10 bad habits of unsuccessful people

My mind immediately went to Ed Sheeran’s hit song:

 “My bad habits lead to late nights endin’ alone”

He apparently has a few bad habits of his own, yet I’d say he’s still pretty successful.

The thing is that success is incredibly subjective.

What one person deems as success might be someone’s else’s idea of pure failure.

But on the whole, success generally means finding your purpose and achieving what you find important.

And there are a good few bad habits that can get in the way of maximizing your potential and achieving whatever your version of success is.

Ready to learn about the top 10 getting in the way of your success?

1) Big ideas that are never seen through

I have a friend who is full to the brim of new ideas.

Many are quirky and obscure and would probably not flourish in any market.

(Unless someone wants to buy a thumb strap on for your dog. Yes. That’s a thing that probably didn’t need to be seen through to completion.)

The problem is that he doesn’t take his ideas anywhere.

He gets swept up in the excitement of a new project or new idea, loses himself in it for a few weeks, and then loses interest.

A new idea is found and the cycle repeats.

I can’t talk too much as a writer with hundreds of half-finished pieces of creative writing sitting idly on my laptop…

But one habit of successful people is that they persevere and see things through.

They don’t throw in the towel when the going gets tough or when boredom hits.

2) Letting fear get the better of them

Part of the reason people don’t chase their dreams is because of the fear of failure.

But in all honesty, why not just give it a go?

You might well fail.

But the alternative option is living a life of regret having never tried, which sounds a lot worse than giving it your best shot and feeling proud of yourself for having tried.

Unsuccessful people stew in failure.

They’re scared of trying and failing.

Of being judged.

Of never trying at all.

Life comes with a lot of unknowns and a lot of unpredictable twists.

It’s incredibly scary at times, but letting fear hold you back and tether you down prevents you from getting to all the places you dream of.

3) Excuses, excuses, excuses

And when they do try and fail or something doesn’t go quite right, unsuccessful people will point fingers at the nearest person/object/natural phenomena and say that’s to blame.

Success and failure come hand in hand. 

When successful people make mistakes, they take accountability for their actions, and then try to reset their route to forge a new pathway to success.

The less successful look away and shirk from blame-taking.

Having not realized the importance of failure and the learning curve this can present, they come with a list of ready-made excuses should anything go amiss and feel deeply embarrassed at any slip-ups.

4) Having the attention span of a gnat

It’s a modern myth that a goldfish has no attention span as they apparently have more than we do.

So no ill-will to gnats, but they do actually have an attention span of zero. 

Unsuccessful people, like gnats, get so easily distracted.

Sitting down and focusing on work is a world away.

Instead, it’s: laptop screen…coupled with social media scrolling…texting a friend some life updates…keeping an eye on an eBay auction…glancing down at your smartwatch to check your steps for the day…and don’t even think this is all happening without pounding music in your headphones.

How could an organic thought even sprout in the mind of someone who is juggling so many digital tasks at once?!

It’s unfortunate as the digital world works harder and harder to capture our attention and keep it, but unsuccessful people tend to fall prey to algorithm addictions.

A key part of motivating yourself and focusing is doing so without distractions.

That means putting the phone away, tuning out the world, and focusing on what requires your attention.

5) Half-heartedness

“A job that’s worth doing is worth doing properly!”

My mother’s words ring clear in my ears whenever I load the dishwasher.

My youth included throwing items into it in hope that something would wash.

But doing it right the first time and putting effort into a task actually saves you time in the long run.

You’re less likely to have to go back and redo the task.

(Or reload the dishwasher.)

But unsuccessful people don’t always know that.

Or they don’t invest the required effort to bring projects into fruition and succeed in life.

Out of a lack of motivation or drive, or maybe a fear of trying really hard and failing, they really don’t give it their all.

And this lack of effort shows in only delivering them mediocre outcomes.

