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14 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be More Successful

Because one small shift can change your career forever.

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Sometimes it’s one simple factor that holds us back from unlocking our full potential. It could be a unhelpful mindset, a long-entrenched habit, or a communication quirk that’s keeping us from career success, and often times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. That’s why taking a moment to examine the thought patterns and behaviors we subconsciously cling to can lead to a major epiphany—one that can throw open the doors to success.

We asked Thrive Global’s contributor community — who have previously shared their insights about what to do when you disagree with a boss and small changes that improve your relationships — to reveal which habits they gave up that led them to greater success. Which of these will you be inspired to rethink?

The Urge To Keep Moving Up

“Climbing the corporate ladder was my Achilles Heel. I always had thought climbing up was the be-all, end-all, and when I got a big promotion in my mid-20s, it didn’t help that everyone was telling me I’d ‘made it.’ Through a series of fortuitous events and experiences, I mindfully stepped off the hamster wheel and reinvented my life. The work I do now is much more meaningful and I have flexibility and freedom to work from anywhere in the world to boot.”

—Jill Ozovek, learning & development advisor, entrepreneur, New York, NY

Negative Self-Talk

“I made the simple but powerful decision to never speak to myself in a derogatory manner again. Before then I was in the habit of verbal self-flagellation every time I made a mistake, no matter how small. But from that point on I decided that I would never say anything to myself that I wouldn’t say to a best friend or someone I care about. When I look back at my life and career, that is the point where my identity started to slowly shift. I went from being an underperformer with low self-esteem to someone with a great deal of self-respect who followed through on ideas and commitments.”

—Ayo Olatoye, education management, Dubai

Trying To Do it All Yourself

“I learned the importance of asking others for help. I’m a doer, so my default mode is to try to do it all myself. I’ve learned to ask for support on the projects that need expertise beyond my skill set. Utilizing experts for various aspects of a project not only improves efficiency but often leads to a higher quality end-product. The side-effect of learning to share responsibilities is that you’ll improve your communication skills too!”

—Marc P., website manager and entrepreneur, San Diego, CA

The Urge to Control

“I stopped trying to control everything.This doesn’t mean that I am not pushing myself to reach higher goals or that I’ve stopped coming out of my comfort zone. Rather, I am focusing on what I can fully control, and letting go the rest. Every time I face a new challenge, I pick a piece of paper and draw a line in the middle. I then write on one side what I can control, and what I can’t on the other one. I have learned to achieve more, work better, and avoid burnout. Control is everything, use it wisely.”

—Francesco Onorato, marketing, Phoenix, AZ

Perfection

“I had to put down my need to do everything perfectly. That drive is deeply imbedded in my psyche, and it can move me forward at times, but over the years I’ve found that my need to give everything 180% and to execute always flawlessly was actually slowing me down (and causing me anxiety and pain). By letting good enough be good enough — and choosing when to give my all and when to ease off — I’ve been at least as successful and life has been more fun!”

—Lisa Kohn, executive coach and author, Wayne, PA

The Comfort of Home

“I recently gave up the comfort of my home state (Michigan) to take a job opportunity in Philadelphia. I thought I’d stay in the Great Lakes State forever, but the universe had other exciting plans for my family. It was a leap of faith, a risk and a huge amount of stress, but it paid off immensely. My new job has opened up so many opportunities. It has brought high-profile speaking engagements, work I love and am proud of, exciting travel and a group of employees who hustle hard and support each other. If I didn’t take the job, my career would have dead ended, I’d continue being strapped for cash and I wouldn’t have the creative freedom I have today.”

—Lindsay Patton-Carson, customer engagement, Philadelphia, PA

A High Information Diet

“One habit that holds back that has held me back in the past is a high information diet. I love consuming educational content, but sometimes consuming too much content spreads myself too thin. Consuming less information not only has helped me focus, it also given me more time to accomplish a select few action items and opportunities.”

—Amulya Parmar, social entrepreneur, Detroit, MI

A Phone Addiction

The biggest habit that I have recently dropped is using my phone after 8 pm. I have stopped doing that and I actually switch it off! It allows me to end my day peacefully and without feeling distracted. I can be fully present with my family. It was tough in the beginning but I remembered my goals and how I didn’t want to be attached to my phone or laptop 24/7. I also noticed I fell asleep easier, which is not easy as I am an insomniac and slept better.

—Mandy Halgreen, book writing mentor, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Evenings of TV

“I dropped watching TV in the evenings. I quickly realized I could be using that time I was wasting for more writing, working on my business, or most importantly spending time with my wife and daughter by going on a walk or just having fun together. After I made this change I immediately improved my productivity, my family life, and was able to engage in more self-reflection. My quality of life was drastically improved and I felt like I could work much harder to achieve my goals.”

—Jason Fleagle, marketing, Columbus, OH

A “Keep Your Head Down” Philosophy

“Early in my career, it was common for me to hear, ‘keep your head down and work hard.’ For years that’s what I did. I locked in and stayed focused. As I matured and grew in my work, I realized this piece of advice no longer served me well. I decided to look up more often. In fact, building in time on my calendar to sit, breathe, walk, meditate and create cutoff times and boundaries gave me a new perspective on life. I found that I went from looking down and managing my time to looking up and having more time to do more of what matters.”

—Rashada Whitehead, strategic consulting, Chicago, IL

Modeling Success After Others

“When I first started my business, I spent a lot of time researching how other entrepreneurs launched and grew successful businesses. In my first year, I spent a ton of time and money on a growing list of marketing “must do’s.” But I began to notice that all of my business came from organic growth — doing good work, and my clients recommending me. I had been spending so much time on all the other stuff! Lesson learned: there is no silver bullet that works for everyone. You have to do what works for you.”

—Jennifer Farrer, executive coaching, New York, NY

Age Expectations

“Several years ago, I believed the lie that if I hadn’t achieved my goals in my 20s, I would be behind. Then, I had a mentor tell me this simple paradigm: in your 20s you’re just trying to figure ‘it’ out, in your 30s you’re doing ‘it’, in your 40s you’re crushing ‘it’, in your 50s you’re teaching ‘it’, and in your 60s you’re reinventing. This perspective shift has allowed me to be intentional with my career and as a result, I am more thoughtful and mindful of my development. “

—Danny Kim, organizational consultant, San Diego, CA

Making Everything Urgent

“I had to give up ‘artificial urgency.’ It is easy to convince ourselves that everything is urgent, which leads to manufactured stress. That stress found its way into my work and life outside of work, ultimately compromising how well I did in both areas. Once I developed a way to objectively pressure test if something was really urgent or if I was making it that way — I called them ‘urgency filters’ — I was able to prioritize better and de-stress at the same time.”

—James Sudakow, business consulting, San Diego, CA

Fear of Messing Up

“I gave up being afraid of making mistakes. It’s the only way to learn and get better.”

—Kristin E. Balistreri, client & business development, Madison, WI

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
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