The quality of your behavior drives the quality of your life.
When you spend a decade working with and coaching thousands of people from around the world, you really can’t help but observe what works and doesn’t work over the long haul. One thing I’ve learned: It’s not intrinsic characteristics or good fortunes that have the greatest influence on whether or not you’re happy and successful in the end. It’s your behavior.
What do I mean by “behavior?” How you react under stress. Whether you decide to meet your commitments or not. How you communicate and interact with loved ones. Your attitude toward bosses, colleagues, employees and customers. How hard you’re willing to work to do a job right. Whether you’re focused and disciplined or scattered-brained and distracted. And the list goes on.
Now, I admit to having known some pretty dysfunctional people who did well for themselves for a little while. But sooner or later, usually when the pressure is mounting and things aren’t going so well, they exhibit self-destructive, toxic behaviors that bite them in the rear. And sadly, they often take others down with them.
If you want to thrive in life, you might want to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see if any of these behaviors describe you, and then take small, consistent steps to self-correct if necessary…
- Believing and insisting that life is simply too hard and too unfair. – The truth is, it’s just as easy to create positive habits as it is to create negative ones. It’s just a matter of how you spend your time. You can spend it doing things that bring you closer to your goals, or you can spend it seeking immediate comfort. People complain, “It’s too hard to exercise every day!” But exercise and movement are joyful, natural conditions that make us feel incredible. It’s not hard – it’s just that people get in the habit of not exercising. If this sounds like you, break the habit. Realize that you are where you are because of the choices you’ve made in the past, and your future depends on the choices you make today. You can choose to sit, or you can choose to run. You can choose to watch another sitcom, or you can choose to read another chapter in a great book. You can choose to act on opportunity, or you can choose to sleep in. There’s nothing hard or complicated about it, other than the way you’re thinking about it.
- Procrastinating on everything, again and again. – Lack of confidence and discipline, mixed with unrealistic expectations of rapid success, fuels long-term procrastination. Many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create and indulge in conditions that make success impossible – a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle. The best thing you can do for yourself is to break this cycle – stop saying “I wish,” start saying “I will,” and then go do something about it. The world isn’t going to dominate itself. If something doesn’t have space in your day, it probably won’t happen in your life. Knowing isn’t enough; you must apply! Willing isn’t enough; you must DO! And if all you can do right now is a little bit, do it. Those little bits will add up. Value that is built over time, in small increments, tends to be value that also lasts for a long time. (Read The Success Principles.)
- Placing 100% of the responsibility and blame on others. – Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” Don’t let this be you. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you surrender full power over that part of your life. In reality, the price of happiness and success IS responsibility. And no one else is responsible for you. You are in full control of how you choose to deal with the current state of your life. Through the grapevine, you may have learned that you should blame your parents, your teachers, your mentors, the public education system, the government, etc., but never to blame yourself. Right? It’s never, ever your fault… WRONG! It’s always your fault, because if you want to change – if you want to grow and move on with your life – the only person who can make it happen is YOU.
- Comparing oneself to others, and then harboring envy or jealousy. – Unhappy people believe someone else’s good fortune steals from their own. They believe there’s not enough goodness to go around. This leads to envy and resentment. Don’t let envy (or jealously) get the best of you. Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own – there’s nothing attractive or admirable about this behavior. So stop comparing your journey with everyone else’s. Your journey is YOUR journey, NOT a competition. You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself. You are competing to be the best you can be. If you want to measure your progress, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
- Refusing to trust people. – I won’t argue that healthy discernment is important, but the happiest, most successful people are reasonably trusting of their fellow humans. They believe in the good in others, versus assuming everyone is out to get them. This helps them foster a sense of community around themselves and their ambitions. Unhappy people, on the other hand, are suspicious of everyone they meet and assume that strangers can’t be trusted. This behavior gradually closes the door on every connection outside of their inner-circle and thwarts all chances of meeting new people capable of helping them grow. So keep in mind that trust is the foundation for cultivating growth and connectedness. When you choose to see the best in others, you end up finding the best in yourself.
- Passionately hating people, for whatever reason. – As Martin Luther King Jr. so profoundly said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Truth be told, when we harbor feelings of hate, it eventually gets the best of us. Everything and everyone you hate rents permanent space in both your head and heart. So if you want to eliminate something or someone from your mind, don’t hate. Instead, forgive, disconnect yourself and move forward. And remember that getting even doesn’t help you get ahead. You will never get ahead of anyone as long as you try to get even with them. Sometimes we don’t forgive people because they deserve it – we forgive them because they need it, because we need it, and because we cannot move forward without it. To forgive is to rediscover the inner peace and purpose that at first you thought someone took away when they mistreated you. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Letting doubts fuel negativity and withdrawal. – The mind is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a negativity engine that tries to fill your awareness with doubt. Anything it isn’t comfortable with is rejected. Don’t let it get the best of you. Believe in yourself through tough times. Believe in your capacity to succeed. Believe that your relationships are worth the effort. Believe that people make mistakes on their way to greatness. Believe that people can be foolish and intelligent, selfish and generous, and stressed and happy all at once. Believe that very few people hurt others on purpose. Believe that there are many roads to what’s right. Believe in your intuition, especially when you have to choose between two good paths. Believe that the answers are out there waiting. Believe that life will surprise you again and again. Believe that the journey is the destination. Believe that it’s all worth your while. Or as Roald Dahl once said, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.”
- Expecting (and needing) everything to always go as planned. – Life is often unpredictable. Some of the great moments in your life won’t necessarily be the things you do – they’ll be things that happen to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life. You have to take action, and you will. But don’t forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change in an instant, for better or worse. To an extent, the universe has a plan that’s always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts pouring rain – it’s a scary thought, but it’s part of life’s cycle. All these little parts of the machine, constantly working – sometimes forcing you to struggle, and sometimes making sure you end up exactly in the right place at the right time.
- Letting impatience derail every possibility for making progress. – Patience is not about waiting – it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in. It’s the willingness to stay focused, confidently taking one small step after the next, knowing that the way you move a mountain is by moving one stone at a time – every stone you move, no matter how small, is progress. Whether you are working on improving your health, learning a new skill, or getting a business venture off the ground, you can’t expect instant gratification. Instead, you must dedicate yourself to the tiny daily rituals that move you from where you are to where you want to be. Sometimes it may be hard to see your progress in the near-term. Sometimes it will be frustrating when the results you seek don’t appear as quickly as you had hoped. Still, you are advancing, day by day. Hang in there. You may be moving along slowly, but you are still moving a mountain. (Angel and I build tiny, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
The floor is yours…
If you can relate to any of these toxic behaviors, remember, you are not alone. We all have unhealthy moods and personalities buried deep within us that have the potential to surface sometimes. The key is awareness – recognizing these behaviors when they arise and taking positive action to overcome them.
So, what toxic behaviors (or mood swings) sometimes sneak up on you?
Anything else to share?
Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
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Photo by: Stephane Nguyen