6) Waiting for the right time

10 bad habits of unsuccessful people 2 10 bad habits of unsuccessful people

Listen up: the right time to start working on your new business idea, to start writing your book, to give up drinking…

It’s never going to happen.

Using that long list of excuses, unsuccessful people delay and delay and delay.

They’re too tired.

They’re too busy.

They feel a bit unwell.

The timing is never going to be perfect but there is nothing stopping you from starting today.

That doesn’t have to mean a life overhaul by tomorrow.

Simple, tiny steps every day in the right direction cumulatively add up and get you closer to your goal.

Successful people know that tomorrow is no better than today, so they don’t waste time waiting to start working towards their goals.

7) Procrastination-station

That’s what I used to call my desk.

A place to sit and ponder. 

To bite my nails and scroll online quizzes.

Procrastinating is a branch off of the above, but can also happen on a smaller scale than delaying change or never getting started.

It can look as simple as wasting 20 minutes every morning on TikTok before you get out of bed and face the day.

Or staring out the window and feeling sorry for yourself for half an hour before actually dragging yourself to the gym.

Procrastinating is incredibly counterproductive as it consumes valuable time which could be otherwise well-spent working towards your goals, but it unfortunately consumes many unsuccessful people.

8) Living on the grind

But on the tail-end of over-procrastinating comes being too busy.

Yes, you heard me right.

Unsuccessful people can also find themselves in a pickle by trying to force too many tasks and chores into their calendar.

The rise-and-grind hustle mentality of today’s culture can be very counterproductive, almost as much as procrastination, as the human body can only take so much.

After a certain point, balancing too many meetings and rushing around like a headless chicken leads to a great deal of stress.

Cue burnout and exhaustion.

Finding a balance is tricky.

 However, successful people work harder to plan their lives and days in a way which allows them to prioritize their mental and physical wellbeing, whilst still making the most out of their days.

9) Comparing themselves to others and being snarky about it

You might remember one of Aesop’s fables, where a dog snoozes in a manger filled with hay and refuses to let any livestock eat their dinner purely because he cannot eat hay himself.

Out of envy, many unsuccessful people will criticize and belittle that which they do not or cannot have.

But jealousy is incredibly toxic.

It poisons the body and the mind.

So whilst you might look up and compare yourself to those who seem happier, wealthier, fitter, remember that comparison is the thief of joy.

Use other people’s success as inspiration but never compare your own journey, as two paths will never be the same.

Equally, avoid falling into the pit-trap of mocking or being otherwise nasty to those whose lifestyle of success you envy just to make yourself feel better.

It’s an incredibly petty way to approach what could be an ideal source of motivation.

10) They don’t have a plan

If you’ve ever taken a personality quiz (if you haven’t, I’d be surprised), you’ll know how often questions like “I think before I act” pop up.

Acting impulsively can be fun and cool, especially if you’re young.

Hell, it’s fun to be spontaneous.

But if you actually want to taste success, however that might taste for you, you need an action plan of how to get there.

This is where many unsuccessful people slip-up.

They’re not planning their day-to-day lives, but they’re not planning for the future either.

By that I mean 2 year plans, 5 year plans, 10 year plans.

Saving money and investing

Setting goals and milestones and chipping away.

Instead, many unsuccessful people find themselves unsuccessful because they just sort of toss themselves into the throw of it and hope for the best.

Life will never go completely according to those plans you make.

But, having a good sense of the direction in which you’re going will mean you’re much more likely to stay on course and find yourself reaching higher levels at a swifter pace.


Can you name any bad habits of your own?

And how might you go about changing them?

Going back to point number 6, what would happen if you started that change today?

It’s daunting, I know.

Change always is.

But the more you learn about what’s holding you back from success, the more you can adapt your lifestyle to maximize your output and soar higher.

Using the above habits which tend to work against people and hold them back, maybe you can take away some knowledge about areas where you personally could do a little improving.

Success may taste different for everyone.

But getting there generally involves setting the same habits which help to boost productivity and align your actions with your goals. 

Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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