Good habits are important. But they’re also dangerous.
Because while good habits are a key to success, they can also be a trap.
Taken too far, a good habit can inhibit us from getting what we want instead of enabling us to achieve it.
If we’re not careful, our habits become places to hide from the things we need to do to get where we want to go.
With that in mind, here are a few questions to help ensure your habits serve you and not just the other way around.
Are you forever learning and never doing?
Learning is an underrated habit. A person eager to learn will ultimately outperform a person with more natural talent and little interest in learning.
But learning can be a trap if you allow it to takes too much time away from doing. Because the best way to learn is to do.
In my own experience, I’ve found all the reading and research you can do about social media marketing is incredibly helpful. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the learning I get from actually using social media to build an audience, communicate a message, or spread an idea.
The same is true for any project you take on. Learning’s a crucial habit to develop, but it only truly works if you combine it with doing.
(This is one of the reasons I write the For The Interested newsletter each week. I could simply read the same articles each week and not create a newsletter based on them, but I get infinitely more out of actually doing something with the ideas I consume on a weekly basis.)
Has your focus on improvement convinced you you’re not good enough?
We can always improve. But we don’t always need to.
Thanks to the infinite resources at our fingertips and army of “experts” telling us how to be better at every little thing, self-improvement has become an obsession for many of us.
That’s great, and it’s valuable. But it’s also dangerous.
It’s dangerous because these endless opportunities to improve can also convince us we’re not good enough to do what we need to do. They can lead us to believe others are more prepared or qualified, and that until we perfect ourselves and our work, we shouldn’t bother to try.
Obviously, that’s a mistake.
We’ll never be perfect and we’ll always have room to improve. But that doesn’t mean we’re not good enough.
The world will let us know if we’re good enough or not by the results we get from our efforts —don’t let bloggers convince you you’re not ready before you even try.
Self-improvement habits can become a trap if we confuse the opportunity to get better with the reality that we may not need to be.
Are your role models inspiring or intimidating you?
Gary Vaynerchuk will make you want to hustle your face off.
Seth Godin will make you want to blog every day.
Howard Stern will make you want to be more open and honest than you’ve ever been.
Our role models can inspire us to do great things. But they can also intimidate us to because we don’t feel we’re up to their standards.
Vaynerchuk can make you feel lazy no matter how hard you may work.
Godin can make you feel uninteresting if you’re not able to come up with daily bits of brilliance the way he is.
And Stern can make you feel insecure with your inability to share your soul with your audience.
It’s important to frame our relationship with role models in a way that their work inspires us to better ours— not in a way that scares us from doing it.
Remember: The goal is never to become your role model — it’s to become someone else’s.
You’re no quitter. But should you be?
Quitting is complicated.
If we quit when things get hard or don’t go our way, we won’t get where we want to go.
And if we make a habit of quitting, we’re headed for trouble.
Our willingness to push through things that lead others to quit is a huge part of becoming successful.
But, that’s only part of the equation.
It’s just as dangerous to refuse to quit things which need to be abandoned — doomed projects, unhealthy relationships, and misaligned career paths.
When we develop the skill of not-quitting, we risk sticking with things we shouldn’t which can ultimately hold us back.
How do we know what to quit and what not to quit?
There’s no easy answer to that, but it starts with asking the question (and reading The Dip).
One more thing…
Each week I share a collection of 10 ideas like this to help you learn, do, and become better at your work, art, and life.
You can check out previous issues here.