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Four Habits of Highly Unsuccessful People

Updated on January 12, 2010

Don't Let These Habits Hold You Back

In the hyper-ambitious United States, it might be hard to believe that anyone isn't reaching his or her personal potential. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a question full of promise, and we embrace possible vocations without knowing how we will actually become what we dream of.

Everyone has skills and talents but there's a large leap between being good at something and being successful at it. You may be good at playing the piano, but to be a professional pianist, you must practice intensely, receive training and input from good teachers, and perform regularly.

Self-discipline is the most important prerequisite for success. If you aren't able to make yourself do things you don't want to do, you will always be on the ground floor of your life. Read on to discover common attitudes, behaviors and inaction that will let your talents slip through your fingers.

Doing the Bare Minimum

Doing the bare minimum means your objective is to survive your own life. Whether it's turning down social invitations or not volunteering when you know you should, taking on as little as possible is often a cover for a fear of committment, a lack of self belief and/or painful emotions. You don't volunteer because you don't want to be obligated. You feel badly about yourself so you underestimate the value you can bring. You may be anxious or depressed, and any effort beyond what is absolutely necessary is exhausting.

The more you do, the more you can do. I'm not referring to busy work or over work. Specifically, you have to prioritize. Where are you really needed? What brings you joy that you hardly ever do? An immaculate house may be a daily goal that steals time you could be using to do something with a bigger return. How about a water aerobics class to reduce your joint pain or a volunteer stint at a local hospital? It is a well known fact that volunteer work helps ease depression and anxiety by providing a distraction from inner turmoil. Helping other people boosts self esteem and mood.

Action builds confidence and increases creativity. By venturing out and doing more, you will discover a feeling of competence.

Sleeping Too Late or Too Much

Early to bed and early to rise will make you healthy, wealthy and wise. It's an old saying and it's true. Sleeping late puts you at a disadvantage because most people are about their day already. The earlier you get up the more you get accomplished.

If you sleep too much, you are a slave to fatigue. It is a paradox. Sleep is an insatiable need and if you indulge too much, you will have less energy. Sleep is the new sex--we fantasize about being able to sleep as much as we want but when we do, we are just as tired. A better approach? If you don't get seven hours of sleep a night, go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you add an hour to your sleep total. If you get enough sleep but you go to bed too late and sleep too late, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and get up 15 minutes earlier each morning until you reach your target wake time.

Giving Up Too Easily

People who are successful are generally hard-working. Achieving goals requires sacrifices of time and effort. Desire is not enough--there is a whole generation of young adults who want a professional salary and career but are unwilling to put in the consistent, dedicated effort it would take to make their wishes come true.

There are a lot of smart 18-21 year olds who go to college and don't graduate. Once they are no longer children forced to attend school five days a week, they lose momentum and motivation. Young adults cross over from having to go to school to choosing to go to school in college. This free will can wreak havoc on career plans unless there is self-discipline. If you want a college degree, you have to work for it. It won't just happen. You must attend classes, complete homework, exams and classwork faithfully for each class. This level of effort has to be sustained over a considerable period of time.

When you work for a goal, it becomes an investment. You are less inclined to throw it all away on impulse or not follow through until the end. We all have things we like to do or want to do, but we earn those pleasures by taking care of business first. Relaxing once the work is done is far more satisfying than relaxing instead of working.

Indulging in Self-Destructive Habits/Activities

Self-destructive habits are those things we do that we know aren't good for us, but we do them anyway. Acting on impulse and "living for today" mark this type of behavior, as does avoidance of responsibility.

Addictions are classic examples of self-destructive behaviors. Addictions take time, money, and energy. They direct and dominate lives. They encourage self-loathing and hopelessness. They threaten physical and emotional health. If you have an addiction that is more serious than caffeine or chocolate, you must make every effort to take back control of your life.

A good starting point is to make a list of the pros and cons of your addiction. For most addictions, the pros have to do with numbing of emotions, mood improvement and pleasure. In comparison, sobriety seems to mean little to no fun, overwhelming emotions and constant yearning. This is simply not true! When you get sober, right away you have a feeling of self-respect because you know how hard it is but you are still doing it! Every day is an accomplishment because you are choosing to do what you know is right for you. The guilt you felt before for not stopping is gone.

Continuous sobriety lessens cravings because the brain isn't expecting your drug (or behavior) of choice. Pleasure returns when new experiences replace the addiction--your new hobbies, a workout routine, involvement in church, school or volunteer activities retrain your brain to experience pleasure and satisfaction in new ways.

Something is Always Better than Nothing

Some improvement is better than no improvement. Set doable goals and reward yourself for meeting them. This is very important because as you meet your goals, you start to believe in your ability to change and to cope.

Change is hands-on, nuts and bolts work, and it doesn't have to be pretty or perfect, the job just needs to get done! Perfectionisim is "Either I do everything right or I've done everything wrong." Rigid thinking can make the smallest mistake seem like an insurmountable weakness. Refuse to believe the worst about yourself no matter what that critical little voice inside your head may say! Get stubborn and get going!


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    • profile image

      ElleBee 5 years ago

      I have definitely been falling into the sleep too much category lately. And everything you say about the consequences is true.

    • Ann M Jackson profile image

      Ann M Jackson 7 years ago from Michigan

      gmwilliams: Thank you for your kind comments!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Great hub! Well spoken. It is a fact that most people do not want to be successful yet they moan and wish that they are successful. Being successful takes planning, sacrifice, and prioritizing. Being successful takes vision that one does not want to live an ordinary and colorless life! Keep up the good work!