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Mackay: Vanquish these bad work habits

By Harvey Mackay - Positive Struggles | Oct 1, 2021

Courtesy Andrews McMeel Syndication

Columnist Harvey Mackay

A reckless driver made a right turn from the left lane and collided with another car. The other driver angrily asked, “Why didn’t you signal?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, the driver replied, “I always turn here.”

I suspect we all could identify some of our own bad habits, but are yours holding you back from success in your career? If you think so, you’re not alone. A whopping 97% of those participating in an online survey of 972 people conducted by corporate trainer VitalSmarts identified at least one career-limiting habit that prevents them from reaching their full potential.

The top five bad habits are unreliability, the “it’s not my job” syndrome, procrastination, resistance to change and a negative attitude. Having just one of those flaws can break a career or bring down a company’s reputation. Let’s examine the problems they cause.

When people are unreliable, they are not dependable. Few things are worse in business. Being late to work can translate to delayed projects and missed deadlines. A cavalier attitude about follow-through sends a message to customers that they can’t depend on your service or product. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Finish what you start.

As for the “It’s not my job” syndrome, let me refer to the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

So it’s not in your job description? Clarify and communicate your roles and collaborate with your co-workers. Seize the opportunity to go above and beyond, and showcase your abilities.

Procrastination is a big word, and it’s a big problem. One of the worst things you can do when faced with a difficult decision or almost any endeavor in life, is to put it off. Let’s face it, too often, people will perform the least important task first, and the most important last — if at all. That’s why one of these days becomes none of these days.

I make lists to motivate myself. I put the most difficult jobs at the top, because once those are completed, everything else seems so much easier. I also try to limit distractions that would interrupt my progress.

There’s an old saying that goes: It is easy to change things. It is hard to change people.

Resistance to change is perhaps the biggest threat to progress a business can face. Change, for most people, is an unnerving experience. But change is inevitable. It’s one of the only constants in life.

Negative attitudes too often become negative bottom lines. Unless we approach each day with a renewed positive outlook, we are wasting enormous potential. That is what I challenge you to exploit to the max. Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better. And I think that good attitudes are contagious.

Survey participants noted other behaviors limiting their careers, including disrespect, short-term focus, selfishness, passive/aggressive tendencies and avoidance of risk.

Don’t despair. Here are some ways you can stop sabotaging your career:

  • Create a personal motivation statement. Think about where you want to go in your career and what you want to accomplish. Visualizing your goal will help you overcome your tendency to slip into any of these self-defeating practices.
  • Seek professional development. Look for training programs, online resources, conferences and books that will help you learn the skills you need. Invest in these yourself if your employer won’t pay for them.
  • Associate with positive role models. Don’t hang out with people who share your bad habits. Seek out the company of high achievers whose attitudes and strengths you can learn to emulate.
  • Find a mentor. An experienced pro can help you learn how to make better decisions about your work and career.

Mackay’s Moral: Good habits are as addictive as bad habits and a lot more rewarding.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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