There are good habits, and not-so-good ones. Then there are habits that will actually prevent you from achieving success. That observation comes from the personal finance site GOBankingRates, which recently used Stephen R. Covey’s bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a starting point to take a look at behaviors really successful people won’t tolerate.
Neither should you. If you catch yourself indulging in any of these self-destructive behaviors, pull the plug immediately. Your future success, and your happiness, depends on it.
1. Blaming circumstances or other people when things go wrong.
No, you can’t control the weather, market forces, your competitors, or the economy. That still leaves you with a lot of things you can control. Successful people focus on what they themselves can do to improve a situation or create an opportunity. They don’t waste a lot of time worrying about things they can’t change. And when they fail, they take responsibility for that failure rather than blaming the circumstances or people around them.
2. Focusing on the short-term, rather than your end goal.
I’ll never forget one of my earliest jobs, over which, given an assignment to write a very simple article, I slaved away, striving to make this little piece as perfect as I could. I used up all the time I had and then some, handing in my gem after the deadline was past.
Instead, I should have taken less time to do a competent but not spectacular job, so that I could then go on to bigger, better, and more interesting pieces. I had made the mistake of focusing on the short-term, and failed to consider how the task I was completing fit into the larger objectives of my job, and ultimately my career.
It’s always tempting to hyper-focus on the task right in front of you. But it’s much more powerful to set your sights on where you want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now. As GOBankingRates’ Morgan Quinn writes, “You must first imagine in your mind what you cannot yet see with your eyes.” Do that–and keep doing it–and you’ll never lose sight of the long-term.
3. Getting overcommitted.
I’m often guilty of this myself, even though I know better. The fact is that saying yes to too many obligations, both professional and personal, dilutes our effectiveness and makes it virtually impossible to achieve our ultimate goals. That means we should not only avoid excessive commitments; we should also regularly review our schedules and prune them of tasks and activities that aren’t of highest importance. (Here’s an effective method for doing that pruning.)
4. Competing instead of cooperating.
Few situations in life are a zero-sum game in which, if someone wins, someone else must inevitably lose. And in every situation, it’s worth taking the time to find out whether there’s a way for all parties to get what they really want.
Yes, there may be times when someone else has to lose so you can win, or vice versa. But before you get caught in that mindset, make sure you’ve explored every possible avenue of cooperation. That’s a habit that will always serve you well.
5. Failing to listen.
Listening effectively to others is both extremely hard and incredibly important. This is a habit you should develop immediately if you don’t have it. Listening effectively means more than just allowing others the time and space to speak their minds, even if they’re your subordinates. It also means listening with your full attention, and resisting the temptation to start planning your response.
If you have a tendency to judge others, or to give advice when you haven’t been asked for it, it’s time to start breaking those habits as well. Simply listening to others and really hearing them will gain you trust and respect that giving the best advice in the world won’t.
6. Going it alone.
This is another habit I’m sometimes guilty of, and it usually gets me in trouble. (It alsomakes my husband crazy, because when stressed I tend to turn bristly instead of reaching out.)
The fact is, no matter how smart and talented we are, and how incredibly good at what we do, getting assistance, feedback, or just a different perspective from other people almost always makes our work better. It also helps those other people because now we’re sharing and exchanging ideas and perspectives, and when you do that, you nearly always learn something new. So next time you feel tempted to just handle things by yourself, resist that temptation. You’ll be stronger for it, and so will the people around you.
7. Failing to take care of yourself.
It’s way too easy to wind up working way too many hours, especially if you’ve made the mistake of getting overcommitted. Don’t do it. Overwork make you tired and irritable, no fun to be around, and less likely to make good decisions. Not only that, it saps your efficiency to the point where you may as well not bother.
To be really successful, you must take care of yourself on every level, with healthy food, enough exercise and sleep, nourishing relationships, spirituality, and the lifelong learning that makes work a joy instead of a chore. Ignore these things, and you’re setting yourself up for a frustrating, joyless life. Make sure you get them all, and you’ll be able to do almost anything.