Have you ever woken up, made yourself a cup of coffee, sat down at your desk to work, and all of a sudden you just don’t feel like working on your goals?
Or, perhaps you’re past that. Maybe you’re able to get in the zone but staying there is a problem. It feels as though all of a sudden, every goal you’ve ever set for yourself seems unattainable and not even worth the effort.
You’re disciplined, but you’re doubtful. You’re ambitious, but you’re anxious. You’re capable, but you’re fearful.
For example, almost a year ago now, I decided I want to pursue writing full time. I want to be a published author one day, and in order for that to happen, I realized I had to hone in on my craft and start now as opposed to “waiting for the right time.”
I’ve been doing all the right things, I’m disciplined, ambitious, and I know I’m capable — but lately, I’ve noticed that I’m also incredibly doubtful, anxious, and fearful. As a result, my writing has suffered.
I’m incredibly tedious when it comes to these things; the moment I notice something wrong, I need to identify the issue and fix it immediately. Not everyone is like that, though, and without even knowing you, I can almost guarantee that you’re someone who, instead of facing the issue — likes to sweep it under the rug.
I know because I used to be like that, and it took a lot of work to change that. I certainly don’t know everything about what's currently preventing you from obtaining your goals, but I do know how to delete a few negative behaviors and change them to good ones.
With that being said, here are three toxic habits that are preventing you from working on your goals and how you can change them.
Cut out the negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is incredibly damaging. It decreases your motivation, your drive, your ability to work through problems, and it’ll prevent you from working on your goals.
Instead of taking the failures and issues that come your way as learning lessons, you start to tell yourself you’re just not good enough.
Instead of focusing on the quality and the effort that you’re consistently putting in, you start to compare yourself to others, and you wonder why you’re not as far along as the rest of them.
A study done on athletes compared four different types of self-talk (instructional, motivational, positive, and negative) and found that positive self-talk was the greatest predictor of success.
You don’t need to remind yourself how to do something as much as you need to tell yourself that what you’re doing is something great and that others notice it as well.
For instance, anytime I start working on my book, there are days that I’m incredibly doubtful of my writing skills.
Am I creative enough to do this? Is this even making sense? Would anybody even bother to read this? Am I smart enough? Probably not. I should just stop right now. This is a complete and utter waste of time. I should have just stuck to college and pursued my boring 9–5 tech job that I hated.
Those thoughts circulate my mind during my writing process, in turn, causing me to give up and scrap everything.
In contrast, when I acknowledge my self-critic and focus on actually writing rather than criticizing myself, I notice a drastic difference in my writing. It’s not that it’s better; it’s that I look at it from a positive perspective. I’m not picking and poking at every little detail.
By listening to your inner-critic and allowing negative self-talk to rule your life, you’re sabotaging yourself and preventing yourself from reaching your fullest potential.
How to apply:
The thoughts and feelings that you have in the moment aren’t always reality.
Your thoughts are often skewed, just like everybody else’s. They’re subject to biases and the influence of your moods. If you often find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, it helps when you acknowledge it and actively try to shut that voice down or even challenge it at times.
The vast majority of negative self-talk is an exaggeration, and calling yourself out on this can help to take away its damaging influence.
For instance, anytime I’m being negative towards my writing, I remind myself that there are thousands of people reading my writing. If it was crap, would they be reading it?
Or when I tell myself I’m not creative enough, would I have been able to come up with 250+ articles, short stories, and all of the ideas that are constantly popping up in my head?
There are many ways to reduce self-talk in your daily life. Different strategies work better for different people, so try a few on and see which ones are most effective for you.
Procrastinating is a dead-end street.
Without knowing you, I know that procrastination is one of your closest friends. If it weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
I get it. You think you’ve got the time. You can do it later, maybe in the evening. Perhaps you can squeeze it in tomorrow, or the next day, or better yet — the weekend.
