5 Bad Habits of Unsuccessful People (And How to Avoid Them)

Thomas Oppong


Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

Our daily habits define who we are and what we are becoming — they are either setting you up for success or failure.

You are practically what you do every day. And how you spend your time is practically how you spend your life.

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” says Allen Saunders. If you have failed recently and are considering giving up, don’t.

The obstacle is definitely the way. There will always be a way out. You just haven’t found it yet. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal — it is the courage to continue that counts.” If you have ever failed in the past but never gave up, you are stronger than you think.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Most people are stuck in life — they can’t figure a way out. So they give up on things they deeply care about. They refuse to do something about their obstacles, temporary failures and setbacks. In the end, they give up on their dreams and continue to wallow in discontent.

Everyone fears to fail, experiencing it is inevitable, but it’s your response to it that makes all the difference. Don’t get stuck. You are not your failure. If your life is not where you expected it to be today, there are plenty of reasons why.

It’s fairly safe to say that everyone wants to find success at some point in their life. People find success in many different ways, but unsuccessful people tend to find faults in everything. These are a few bad habits of unsuccessful people — everything standing in the way of real progress in life and career.

1. They don’t make plans for their future selves

“If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” ― Steve Maraboli

The real-world rewards those who get stuff done. But you have a better chance to succeed in life if you have a plan. When you plan for things you can’t see in the present, you are shaping the future you are yet to see.

An improvised living will always give you unexpected results. You will always have a better chance to succeed in life if you have a plan.

“All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose,” says Brian Tracy.

Your plans don’t have to be perfect. The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, but those who get things done and make progress.

You should always think through whatever you want to achieve and make plans on what to do next at any point in time. Your plan should be specific, measurable and time-bound.

A complete big picture prepares you for execution. Don’t make vague plans. You will be prone to procrastinate if your plan is not measurable. Work with timelines for better and faster results.

2. Unsuccessful people fear to even try

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky could not have said that any better.

You can only make progress if you take a step. Overcoming the fear of failing is the first step towards success. Start confronting your fears today.

And take even the most basic step towards what you have to do. Remember the dream you were too scared to chase? It’s still not too late to give it a try. Never miss an opportunity to try.

“No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying,” argues Tony Robbins.

Think of something in your life that you’ve wanted to accomplish but haven’t. What stopped you from pursuing it?

There will always be an excuse that standing in your way but if you want it bad enough you will find a way.

Most people find a number of strategies to avoid the messy process, pain or pressure inherent in pursuing what they really want. When they face an unknown process, they feel anxious and instinctively back off to feel comfortable again.

No matter how difficult your dream might seem at the moment, some things need to be done today before it’s too late.

Next time you want to take action, whether it’s something small or life-changing, think of how much you can actually achieve or how much progress you can make and what that can do for your confidence and go for it.

Always remember what Jim Morrison once said, “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”

3. They give up too soon

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
― Elbert Hubbard

When confronted with life’s biggest opportunities, most of us give up too soon. How persistent are you about pursuing your dreams and goals in life?

One of the most important secrets of success is learning to conquer your doubts. Most of us give up on our passion too soon. Every successful person you know today has a perseverance story to share. There is probably no better example of persistence than the story of Abraham Lincoln.

He failed in business at 21, lost a legislative race at age 22, failed in business again at 24 and lost a congressional race when he was 34.

At 45 he lost a senatorial race. And he failed in an attempt to become Vice President when he was 47. But he was finally elected President of the United States at age 52. Lincoln never quit.

He could have given up after several attempts but pursued his ambition to assume the highest office in America. There is no substitute for persistence. As long as you are still actively trying after every failure, you have not failed yet.

4. They don’t believe their dreams are possible

“The only reason I can’t jump in and engage life is that I’ve told myself I can’t. Yet I can’t helping wondering would happen if I told myself I could?”― Craig D. Lounsbrough

If you don’t believe in what you do, you will give up at some point. If you go in expecting to fail, you’ve got a great chance to do just that.

If you have no reason to believe it’s possible to achieve your dreams or goals, all the effort you are putting into it will be wasted.

You mind’s unconscious beliefs play a significant role in the amount of effort you put into your life’s work. “The mind’s unconscious beliefs about possibilities inform the level of effort and expectation of success from the body’s behaviour,” writes Mark Manson.

If you don’t see a successful outcome, you won’t push yourself further to get there. Your progress depends on your decision to try knowing that you will overcome your failures and rise above them.

Disbelief kills more dreams than skill. Suzy Kassem once said, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Once you start doubting your ability to go the extra mile, your skill will be of no value to you. Success is the exclusive privilege of those who consistently believe in the big picture and keep pushing.

5. Unsuccessful people keep making excuses

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”― Jordan Belfort

There will always be a reason why it can’t be done. People constantly explain away why they couldn’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, or simply wouldn’t do something. When you make excuses, you are simply saying, “I’m not in control.”

But guess what — you are the only person who is fully in control of your actions and decisions in the world.

Making excuses robs you of your personal power. People make excuses because of the fear of the unknown. Others are just afraid of change, rejection and embarrassment.

Fear locks you in your comfort zone. And nothing magical or remarkable happens in your safe zone. You can stop making excuses if you learn how to eliminate all traces of fear from your life.

The next time you experience a setback, don’t make an excuse. See it as a challenge, learn from it and move on. Excuses are distractions, and they reduce your confidence and self-belief. You don’t want that — especially when you still have a lot to show the world.

No matter how old you are now. You are never too young or too old to go after what you want. Beethoven was a piano virtuoso by age 23. Albert Einstein was 26 when he wrote the theory of relativity. Charles Darwin was 50 years old when he wrote On the Origin of Species. Colonel Harland Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.

Failure is a good teacher. You can learn more from your failures than your occasional successes. Don’t let your those temporary setbacks stop you from pursuing what you want.

You will fail a lot. No matter how hard you work and how carefully you prepare. Life happens. And it’s okay. But every time you fail, you learn a thing or two. There is always room for improvement. Don’t give up on yourself yet.

Finally, remember what W.C. Handy said, “Life is like a trumpet. If you don’t put anything into it, you don’t get anything out.”

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I write on science-based answers to problems in life and career, mostly about business, productivity, and self-improvement. My goal is to help you master the best of what the experts, top performers, and behavioural scientists have already figured out.


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