When we think of success, we tend to envision the enormous leaps and risks we must take to get there.
While success does come from these big acts of courage, they are only one part of the puzzle. The things we do on a daily basis have a subtle yet highly impactful role in how much we do or don’t achieve.
Bad habits keep us stuck and stagnating, while healthy habits propel us toward success.
So, if you feel like you’ve been underachieving for months or years now, look at your daily behaviors.
In this article, I share nine common habits that keep us from success, helping you spot and ditch the behaviors holding you back.
1) Going to bed late
Some people are natural night owls who work best in the evenings.
So, if you’re super creative at night or your productivity is at its highest after dark, your sleep schedule is likely working well for you.
However, if you stay up late watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling social media, this habit is likely contributing to your feeling of underachieving.
Look, there is no denying what the research shows about sleep schedule and achievement…
Most successful people go to bed early and wake up early. There have been various surveys and studies that show this to be true.
For example, Inc. magazine’s statistics show that nearly two-thirds of CEOs wake up at 6 AM or earlier.
Meanwhile, a 2014 study found that people who go to bed late are more likely to have intrusive and repetitive negative thoughts.
A separate study published in The Journal of General Psychology found that people who wake up early are less likely to procrastinate than those who get up later.
So going to bed early (and waking up early) is NOT a sign of a dull life, but a sign of a fulfilling and successful one.
2) Skipping meals
What’s just as important as sleep?
Typically, people who are unhappy with their lives have bad health habits. But one of the most surprising ones is skipping meals.
If you ask someone why they skipped lunch, they will likely say they were too busy or didn’t have time.
And in this society, we’ve been told that being busy is a sign of success. So you might assume that skipping meals is a habit of a successful person.
This is NOT the case at all.
High achievers know how vital it is to keep their energy levels up during the day. And one of the worst things you could do for your energy levels is skip a meal.
As Haley Robinson, a Piedmont clinical dietitian, says, skipping meals causes our blood sugar levels to drop. The brain needs glucose to run efficiently, so when our brain lacks glucose, we start to feel irritable, tired, and unable to think clearly.
And remember, food is fuel.
Research has found that skipping meals reduces daily energy intake, so you don’t get the nutrients your body needs to operate at optimum levels. Because of this, you’ll likely crave sugary or high-fat food, leading to this other bad eating habit…
3) Eating too many processed foods
When we skip meals due to busyness, we often grab quick snacks to compensate.
However, these snacks are often sugary or high-fat processed foods that do not benefit our body or brain in any way.
In recent years, there has been TONS of research on this. Researchers have found that processed foods lead to inflammation in the body and brain, causing mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Ultra-processed foods, such as processed meats, ice cream, crisps, and biscuits, have also been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline.
So if you eat these types of food every day, you’ll struggle to:
- Think clearly
- Stay focused on your work
- Regulate your mood
4) Binge watching Netflix
How people spend their free time says a lot about who they are.
Think about it…
Do you reckon CEOS spend their evenings on the couch binge-watching the latest Netflix series?
In fact, TV watching is a habit that, through research and surveys, has been linked to underachievers.
Tom Corley is a financial planner and author who wrote the book “Rich Habits.” As part of his research for this book, Corley interviewed 233 wealthy individuals and 128 poor individuals on their daily habits.
Corley’s research found that 67% of wealthy people watch less than one hour of TV a day. This is a stark difference from the 77% of poor people who watch more than one hour of TV daily.
5) Consuming too much news
Watching the news is even more harmful to our mindset and productivity than watching TV series or movies.
When I think back to when I consumed little to no news, I was happier and much more productive.
However, during the times I’ve gotten absorbed in big, negative news stories, I’ve noticed a MASSIVE impact on my mental health, energy, and creativity.
And when we look at the science behind this, it’s easy to see why…
Our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) becomes activated when we consume negative news. This prompts the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which causes anxiety, hinders creativity, and leads to fatigue.
But remember, nowadays, the news is on every media channel. So, even if you don’t watch the news, you probably still see it on social media.
6) Wasting time on social media
Talking about social media, mindlessly scrolling your feeds is one of the biggest productivity killers.
I can speak from experience on this one, too.
If there is one addiction I struggle with, it is social media (and my phone in general). In the past, I’ve been guilty of:
- Grabbing my phone as soon as I wake up
- Checking my socials while working
- Replying to work emails in bed at night.
This addiction got so bad that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was constantly tired and unproductive and was never present with my loved ones.
If you struggle to avoid social media as much as I do, you’ll know breaking free is not easy. However, the “aha moment” for me was realizing this…
There are only two types of people on social media – those who create content and those who consume it. Honestly, this made me feel like a massive loser.
So I decided if I was not going to be on social media creating content, I must get VERY strict with how much time I waste consuming content.
And while I didn’t go cold turkey and delete all my accounts, I am much more mindful about how much time I waste scrolling.
7) Neglecting exercise
If you’re spending all your time watching TV or scrolling on social media, you’re likely spending little to no time working out.
There are two common excuses for neglecting exercise:
- I don’t have time
- I’m too tired
What’s interesting about both these excuses is that they are totally untrue.
People think they either have to spend an hour at the gym or not work out at all.
But science has found that short bursts of intense exercise (like HIIT) are MORE beneficial than lengthier, less intensive ones.
This is excellent news for everyone who claims to be too busy to exercise.
You don’t have to wake up an hour early to go for a run. You just need 5 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as push-ups, jumping jacks, and squats.
What’s more, there is endless research that supports exercise and increased energy levels.
Exercise boosts endorphins and increases oxygen levels in the blood. This makes you feel more energetic (physically and mentally), which, in turn, causes your productivity to skyrocket.
8) Putting the needs of others before your own
Selfless acts can positively benefit our well-being and mindset. But being selfless ALL the time can have the opposite effect.
We’ll never move forward in our personal goals if we constantly do things to please others.
So, self-care is vital whether you’re seeking peace, happiness, or success.
Neglecting our own needs drains our energy and increases feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.
Research backs this up, too.
In a 2018 study on communal motivation, researchers found that helping others only increases our well-being if we respect our personal needs.
9) Mindlessly spending money
Finally, our spending habits determine our level of achievement and success in life.
As Robert Kiyosaki writes in his book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” there is a difference between being rich and being wealthy.
Society makes us believe that sports cars, luxury trips, and expensive possessions are signs of success. So many people live beyond their means to create a perception of being rich.
As a result, they have a lot of flashy things but no savings and tons of debt. However, many of the world’s most successful (and wealthiest) people aren’t big spenders.
They don’t flash their cash and buy pointless things. Instead, they make their money work for them by investing it.
So, if you’re sick of underachieving in life, improve your spending habits. Cut out all the unnecessary expenses and put that extra cash into savings or investment funds.
To become a high achiever, we must first act like one – and these nine behaviors WON’T get you there.
You won’t come across a high achiever with any of these daily habits, so if you’re guilty of them, it’s time to cut them out!