What does it truly take to be successful?
People love to depict success as a single colossal goal; a mountain they have to surmount. But the truth is, that mountaintop doesn’t even exist if you can’t succeed at the small tasks that are right in front of you. Success isn’t the result of one home run. Rather, it’s showing up to batting practice every single day, year after year.
They say success is the meeting between preparation and opportunity. In order to get there, you need to set some ground rules.
Ultimately, this means that in order to be successful, you should be less focused on the big trophy at the end and much more deliberate with how you spend your time right now. Start setting a routine and building the habits that will lead to success.
But first, here are the bad habits you need to chuck right now if you want to reach your desired outcome.
1. Negative thinking.
This is where it all starts. Negative behaviors and thoughts will only hold you back. Allowing a contradictory or negative mindset to take hold is like allowing a poison to invade your brain. Don’t do it.
Once you’ve started down that path, it’s hard to stop the downward spiral into negativity. Doubt, frustration and depression often follow close behind. The best thing you can do for yourself is to become aware of your triggers. What starts you down a pessimistic road?
Once you recognize the triggers, you can stop negative internal dialogue before it has time to bring you down. As soon as you feel yourself slipping into adverse thinking, pivot into the positive.
2. Squandering time.
Texts. Emails. Social media. Television. All great things—and all extremely distracting. Technology is a tremendous resource. It gets you connected and provides access to valuable information. But at the same time, can be super easy to get sucked into diversions and foolishness.
We love our gadgets and zoning out in front of the television or gaming console. But what does that really do for you? When your mom told you that you were rotting your brain staring at the TV she had a point. How many successful people do you know who waste hours every day being a couch potato?
Stop mindlessly flipping through channels. Stop wasting time obsessively scrolling through social media. Start doing.
3. Postponing your personal health.
You know the excuses: “I’ll go to the gym in the morning.” “I’ll start eating better tomorrow.” “I’ll catch up on my sleep as soon as this project is over.”
The problem is, we keep putting our goals off. And before we know it, we’ve developed an unhealthy habit. The more times in a week you get into the mode of “I’ll do it tomorrow,” the more you embed the bad habit of postponing. Stop dawdling and take charge of your health today.
4. Expecting perfection (especially the first time).
Nothing kills success quicker than the expectation of perfection. Sometimes what you really need is a “good enough for now” solution to get the ball rolling. You have to start with something in order for progress to happen. Stalling while you wait for the perfect idea or the perfect moment will only lead to procrastination.
Instead, shift your mindset to expect failure, and learn to keep both eyes out for it. Then take every opportunity you can to learn, improve and refine. You have to begin with something in order to move forward.
5. People pleasing.
Trying to be everything to everyone is a waste of time. The truth is, you should never appease other people if it means severely compromising yourself in the process.
Not everyone is going to love and adore you. In fact, that should inspire you to work harder for those who actually “get” you. It’s time to stand up for yourself. Stop trying to justify yourself to everyone and focus on the friends who accept you.
Business is just the same. Focus on killing it in your niche market. Focus on those people who are naturally drawn to you and engaged by your product or services.
Stay true to yourself, and you’ll end up being more helpful to others.
6. Thinking you already know the answer.
Don’t let your ego kill your opportunities. So many entrepreneurs fail simply because they don’t know what they don’t know. They walk into a new industry or start a company with the confidence that they’ve got it all figured out. This attitude, however, tends to be a fast track to failure.
Don’t let your arrogance stand in your way. Believing that you’ve always got the right answer means you will stop asking questions, and in the long run that is both dangerous and limiting. Try talking less and listening more.
7. Not reading.
It doesn’t matter how busy you are; reading is essential. There is so much to be learned from the great minds that have gone before. If you shut books out simply because they’re “boring” or you “don’t have enough time,” you’re doing yourself a disservice. Start the day by reading a good book for just 30 minutes, and you’ll be shocked by the new worlds of information that open up to you.
Reading is the cornerstone to learning. Stop learning and you’ll start failing. If you want to achieve your goals, you should invest in the skill of reading.
