Three bad habits that aren’t actually bad.

Thinking about these three habits as bad was a mistake.

Madhav Bahl
TheLeanProgrammer
10 min readJul 11, 2021

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Let’s be honest, when was the last time you did something and felt unnecessary guilt — one side of your brain said “it’s ok, we can do it sometimes”, but the other side said, “you should be ashamed of yourself for doing this”?

I am pretty sure that you went through this feeling recently. In fact, most of us go through this multiple times daily (including me!)

  • Added an extra spoon of sugar in your tea — Oh! I have already gained so much weight in the lockdown, what should I do?
  • Slept 30 minutes more than usual — I’ve been wasting so much time, I am never able to wake up early!
  • Completed that new Netflix series in a single day — The story was super interesting, but I wasted a whole day, I can never be productive.

I bet you can relate (and think of many more examples)!

Are you ambitious?

A quick aside to talk about ambitions, it’s super essential!

Photo by Samuel Ng on Unsplash

Believe it or not, we all are ambitious, we all have goals, we all want to achieve something in life. The difference in the level of ambitions will always be there, but we can’t deny the fact that having “ambitions” is a basic human tendency.

The combination of ambitions and action brings satisfaction, but the levels of willpower may vary. The willpower to go beyond and do the “uncomfortable” decides the level of satisfaction.

Think about it, if you gave up on your willpower while resisting your temptation to add the extra spoon of sugar you, even though it tasted good, it can make you feel bad for a few minutes.

Ambitions without the willpower to take action leads to a life full of regrets!

But, we don’t realize that the things we consider “bad” are not always “bad”. Added extra sugar? So what, burn some more calories tomorrow — this is still in your hands!

Not all “bad” things are “bad”

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

My above statement challenges a lot of theories, but the example I gave is still valid. Did you consume a few extra calories? Instead of regretting or feeling bad about it, burn a few more calories the next day.

As long as it’s easily reversible, it’s not bad!

The only thing we should keep in mind is that it is not the consumption of calories that is bad, it’s the OVER/EXCESS consumption that’s bad. Once we understand this, we can easily relate it to a lot more scenarios in life.

There are a few things that are clearly bad, there are a few things that are clearly good, and then there are a few “bad” but easily reversible things. It’s easy to understand and differentiate.

But that’s not it! There’s another category, habits that we think are not good, but are essential. There are 3 habits that we tend to usually avoid (intentionally or unintentionally). These habits are super essential for your long-term growth. Let’s talk about these three “not so bad” habits.

1. Wasting time

What if I tell you that it’s very important to waste time? Consider me a lunatic? Read more.

Why is it important?

Before you start yelling at me, let me tell you why I consider wasting time not only fine but super essential.

Making it quick, there are two states of mind

  • Focused thinking
  • Diffuse thinking

As the name suggests, focused thinking happens when we are focusing on learning something new, or doing some work, etc.
On the other hand, diffuse thinking happens when we let our mind wander, when we just sit down and see the wall and have random thoughts (you got the point!)

The focused state is important — there’s no doubt about it, but science says, diffuse thinking is equally important! The focused state is important for learning, and the diffuse state is super important for creativity, connecting the dots, thinking outside the box, and coming up with great ideas.

And the exciting part? Diffuse thinking happens when we are doing things that we consider a “waste of time”.

We can’t deny the importance of it, can we? Yet, it’s a common misconception that wasting time (or being unproductive) is bad.

Reason for misconception?

There are endless reasons,

  • Influencers promoting the hustle culture where they promote themselves as doing “productive” things 24x7.
  • Your parents telling you in childhood that you shouldn’t waste time.
  • Your teachers explaining you the value of time and being productive in school.
  • You seeing others achieving great things and thinking they must be working “super-hard”

Don’t get me wrong, hard work is important, but the diffuse state is equally important.

What can you do?

A simple answer to this problem -

Schedule your free time!

When I say “wasting time” is important, it’s only partially correct. If you go about wasting time always, it can be much more disastrous.

Working 24x7 — leads to burnout
Wasting time 24x7 — leads to regrets

Even though burnout is a bad state to be in, personally, I feel burnout is still better than regrets.

We know the importance of a focused state, we also know the importance of the diffuse state, so the only way out of it is to BALANCE both!

  • Schedule your working time and off time
  • Take “intentional” breaks instead of random breaks that turn out much longer than you intended
  • Have fun — all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
  • Set boundaries — when you work make sure you are not distracted by anything, when you enjoy, make sure you are not interrupted by work.

And remember, balance is the key aspect!

Excess of something that cures, can kill.

2. Thinking and talking about money

Financial freedom comes from thinking, talking and working for it!

Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash

Why is it important?

I don’t need to tell you the importance of financial freedom. Having financial freedom enables you to think beyond money and start working for the greater good.

The thoughts we take over a continuous period of time become reality. Be a pessimist and you’ll gradually start seeing all the things going wrong around you, be an optimist and you will notice the goodness in the worst of situations!

When we “Think about money” in a constructive way, without greed, it gives us ideas to perform better, improve our career, get ideas for passive income, which can give you more financial freedom in the long term.

