Most of us admit to occasional bad behavior in dealing with the people around us. Hey, it happens. We’re human. And there are certain tough traits – like aggressiveness or tenacity – that, in certain environments, may teeter on the line between good and bad behavior. What we need is a dose of behavior change.
However, problems occur when our lousy actions start running interference with the quality of our lives and those around us. And as no-one wants to be defined by their toxic deeds, here are four ugly behaviors that you might not realize are putting a stop to your success in life.
Behavior Change Target #1: Envy
Practically everyone is prone to feelings of envy, says Dr. Robert Leahy, clinical professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill-Cornell University Medical School and author of “The Jealousy Cure: Learn to Trust, Overcome Possessiveness, and Save Your Relationship.”
However, while there are numerous ways that envy manifests itself, there are two particularly destructive versions to watch out for - “hostile envy” and “depressed envy.”
“Depressed envy occurs when someone else’s success makes you feel worse about yourself or worse about your life,” says Dr. Leahy. “You feel diminished, lost, defeated, even humiliated. You take their success personally—it reflects on you.
“Hostile envy occurs when you feel angry and want the other person to fail in some way,” he explains. “You might criticize their success or their personal qualities, claim their success was undeserving, or claim that they manipulated their way into their position. Hostile envy is filled with resentment.”
Quick fix: Examine how you personally benefit from feeling envious, Leahy suggests. Ask yourself: What are you going to get out of your envy? Is this an emotion you would want someone you love to have?
“You can have a right to your feelings,” he notes. “But you also have a right to change them.”
Behavior Change Target #2: Procrastination
We all procrastinate from time to time, but chronic procrastination can keep us from taking chances and making the most of our lives. Additionally, it can negatively impact our health.
The reasons for avoiding a task may stem from a lack of motivation or a hidden fear that it’s too tough. But studies have shown that deferring important duties, such as paying bills or studying for a test, is likely to cause stress or more serious sickness.
In one study out of Case Western Reserve University, comparing non-procrastinators to those who dawdled before doing, researchers Dianne Tice and Roy F. Baumeister found procrastinators had poorer sleep, higher levels of anxiety, and low immunity, meaning they fell ill more frequently. And did they go to the doctor when ill? Of course not! Something else to put off until whenever.
Quick fix: Clinical psychologist and co-author of “Overcoming Procrastination,” Dr Bill Knaus, suggests practicing 20/20 foresight. “This is the mirror opposite of 20/20 hindsight,” Knaus explains. “Instead of looking over your shoulders thinking of what you could have done, you look to your future with concrete goals and plans for timely meeting your responsibilities and for achieving positive results.” A simple plan of how you’ll meet an important goal or deal with a difficult situation, Knaus says, can you give a sense of direction and security.
Behavior Change Target #3: Blaming others
In his book, “How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts & Emotions – A Practical Guide," Professor of Communications at Foothill College in Silicon Valley, California, Preston Ni, writes that holding others responsible for your misfortunes, “provides convenient justification for life’s unsatisfactory conditions, and sheds the work necessary to take complete charge of one’s own life and well-being.”
However, while this may keep immediate focus off your own shortcomings, in the long term Ni claims that indulging in blame costs us the authority to be in charge of our own growth as a person, missteps and all. “We miss the profound potential which can be unleashed once we take total responsibility for our life experience, and preside proactively over the purposeful direction of our lives,” he writes.
Quick fix: Look at the problem, not the person at (presumed) fault, advises Ni. Start from a position of “how can I fix this?” and eventually the “blame game” won’t even come into play.
Behavior Change Target #4 Playing the victim
Saying yes when you really want to say no? Taking the blame to avert an argument with your partner? Feeling the need to please the important people in your life even though deep down you’d rather they all just go t’hell? Yup. Whether you know it or not you’re playing the victim, and it’s not going to get you the results you want in the long run.
According to Andrea Brandt, “chronic victims” are just bubbling internally with unaddressed anger, which will either boil over abruptly or put them on a one-way road to ills-ville.
A marriage and family therapist in Santa Monica, California, and the author of numerous books, including “Mindful Anger,” and “Eight Keys to Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness,” Brandt says actions like those mentioned above, “Don’t help you in the long run. Instead, faulty thinking – like believing you aren't allowed to say no – creates negative self-talk, which disempowers you. When you are disempowered, you feel like a victim and this victim mentality creates negative energy in your body, a breeding ground for repressed anger.”
Quick fix: Accept that you have a right to say no. Start exercising that right with people who’ll be more accepting of you rebuffing their requests. “By saying no and getting used to saying it, you can begin to build the boundaries needed to be happy with yourself and your life,” states Brandt.