Recent studies have proven that multitasking isn’t really a thing. You can jump back and forth between two activities, but you can’t juggle both at the same time. The only exception is if one activity is extremely passive, like driving while listening to a podcast.
Productivity relies on focus. You need to be present and fix your attention on the information you are receiving in order to act on it or react to it. The minute you try to multitask, you are breaking your concentration and your efficiency drops like a ball you can’t catch in time.
All multitasking does is interrupt your flow. Do one thing at a time, and you’ll do it better and faster.
9. Fear of failure.
People tend to view this as a personality trait more than a habit. But like anything else, if you allow the fear of failure to become ingrained, it becomes a difficult habit to break.
Every time you avoid doing something because you’re afraid of failing, you’re practicing that bad habit. Instead, practice embracing new challenges without letting worry and anxiety hold you back.
After all, failing is part of life. The only true failure is letting fear limit you or prevent you from moving forward. When you fall down (and you will), get back up and keep trying. That’s the only way of breaking free and empowering yourself to fly.
10. Not keeping promises to yourself and others.
A promise is a declaration that you will do something or will keep from doing something. It is your word, and it is an integral part of building respect and integrity. Again, keeping or breaking your promises can become a habit. If you get into the habit of constantly breaking your word, that speaks volumes about the type of person that you are.
Start with yourself. If you make a promise to yourself, keep it. If you don’t respect your own boundaries and your own internal pact, then why should anyone else? The only thing worse than pushing aside a promise or a pledge to yourself is doing it to someone else.
Follow through on your obligations. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Any inconsistency in your word will end up biting you in the long run.
11. Hanging around negative people.
Take a look at the people with whom you spend time. Are your friends goal-oriented? Do they have their own passions? Are you pushing each other to be your best, or are they bringing you down with their own issues and insecurities?
Who you hang out with has a huge impact on who you become—and ultimately on what you choose to do with your time. Don’t fall into the trap of staying steadfast to people who are flakes or can’t find happiness in anything.
Everyone has a bad day, and we all lean on friends when we are going through rough times. But avoid those who are stuck in a persistent state of negativity. They will only bring you down with their sour mindset.
12. Blaming others for your mistakes.
Nothing breeds failure faster than blame, especially in a team environment. Blaming others is a bad habit that all too often is picked up by others and becomes destructive. As soon as one team leader does it, secondary leaders feel like it’s okay to do it too.
Blame is a virus. It is essentially transferring your sense of guilt or inadequacy to someone else. This habit can ruin a team or a company from the inside because it allows the initial problem to fester. If you don’t accept your missteps, you will never learn the important lessons that can prevent future mistakes and lead to growth.
You can put an end to blame spreading simply by owning your mistakes. It may feel painful to admit your blunder. But by taking on an attitude of “the blame stops here,” you will earn people’s respect and appreciation.
13. Saying yes to too many things.
Some entrepreneurs find it difficult to say no to things, which ends up causing chaos in their lives. When you say yes to things you don’t really want to do, or you don’t have the time to do, you aren’t doing anyone a favor.
If you let obligations rule your life and regularly spread yourself too thin, you will end up grouchy, exhausted and constantly underperforming.
Agreeing to take on too much devalues your time, and wastes the time of the other person, who is going to expect you to keep your word. Learn to just say no.
14. Overspending and undersaving.
Whether we’re talking about personal finances or the finances of a company, fiscal responsibility is a foundation that every person needs to master. It’s a bad habit to start spending money you don’t have, and an even worse habit to make decisions based on money not yet in the bank.
Being unable to budget will leave you scrambling in the long run. What happens when you lose your job or you or someone you care for gets sick and can’t work? Remember, rainy days are ahead.
Financial well-being gives you the ability to take advantage of opportunities and provides you with a sense of financial security. Why spend your valuable energy constantly worrying about how you will pay your bills? If you overspend and undersave, you are setting yourself up for an anxiety-ridden lifestyle, in which you are driven by your desire (and need) to make more money rather than your desire to achieve your goals and dreams in life.
15. Seeking validation.
As soon as you start making decisions out of a need for validation, as opposed to doing what’s right or what provides people the most value, you’ve set yourself up for failure. Validation is fleeting and doesn’t actually get you anywhere.
