My Top 7 Demotivating Habits

In the subtle fabric of our day to day routine, every now and again we allow some red stripes to mingle in. Sooner or later, those stripes will unweave the whole mechanism. I’m sure you’ve experienced it too: the day goes on fabulously, everything falls into places, and then, apparently out of nowhere, some small, tiny thing happens and that thing breaks the entire process. Suddenly, you feel down, you don’t have any drive to go on and all you want to do is to whine on somebody else’s shoulder about how pitiful your life is.

Those red stripes are demotivating habits. We all have them and, on a very unconscious level, we’re all allowing them to manifest every once in a while. The problem with those demotivating habits is that we’re not always seeing them as demotivating habits. Many of them are just downgraded versions of normal reactions or, to be more precise, just facts. But we tend to interpret those facts in a diminishing way.

On a regular day, I get around 3 or 4 of these. I somehow learned to identify them, but I’m not always 100% correct. Their ability to disguise into legitimate actions still amazes me. So, for the sake of putting a name on their face and covering them with shame, I decided to write a post on this topic. Namely, about my top 7 demotivating habits.

1. The “Look, Something Shiny” Syndrome

Every time you allow your focus to get trapped into an allegedly pleasurable activity, by interrupting what you were doing, you are experiencing this demotivating habit. If you’re into social media, you know what I mean. Twitter or Facebook are the most popular shiny things which are invading our territory.

But there are many other versions of it. Starting a conversation with your office colleague, for instance. Looking outside of your office window. Turning on the TV, if you’re working from home. Calling a friend in the middle of something you’re just doing, only to find out “how is he doing lately”. All of these are forms of the “look, something shiny syndrome”.

2. Overheating

Or doing too much too fast. I’m a very good candidate for this habit because I crave to see things happening. If things aren’t happening with the speed of light, I usually consider this to be a big problem. I want it now and I want it all. So, when I’m starting something, I’m totally immersing myself into it. Up to the point that I sometimes forget why I started it in the first place.

Overheating is a sign that you’re creating a lot of friction around you. Friction generates heat. And heat is a sure way to lose energy. There’s a certain time needed for each thing to come to fruition and if you’re trying to make it faster than it needs, then you’re setting yourself for failure. Demotivation, in this case, is just the first sign that you’re doing something wrong.

3. Fear Of Not Doing It Good Enough

I’m not doing this now because I’m not in the best shape for it. Or, I’m not having this meeting right now, because I’m not yet prepared. I’m not writing code, because I don’t master some inner workings of the app. Of course you should! You should have the meeting, you should write that code and you should adjust while you’re doing it.

Sometimes, things just have to be done. Not in a perfect way. Not even in a good way. Just done. But our need for recognition (which, at its core, is natural and legitimate) is tricking us into not doing them, because they will not be “good enough”. Of all these top 7 demotivating habits, this one is the most annoying (and the most common) to me.

4. Bad Physical Health

Luckily, I don’t have this problem anymore, because, in the last few years I paid close attention to my physical health. But there was a time when this was a major problem. For instance, smoking. It’s an addiction which creates a short wave of endorphins, followed by a much longer period of dumbness and lack of focus.

Overeating, drinking too much, or even exercising too much are also symptoms that you’re lowering your chances to get things done by simply ruining your physical health. And, believe it or not, having a good physical health is a matter of habits. Habits which will enforce a healthy lifestyle, that is.

5. Breaking It Into Meaningless Details

It’s the “analysis paralysis” syndrome. Or, in terms of Assess – Decide – Do, it’s about being stuck in the Assess realm for ever. The need to analyze your problem and making it actionable is fundamental. You can’t do something in a reliable way if you’re not having a clear image about how you’re going to do it.

But spending all your time dissecting your tasks, projects, goals or attitudes in smaller and smaller chunks of data will eventually paralyze you. One of my business partners had this habit and I had an incredibly hard time working with him because of that.

6. “It Doesn’t Really Matter”

If you set yourself for doing something, do it. During the day you may encounter contexts which can take you out of your normal state. You may be caught in something that seems to have a higher priority. Well, instead of avoiding doing what you planned, you should reschedule. Put a different priority on those tasks, but still commit to do them.

