The 7 Habits of Low-Performing People You Need to Avoid

Max Phillips

When I was in school and university, I thought success was mostly financial. If I worked hard enough and got good grades, I could find a well-paying job, and I’d be sorted.

However, looking at the most successful people’s definition tells you a completely different story.

Oprah Winfrey believes it is about fulfilment:

“How to be used in the greater service to life. Ask this question, and the answer will be returned and rewarded to you with fulfilment, which is the major definition of success, to me.”

Richard Branson says it is about being happy:

“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”

Michelle Obama explains her husband’s definition of the term:

“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

It’s easy to say money doesn’t matter when you’re in a position of wealth. But for the majority of people, financial success would make a monumental difference in their lives.

With that being said, I define success as the impact you make on the wellbeing of others and yourself — a combination of financial and emotional wealth.

To reach that position, there are some habits you need to avoid, as you may stand out for all the wrong reasons.

1. They make excuses.

Recently, I have been reading The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone. He suggests looking at your behaviour instead of others, even when it isn’t your fault.

In most instances, people tend to blame internal problems on external matters. There’s always an excuse. Yet, when you see abnormal behaviour in society, you’re likely quick to blame the person’s internal behaviour.

Let’s say your boss passes you up for a job promotion and you have no idea why. It turns out the CEOs son was appointed. Sure, there are circumstances out of your hands, but ask yourself: what could I have done differently?

It may sound extreme, but Cardone says you need extreme to stand out. In the book, he outlines the three types of behaviour people exhibit:

  1. No action
  2. Retreat
  3. Normal action

Most people take normal action. They do enough to get by. All three of these make excuses for their lack of extraordinary success. To stand out, you need to exhibit the fourth type of behaviour:

  • Massive action

This way, you don’t make excuses; you get on with it. If you fail, you work 10x (hence the name of the book) harder than before. Next time, you’ll make yourself even more lucrative than the CEOs son.

Tips to avoid this

  • If something unexpected happens that you don’t think is your fault, assess the situation anyway. In the example I mentioned earlier, ask yourself what more you could have done to stand out.
  • Assume a worst-case scenario. What would happen if you needed to pay for your parent’s hospital bills and a new house? Could you afford it? If not, take action. Prepare for something 10x your current expectations.

2. They don’t seek clarity.

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says successful people see clarity. They know what their objective is.

In contrast, low-performers have too much on their plate. I remember at the start of the year; I had three huge tasks on my New Years' resolution list: learn Italian, play the piano, and make a living from writing.

I even made a timetable, but I knew I couldn’t commit to all of them. One needed massive action — writing. The clarity I gained worked wonders, and here I am writing this article.

Tips to avoid this

  • Make sure your goals are clear. If they’re too vague, like “get fit”, then it’s just an idea. You can quickly quash ideas. Instead, make it more targeted, such as “lift weights at the gym four times a week for the next six months.” Once you have clarity, you can make a hobby into a habit.
  • Define a clear purpose for each activity you carry out. For example, I work in 25-minute stints throughout the day. I fill each period with a specific task such as writing an article or researching.

3. They wait for motivation to come to them.

Spoiler alert: motivation is not some divine entity that drags you out of bed and plonks you in front of your desk. Taking action gets you there. As Zig Ziglar once said:

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: commit first, get motivated later.

If you wait around for motivation to hit you, you’ll be waiting for all of your life. Before you know it, it will be too late to take action.

As I mentioned earlier, don’t look for excuses. “No motivation” is a lie in the form of an excuse. Start typing your first sentence, send a risky text, call your first client or send your CV to an employer. Take action.

Tips to avoid this

  • If you’re struggling, think back to previous successes. Chances are, the image of you overcoming the issue will give you a little boost, and you’ll take action.
  • Set a timer for 10-minutes. Do the task and stop when the time is up. You’ll likely have an itch you can’t scratch and keep going.

4. They don’t increase their energy.

To take the massive action I’ve outlined, you need a high amount of energy. As much as you may try, you can’t coast your way to a successful life.

Studies have shown that top executives and CEOs have similar energy levels to athletes. Moreover, a survey by the world’s highest-paid performance coach, Brendan Burchard, found that 5% of all high performers are 40% more likely to exercise at least three days per week, compared to the other 95% of lower performers.

You won’t stand out if you don’t have high energy levels. You won’t have high energy levels if you don’t exercise. In terms of work, the consequences are massive. An EHS study estimated that fatigue costs U.S employers $136 billion in health-related lost productivity.

Your relationships need energy too. I sometimes get lazy and forget to plan things to do with my girlfriend. I’ve often found the idea of putting effort in is much worse than the act. Do yourself a favour and get stuck into something.

Whether it be your job or relationships, high energy is needed for high-performance in all aspects of your life.

Tips to avoid this

Low-performing people have low-performing bodies, so you need to look after yours.

  • Get eight hours of sleep a night. If you struggle, stay out of your room until it’s time to sleep and avoid screens for one hour before.
  • Exercise regularly. Three one hour stints a week will do it. If that doesn’t work, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a superb way to keep fit in a short amount of time.

5. They don’t value self-growth.

Burchard, the author of High-Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, claims high performers don’t leave their self-growth up to chance.

In the book, he surveyed 20,000 people. He found that high performers think about their future selves and do activities that contribute to their future for 60 minutes more than low-performers.

Put it this way; you can’t expect to grow if you don’t bother trying. As George Bernard Shaw put it:

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

As I’ve repeated throughout this article, you need to focus on yourself if you’re to stand out. If you can’t improve your empathy for others, for example, you may find it hard to get close with your loved ones.

I, for one, don’t like opening up too much. But, to draw closer to my partner and family, I need to depart with some personal information from time to time. It’s a sacrifice to become a higher-performing person.

Tips to avoid this

  • Instead of analysing what is wrong with you, focus on the possibilities you have to improve. Taking the time to read a self-help book or listen to a podcast can trigger new ways of thinking.

6. They struggle to stay focused.

On his Instagram, Dwayne the Rock Johnson occasionally posts a video of him exercising. Sometimes, he screams “FOCUS!” at someone offscreen. It’s slightly extreme, but it highlights his all-guns-blazing personality. He understands the need to stay focused and perform to the best of your ability.

To avoid low-performance, you need to be productive. Productivity requires focus.

Not just productive in work, either. As we have established, there is more to success. To make an impact with others and yourself, you need to have a laser-focus on every task at hand whether it be caring for your loved ones, looking after yourself or getting a new job.

Tips to avoid this

  • Instead of having the Rock scream at you, acquiring focus isn’t too challenging. When doing work or talking to a friend, avoid distractions. Put your phone away, look at them/the screen and be in the moment.
  • For work-related problems, if a task takes two minutes or less to complete, do it immediately.

7. They have no courage.

Peter Druker defines courage in business perfectly:

“Anywhere you see a successful business, someone took a courageous decision.”

The same philosophy applies to all aspects of success. It takes courage to put yourself at the mercy of rejection. Whether it be romance, business, or even something simple like trying a new hobby, courage is everywhere. Low-performers don’t make the hard decisions and settle for less than they are capable of.

Tips to avoid this

  • Assess your current situation and note the benefits your courage will bring. Envisage yourself in pastures new and remember that the nerves you felt will eventually fade away.


If there were one lesson I want you to take away from this article, its this: You need to accept your current level before you can improve.

It is the desire to improve, which will make you stand out, in all aspects of what I’ve mentioned and your life. Don’t settle for low-performance. Put one foot forward and chase what you’re capable of.

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