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
Kelly Whitcomb says
In the past I let my toxic negative thinking get the best of me far too often, and it was so unhealthy to me and those I love. I let the little voices in my head run rampant. They basically stopped me from living and growing to my potential in nearly all walks of life.
I’m glad I learned my lesson though. These days I am better able to catch myself before I spiral out of control. These days I’m a lot less toxic, especially to myself… that’s for sure.
As always, thank you for the continued guidance through your blog’s emails and book – you’re making a difference in my life.
Marc Chernoff says
It’s inspiring to hear about the progress you’ve made, Kelly. Congrats.
And thank you for supporting our work. 🙂
I agree with what Kelly said above. Reading your blog and listening to your audiobook have been an effective strategy for me to get through some truly difficult and confusing times. And like your aforementioned work, this short post is no exception – it’s truly helpful. It reminded of several areas I’ve made progress in and several that still need work. I thank you for your words of wisdom, for they add great changes to the way I think and act each day.
Marc Chernoff says
You are welcome, Mara. Thank you for the continued support.
I struggle with #6, because being insulted and humiliated by your own family isn’t easy to deal with. But what you wrote in #6 brings to mind a quote I have been telling myself lately: “Do not take to heart an unkind word or deed. It is just the echo of another’s hurt you’ve witnessed.”
Thank you, as usual.
I agree that hurtful remarks from family are some of the hardest to overcome. I deal with that very issue myself from my sisters. I try to surround myself with cheerleaders who support and affirm what I’m trying to accomplish and who I am in general. Ultimately, I’ve learned that you have to be happy with yourself, and you’ll never be able to make everyone else happy – that is their job. If you keep reading Marc and Angel’s blog you’ll find that their words will always uplift you and point you in the right direction. There is a whole community of people here cheering each other on to becoming their best selves. all the best to you in your journey!
Your comment feels close to home. I am finally divorcing a verbally abusive husband that made me think I was worthless. I am not! Remember that the words they throw at you are about them – not you. You are more than what they say – it is their unhappiness that makes them lash out. Rise above it and tell yourself in the mirror – I am awesome and then believe it! xo
You have a real talent in sharing wisdom. The words are so well selected. Merci beaucoup!
I used to be more negative. After a life changing event I have been striving daily to be positive,to see the good in all situations. I struggle with the need for having everything planned. But little by little trying to let life happen as it unfolds. Patience is also hard for me I’m always in a hurry to see results. But working on this too. learning to stop and enjoy life. I was in a store and overheard a man tell his daughter hurry,hurry its the American way. I thought true,but it shouldn’t be. We miss so much of life. I read and take your posts and emails to heart. Thanks for giving your insight to others.
Marc Chernoff says
I agree Danni. Life is far more rewarding when we simply move at a pace that allows us to look around, breathe, and take it all in. Life, after all, is a journey, not a destination.
pat thornburg says
Also, beware of others who are being toxic to you on purpose. Sometimes you are doing the right thing and someone else wants you to suffer, so they pull your strings. They are simply out to hurt you no matter what. Learning to distance yourself from toxic people like this can work wonders.
Ravi Roshan Kumar says
Hope you are fine .. 🙂
Really great impressive article indeed.. Honestly saying, I impressed reading this article, specially I love your first sentence – i.e. The quality of your behavior drives the quality of your life. I agree with this line.
I really like third point too – i.e. Most people do not want freedom because freedom involves responsibility. This is something I’ve experienced many times.
Thanks for sharing this knowledge.. 🙂
Have a good day..
After losing my father to cancer, everything in my life went spiralling down. I was still in college and all of a sudden there was too much to deal with that seemed impossible. And the greatest change it brought in me was anger and resentment. For everything around me. I kept thinking “what did I do to deserve this?” But the fact is life injures each one of us , at some point of time or the other. Gradually with time, i have learnt to let go of negative thoughts and take responsibility. Just by accepting a little responsibilty I’ve learnt I can be so much happier and peaceful. Whatever happened in the past wasnt under my control, but how I deal with the change is. All of the points here resonate so much with me. Specially #3 #7 and #8 …. I’ve started following your blog recently and it helps so much. Thank you. 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
It’s inspiring to hear that you’ve let go of the anger and resentment, and are now looking at life through a more positive and proactive lens.
Stay strong, Amy. And thank you for the kind feedback.
