Career development is high on the list of many high potential employees.  So why is it that so many employees seem to build successful careers only to fall quickly from their perch when put to the test.

career developmentBecause sometimes success is built on the backs of bad habits. They focus only on behaviors that bring immediate gratification and ignore behaviors that will eventually trip them up

Bad habits come in many shapes and forms and trigger behaviors that can be categorized into four types:

  1. Defeatism (also Denialism)
  2. Carelessness,
  3. Fearlessness, and
  4. Hopelessness.

While at first glance most people would recognize these behaviors as counter-productive, the benefits of relying on counter-productive behaviors are subtle and insidious.  That is why so many people are actually motivated by them. Why?

Because counter-productive behaviors offer short term rewards (aka instant gratification) and we have regrettably become an instant gratification society. Before converting bad habits into productive ones, we must first recognize the four counter-productive behaviors mentioned above. If we don’t, then our brain runs on automatic pilot, relying on the bad habits we developed which steer us right back to the quick, but potentially career derailing fix.

For example:

The individual who denies himself time-off from work, enjoying a massage, or a round of golf might get recognized by his boss and co-workers for being the one person you can always count on. So he works and works and works, denying himself any opportunity for fun. Many of these people are chronically unhappy and/or burnout.

The absent-minded manager might be chronically late but continues the habit. Since the meeting can’t start without him, his ego grows. Being late reinforces how important he is because so many people demand his time and are willing to wait. This type of behavior repels top performers.

The fearless truck driver ignores the warning signs of sleep deprivation to keep his on-time delivery schedule intact. The company offers incentives to the drivers who beat the clock. The fearless employee is often an accident just waiting to happen.

The disillusioned college dropout has perfect attendance in a job he hates despite being verbally berated by his father and wife for not finishing school. He feels guilty but doesn’t want to be labeled as a quitter again. Co-workers and friends applaud him for sticking with the job and not quitting again…but his martyr-like attitude makes him tough to be around for long.

All these behaviors, once reinforced, become bad habits.  Missing your kid’s soccer game, continuing to attend or tolerate unproductive meetings, blaming others for accidents and mistakes, and enduring personal stress and burnout are the results of bad habits that people develop for the sake of protecting personal pride and acquiring misplaced rewards.

To get to the next level in your career or personal life, now is the time to become more mindful of your bad habits.  Learn what is holding you back. What is your trigger for bad habits? What are the counter-productive behaviors that you need to stop before you caught going to the well one time too many times?