There’s no such thing as an overnight success. All the people you admire achieved their accolades by making daily choices. Some of those choices are extraordinary, but most of them are simple habits that add up, one step and one day at a time.
How often are you assessing your habits? How often are you looking not only for ways to improve, but also to celebrate and build on your wins to generate additional motivation, inspiration, energy and success?
If you want more growth in your work and life, start by changing your day.
Take a look at one or all of the habits that might be holding you back. Losing a bad habit and creating a new one is the first step to propel you forward to greater growth, impact and fulfillment.
1. Your morning routine is nonexistent.
When you have so much on your plate and everything is urgent, your precious morning moments are spent in a rush just doing whatever it takes to get out the door and on your way.
But in doing so, you’re missing one of the most important opportunities within your control to ensure growth. In order to take advantage of your morning, you can design a unique morning routine that will prime you physically and mentally for better performance. If you allowed even 10 to 15 more minutes to develop a routine that energized you and brought greater focus, you would have more confidence and be more effective through the day instead of beginning it with a sense of overwhelm.
My routine involves a gratitude walk and a bit of reading and writing. I love getting up before everyone else when the house is quiet.
2. You forget your strengths when hard things emerge.
Often when we encounter unexpected setbacks, we flounder or are paralyzed like a deer in the headlights. But if you remind yourself every day of your strengths, it will jumpstart your path to a solution better and faster than jumping into the spin cycle of self-doubt.
One of my favorite assessments is StrengthsFinder, and I look at it every week (sometimes even daily) to remind myself to tap into my strengths.
3. You major in the minors…
… instead of prioritizing the most important things that need to be accomplished each day. This is another way of saying that you will be happier and more productive if you make incremental changes in how you manage your time. It could be as simple as deciding the top three things that must be done during the day each morning, or setting a timer to focus on just one thing for 60 minutes without interruptions.
4. You let energy vampires consume your time.
These “vampires” can be time-wasting tasks like checking your email too often, or they can be people who are not key to achieving your projects and have latched onto you in conversation because they are avoiding their own work. With a few small steps, you can take action to manage your schedule, such as putting your phone on “do not disturb” and setting alarms to achieve your tasks.
5. You work on tasks that could be delegated to someone else.
You think that you can do a better job, so you just do it yourself. Or, you constantly correct or micromanage your team, which drains their motivation and distracts you from doing what you do best.
6. You spend too much time recovering from a stumble or setback.
Instead of quickly assessing a situation and determining a plan, you get sucked into a spin cycle that drains your energy and focus. You may have forgotten that every person you admire has had many failures and setbacks—and some of them are legendary.
My best business was down to the last $33 in our bank account before we finally got a yes on funding. Within a few years, we grew it to $200 million in annual revenue. You too can develop habits and a positive mindset to find the many benefits of a setback.
7. You procrastinate.
A lot of what our perfectionism is ties back to procrastination. Procrastination can mask a lack of confidence, or a fear of being wrong or being criticized. Perfectionism makes us slow to start on a new initiative, or to begin the next stage of an existing one, because we want to be sure that the strategy or plan will be flawless.
Just recognizing when perfectionism is creeping into your thinking and time management is a big step forward.
8. You avoid difficult conversations.
Over time, I’ve realized that difficult conversations can be pivotal opportunities to gain clarity, to listen and learn, and to end the conversation having enriched the relationship. And I’ve learned that avoiding a difficult conversation means that we’re not identifying, facing or solving problems that, if unaddressed, will fester and get worse.
9. You don’t say thank you.
You won’t succeed alone. Every day, there are many people on your team who deserve to be thanked, from colleagues up and down the career ladder, to the Uber driver and even the barista at your coffeehouse. And while we’re at it, smile more, too! Research shows that it positively benefits you and those around you.
10. You forget that your inner life determines your outer progress.
This is an idea I embraced long ago, and Dr. Henry Cloud says it well:
“The good life sometimes has little to do with outside circumstances. We are happy and fulfilled mostly by who we are on the inside…. And our internal lives largely contribute to producing many of our external circumstances.”
For me, an inner life begins with gratitude. Sometimes I simply write down three things I’m thankful for in the moment (especially in the hardest of times) and it immediately changes my perspective. Our inner life grows by taking time to reflect on what is positive and working—and it energizes us to repeat the process.
It forms the basis, too, for learned optimism. Anyone can learn to be more optimistic and reap the benefits of a positive mindset. As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
You will be well on your way to growth in work and life if you take the time to recognize and overcome the daily bad habits that are holding you back. Good luck!
This article was published in March 2016 and has been updated. Photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock
Caren Merrick is the founder and CEO of Pocket Mentor, a mobile app and multimedia company providing leaders with daily advice, tools and action plans to succeed in work and life. Previously, Caren was the co-founder and EVP of the enterprise software company webMethods, which grew from a basement startup to a global Nasdaq company with $200 million in annual revenue and 1,100 employees worldwide. Caren serves on several private equity, financial services and nonprofit boards, and is an author and speaker.