Let’s be honest: Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Too often we stumble into pitfalls of our own making. Some mistakes are inevitable, no matter how much time and thought we put into a plan. Other blunders are bred of laziness, rashness, inflexibility or plain arrogance. Honest mistakes are frustrating and can be costly, but mindless errors are especially galling. To know that a misstep could have been avoided—that’s the bane of every thoughtful person.
When plans go awry, an insecure person points a finger at other people. A thoughtful person, however, owns mistakes and seeks to learn from them to avert them in the future. That often requires introspection and honest self-appraisal. With enough practice, you can learn to recognize your own thought patterns and change them before they cause bad behaviors.
As you try to build a better you, consider taking steps to course correct when you recognize the symptoms of these common troubling behaviors:
1. Comparing Yourself to Others
We live in a hyper-competitive society that can batter and bruise even the healthiest egos, but the damage is exacerbated when we constantly measure ourselves by other people’s standards. While it’s undeniably important to be aware of what the competition is doing, too much focus on others is bad for business and worse for self-confidence. To maximize success, try to tune out the outside world sometimes so you can focus on improving yourself. If you think of yourself as your chief competitor, and if you always work to beat yesterday’s version of yourself, you’ll go far and eventually learn to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to illusive rivalries.
2. Failure to Take Risks and Consistently Challenge Yourself
After you’ve achieved a certain degree of success, it’s easy to settle into a routine that is comfortable, but that comfort is usually limiting. The most successful people are always pushing limits and expanding boundaries. Past triumphs are important to future success in that those victories can equip you with the confidence you need to achieve your current goals, but if you’re spending too much time being nostalgic about yesteryear’s achievements, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough today. And don’t be afraid of failure. Sometimes taking risks means that you’re going to trip and fall on your face, but those flops can teach you much about yourself and about your process. Brush away the rubble of those failed projects and start building again using your newly acquired and hard-earned knowledge.
Related: Afraid of Risks? How to be Bolder
3. Succumbing to Distractions
Endless distractions are no farther than your pocket or your purse. A smartphone can be a wonderful tool for improving productivity and connectedness, but it can also be a horrendous time sink. Social media, viral videos, killer apps—they all compete for our attention every minute of every day. Don’t let them steal your precious time! You can help yourself eliminate those distractions by giving yourself a specific deadline each day. After you’ve accomplished your goal, you can reward yourself with a Facebook or Twitter visit. You can also increase your ability to accomplish tasks by limiting your access to certain distractions. Make 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. diversion-free times. Put that phone away!
Related: 4 Tips to Turn Off the Distractions
Distraction and procrastination are like handcuffs that shackle your dreams. However, it’s not enough to hide your phone if you don’t also sit down and get to work. Part of the reason we procrastinate is because we look at big projects and we don’t know where to start. “Chunking” is an effective way to manage those monstrous tasks. Break up those huge jobs into small, bite-size pieces. You might even want to delegate parts or ask others for assistance. It’s always harder to procrastinate when you’re working with people who will hold you accountable if you don’t finish a task within a specified timeframe.
5. An Unwillingness to Relinquish Past Mistakes
Don’t be too hard on yourself as you work toward your goals. You will invariably make mistakes along the way, even when you wholeheartedly set yourself to the task. But you will also make significant progress. Learn from your flubs and challenge yourself to be better in the future. Then let that guilt go! You’re not gaining anything by beating yourself up over past lapses in judgment. Try to tune out the negative self-talk. You wouldn’t stand for someone to constantly berate you about past errors, would you? Of course not! So don’t let your mind torment itself. Be kind to yourself. Remember, to err is human; to forgive yourself is divine.
If you can avoid these five common slip-ups, you’ll be well on your way to achieving the vision you have created for yourself. Of course, it’s easier to learn what you need to do to realize your dreams than it is to put that knowledge to work for you. It can take a lot of time and practice to break old habits, but the rewards will be well worth the effort.
A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.