle. In fact, I would consider lack of courage as the number one barrier to my success in the past. Of course, there are many behaviors that can lead to failure in life but this is the top one on my list.
The thing about courage is you have to practice it to build it up. Courage can’t be gained by reading about courage, watching videos about courage, or listening to podcasts. The only, and I repeat ONLY, way to become more courageous is to put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable over and over again.
Here’s just a few of the many ways lacking courage can impact your life:
- Lack of courage keeps you quiet when you want to speak
- Lacking courage causes you to not ask for the raise
- Lack of courage prevents you from asking out someone who catches your eye
- Lacking courage prevents you from trying new things
- Lack of courage pushes you to say yes when you really mean no
Do any of the bullet points above sound familiar? They are all slightly different yet have the same common theme. Every bullet point is related to being afraid of a negative outcome. One thing that I have learned with certainty is that you must be willing to be rejected and judged if you want to be successful.
Many times, the very thing that you are afraid to do is exactly what you need to do in order to move forward. It isn’t fair, but it is the truth. In order to grow those courage muscles, you’ve got to use them. Just like a bicep or hamstring.
The thing is, if you aren’t uncomfortable in a situation then you aren’t using courage. You know when you’re building courage when you feel the discomfort and proceed anyways. Continue to do this regularly and you’ll notice that you’re eventually taking larger steps in your journey.
The things that used to scare you can be done with little to no effort. In addition, the larger things don’t seem as daunting because you’ve built up a habit of leaning into discomfort instead of running away from it. The feeling is still there, but you know how to relate to it and it doesn’t terrify you.
What can you do to build up courage? Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Be intentional about noticing when the feeling arises and move forward anyway. Striking up a conversation with a stranger is one of the quickest ways to do this.
There’s a difference between taking time for yourself to relax and being lazy. Everyone needs to take a break every now and then to reflect and re-energize, but being lazy is an entirely different story.
Being lazy is knowing that you have several important things to do and choosing to do none of them. Making a choice to not do the things which are in your control is laziness.
Most people have heard the serenity prayer at least once. It goes:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Some people are aware of the things that they have the ability to change and still choose not to do anything about them. That is being lazy and it leads to un-fulfillment and failure.
You can attempt to blame it on circumstances, ability, or whatever other excuse of the day seems fit.
At the end of the day, if you are aware of the need to exercise and choose to watch Netflix instead, you are being lazy. That is just one example.
Anytime you know that you need to do something important and opt to fill the time with mindless activities instead, it’s a lazy choice. One that can quickly become a habit.
I know all too well how the thought of beginning certain activities can produce feelings of anxiety. That is not, however, an excuse to not begin. If you feel like this is you, it might be a good idea to check out my post on 7 things to do when you don’t want to begin.
The world doesn’t owe you anything and it’s not productive or beneficial to believe so as an adult.
When you work hard and consistently move towards your goals (assuming you have goals) it’s okay to expect some amount of success. That’s not to say you will always achieve success and should be angry if it doesn’t come your way. You should expect good things to happen but the process of doing your best should sustain you along the way.
What becomes a problem for many adults is the feeling of entitlement. The feeling that they are owed something for simply existing. Or owed something for things that they have done in the past.
We live in an extremely fast moving world. If you get comfortable with where you are today and cease trying to move forward, you will get caught in inertia. You will stand still while the rest of the world moves past you.
Understand this, none of us are entitled to anything. Even if you have always gotten what you wanted, it can all be taken away quite rapidly. No one is going to get it back except you because no one cares like you do.
Hanging out with Toxic People
Unfortunately, we sometimes have to let people go who are near and dear to us.
It is a much more daunting task to lift others to your level than it is to sink to theirs. Put another way, if you allow yourself to be around negative people, you are more likely to absorb their negativity.
I’m not saying that you should give up on people instantly, but there comes a time when you simply can’t spend time with certain people like you used to. Time is our most precious asset and should be utilized in the best way possible. You can’t spend it doing things that you’ve outgrown and aren’t beneficial in any way.
You can be open and honest about where you are headed and what is important to you. If others get that and want to be a part of that journey, then great. If they choose to stay stuck in their old, unproductive ways, accept their decision but choose not to be a part of it.
Blaming others doesn’t simply mean blaming other people. When I say blaming others, I mean blaming anything that is outside of you. Sure, there are things that happen in life that simply suck. No one can avoid this and we all have to deal with it. However, when we develop a habit of constantly blaming people and circumstances, we turn into the perpetual victim.
When we are always the victim, we feel helpless, don’t believe we can change anything, and consequently don’t attempt to change anything.