If your desire to be seen as successful overpowers your hunger to attain success, you might as well pack your bags. Success doesn’t always come with approval from those around you. And some of the most successful people shy away from recognition because they are driven more by their own sense of purpose than by what others think of them.
In the long run, knowing that you’ve achieved your goals and done your best should give you all the sense of accomplishment and validation you need.
16. Forgetting the long-term vision.
Short-sighted decisions lead to short-term victories, and may not get you any closer to your long-term goals. If you’re thinking solely about tomorrow, you’re going to continue working like mad to stay alive just one more day, every day. And that is a surefire recipe for burnout.
You should always be working toward your long-term vision. That is your greatest tool for success because it gives you the perspective to look into the future and envision where you want to go and how you want to get there. It helps you be strategic about which sacrifices today will pay dividends in the years to come. Without long-term vision, you’ll be stuck in the grind forever.
17. Staying too loyal.
Loyalty is an admirable trait. We should all operate in good faith and with the best of intentions. But loyalty should never supersede logic or reality.
For instance, retaining negative or unproductive people out of a sense of loyalty is harmful to both your company and yourself. Sure, give people time. Help them through their current difficulties, or be willing to teach and nurture them. But at some point, if they aren’t cut out for the job, you have to let them go. Otherwise you’re just dragging around dead weight that will ultimately drag you down too.
18. Being reactive instead of proactive.
Your days cannot be dictated by what’s coming at you. There will always be another meeting, another fire to put out or another task to tend to. These everyday burdens must not bog you down to the point that you become myopic. Rather, always weigh your options and consider what your best course of action is. If all you are doing is reacting you are in a sinking boat, so busy bailing yourself out that you have no time to row.
Don’t blame circumstances or conditions for curtailing your objectives. Things always come up, and you’ll just have to deal with them. You have to make conscious decisions about what you are doing rather than float from one thing to the next. Know your goals for each day, and let those drive you. Take care of everything else as best you can, but recognize that you must stay mindful of your purpose and be thoughtful about how you proceed.
19. Showing up late.
We all run behind sometimes. It happens. But nobody likes to be constantly kept waiting. It’s unproductive, impolite and sets the wrong tone. You come off as disorganized and incompetent—hardly the image you want to project.
Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to leave for your appointment or meeting. Resist the urge to fit one more thing into your schedule. Instead, cultivate the habit of showing up 15 minutes early. We live in an age where we can work from our mobile devices. Worst case scenario, you can always kill those 15 minutes by responding to emails.
20. Not clearing your mind.
The daily stress and pressures of this world pile up fast and can easily weigh you down if you’re not careful. If you don’t make time to take care of your mental health, it will catch up with you.
We all need a way to relieve stress. No one can grind 24–7, 365 days a year. We aren’t robots. And besides, even robots need maintenance.
You need to take an hour here or an evening there to just unwind. Clear your head. Go for a walk. Try meditating for 15 or 30 minutes a day, and you will see amazing results in your focus and productivity. Stepping away can often give you a better perspective on whatever obstacle or problem you are facing.
21. Poorly managing your social life.
Humans are social animals; it’s in our DNA. Having no social life isn’t healthy because it leaves you without an outlet or a way of connecting with others. Having too much of a social life isn’t good either, as you’ll likely be distracted, unfocused and unable to see your goals clearly.
You need to find a balance that works for you. The intention should be to find people with whom you enjoy socializing. We all need friends who will listen to us and console us. We need our tribe, who will have our back no matter what. But be careful who you let into your life and how much energy you devote to them. Remember that there is a difference between building lasting friendships and tumbling into social overload.
22. Letting your mistakes get in the way of your future wins.
Finally, don’t let what has happened before drive what hasn’t yet happened. Certainly you should take the time to reflect and learn from your mistakes. But don’t let fear of failure hold you back or dictate how you proceed. And, most important of all, don’t shy away from opportunities just because you failed before.
If you are constantly walking in the shadow of your self-doubt, you will never step into the sunshine. Let go of your past and grab hold of your future. Believing in yourself is the first step on the path to success.
This column was originally published on deeppatel.com on April 13, 2017.