7 habits that are holding you back from a successful life


When you’ve just read that word, your mind probably went straight to money, fame, glamour, and accomplishment.

That’s what society thinks success is.

However, true success is actually much simpler than that. A happy blue-collar worker who loves his job and family is much more successful than a millionaire who feels empty inside.

When you’re successful, all it means is that you’re aligned with your life’s purpose – or as the Japanese would call it, “ikigai”. Your ikigai is your reason for being. And once you find it and direct your whole focus toward it, you’ll be the most successful person who’s ever lived.

First things first, though. In order to create that amazing life for yourself, you’ve got to get rid of the habits that are holding you back.

Here’s where this article comes in. What follows are the 7 habits you might want to let go of in order to reach success.

1) Passive daydreaming

I used to daydream all the time.

Looking back, I now realize that while some level of daydreaming is healthy – it’s what motivates you to keep going despite hardship – passive daydreaming can completely drain you of happiness.

So, what do I mean by passive daydreaming?

It’s when your thoughts are stuck in the perfect future while your body remains in the miserable present. It’s when you wish with all your being that you were lounging at a beach in Bali, which completely blinds you to the beauty of the here and now.

It’s when you dream and dream and dream some more, but do absolutely nothing to turn your dreams into a reality.

To get out of the rut, stop thinking of your dreams as dreams. Transform them into achievable goals. What can you do *right now* to move closer to your destination?

Get out there and do it.

2) Drowning in inaction

“Blah, blah, blah. It’s easy to say I should just do stuff. It’s much harder to execute that idea in reality.”

Trust me, I know. I’m not immune to laziness, either. Some days, I wake up and feel like rubbish. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to go to the gym. I just want to lie in bed and watch Netflix.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what I do. I reinforce the loop of passivity by doing even more passive stuff, and you know what? By the end of the day, I feel even worse.

Just a few days ago, I was in that exact spot between giving in to my laziness and doing something to get myself out of the rut.

I chose the latter. I forced myself to sit down and work. Before long, I was in the zone, ticking off every task on my to-do list and running some additional errands on top of that.

We tend to think that motivation has to come before action. But the truth is, motivation is often *the result* of action. Once you get over the initial bump in the road, your motivation is likely to skyrocket.

If you don’t feel motivated, give yourself ten minutes to try it anyway. You might be surprised at how fast your mood improves.

3) Taking breaks too often

I’m a firm believer that taking a break is extremely productive. Research confirms this.

However, I also know that there’s a difference between being kind to yourself and not pushing yourself hard enough.

And the scales can tip in the wrong direction very quickly.

You wake up in a bad mood. “Today, I’ll be kind to myself and do nothing all day.” After six hours of watching TV, your head hurts and you feel like you’ve disintegrated into the sofa.

You’ve already completed one half of the project for today. “I’ve done such a good job! Now I’m going to be kind to myself, go out with my friends, and finish it in the evening.” The moment you get back home, exhaustion washes over you, and you end up scrolling on your phone for two hours.

Work’s been going really well this morning. “Yay! As a reward, I’ll go on TikTok for five minutes.” An hour later, you’re still scrolling, and you feel lethargic and completely unwilling to get back to work.

Breaks are important, yes. But it’s how you use them and for how long that counts. Social media doesn’t recharge you. A mindful walk does.

Use breaks wisely. Sometimes, “being kind to yourself” just means you’re giving in to laziness and ruining your flow.

4) Designing your environment for easy dopamine hits

I love living in the 21st century. In many ways, life has never been easier.

We do have very particular challenges to deal with, though – challenges our brain wasn’t exactly programmed for.

Humans love dopamine. This neurotransmitter is what keeps us motivated, happy, and ready to take on the day. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely easy to get hooked up on it and let your bad habits hold you back from living a successful life.

Your environment matters.

If your phone’s next to your computer during work, you’ll check it every ten minutes and ruin your momentum.

If your TV’s in the middle of the living room and your remote control is right on the sofa, you’re more likely to watch a TV show than read a book.

As I’m writing this, my phone is shut away in a drawer. As for the TV, I don’t even have one.

Distraction is the enemy of success. Eliminate distractions and see how better your focus becomes.

5) Living for others, not for yourself

Another thing that’s holding you back from a living successful life is the habit of caring too much about what other people think.

And it’s going out of your way to impress them, day in and day out. This distances you from living authentically and engaging in activities solely for your own pleasure.

Look, people might make it look like they’re living glorious lives online, but the reality is that everyone’s life is just normal.

Yes, some people have it better than others. But at the end of the day, we’re all on a hedonic treadmill, which basically means that our happiness tends to return to the same stable level in spite of our external circumstances.

Everyone struggles and then doesn’t and then does again. Everyone has something worrisome on their mind.

Living your life in a way that shows the world that you are, in fact, *not* that kind of person is futile. What others think of you won’t impact your subjective well-being in the long run.

What do *you* want to do? It might not be Instagram-worthy, but it will fulfill you on a much deeper level.

6) Eating food that’s not nutritious

I know, I know. “Eat well” is such a general piece of advice, isn’t it?

That’s because what you put inside your body is extremely important, though. And I’m not just talking about physical health.

Studies show that your gut has a huge effect on your mood. If you eat rubbish, you’re going to feel like rubbish, which will further reinforce the loop of inactivity, which will hold you back from living successfully.

It’s all connected, see?

Get all your vitamins and minerals. Eat what is yummy *and* nutritious. Empty calories will make you feel like exactly that: empty.

7) Giving up too quickly when building new habits

Let’s get a bit meta. I’d wager that the one major habit that keeps you stuck is the bad habit of not keeping up with your good habits.

Let me explain. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that the moment you stop working on your new habit – for example, the moment you decide to wake up at 6 AM every day but fail on the 4th day and then again on the 5th and 6th day – is the moment you’re building a different habit.

And that’s the habit of killing the previous habit.

Because when it comes down to it, everything is a habit. Choosing *not* to do something day after day is a habit. And as Aristoteles said, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

So, if you ever feel like giving up on a new habit four days in, ask yourself: Are you being kind to yourself? Or are you just not pushing yourself hard enough?

Sometimes, the kind thing to do is to give yourself a kick in the butt and just do it.

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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