Thanks for this article. I struggle with number 2 – procrastination – probably for 25 years now. I will use this advice to put a stop to it NOW! As you say A little bit every day goes a long way!
Wow! This has to be the best post ever! You really put into words the issues I have seen, as a manager, that hold people back for years. As an optimist, its always frustrating trying to explain that your attitude is so important in being successful in life. You nailed it!! Thanks.
I find Cheryl’s reply to be smug and patronising towards her co-workers. I think it’s important to remember that we all have things we can get better at. I suggest she try 360-degree feedback regarding her managerial role – always food for thought there, a great leveler and can also be used to reflect on which of her personal qualities need to be worked on to genuinely enable others to aspire towards their goals.
I recognise all these behaviours in myself at the moment. I feel stuck in a rut and I cannot seem to find a way out of it. Being aware of my actions and what i’m doing is so useful but right now I’m struggling to make the changes I know I need to make. I’ll still keep trying though.
Hope you all are doing great! I really appreciate the points mentioned in this article especially the ones that speak to procrastination and envy. I just think if we as humans just aim to be the best version of ourselves and count our blessings, this world would be a much better place… No one is you’er than you!… Thanks for all your e-mails, they have been really helpful!
My husband just recently ask for a divorce and everyone bit of this article applies to me right now. I ask that you all pray for me!!
Praying for you Jodi that you find the strength that was always within you – and hoping this transition is as gentle as possible.
No.2 has been my bad habit. It comes from being hooked into anxiety as “comfort zone”. The anxiety of overwhelm, then the relief that comes when I hurry and get it done just before the “deadline.” I’m okay with success, just addicted to the fine line between fear and excitement.
“The world isn’t going to dominate itself.” great, GREAT quote! love it. thank you.
Steffan Cooks says
Sometimes the universe draws us to things that we need to see, hear or read just when we are seeking something totally different. Thank you for this.
Thank you for the major wake up call. I have been swirling for the past few years. If only everyone in the country read this, we would have a better place in the world.
Thanks for this empowering post that helps me to recognize and eliminate toxic behaviors from my life
Taking responsibility for my actions and eliminating the blame on others has proven to be one of the most important character traits in my life life that has opened up a paradigm leading to better success in situations that are not going my way. Interestingly enough, however, it has also created an attitude that makes me guilty of #6 by not tolerating others who place blame on others.
Your posts/emails are always a lovely reinforcer for whatever it is I need to hear. Thank you so much for all the work you put in inspiring all of us to make a better life for ourselves.
George Mariotti says
Gratitude is they underlying key.
It gives me lot of inspiration when I read your blog posts!!
I must say thank you.
musaka robert says
Have had hard time in forgiving others whenever I’m wronged by them! I’m slowly trying to get rid of this trait. Thanks much for your inspiration!
Dan Erickson says
Although #8 is a weakness, I have learned to let things go and roll with the changes.
Hi Marc and Angel,
I use react on impulse a lot. But I’m getting better because I’m paying closer attention to my thoughts.
I make a conscience decision to speak positive about myself, others and my circumstances.
Although I can feel my negative reaction on the inside I practice patient.
And to be totally honest, I’m recovering from all of these but one.
Thanks for the insight,
Excel Godsown says
Marc and Angel, thank you for this blog post. The content of this blog applies to me. Especially the case of patience. That is not pulling back no matter what. Another point that hit me is making steady growth though slow yet surely. Your post opened afresh in me something I got to do about. I also appreciate your comment that knowing is not enough you got to do. While I was reading your post I remembered someone who had this quality of communication that I admire so much. But within is as if I cannot make the required progress. It hurts more when a person speaks this things you have written in the blog but at the time of stress or when the time of endurance comes one chickens out. This just describes me. Honestly it is better to endure any situation than to go back. Furthermore, your blog reminded me that in the end one thing stands out endurance. I was terrified by not being able to be consistent in growing. Thank you for your post.
I tend to get quite overwhelmed by things. My husband left in June and my mum died in January. There have been a lot of emotions to handle lately. I try not to let things suffer but I have made a number of mistakes at work, which has knocked my confidence. Consequently, I have taken a couple of ‘mental health’ days from work because I truly feel that if I don’t, I will explode. I try not to feel guilty about taking the days but I do feel pressured to be on form 100% of the time. I’m not superhuman and feel quite smothered by this.
I used to be the most negative person in the world. I hated everything and everyone.
Thank God, I am not like that any more.