10 habits of unsuccessful people who never move forward in life (according to psychology)

There’s a stark contrast between those who consistently progress in life and those who seem to be perpetually stuck in a rut.

This disparity, according to psychology, often comes down to habits. Those who stagnate tend to fall into certain behavioral patterns that hinder their growth.

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit and an avid enthusiast of mindfulness and Buddhism. I’ve spent years observing and studying these habits, and I’ve identified 10 patterns that unsuccessful people can’t seem to break.

These are habits that hold them back, keep them from moving forward, and ultimately prevent them from reaching their full potential.

In the following article, I’ll break down these 10 habits for you. Not as a means to judge or criticize, but as a way to understand and perhaps spot these patterns in your own life.

After all, the first step towards progress is awareness.

1) Living in the past

There’s a saying in Buddhism that goes, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Many of us, especially those who find themselves stuck in life, have a tendency to constantly revisit past experiences.

This is particularly true when those experiences are associated with failure or regret.

Psychology tells us that ruminating over past events can be a significant roadblock to personal growth. It keeps you anchored in a time that no longer exists, preventing you from fully engaging with your current circumstances.

Unsuccessful people often fall into this trap. They replay past failures over and over, letting these memories dictate their present actions. This prevents them from taking risks or making decisions that could potentially lead to success.

Mindfulness, a core tenet of Buddhism which I personally advocate for, teaches us to live in the here and now. By focusing on the present moment, we free ourselves from the chains of past regrets and future anxieties.

If you find yourself dwelling on past failures, it might be time to take a deep breath and return your focus to the present moment. It’s only in the present that we can truly move forward.

2) Fear of change

Fear can be a powerful motivator. But more often than not, it’s a roadblock. This is especially true when it comes to fear of change.

As humans, we’re wired to seek comfort and stability. So naturally, the idea of change can be daunting. But as the great mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn once said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

In my personal life, I’ve seen how fear of change can paralyze us, keeping us stuck in situations we’d rather not be in. It’s a common habit among those who never seem to move forward in life.

They stay in jobs they hate, in relationships that don’t serve them, or in places they’ve outgrown. All because they’re scared of what might happen if they shake things up.

In Buddhism and mindfulness practice, we learn to embrace change as an inevitable part of life. After all, everything is transient. And sometimes, it’s the changes we fear the most that end up being the ones we needed the most.

So if you find yourself resisting change, remember Kabat-Zinn’s words and learn to ride the waves of life. You might just find that what’s waiting on the other side is better than anything you could have imagined.

3) Lack of self-awareness

One of the biggest challenges unsuccessful people face is a lack of self-awareness. They often fail to recognize their own patterns of behavior that are contributing to their stagnation.

In my experience, understanding ourselves, our motives, and our actions is a critical first step towards any kind of personal growth. It’s only when we truly know ourselves that we can start to make changes that lead to progress.

This is something I delve into deeply in my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego. The book explores the importance of self-awareness in Buddhist teachings and offers practical advice on how to cultivate it in your day-to-day life.

Individuals who struggle to move forward often lack this self-awareness. They might not fully understand why they make certain choices or how their habits are holding them back. And without this understanding, it’s difficult to make meaningful changes.

So if you’re feeling stuck, I’d encourage you to take some time for introspection. Look inward, question your actions and motives. And if you need a guide along this journey of self-discovery, consider checking out my book. The insights within might just help you break free from the habits that are holding you back.

4) Neglecting personal growth

Personal growth isn’t always comfortable. It often involves confronting our weaknesses and stepping outside of our comfort zones. But as the famous American writer Mark Twain once said, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.”

Unsuccessful people often neglect their personal growth. They might get complacent, or they might avoid the discomfort that comes with challenging themselves. But in doing so, they also avoid the opportunities for growth and progression that these challenges offer.

In practical terms, this could mean failing to take advantage of learning opportunities, not setting personal goals, or avoiding feedback that could help them improve.

As an advocate for mindful living, I believe that embracing personal growth is essential. It’s about recognizing that we are all works in progress and that there is always room for improvement.

Don’t shy away from opportunities to grow. Seek out new experiences, embrace feedback, and set ambitious goals for yourself. Remember, every step you take outside your comfort zone is a step forward in your journey of personal growth.

5) Ignoring core values

Understanding yourself goes beyond just recognizing your habits and patterns. It also means understanding your core values – those principles that guide your decisions and actions.

In my journey through mindfulness and Buddhism, I’ve found that being clear on my values has been instrumental in guiding my life direction. It’s like having an internal compass that points me towards what truly matters.