Stephen Covey has a quote from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that goes:
Anytime you think the problem is ‘out there’, that thought is the problem.
You can’t control certain things and it’s frustrating to try. Instead focus on the things that you can control. Determine up front what kind of control you have if a situation is affecting you in a negative way.
You might have direct control, indirect control, or no control at all:
- Direct Control – Problems involving our own behavior
- Indirect Control – Problems involving other people’s behavior
- No Control – Problems we can do nothing about such as our past or situational realities
Figure out what you can do if the problem falls under direct control or indirect control. Then take the courageous step to actually do it. Don’t blame others for problems when you haven’t even explored what’s within your control.
I have sometimes fallen into the habit of “I can’t” thinking. “I can’t” is a terrible way of thinking because, as I mentioned above, leaves me feeling helpless. My new habit is making an actual list of “I can’s”. Whenever I start to think about things I can’t do (or think I can’t do), I make a list of things that I know I can do. Invariably, the “I can” list is always longer.
Not Having Goals
Going through life without goals is just as much a habit as having goals, with the exact opposite effect.
Without goals you can never really achieve what you want. That’s not to say you can’t be wildly successful by the worlds standards if you don’t have goals. You can have an extremely lucrative career and make a lot of money even if you don’t have goals. It’s much less likely but it can happen.
Even if you do achieve material success without having goals, are you confident you’ll be satisfied with your life?
Many people assume society’s definitions of success are what will make them fulfilled but never sit down to think about it. Going through the process of identifying who you want to be in life gives you a better way to identify your true desires.
If you don’t have any goals, you’re really rolling the dice with whether or not you’ll be fulfilled in life. Regardless of whether you accumulate money, power, and a high social status.
Constant Negative Thinking
Constant negative thinking is a terrible way to live. Most people know this but don’t know how to stop once they get into the habit of doing it. And it is most certainly a habit.
We can’t always control our thoughts and it’s silly to think so. The problem is that we often accept them as truth without any critical analysis or reflection.
In addition, it’s easy to continue down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts once they begin.
For example, say you have an argument with your significant other. This event triggers a negative feeling that leads to a negative thought. That quickly turns into thinking about a host of other reasons you ‘should’ be unhappy.
Before you know it, you’re viewing your entire life through this negativity lens and struggling to find any good.
When a negative thought arises, question it immediately. Is it really as bad as you’re currently feeling? It probably isn’t. Even if you can’t convince yourself that it isn’t, redirect it into something positive before you go down the rabbit hole.
Literally force yourself to think about things that you have to be thankful for. Writing them down is even better. In this way, you cut off the momentum of the negative thought and immediately start to shift the direction of your thinking.
If you keep redirecting your thinking over months or years, you may even change the patterns of neural connections in your brain so that you react to life’s events in more grounded ways, with less panic and judgement.
Being Closed Minded
I also call this one “Letting confirmation bias run your life”.
Confirmation bias is basically clinging to your current beliefs and refusing to accept new ideas.
This kind of bias causes you to only seek out information that supports your beliefs. Anything that contradicts what you believe is rejected as untrue.
Confirmation bias is inherent in human nature and natural. It becomes a problem when we fail to recognize it and do something about it.
This day and age you have to be even more intentional about seeking out other viewpoints. The way the internet and algorithms work today, you are constantly being fed more of what you already think. You are given more of what you like, regardless of whether what you like is serving you in a positive manor. The internet is designed that way.
If you are constantly only piling on more of what you already believe, it’s nearly impossible to grow.
One way to get good at being more open minded is to think about something you have a solid opinion on. Go out and research the opposing opinion. The Point isn’t to get you to change your mind, just to understand another point of view. In fact, you could even strengthen your own position. By truly knowing the other viewpoint, you can understand and articulate your own view more clearly.
Do any of the above items apply to you? Are you willing to work a few of them? A couple of them? Even one? You landed on this page and read (or skimmed, I’m not judging) all the way down here. It’s clear that you want to change. In order to change, though, we have to change the things we do. Our circumstances don’t change until we change.
I used to read a TON of self help and personal development books and they always fired me up. I would feel great about the possibilities of change, but I wouldn’t execute anything. Or I would start to execute, but wouldn’t stay consistent and never formed a habit. Consequently, I always ended up where I began.
Scroll back up through this list and find one thing that you might need to quit doing. Commit to gradually remove it from your life over the next few weeks. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Force yourself to be disciplined enough to do it and immense benefits will be achieved.
Also don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for your free personal mission and vision builder and check out my ultimate guide to becoming the best version of yourself.