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Last Updated on June 12, 2019

4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

Self-help is often thought of as a good thing, right? And, in most cases, it is. But, as I’m going to outline shortly, some pretty common self-help advice can actually mess up your goals and stop you from becoming a better version of yourself.

This is because not all advice is created equal. Some of it, although well-meaning, can actually make you go off track, and could potentially do more harm than good.

These self help myths listed below are some that you should think twice about following.

1. Shoot for Perfectionism

Now, you may think this sounds like a worthy goal to aim for.

But, you’d be mistaken.

Perfectionists are almost never satisfied with what they are working on – so they end up spending far longer to complete something that they should.

For example, I’m sure you’ve come across perfectionists at your workplace. When they’re tasked with creating a PowerPoint presentation or writing a report, they somehow manage to take two or three times longer to complete these things than other members of their team.

The problem is, they often get stuck in the murky world of details. And because of this, they’re driven to constantly re-evaluate, change and edit their work. And, the amount of time they’ve spent trying to perfect something could be better spent elsewhere… after all, nothing is actually perfect, so it’s pointless to strive for it.

Perfectionists are actually trapped in a mental prison of their own making.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, I recommend doing the following:

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  • Abandon the ‘All or Nothing’ mindset – instead of only doing things you know you can do perfectly, open yourself to taking actions that you’re neither good at or comfortable with. This will enable you to continually grow your skills and experience.
  • Aim for 95% perfection – do this, and you’ll complete your tasks in an accomplished and professional way. And, you’ll also complete them in a timely manner. It’s seeking to make something 100% perfect that will kill your productivity and output.
  • Set realistic goals – instead of dreaming too big (like wanting to be an overnight success), set your goals at an achievable level. When you do this, you’ll boost your confidence, while keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Focus on the big picture – as I mentioned earlier, perfectionists often get caught up in the details. To avoid this, I suggest always keeping your eye on the bigger picture. For instance, if you’re creating a document for the proposed purchase of new software, make sure that you only include the necessary details. Too much information is a waste of your time – and also the time of the other people working on the project.

Next up, is the common self-help belief that…

2. Multitasking is Key

I’m sure you’ve heard or read about the so-called power of multitasking many times in the last few years. It appears to have become quite a trend.

But, I’m not one for following trends that lead to failure.

Multitasking may appear to be the holy grail of productivity – but for 98% of workers, it’s actually the complete opposite.

That’s because these people practice defective multitasking methods that look like this:

  • Trying to do two things at the same time.
  • Constantly switching to new tasks without completing the original things they were working on.
  • Rapidly cycling back and forth between tasks, which gives the illusion that they are among the 2% of effective multitaskers.

The truth is, that human brains aren’t designed to do this kind of ‘cognitive shuffling’. It just leads us to a messy and confused mental state riddled with something called ‘attention residue’. This means we are distracted by thinking about one task while working on another.

There have been some interesting studies on multitasking, which have revealed that:

  • Constantly shifting between tasks can cost you about 40%, or 16 hours, of your working week. That’s the equivalent of losing two work days every week![1]
  • Multitasking can cause you to perform as though you’ve lost 10-15 points on your IQ score. In other words, you won’t be as smart or as effective as you could be.[2]

In my opinion, multitasking is not just overrated – but it’s actually dangerous to your productivity.

It’s much better to simply focus on the task at hand. Complete it. And then move on to the next one.

This next tip is is one that is constantly talked about on chat shows, in newspapers and in the self-help book section…

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3. Aim for Work-Life Balance

What do you think about when you hear the term ‘work-life balance’?

A dream existence where you work 20 hours per week and have the rest for your leisure and pleasure?

This is how most self-helps gurus try to sell it to you.

But, not me.

I have a very different view on work-life balance — it’s called work-life harmony.

Healthy work-life harmony should start with finding your purpose. And, once you’ve found it, you’ll naturally enjoy the work you do, and it will no longer be a case of dividing your life into:

  • The bad stuff – work
  • The good stuff – free time

With a purpose to drive you, you’ll be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do, and you’ll work whatever hours are necessary to reach your goals. And, your enthusiasm for your work will naturally carry over into your free time.

As an example, imagine that you’ve worked for 12 years in the administration department of a local insurance company. You go in every workday to process claim after claim after claim. You find the work soul destroying. But, you keep doing it, as it pays the bills.

One day, however, you decide that there must be more to life. And this sets you off on a period of self-searching, which ultimately leads you to come across what you’d really like to do with your life: traveling the world on behalf of a charity helping to help people.

After unearthing your purpose, you feel strongly driven to make it a reality. It takes you almost six months, but in the end, you land a job with an international charity organization that helps people around the world impacted by natural disasters.

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The job takes you to dozens of different countries, and you enjoy every minute of your work. It’s satisfying and rewarding. And, away from work, you love to tell your friends and family all about your trips.

Your purpose has renewed you and given you the perfect work-life harmony.

The final self-help tip I want to talk about is…

4. Never Procrastinate

High-achievers are go-getters who never procrastinate.

Or are they?

In my experience of working with dozens of successful entrepreneurs, prioritizing your tasks is much more important than worrying about procrastinating.

Let me explain what I mean.

You’re working on an email to a colleague about a meeting that is due to take place next week. But, as you’re typing the words of the email, your desk phone suddenly rings. It’s one of your major clients, and they have an urgent need for your company’s assistance, and they’re happy to pay top dollar to get the work done.

In this case, do you:

A: Tell the client you’ll get on it shortly, but then go back to writing your email to your colleague.

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Or

B: Tell the client you’ll deal with their request immediately, and then come back to crafting your email once the high-priority task has been completed.

Well done! I’m sure you’ve picked the second answer. And, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

Sure, you’ll be procrastinating when it comes to your email, but you’ll also be helping to complete a much bigger goal that has an urgent deadline.

As you can see, procrastination has its place when you learn to prioritize your tasks.

I hope my article has helped open your eyes to some of the self-help delusions that are constantly propagated. If you follow these delusions – inevitably you’ll end up feeling deluded!

Instead, follow my tried-and tested methods that I’ve outlined above. They will guide you to surefire success in all areas of your life.

As American philosopher and psychologist William James once said:

“Truth is what works.”

Featured photo credit: Nicole Honeywill via Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs
[2] Talent Smart: Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career, New Studies Suggest

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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