The price of greatness is responsibility over each of your thoughts – Winston Churchill.

Toxic habits are challenging and can lead to toxic relationships with others. Diagnosing our habits; the way we think, speak or treat ourself is difficult to do. Blinded by a lack of self-awareness, toxic habits can sabotage our reinvention progress and jeopardise success.  

1. Fearing that Failure Challenges Our Self-Image

Die Empty’ author Todd Henry explores one of the reasons for procrastination is the fear of the inability to meet one’s expectations. (More on procrastination below).

For example, if I wanted expand networks for Reintention and believed I have strong networking skills, I may not put in 100% when connecting with new people.  This is because if I failed it would shatter my self-belief.

Delivering less than our best effort allows rationalising failure compared to putting in total commitment. The downside to diminished efforts is it inhibits our ability  for true success.  Success requires a level of vulnerablilty which is the centre of creativity and change. Lacking vulnerability shuts off opportunities for growth, exploration and experience.

Furthermore Mark Manson states through ‘Manson’s Law‘ that, “The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it”, which leads to toxic habit #2. 

2. Procrastination – A False Coping Mechanism

Procrastination is often assumed to be driven by inherent laziness. However a paper by Sirois and Pychl suggests that our minds procrastinate as a ‘short-term mood repair’ or coping mechanism. Deflecting from what needs to be done is placing preference on our immediate mood over long term goals. Therefore primary focus is placed on the present rather than the future.

Why do we choose the short term? Complexities, fears , uncertainty and overwhelm are drivers for avoidance. Frankly it is easier to find distractions than face that project, work through a challenging relationship or go for a workout.

Supplementary research by Eve-Marie Blouin-Hudon explores the concept of ‘future self-continuity’. This concept draws the link between people’s connectivity with their future selves and their sense of identity. The research concluded that those with a stronger sense of their future self are less likely to procrastinate.

3. Non-Acceptance: Living in a Reality Distortion Field

A Reality Distortion Field (RDF) is a toxic habit defined as the “intellectual abilities, persuasion skills and persistence that make people believe in achieving very difficult tasks”. Used to describe late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, both positives and negatives arise from RDFs.force field

Living with non acceptance represses clarity in actions and outcomes. Allowing believed intellect, persuasion or stubborn persistence to keep trying was famously quoted by Einstein as “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Investing time and energy into something  where metrics or results signify that a pivot is required is an example of a reality distortion field.  Working on something that will never eventuate – or likely needs a shift in strategy or approach results in waste – mainly of resource and time.

4. Comparisons, Judgements and Validation

Toxic habit #4 is a comprises of comparisons, validation seeking and critical self judgement. Comparing performance, appearance or success to others results in living unfulfilled and always running someone else’s race. As ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ author Robin Sharma said, True nobility lies in being superior than your former self”.  

Validation is a form of ego reassurance and becomes a never ending hunger. Seeking validation can be through verbal praise or approval from those respected or seen with a level of authority.  Driven by external motivators, the problem with validation seeking is that satisfaction is controlled and sourced from others.  Failure to meet these expectations of praise from others can lead to deflation, disappointment and the trough of sorrow.

Judgement involves critical evaluation of ourselves that  discourages improvement . Focus is placed on punishment and self-pitying rather than useful feedback or learningsResearch shows the benefits of positive affirmations on people’s brain scans and the power of positive self-image on performance.

Transforming Toxic Habits into Nurturing Habits

Replacing a toxic habit starts with recognising its harmfulness and dedication to replace it with a good habit.

Nurturing Habit 1 

The gap between our perceived capability and performance requires pushing past the fear of self disappointment. In an earlier post on fear, uncertainty is explained to exist in every aspect of life. Dedicating our all means not allowing false narratives restrain us from freely engaging and striving for successful outcomes.

There are no failures in life – only lessons, therefore learning in different ways, asking better questions and having broader experiences is the way to embrace risk and manage expectations.

  • What I’ve done: To combat the networking-paralysis I’ve started small and aimed to meet 2-3 new people at courses or networking event. Making genuine connections on mutual interest is much more long lasting than superficial connections.
Nurturing Habit 2

Curbing procrastination requires a vision of the future, as renowned editor and author Kevin Kelly calls the ‘long-now‘ (his definition of ‘long now’ denotes working towards things that have generational impact, but for this interpretation I use it as an example). Visualisations can assist in having establishing clearer views of goals and our future self, rather than focusing on numbing present discomfort.

  • What I’ve done: Each quarter I review my medium – long term goals to ensure I’m on track. This review takes place on a mini-scale monthly, with a snapshot review every night through journalling. I’ve quoted that I enjoy Zig Ziglar’s self-talk cards in forming the basis of daily affirmations that can be read aloud or through meditation.
Nurturing Habit 3

Removing yourself from non-acceptance involves understanding that experiences are neither good or bad. In order for something to be good, it requires a balanced contrast to demonstrate its ‘goodness’.  Evaluating metrics or results may be difficult with emotions and fears clouding perspective, however looking objectively at something will reduce future pain. Marcus Aurelius stated in Meditations  that “For the mind adapts and converts any obstacle to its action into a means of achieving it”.

  • What I’ve done: Dabbling with concepts of empiricism (knowledge is based on experience) and rationalism (knowledge is based on logic and reason) recently, I’m currently running a personal experiment involving two sprints. Evaluation of metrics and overall logic will help deduce an decision at the end. As Peter Drucker said “What can be measured can be managed.”
Nurturing Habit 4

Nourishing inner chatter that results in comparisons, judgements and seeking external validation involves self-love. Sounds cheesy, but at the root of learning, progress and success is the belief of your worthiness and that you are only limited by the confides of your mind.  Trauma even from childhood can affect our self worth  with life-long impacts. Sharma’s character Julian Mantle says “How can you do good if you don’t even feel good? I can’t love you if I can’t love myself.”

  • What I’ve done:  This habit infiltrates every aspect of life. I find maintaining physical fitness crucial in maintaining a positive self mind as well as setting small challenges builds confidence. Each night I reflect and journal things I’ve done well and what I love about myself. One example is the recent web redesign of Reintention. Each component that I was able to customise or tweak brought a big sense of reward. Finding deep purpose and fulfilment in what you do also helps circumnavigate moments of doubt and despair.

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