3 Negative Thoughts That Stop You From Improving Yourself

Don't let these stop you from being better.

Personal Development Tips For How To Improve Yourself & Build Good Habits Elijah O'Donnell via Unsplash

If you want to learn how to improve yourself and build better habits, here are some personal development tips that will help you quit the excuses and be your best self.

RELATED: How To Be Happy With Yourself As You Improve Your Life


Performance improvement issues aren’t just about working more productively. They are about living more effectively.

If you want to perform at your best and be more productive, you need to eat healthily, move regularly, and develop a well-balanced lifestyle.

Sounds good, right? So, what’s holding you back?

One thing: excuses.

It’s easy to say you want improvements in your life. But, when push comes to shove, it is even easier to not change how you already act. You can dream up endless excuses justifying why you can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to follow through on what you know is best.

All these excuses do one thing — release you from taking 100 percent responsibility for everything in your life. Three of these excuses, in particular, show up, again and again, in every domain of life.


But, once you identify these performance improvement issues, you can learn how to grow past your excuses and start living up to your potential.

With that said, here are the three negative thoughts that stop you from improving (and how you can improve and better yourself).

1. "I'm not sure how"

We all would like a well-paved road to follow. Unfortunately, once you finish school, there’s no more syllabus to structure your learning. There’s no more curriculum to show you exactly what you need to know. And there’s no more teacher to answer your questions and guide you down the path.

You need to design the course, content, and tests all for yourself.


This is tough work and it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in "If…then" excuses that sidestep personal responsibility:

  • "If I just knew what steps to take to improve my diet, then I would eat better."
  • "If I just had someone create an exercise plan, then I would work out more often."
  • "If I just knew what I was passionate about, I would be able to find a job."
  • "If I just knew how to scale my business, I would be more successful."

The reality is that most of these are technical problems. You can either look-up the answers or buy yourself the solution.

Unless you’re looking for advice or data about an extremely obscure topic, a quick internet search will reveal something relevant to your goals.

  • Want to learn how to meditate? There are numerous instructional videos online.
  • Want to learn how to cook organic meals? Try reading a food blog or follow and Instagram feeds that showcase healthy eating.
  • Want to increase your fitness? Find a free yoga meet-up in your neighborhood or try a new type of workout at a local studio.

It is not a question of whether the information and opportunities are out there. Searching for more information can become an addiction in and of itself.


It’s a question of whether you are willing to do the work for self-improvement. Another Google search won’t change who you are. Actually immersing yourself in a new activity will.

You need to commit to the version of yourself you want to become, and you need to learn to trust yourself. The excuse "I don’t know how" is often another way of saying "I don’t believe I have what it takes."

This is why support from others is a vital part of improving your performance. A coach, mentor, or teacher can give you the technical know-how and make you feel capable and confident to take your next steps. The best coaches breakdown your issues into bite-sized actions that you can follow through on.

More importantly, coaches and mentors empower you to take action despite not knowing every step along the way.


Uncertainty should not inhibit action. The way through the excuse of "not knowing how" is to look inside at what you do know. Start from there. Have other people cheer you along and trust that the journey will provide you the answer you need.

2. "Now is not a good time."

I had a client who was in the middle of a divorce, just lost one of his parents, and was trying to keep his business from going bankrupt. It was a messy and incredibly hard time. I cautioned him that such a stressful situation might not be the best time for a dramatic life overhaul.

He proved me wrong.

He said, "If not now, when? I’m already in the middle of dramatic change. What’re a few more changes going to do?"


So he turned his whole routine on its head and started taking better care of himself. He began cooking most of his meals and going for runs in the morning (previously he had never run more than a mile). He even made a daily practice of journaling about his dreams for 10 minutes during breakfast.

His story illuminates one important fact of life–you are always in medias res: "In the middle of things."

You will always be juggling your health, work, family, relationships, and the rest. These parts of life don’t pause just because you need some breathing space. More often, they only speed-up and become more complicated.

There might be some natural ebbs and flows to your overall busyness. Take advantage of these natural dips to double-down on what matters most. But, never think that some magical future time awaits when you’ll suddenly feel ready. If you wait for all the pieces to be in place before you can begin, you’ll be waiting forever.


