How To Harness 5 Of Your Most Harmful Habits To Make Your Life (& The World) Better

A life coach dishes on how to face the behaviors that seem healthy but are actually quite toxic.

woman with long brown hair looks at camera with eyebrow raised Eugenio Marongiu /

Habits can be so comforting. They provide ways to get through complex and mundane situations with seemingly little effort. 

But that’s also their danger.

Not all habits are good. Nor are all apparently bad habits actually bad for you.

Lurking in many seemingly good (but counterproductive) habits is the seed for potential growth — if you can find the will to harness those habits. 

Realistically, breaking a habit takes some time, honesty with yourself and curiosity about better results. Open your imagination to access your creativity and progress is sure to follow


RELATED: 10 Easy Ways To Become A Better Version Of Yourself

Five seemingly good habits that, when broken, can lead to personal growth

1. You always want to do ‘more’ at work and in relationships

I think of “more” as a seductive four-letter word, whether applied to your own or others’ expectations. 


With “more,” there are no boundaries. 

What is “enough” often remains vague and unreachable.

A lack of boundaries can bring guilt when unspecified goals aren’t met and support efforts fall short.

In general, when you always promise “more,” you’re not helping anyone because it prevents people in your sphere from claiming their own agency, honing their own capabilities and taking responsibility for themselves.

RELATED: How To Grow Into The Kind Of Person You've Always Wanted To Be

Breaking the ‘more’ habit

In some respects, the “do more” syndrome may give you a sense of usefulness and value — maybe even power and control. 


But the burden can also add negative stress to your life and rob you of opportunities for your own development and attention to needs.  

How can you weaken the “more” habit? Ask yourself and explore why you succumb to the unbounded helper tendency. 

What do you receive in return over time, whether tangible or intangible? How and why does the recipient merit such attention, assistance and nonrenewable time?

Even when the “why” you do it remains a mystery for a while, you can still take small steps to shift your own and others’ expectations. 

That includes setting concrete boundaries about how much you will and can do, without excuses — and sticking with them! 


If you slip, though, keep returning to your position to avoid further exploitation.

RELATED: How To Use Your Authentic Self To Boost Your Career, According To A Career Coach

2. You allow expectations to exceed your capacity

Determining whether your expectations are too high or too low is a challenge and may evolve over time with strengthening skills, experience and perspective.  

Use these guidelines to determine if you’ve allowed external expectations to fall short of or exceed your capabilities:

  • If you’re never disappointed and your actions are always very easy to do, maybe they’re too low.
  • When you rarely meet your goals or feel under significant stress without respite in trying to reach them, maybe they’re too high.

Under either circumstance, you could benefit from checking out what’s appropriate or possible with some online research about what works for others when it comes to establishing expectations.


Also, talk to people you respect to determine if your expectations are too low or too high.

For further clarity and guidance, visit James Clear’s work on changing habits.

RELATED: Why Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache

3. You compare yourself to others to gauge your progress

Though you may find comparing yourself to others an inspiration, it’s unrealistic. You are an original with many variables affecting your potential and performance.

A better use of your time is to appreciate what’s unique about yourself — and how that supports your ability to reach your goals. 

Explore and answer these short questions to begin to appreciate your own admirable qualities (and become inspired by them):

  • What are my three-five top values?
  • What three-five transferable skills do I enjoy using?
  • How do I define success for myself?
  • What are one or two internal issues that keep me from reaching my goals?
  • What gives me healthy pleasure? 

Now, ask yourself how the answers to those questions might influence your choices and actions in the future. You’re on your way to self-determination, as opposed to sublimating your own admirable qualities to those of others.

RELATED: 8 Useful Things To Do Instead Of Comparing Yourself To Others

4. You try to do everything yourself (or believe that you should)

Maybe you could do it all yourself, but would the outcome always be as effective and efficient without benefiting from others’ experience, perspective and assistance? 

Would it be as enjoyable? Or are you seduced by the sense of self-sufficiency and control as the main criteria for how you do things?


Remember, you might not benefit yourself or another person by doing things they need to learn how to do themselves. In fact, you may not always be accessible or able to assist.

Some tasks should be performed independently, but many worthwhile outcomes emerge from collaboration. 

RELATED: Why It's Important To Share With Others When You're Struggling

5. You try to avoid being a burden on others

I think the question to ask yourself here is whether you burden yourself with assumptions that thwart your own productivity and pleasure. 


Do you feel guilty when someone helps you? Do you feel as if their time could have been better spent doing something for someone else or for themselves?

It’s important to be considerate of others’ time, effort and emotional energy, but the burden of the relationship’s momentum is not yours to bear alone.

Understand that healthy interpersonal relationships are not one way. If you see yourself as taking more from a relationship than you give (or vice-versa), a frank conversation with the other person can go a long way toward establishing balance in the relationship.

RELATED: 9 Symptoms & Signs Of A Savior Complex In Someone You Know

Look outward — and inward — to understand your true ability

Learning from a variety of sources, such as historical documentaries, contemporary periodicals, or insightful novels and other fiction not only stimulates and enriches thinking and choosing actions but also provides opportunities for learning about other cultures.


Based on my own and clients’ experience, I believe a wide variety of academic, historical or literary sources — as well as open conversations with friends and colleagues — can help you focus the power of your habits.

More than anything, it’s about turning your attention to yourself, unflinchingly analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and gaining a deeper understanding of how your actions influence the world around you — as well as your own happiness.

RELATED: 7 Uncomfortable Signs You're Truly Growing As A Person

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work. Request the first chapter of her seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future and benefit from your invitation to a free consultation on her website.