You’ll be less stressed, and you’ll have less on your plate. It makes sense, right? Wrong, completely wrong. The more you put things off, the less likely you’ll actually get them done. How often have you actually completed tasks on weekends? You’re out hanging with friends, and you suddenly remember about that thing you were supposed to do on Tuesday that you put off till Saturday.
Now you say it’s going to get done on Monday.
Procrastination can steal your dreams and even destroy your life. In an article in the New York Times, writer Charlotte Lieberman says “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against your better judgment.
Dr. Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary, considers it “self-harm.”
There are hundreds of negative outcomes to procrastinating, and you already know them, so I won’t list them all off. Instead, I’ll give you some helpful advice as to how you can avoid it.
How to apply:
Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits,” says you can take what you know about procrastination and use it to your advantage by placing obstacles between yourself and your temptations to induce a certain degree of frustration or anxiety.
If you compulsively check social media, delete those apps from your phone, or give yourself a really complicated password with not just five digits but 12. By doing this, you’re adding friction to the procrastination cycle and making the reward value of your temptation less immediate.
She also suggested that you make the things you want to do as easy as possible for yourself. If you want to go to the gym before work, but you’re not a morning person, set your gym bag out by the door and have it ready with all the things you need. Put your workout clothes on the counter by your toothbrush so you could get ready quickly.
You don’t have a system that works for YOU.
How often do you hear about a magical morning routine that works immaculate wonders that results in you being 10x more productive, healthy, and happy?
Probably a lot, and here’s the thing, they most likely all have something you can pull from.
Benjamin Hardy, PhD, says that your first three hours will make or break you because your brain is most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. So, the best time to do your best work is during the first three hours of your day.
Danny Forest has a routine he follows from 5:30 a.m to 10 p.m. because he believes the power of your morning routine will set you up for a successful day and consecutive successful days brings momentum, which will ultimately make you unstoppable.
And then there are plenty of other examples of people that have routines that range widely; some people like to sleep till noon and stay up. Others prefer waking up at the crack of dawn (myself included) because that’s what works for them.
Aristotle once said,
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Establishing a healthy and productive daily routine is a self-investment and a way to show up as your best self every day.
It can help you establish priorities, limit procrastination, keep track of goals, and make you an overall healthy individual. It lowers your reliance on willpower and motivation because, as Tynan, the author of Superhuman by Habit, says, habits are “actions that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.”
You have to figure out what works best for you. Find a system, a practice, a set of habits, a routine that you can consistently stick to that will inevitably lead you to more productive and successful days.
How to apply:
Try to look for a reliable way to plan your workdays. Figure out what comes easy and what doesn’t; one way to do that is by asking yourself a few questions:
- Are you a morning person?
- Do you workout? Do you prefer morning, afternoon, night time?
- Do you stay up?
- Are you more energized in the evenings?
- What are your peak productivity hours?
- Are you someone who likes stability in your day-to-day, or are you more go-with-the-flow?
Study what other successful people are doing, see what their process is like, and figure out if it’s something that could potentially work for you. Play around with it.
For instance, when I was figuring out my routine, I asked myself what my ideal day looks like. Be realistic, eliminate the “I wish I could wake up and do nothing,” and ask yourself what would make you feel happy.
For me, my ideal day consists of writing 8k-10k words, a hardcore workout, read for a minimum of 1–2 hours, take a walk by the beach, cook all of my meals, work on my hobbies, spend quality time with my partner and finish my workday by 1 p.m.
In order for that to happen, I had to establish some rules. For instance, I couldn’t sleep in till 9–10 if I wanted my workday to be done by 1. In order for a hardcore workout to happen, I have to make sure I’m sleeping well and eating good; in order for me to reach a certain word count, I need to make sure I’m on schedule with my other priorities.
The process of figuring out what works for you is like a game of chess; you need to take your time and play with it. Once you figure it out, it’ll help you significantly in the long run.