Psychologists Reveal 10 Counterproductive Habits That Destroy Success

Psychologists Reveal 10 Counterproductive Habits That Destroy Success

counterproductive habitsBetter Life

Everyone is chasing their own success. You likely put a lot of effort into working towards your goals. But what if some of the things you’re doing are actually ruining your chances. It’s frightening to imagine that habits you’re not even aware of could be hindering your progress. To help you uncover your own negative behaviors, here’s how science and psychologists reveal 10 counterproductive habits that destroy success.

Eliminate these ten counterproductive habits to achieve your goals.

1.    Seeking Approval From Others

It’s not unusual to want to impress your peers and others around you, especially if you’re in the early stages of a career. But there’s a big difference between showing your best side to your colleagues and seeking approval. This habit is counterproductiveThe former is focused on professionalism and making your name. The latter is focused on hinging your self-esteem on the opinions of others, which isn’t great!

There are also ways that this incessant quest for approval can backfire. For example:

  • Being worried about an interviewer’s perception of you could lead to poor performance in that interview.
  • Worrying over someone’s reply could result in you tuning out the conversation altogether.
  • Your quest for seeking someone’s approval will allow them to take advantage of you.

There are, of course, times when you need someone’s approval. But outside of those rare occasions, you should learn to stop seeking reassurance, says psychotherapist, mental strength expert, college psychology instructor, author, and licensed clinical social worker Amy Morin. You’ll gain approval from others naturally by being your best self and focusing on your efforts towards your goals, anyway.



2.    Catastrophizing is Counterproductive

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Catastrophizing is the act of creating a catastrophe where there is none. Basically, it is what happens when you spiral down a tunnel of negative thinking, constantly expecting the worst out of a situation.

At its core, catastrophizing is a form of irrational fear. Whenever you hear bad news, you imagine all the worst-case scenarios and become obsessed with those thoughts. Sometimes, this can happen to the point of genuinely expecting these things to happen and losing grasp on reality.

When you’re chasing success, you’ll often be taking a lot of risks all at once. This means it can be effortless to catastrophize and start living with anxiety about impending doom or the risk of failure. Studies have found that this way of thinking can severely affect mood and positive thinking, sometimes leading to depression and anxiety.

According to cognitive behavioral therapy expert and psychologist Judith Beck, the best way around this catastrophizing cognitive dissonance is to list the pros and cons of considering all these bad outcomes. She also suggests playing your own devil’s advocate – counter your negative thoughts with positive ones, instead!



3.    Comparing Yourself To Others

It’s easy to compare yourself to others. After all, so many people are great at their work and are chasing success too. You might:

  • Think your peers are doing better than you
  • Attempt to match the level of your peers
  • Engage in unhealthy levels of competition with your peers
  • Think worse of yourself because you don’t “match up” to your peers
  • Be unable to feel good about your own accomplishments if a peer has a “better” one

This comparison is unfair to you and your peers, as you are all in unique, individual situations. What’s more, it’s a well-known fact in the field of psychology that the way we perceive those around us versus how we perceive ourselves is often inaccurate.

According to a Society for Personality and Social Psychology study, any person usually displays more positive emotions and sides than negative. This means your comparisons that you draw between yourselves and others are inherently flawed. You can only see what others show you, but you know all the worst things about yourself. You’ll never get an accurate comparison that way!

Regardless, comparisons like this are never healthy. You don’t need to match others to be proud of your own achievements. Accomplishments are unique and are your own, and everyone has their own journey to go on.



4.    Playing Blame Games

Do you find yourself often shirking some percentage of responsibility for an event or task by passing it onto others? If so, you’re engaging in blame games. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences Susan Whitbourne, we do this as an act of self-preservation for your self-esteem.

Unfortunately, this kind of blame-passing means you don’t learn from mistakes because you refuse to admit that you made them. The goal in life is to grow through experiences. If you never grow by accepting accountability, your success will be forever stunted.

5.    Doubting Yourself

In your uphill battle towards success, it’s not unusual to feel a little uncertain. Can you really succeed? Are your efforts paying off? Are you really good at what you do?

It’s not an inherently bad thing to worry about yourself, as it shows that you have a good sense of self-awareness. However, there are times when this can go to an extreme that is simply unhealthy. Here are some forms of self-doubt that Morin says can be counterproductive to your success:



·         Second-Guessing

Reflection on your past mistakes and actions is healthy. But being wishy-washy and second-guessing every single decision you make is extremely negative.

