How to Break Your Harmful Habits

UPDATED: January 8, 2024
PUBLISHED: January 6, 2017

All of us develop bad habits over time. Isn’t it time to get rid of the ones that limit your potential?

Related: ‘A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit’

When you’ve been doing a particular job or you’ve been with a certain company for a while, complacency can set in. When it does, you’re likely to discover some bad work habits. Now is the time to get rid of them and develop better ones to help you become more successful.

Here’s how:

1. Stop being a lone ranger.

I cannot do this alone. I will not do this alone.

Someone who does not have a confidant at work is more likely to fail due to a lack of accountability. If you have an unproductive habit that you have trouble shaking, tell someone you can rely on. Then report your progress to them often. Multiple small successes soon add up to large ones.

Do you have a work confidant? Do you have a habit that you are trying to kick? Have you told your confidant?

2. Lose your inability to set priorities.

I know what is important to me and I will make that my priority, even when it might not seem like the most opportune time.

If you find yourself struggling with this issue, you will soon get overwhelmed by all the demands put on you at work. Try to accomplish the larger or more difficult assignments in the morning when you are fresh and save the more repetitive ones for later in the day. If you receive assignments as the day is winding down, use the last five to 10 minutes to prioritize for the next day. Lists are very helpful, and checking items off as your complete them is a real ego booster.

Prioritize tomorrow now. Make your list.

3. Stop using fear as a prime motivator.

I refuse to motivate myself in an unhealthy manner. I will find a more positive way.

It’s pretty easy to be motivated by fear at work—fear of poor performance, fear of failure, fear of being a social outsider. But fear will paralyze you. It will cause you to slide through the day making false starts and avoiding commitment.

The remedy for fear is planning. Start by making a list of things you have accomplished and keep it in a visible place to use as self-encouragement. Then make a list of things you want to accomplish and the steps to complete each one. The best way to successfully complete a big project is to break it down into smaller pieces.

Make the list of your accomplishments now and start planning.

4. Stop procrastinating.

I will not sit idly and let time pass me by. Procrastination is a word that will leave my vocabulary today.

One example: Communication is key in the workplace. Putting off responding to emails and phone calls is just kicking the can down the road. You never catch up. A large portion of correspondence is routine and doesn’t need more than a “received” or a “thank you,” neither of which takes very long. A quick response also helps cement good relationships with clients and co-workers.

If you think you might have some unproductive habits but aren’t sure what they are, recheck your old performance evaluations from any previous jobs you had for patterns. Ask a trusted colleague if he or she is aware of any detrimental tendencies you might exhibit. A spouse or close friend might also be aware of potential problem areas.

When you do discover a work habit that needs changing, look for a mentor, someone who has already conquered the same problem is an ideal candidate to help you on your road to success.

Write down one work habit that you need to change and how you can do it.

5. Find a balance between confidence and arrogance. 

Confidence will push me forward, but arrogance will keep me from reaching my goals. I will find a balance between the two.

Related: 7 Mental Hacks to Be More Confident in Yourself

Confidence is sometimes mistaken for arrogance. There is a fine line between the two in spite of the fact that they are actually polar opposites. Crossing that line, or giving the appearance of crossing it, can be detrimental in a variety of professional and personal situations.

The key differentiator between confidence and arrogance is the foundation. Confidence is grounded in experience and expertise with a sense of respect and humility; arrogance is grounded in nothing (it is unwarranted, baseless confidence with a lack of respect and humility). There are varying degrees of each and it is more of a spectrum with shades of gray in the middle, but we can feel it when someone crosses the line.

Write down whether you feel like you are arrogant or confident and why. What can you do to make sure that you remain balanced?

6. Believe in yourself.

As long as I remain positive and believe in myself, I am on the right track. I will find a way to solidify my confidence and believe in my goals.

Arrogance repels positive people; it is detested in a negotiation and will hinder progress. It breaks down trust and a collaborative environment. Confidence, on the other hand, attracts positive people, fosters a collaborative environment and promotes progress.

Sometimes it’s tough to gauge how other people perceive us. If you are having trouble discerning whether you are coming across as arrogant, ask a trusted friend or business partner who has had the courage in the past to speak honestly with you about other difficult or sensitive matters.

Write down the name of someone you are going to talk to about your personality and how people perceive you.

7. Be magnetic.

Sincerity and honesty will get me the furthest.

Magnetism can generate electricity; it can also destroy something incredible (your computer hard drive, for example). Likewise, confidence can create and arrogance can destroy, and unfortunately, it is much easier for arrogance to destroy. Plus, attempting to repair what arrogance has already tarnished is very difficult.

When someone is able to carry confidence with humility in a negotiation, it is a beautiful thing. There is no doubt about that person’s strength of character, purpose, passion or resolve. Walking the fine line between confidence and arrogance is a challenge at times, but that’s one of the reasons why it’s so rare and precious when someone can do it.

What did you team or confidant say about? How did you feel about the answer?

Related: 12 Simple Habits That Set Ultra-Successful People Apart

Adapted with permission from The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill; January 6, 2017) by Rhett Power

Rhett Power is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. Learn more at