10 common habits that are secretly sabotaging your success

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Do you ever feel like you’re putting in all the effort but still not achieving your goals? It’s frustrating, right? Well, sometimes it’s not just about working hard – it’s also about identifying the habits that are secretly sabotaging your success

I’ve been there – I know that feeling of frustration when you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong. But through the years, I’ve taken a hard look at my habits, and it helped me break free of those that weren’t serving me. 

In this article, I’ll share ten common habits that might be holding you back and what you can do to break them. Hopefully, something will resonate with you, and you’ll see where you can improve. 

Let’s dive in! 

1) Lack of focus

First up is the number one thing many of us struggle with. With so many distractions in our daily lives, our attention span these days is so much shorter than it used to be. 

I suppose that’s the impact of digital media on our lives. While it has served to connect us in many ways, it has also become so intrusive. 

And the problem is, once we allow ourselves to be distracted, it takes a long time to refocus on our task. 

You know how long? 25 minutes and 26 seconds – that’s a huge waste of time! 

How to break free: 

I’ve found it helpful to turn all my notifications off. And I mean ALL – from my phone to my computer apps. That way, I won’t get sidetracked by intrusive beeps and buzzes. 

It also helps to begin the day with a meditative practice. This helps boost mindfulness and gets me in that headspace where I can hone in on what I need to do for the day. 

2) Multitasking

Speaking of focus, here’s another bad habit that gets in the way of that – multitasking.

Many people pride themselves on being able to juggle tasks all at once. But you know what? It’s actually counterproductive. 

Research shows that multitasking actually decreases your performance. It makes you less efficient because your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. It even lowers your IQ!

So, if you try to force your brain to work on several things simultaneously,  a lot of things can happen: 

  • You’ll be so much more distracted
  • Your comprehension will be reduced
  • You can get mental blocks that slow you down
  • You’ll end up making more mistakes 

The bottom line: you won’t get the results you want. 

How to break free: 

It’s pretty simple to stop multi-tasking – just focus on one task at a time.

If that’s really hard for you, you can batch your tasks. For example, group similar tasks together, like checking your email and other notifications at a specific time of the day.  

3) Procrastination

Ah, procrastination – my long-time nemesis. 

In college, I was a master crammer. I’d leave off writing papers until the last minute. I knew it was a nasty habit, but I just couldn’t stop doing it. It was just so easy to say, “I’ll do it later,” and then go out clubbing with friends!

Of course, all of that would come back to bite me in the ass. I’d end up feeling frazzled and worn out trying to meet the deadline. And the worst thing is, I’d end up submitting shoddy work. 

In hindsight, I feel like I’d probably have gotten better grades if I’d just stopped leaving things till the last minute. Once you kick this habit, you’ll see a huge improvement in the quality of work you turn in. 

How to break free: 

To beat procrastination, be intentional about it. Make a to-do list and prioritize tasks based on importance. Set your own deadlines and hold yourself accountable. 

Every time you finish a task, reward yourself with a treat or an enjoyable activity.

If the task feels overwhelming, break it into smaller steps. This will make it feel more doable and achievable.   

And again, I must point out the importance of being mindful, of being present in the moment. Mindfulness helps you keep track of time. 

It’s also good to use time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique. 

4) Lack of planning

As you can see in the above section, planning goes a long way. Without a clear plan and roadmap for achieving your goals, it’s easy to get lost or feel overwhelmed.

If you’re the type who wings it, it might be time to take a long look at that and see how it’s hampering your success. 

Because the truth is, highly successful people are planners. In fact, planning is a key factor that’s responsible for the success of many billionaires! 

How to break free: 

Well, this one’s pretty easy – once again, it’s all about intentionality. So, take out that notebook hiding in your desk drawer and put it to good use. Here are some things you can write in it: 

See how it takes you from big to small? That’s because, to become successful, you need to have concrete plans for both the big picture and the nitty-gritty of daily work. 

5) Lack of sleep

This one’s a no-brainer: Without enough rest, our bodies and minds won’t be functioning at their best, making it harder to achieve success.

I get it – as a person once addicted to late-night binge-watching, I know exactly the toll that lack of sleep takes on performance. I’d roll into work the next day feeling blah and out of sorts. 

Believe it or not, it took me a while to figure out that I was feeling that way because I didn’t have enough sleep (I guess that shows how slow my brain was at the time). 

But with enough willpower, I was finally able to exercise some self-control and get to bed much earlier.

How to break free: 

The first thing I’d suggest is to avoid all stimulants close to bedtime, such as caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine. 