The real question is not whether this is the right time. The question is whether you are willing to tolerate your life as it is, indefinitely.

If the answer is no, then why wait to make a change?

If today isn’t the right time, what makes you think tomorrow is? The truth that arises here is that you might not be ready to let go of the way things are now. Even if it is unpleasant, at least it is familiar.

But sadly, staying put will not get you what you want.

RELATED: 3 Ways To Get Motivated So You Can Finally Improve Your Life

3. "I know what to do but I still don't do it."

You could easily call this performance improvement issue "The king of self-sabotage" or "The prince of procrastination." It constitutes the royal family of excuses.


You understand what you can do to help yourself. You just don’t follow through — at least, not regularly.

I’ve worked with clients who have started and stopped a healthy habit so many times it makes your head spin. They’ve got all the knowledge in the world. They just lack consistency and conviction.

This performance improvement issue has many flavors and here are the most common:

  • The Program Hopper: You get bored easily and thrive on novelty. As a result, you can’t stick with one habit long enough to reap the benefits. After a few weeks, you ditch the whole program because you didn’t see dramatic results. You move onto the next shiny new solution until it begins to bore you. The cycle of unfulfilled expectations continues.
  • The Hopeless Heartbreak: You have tried to lose weight, exercise regularly, manage your emotional reactivity, and take better care of yourself. But, after many attempts, you’re right back where you started, if not worse off. You’re filled with shame and dismay. Another failed attempt. The thought of letting yourself down once more is just too much to bear. You’d rather stay stuck in your unfulfilling ways than try again and fail.
  • The Visionless Victim: You think you want all these things — a bigger business, better relationships, a healthier body, etc. But, you don’t have a clear vision of what you really want. It’s not the six-pack abs or a fatter bank account that really matters. It’s the feeling of confidence in your own skin. It’s security for your family’s future that making money affords. The problem is that you haven’t fully articulated the impact you’re looking for.
  • The Cynical Complainer: You think the world is out to prevent you from having what you want. You’d rather complain about the perceived injustice rather than do something to change your situation. The problem is that you never see the good that is right in front of you. There’s a good chance that people would be willing to help if you weren’t always so distrustful of human sincerity. The problem is that you need to withhold your contempt and work together with others to make progress on what you want.
  • The Undeserving Downer: You know what you want, but you don’t believe you deserve it. "Who am I to do all these things?" the voice in your head says. This lack of self-worth undermines all your motivation. The self-doubt can be paralyzing. You’d rather dither around, waiting for permission from others than muster the self-respect necessary to step towards your goals.

These are a few of dozens of reasons why you might not take action or make progress. A lot of them stem from unresolved emotional blocks and limiting beliefs.


You not only need to have a clear idea of what you want, but you also need to open your heart to the possibility that you can actually get it — that you actually deserve it.

Closing that gap between what your head says, "You can’t" and what your heart believes, "You can" requires self-confidence, proper support, and a bit of faith.

Putting these ingredients into place is the only way to prevent more excuses from sabotaging your progress.


And once you learn how to be more productive, you learn how to be a better person along the way.

What if others are blocking my performance?

Not all performance improvement issues are due to personal blocks. There are very real external factors that can hamper you from showing up as your best self.

Social factors like income, race, and gender systemically privilege some and disadvantage others. Not everyone has equal access to resources or equal amounts of support from friends or colleagues. Politics of an organization (or a family for that matter) can keep you from getting ahead even when you try.


Nonetheless, you must first overcome your internal excuses before you can even begin working through the social factors that might get in your way.

Performing well is living well. Improving your performance is not some kind of corporate hack to squeeze more productivity out of you. It is about playing the game of life better.

Performance spans all domains of your life, from your relationships to your work, to how you talk to and treat yourself. When you live well, you will automatically perform well. Work on your own personal development.

So, round your edges, build awareness of your contradictions, and become the authority for your own life. If you don’t do it, no one else will do it for you.


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Jeffrey Siegel is a holistic wellness coach. If you’re ready to upgrade your performance and stop making excuses, message him to discuss private life coaching.