·         Putting Yourself Down

Insulting yourself when you make mistakes is a form of negative self-talk. This will bring you down in the long run. You’re better off using positive affirmations or speaking about yourself as you would a loved one.

·         Believing Negative Thoughts

When you start believing your self-doubt, you’re opening yourself up to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Essentially, the lies you tell yourself can become truths if you start to believe them.

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6.    Focusing Only On You is Counterproductive to Reaching Your Goals

It’s normal to be a little bit self-centered in life. But did you know that focusing on yourself too much can actually have negative effects on your attempts at networking? In your attempts to seek the attention and admiration of those you speak to, you may just end up pushing them away.

Studies conclude that focusing on others is actually a much more efficient way of achieving the spotlight. To better understand this, consider the following points:

  • Human beings naturally tend to repay kindness or favors with their own compassion and acts of service.
  • Listening to others when they speak and engaging with their words genuinely will often lead to them happily listening to you later.
  • Focusing on others will, eventually, cause others to focus more on you, leading to increased influence.
  • Too much self-focus is often interpreted as narcissism and can ruin your uphill climb.

7.    Personalization

Speaking of focusing only on you, let’s talk about personalization. Personalization refers to the act of taking things personally, even when there is no rational reason for you to take the blame. For example, you might:

  • Blame yourself for not insisting on more studying when your child gets a bad grade.
  • Worry that it’s your fault if your partner is in a bad mood.
  • Think that general criticism of your work team is directed specifically at you.

This can often lead to a lot of decreased positive thinking and is a form of cognitive distortion. The field of psychology already has plenty of research on the topic, and this kind of thinking has been linked to:

  • Shame
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Guilt

Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences adjunct professor emeritus David D. Burns has something to say about this. In his work, he recommends taking a step back and considering your situation from an outsider’s perspective if you experience this type of cognitive distortion.

8.    Constantly Criticizing Others

97% of all people have something known as a Bias Blind Spot or BBS. This means that many people have so much positive thinking regarding themselves naturally that they are unable to see their own flaws. Instead, they have an easier time constantly pointing fingers at others.

It’s important to bear in mind that you’re not an expert on anyone, not even yourself. From your vantage point, someone’s motivations, personal life, and thought processes are not visible. Judging others turns you into a fool who finds fault in everyone around them without ever looking inward to find the fault in themselves, and this can make success difficult to reach.

9.    Arrogance is Counterproductive

Intellectual arrogance is an annoying and often toxic trait to deal with. It’s not unusual for someone who knows their worth to let it get to their head, but it’s crucial to remember that humility is always your best option.

Someone who is arrogant can hinder their success by:

  • Failing to evaluate their opinions properly.
  • Rejecting the ideas or thoughts of others
  • Seeking closure instead of fairness.
  • Being unable to contribute meaningfully to any situation

Interestingly, research has found that intellectual humility has positive effects on chances of success and goal achievement. Strive, then, to be humble. You can be confident without getting a big head!

10. Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning is a kind of fallacy that occurs when you consider your emotions as concrete evidence for real-life situations. It’s a straightforward trap to fall into as you attempt to walk the tightrope so you can both consider your emotions valid and retain logical vision all at once.

Examples of emotional reasoning that may affect your chances of success include:

  • “I believe I’m bad at my job, so I’m not going to bother trying for that promotion.”
  • “I feel like I don’t have any good ideas, so that I won’t share them at the meeting tomorrow.”
  • “Perhaps my colleague dislikes me, so I’m just not going to work with them.”

It’s difficult to come out of a slump of emotion reasoning once you’re in it. Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • “How do I feel about this situation?”
  • “Can I identify any hard facts that support my conclusions?”
  • “Am I allowing bias to affect my judgment?”
  • “Are there other, more logical explanations?”

Learning to put aside emotional thoughts when you need truth and clarity is a valuable skill, says Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., a private practitioner specializing in trauma resolution, anger, stress, compulsions, addiction, and depression. Your feelings deserve attention and validation, but they shouldn’t be taken as gospel! Indeed, negative emotions become counterproductive to success.

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Final Thoughts On Some Counterproductive Habits That Destroy Success

Negative, counterproductive habits are easy to fall into accidentally. By being aware of the bad habits you’re making, you can stop them in your tracks and get back to chasing success!



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I love being a staff writer at Power of Positivity, but hate that my house can't clean itself! When I'm not writing, I'm busy gardening or picking up after my kids, or running after them! My biggest passion, next to my precious children, is writing and sharing joy with people I meet!

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