That also includes keeping your phone and laptop away because the blue light from these devices can interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin

Then get into relaxation mode early – have a calming bedtime routine, like taking a warm bath or reading a book. The idea is to tell your body that it’s time to settle down. 

Now, this won’t happen overnight. You won’t magically fall asleep once you do these things. Like any other habit, it takes time and consistency to change your sleep habits. 

The quality of your sleep is simply one aspect of your overall self-care. As the next section shows, you’ll also need to take a look at your other self-care habits. 

6) Lack of self-care

You might think it’s obvious that being healthy is necessary for success, but so many of us actually neglect self-care in different ways

For example, do you mindlessly snack on chips while typing away at your computer? Do you struggle with getting people to respect your boundaries? Do you engage in negative self-talk? (More on that later.)

See, self-care is such a multi-faceted thing. You need to make sure you’re keeping yourself healthy in every aspect.    

How to break free: 

Physical self-care: These are the obvious yet often-neglected habits like exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing good hygiene. 

Mental self-care: Practice mindfulness and engage in hobbies that make you feel good. Take breaks when you need them. 

Emotional self-care: Learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. Establish your boundaries clearly and practice being kind to yourself. This leads me to my next point…

7) Negative self-talk 

The way you talk to yourself plays a huge role in your success (or lack of it). If you constantly put yourself down and don’t believe in your abilities, it’s going to be hard to achieve anything.

Think about it: why would anyone believe in you if you can’t even believe in yourself? 

In really extreme cases, your inner voice can be so critical that it paralyzes you and makes you think you aren’t worth anything. 

How to break free: 

I believe that stopping negative self-talk begins with cultivating self-awareness. After all, how can you tell that nasty little voice to shut up if you’re not even aware it’s taking over your thoughts? 

Once you can recognize harmful thoughts, challenge them. Replace them with a positive affirmation instead. Practice saying, “I am capable,” “I am worthy,” and other good thoughts along those lines. 

This is what I mean by being kind to yourself. Whatever nice things or words of encouragement you would say to a friend, you should be telling yourself that, too.

8) Fear of failure

Author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

Here’s the deal: If you’re too afraid to fail, you may not even try. And if you won’t even try, how can you be successful? 

I understand how fear of failure can stop you from taking that next big step, but believe me, getting stuck in a rut is going to feel so much worse. 

How to break free: 

There’s no getting around it – you will need a mind shift if you want to stop being afraid to fail. It requires you to change how you view failure. Instead of seeing it as a disappointment, you need to see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. 

But for starters, here’s a tip: set realistic expectations. Make sure they aren’t too high or unrealistic that you’ll feel crushed when you can’t meet them.

And begin with small steps. Remember that tip about breaking down big goals into smaller ones? That works here, too. Because baby steps make you feel more confident as you take each one. And before you know it, you’re where you want to be!  

Why is it important to master your fear of failure? Because if you don’t, it can very easily lead to…

9) Perfectionism

Oh, this one is really something I struggled with. For a large chunk of my career, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be excellent at what I do. 

Now there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to aim high. But the problem is when you’re never satisfied with your performance. That irrational desire to achieve flawlessness and those excessively high standards can leave you feeling burned out in the end. 

Because here’s the thing: perfection is impossible. And perfection is different from excellence. Instead of leading you to success, that perfectionist mindset could lead you to depression

How to break free: 

Again, this one requires a lot of self-awareness. You need to recognize your triggers and patterns of thinking to be able to challenge them. 

The main thing is to learn how to be comfortable with imperfection. Focus on the meaning and the process, not the product. Remember that your self-worth isn’t tied to these expectations you set for yourself. 

Of course, it’s not as simple as all this. Breaking free of perfectionism takes a lot of deep work on the self. But for starters, prioritize developing self-awareness. 

10) Comparisonitis

Whenever I think about comparison, an image of Michael Phelps comes to mind. I imagine the swimmer looking over at his competitors while swimming to check how they are doing. 

Obviously, if he had done that, his pace would have slowed down. He would never have won 23 Olympic gold medals. 

Do you see how comparing yourself to others can get in the way of success? It achieves nothing – all it does is take away from your own productivity. You’ll simply spend precious energy on something that doesn’t serve you. 

How to break free: 

One word – gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude highlights YOUR blessings, not anyone else’s. It makes you see how much you already have and unlocks the power of contentment. 

What’s more, it helps you focus on your strengths, which will drive you closer to your goals. 

Ultimately, gratitude makes you feel more positive about life. And as we all know, happiness is one of the secrets to success! 

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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