5 Unproductive Habits to Quit Right Now


1. Quit thinking that help/advice is criticism.

I was not good at asking for help. And apparently I really SUCK at accepting it. So much so that people stop wanting to help me after I open my mouth.

I recently had a situation where a friend had a connection who could help me. When we met to discuss it, I stubbornly held onto the belief that what I was doing was right. Needless to say the conversation didn’t get very far. My friend later pointed out how defensive I was and it shut the other person down. She was right. I was defensive because until that very moment I hadn’t realized that I took help/advice as criticism. Of ME!


Old thinking patterns are hard to change. I spent the majority of my life assessing my own worth by other people’s approval. This thinking was deeply ingrained in my being. I’ve worked hard to loosen it’s grip, but it still rears it’s ugly head if I am not on my guard.

How do I combat it? There are two thoughts I try to be aware of. The first is that I am trying to improve, grow and be my best self. That means seeking  advice, help and feedback from others who have more experience or a different perspective than mine. And secondly, my worth as a human being isn’t tied to my being “right” or having people agree with me.

2. Quit asking why.

Why did this happen? Why me? In this context, asking why is not a productive question. What and how are better choices as in “How can I make this work?” “How can I use what I have?” “What can I do to make it better?”

3. Quit judging your work.

I spent a lot of time not doing my work (i.e pursuing my dreams) because I told myself that I didn’t have the experience or compared myself to others who usually had WAY more experience and practice than I did.

But you know what? Our work is not for us to judge. Sure, we can have an opinion about it but that should not stop us from doing our work. We are never going to improve if we don’t practice. Our job is to do the work to the best of our ability, put it out there, be open to feedback, evaluate and repeat process.

4. Quit blaming yourself.

I stubbornly stuck to a goal-setting system for years but rarely got started, much less completed, any goals when I used it. I thought I was the problem. I was lazy. I lacked will power, dedication, discipline, perseverance, passion, etc. I needed to dig my heels in, work harder, get more focused. In other words, I need to fix ME.

I finally realized I wasn’t the problem. My system was. It’s not like I NEVER achieved my goals. I have accomplished a great deal but in those instances I wasn’t strong-arming myself into submission with unrealistic demands. Running is a good example. I’ve been running regularly for about 8 years. If that isn’t discipline, I don’t know what is. I’ve added yoga to my repertoire and I’ve been doing it consistently for over 2 years.

Funny thing is I never set out to be a runner but I did have a desire to be healthier. I eased into it, one small step at a time. I started out walking. Then a co-worker “dared” the rest of us to join a boot camp. I never missed a class. And even though I said I hated running, once boot camp was over I didn’t want to lose what I had gained so I agreed to meet a coworker 3 mornings a week to run. And it wasn’t fun the first couple of months. But I kept at it because I wanted to be healthier and I had made the commitment to my coworker. She held me accountable. I didn’t want to be THAT person.

Same person, two different systems. One worked, one didn’t. If something’s not working, quit blaming yourself. It’s unproductive. Try something different until it does work.

5. Quit thinking it’s about you.

As I mentioned before, I thought my worth was dependent upon other people’s validation of me. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove myself and win “their” approval. Doing so while trying to pursue my dreams was counter-productive, to say the least.

I got nowhere.

It finally occurred to me that this hyper-focus on myself (“Do they like me?”) was getting in the way of what I really wanted – a life filled with meaningful work and relationships. So I shifted my focus from “me” to “you”.

The weird thing is, all that time all I really wanted was to be acknowledged and appreciated. And then it occurred to me that we reap what we sow. If I wanted appreciation then I should show others appreciation.

It stopped being about me and I took on the mantra of how I could be of service to others. I can’t even describe what this shift in thinking has done for me. It’s not about getting approval anymore, it’s about sharing my gifts, even if it’s just listening or smiling at someone.

If you find yourself stuck, see if any of these habits of thought are tripping you up.

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