Warren Buffett says “Never depend on single source of income, make investment to create a second source”, and to do that, it’s essential to learn the core concepts of money.

“Work hard for money” — Poor mindset
“Make your money work for you while you work for making an impact” — Rich mindset.

Read the above lines again, there’s a big difference!

There are some fundamental principles of finance which all of us should be aware of, some of them can be taught, some of them comes through experiences, but, if you are not willing to think or talk about money, will you be able to learn them?

Thinking about money is not bad, as long as you don’t become its slave.

Think about making money, think about good investments, think about success, but never let thoughts become your master. Control your thoughts and direct them for constructive growth

The fundamental mantra still applies here — Don’t consume excess calories, eat in moderation!

Reason for misconception?

People love money, yet, they refrain to talk or think about it. People confuse “thinking about money” with “being greedy for money”.

This small misconception can prevent you from learning about the concepts of money, and lead you to the “poor mindset”.

Let me remind you —

“Working hard for money, yet not thinking or talking about how to make it grow” — Poor mindset

“Making your money work for you while you work for making an impact” — Rich mindset

And you can attain the rich mindset only when you are open to thinking and talking about ideas related to money!

What can you do?

Simple answer, as Rudyard Kipling says -

Dream, but not make dreams your master;
Think, but not make thoughts your aim;

Here are a few things that I would recommend

  • Read these two books — “The Richest Man in Babylon” and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” to understand the timeless principles of finance
  • Learn about investments and start investing 10% of your monthly income (or pocket money if you are still a student)
  • Think about various options of revenue stream that you have, and to get more options/ideas ask yourself these questions -
    - Can you provide a service/freelance?
    - Can you sell online — how about leveraging FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon)
    - How about reselling?
    - How about making a digital product?
    - How about becoming a mentor/teacher/subject matter expert?
    - Is affiliate marketing for you?
    - Or maybe, hosting an event?
    There can be infinite ways, you have to find the ones suitable for you!
  • Once you’ve decided about your way of revenue stream, work for it, think about ways you can scale it, talk about it, and make it successful :)

In the process, have big dreams, but don’t make dreams your master. Understand the power of compounding and moderation, give it proper time, make long term goals, and don’t do “excess” of any single thing.

3. Asking for help

Ask for help when you need, and provide help when others need, that’s how a community thrives!

Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

Why is it important?

Let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago, I was assigned a task to code a feature, I was stuck at an error for around 2 days. A small, simple feature, but that error cost me around 2 days!

If you are a programmer you would know the pain of being stuck at an error, and if it lasts as long as 2 days, it becomes super annoying, and yet I was not ready to give up. I spent hours searching on google and trying out various solutions from StackOverflow, but nothing helped.

Even after so much pain, I was not ready to ask for help. Now when I think about it, I am still not sure what was stopping me from asking for help, maybe it was the fear of being judged that I wasn’t able to resolve the issue, or maybe I was too shy of asking for help, or maybe I was too overconfident, or maybe I was overthinking that if I am not able to solve it, how will others solve it.

Irrespective of the reasons, I could not get myself to ask for help. Suddenly, a friend who was watching me struggle for two days called my mentor and told him the whole story.

Do you know what happened? He was able to resolve the issue in less than 2 minutes, not kidding! That was the moment I realized that if I asked for help earlier, I could have saved 2 days.

Moral of the story? Try out everything in your power, but still if you aren’t able to find a solution, reach out for help.

It’s not wise to waste all your time trying to figure out everything on your own, there are people more experienced than you who can teach you, guide you, and help you.

Reason why people don’t reach out for help?

As I told above (in my story), there can be multiple reasons

  • One might be too shy to ask for help
  • Or maybe he/shy might be afraid of others judging his/her work
  • Being overconfident is also one of the reasons
  • Being egoistic?

Irrespective of the reasons, just think about how much time can you save if you just ask for help, simple!

What can you do?

Well, I don’t need to tell you how to ask for help, it’s simple, but still I will write down a few things I do (which I feel people should but most people don’t)

  1. DON’T REACH OUT IMMEDIATELY — This is super important, hence the capital letters. Try out everything in your power to resolve the issue so that you don’t waste others’ time for small things. Most of the times problems aren’t as big as we think of them.
  2. But, DON’T SPEND HOURS/DAYS — Learn to differentiate between scenarios that you can handle yourself, and the scenarios where you need help. Don’t waste hours/days in fixing an issue you can’t, know when to reach out for help.
  3. Ask for help politely — Remember, the other person is not obliged to help you, they will have to go out of their normal schedule/work to help you out, so make sure you are “requesting” them, and not “ordering” them
  4. Make sure you are also available when they need help — that’s the best way to show gratitude.

And again, I can’t stop emphasizing on the importance of moderation — Don’t reach out again and again for every small thing. Excess if everything is bad.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the blog, if you liked it, do leave a few claps and share it with your friends.

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Madhav Bahl
TheLeanProgrammer

✨ Tech, Fitness and Lifestyle - Helping software professionals stay fit and grow in career ✨