Unfortunately, many unsuccessful people tend to ignore their core values. They might make decisions based on external factors like societal expectations or short-term gains, instead of aligning their actions with what truly matters to them.

Life Transition coach Jeanette Brown offers a powerful exercise to help people define their core values. Her Defining Your Values Exercise is a practical tool that can guide you in uncovering what’s truly important to you.

If you feel like you’re not progressing in life, it might be worth revisiting your core values. Are your actions in alignment with these values? If not, it might be time to make some changes.

Remember, when our actions are in harmony with our core values, we’re more likely to find satisfaction and success in what we do. So take some time to understand what truly matters to you – it could be the key to moving forward.

6) Inability to say ‘no’

One simple word can make a world of difference in our lives – ‘No.’

Yet, many of us struggle with saying it. We overcommit, stretch ourselves thin, and end up not having enough time or energy for the things that truly matter.

Unsuccessful people often fall into this trap. They say ‘yes’ to everything and everyone, often at the expense of their own needs and priorities.

The practical element here is simple – learn to say ‘no.’ It might be uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re used to pleasing others. But remember, every ‘no’ is a potential ‘yes’ to something that matters more to you.

Start small. The next time someone asks you to do something that isn’t in line with your priorities or values, politely decline. With practice, it will become easier and you’ll find that you have more time for your own growth and progress.

Learning to say ‘no’ is a powerful skill that can help clear the path for you to move forward in life.

7) Neglecting self-care

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget to take care of ourselves. I’ve seen this in my own life, and it’s a common habit among those who struggle to progress.

They push themselves to the limit, neglecting their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing in the process. But what they often fail to realize is that self-care isn’t an indulgence; it’s a necessity for sustainable success.

Mindfulness teaches us the importance of being present with ourselves and attending to our needs. It reminds us that we can’t pour from an empty cup.

If you’re feeling stuck, try incorporating more self-care into your routine. This might involve setting aside time for relaxation, engaging in activities you enjoy, or simply being present with your thoughts and feelings.

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s a vital part of moving forward and achieving success in life.

8) Fixed mindset

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

This quote perfectly captures the power of mindset. Unsuccessful people often exhibit a fixed mindset, believing that their abilities and talents are set in stone. They see failure as a measure of their worth and shy away from challenges that could potentially lead to growth.

Those with a fixed mindset view setbacks as insurmountable obstacles. They believe that if they’re not good at something, they will never be. This kind of thinking can seriously hinder progress.

On the contrary, adopting a growth mindset can be transformative. This involves viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and seeing effort as a path to mastery.

Try to shift towards a growth mindset and see how it opens up new possibilities for moving forward in life.

9) Over-planning

This might sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. Planning is important, yes. But there’s a fine line between being prepared and over-planning to the point of inaction.

I’ve seen this in my own journey and in others’. People who struggle to progress often get caught up in making the perfect plan. They spend so much time planning that they never actually take action.

They’re always waiting for the ‘right’ moment or the ‘perfect’ opportunity. But the truth is, there’s no such thing. Life is messy and unpredictable, and sometimes, you just have to dive in and learn as you go.

If you’re someone who tends to over-plan, try loosening your grip a little. Make a plan, sure, but be ready to adapt and change as needed. 

10) Lack of consistency

The last habit that often holds people back is a lack of consistency. They may start off with a burst of enthusiasm, but as soon as the initial excitement wears off, they lose momentum and give up.

Success, however, isn’t usually achieved in a single leap. It’s the result of consistently showing up, day after day, and putting in the work.

So if you’re feeling stuck, take a look at your consistency. Are you showing up every day? Are you putting in consistent effort towards your goals?

The practical advice here is simple – keep going. Even when it’s hard, even when you’re not seeing immediate results. Remember, progress may be slow, but quitting won’t speed it up. Stay the course, keep showing up, and you’ll move forward in life.


The road to success is rarely a straight one. It’s filled with twists, turns, and sometimes, roadblocks. But by recognizing and addressing these ten habits, you can start to remove those roadblocks and pave your own path forward.

Remember, progress isn’t about perfection. It’s about continuously learning, growing, and making consistent efforts towards your goals.

If you’re unsure of where to start, I’d highly recommend Jeanette Brown’s Defining Your Values Exercise. Understanding your core values is a great first step towards aligning your actions with what truly matters to you.

So take that first step. Start breaking free from these habits today, and see how far you can go. Remember, the only thing holding you back is you. You have the power to move forward in life, one step at a time.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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