If you’re falling for this habit, you’re becoming a drifting, course-less ship on a lonely ocean. It’s true that priorities are changing during the day. Which means you should change your priorities too, but not get rid of the stuff you wanted to do just because now it “seems” unimportant.

7. Others Are Doing It Better Than Me

That’s the most common demotivating habit I’m seeing around myself in the last few years. Deep down, people are not doing things simply because they like doing things, or because doing things will make them feel better. Nope. They’re doing things because of the competition, because they want to win something (money, recognition, validation, you name it). And when the other guys are doing those things better, there’s no reason to continue, right?

It’s a fundamental mistake. And it manifest at a very deep level. Doesn’t matter if somebody is a better “pick-your-quality-here” than you. Because it’s not about them. It’s about you. Your experiences. Your days and nights. Your life.

Don’t hand it to somebody else.

18 thoughts on “My Top 7 Demotivating Habits”

  1. Dragos,
    I love your insight on this. Regarding #3 (the fear of not doing something well enough) … in Tracy Kidder’s book, “Soul of a New Machine,” Data General VP (and superstar engineer / developer) Tom West was quoted as saying, “Not everything worth doing is worth doing right.” Sometimes short cuts are allowed / needed; sometimes prototypes / proof-of-concepts are what is needed; and sometimes even the final product doesn’t need to be perfect. It depends what the product is, of course. A book needs to be perfect; a jet airplane needs to be perfect; raking leaves in the back yard does not need to be perfect (well, does it?).

    Regarding shiny objects and facebook … I agree with your assessment in terms of “social media for fun” stuff … but FB can also be a valuable marketing and “creating an image” tool. It’s a way to get the word out there.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your writing as always!
    Cheers and Regards,

    • I have found the quotation being more important in its implied corollary. Yes, although not everthing may need to be done right, choosing the prototypes/short cuts/etc. requires judgement and generally just doing the right thing is easier, cheaper, less disruptive.

      It would be better to define the activity as a prototype rather than deliver ‘half’ a solution.

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  4. Hi Dragos,

    I think you gave some great examples of where we become demotivated to act on our goals. I know that when I’m feeling resistant to doing something (i.e. writing my next article), #7 usually rears it’s ugly head. That’s when I have to remind myself that we all have our own unique voice and that everyone starts somewhere. It’s so easy to fall into the competition mode, which is not where I want to be. I also relate very well to #1 and can get distracted, instead of being focused on what I want to accomplish. I also think that it’s easy to work on meaningless things, rather than be motivated to work on the important things. We can fool ourselves that way by saying we worked really hard (yeah, but was anything really important or was it busywork?).


  5. Wow Dragos…super post!!! I’m all too familiar with many of these. StumbleUpon is the “look, something shiny” distraction that gets in my way when I allow it. I believe I could stumble until my eyes pop right out of my head. I don’t want to kick the habit entirely, but I do occasionally have to remind myself that there is life outside of stumbling.

    I’ve also been guilty of the demotivating habit of judging myself by the success of others. I was particularly plagued by these thoughts when I was younger. If I couldn’t get things just right, I wanted to drop it all together. What has helped me with this is to see the success of others as motivation for my own success. If she/he can do it, so can I.

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  7. Along with your “Look, Something Shiny, ” I would add that I’ve often caught myself telling myself that I deserveee it. I’ve been working so hard, I dessserveee a break. I desserrrveee to go play on Facebook for a while. I desserveee 3 glasses of wine mid-day. 🙂 And while we definitely deserve to reward ourselves for our accomplishments, sometimes, it’s easy to mistake reward for seeking out a distraction.

    Well said, brotha.

  8. Hi Dragos, thanks for sharing this in your post.

    It takes a brave individual to share their ‘weaknesses’ with the whole world, and I congratulate you for it. For me, No. 3 (Not Good Enough) is probably the habit I most associate with, but we all have our internal demons that try and hinder us at every available opportunity. The trick is not to ignore them, because they won’t go away, but to defeat them, by accepting them for what they are. Easier said then done, but it can be done 🙂

  9. Hi Dragos!
    I was smiling more and more while reading – have same situations and emotions from time to time. My contra-habits (still in development though 😉 for that are:
    1. Getting totally offline when working on something important or making blog entry,
    2. Having three goals opened for work. If I can’t do something now for a first one, then and only then I start to work on the second. And get to the first one whenever it’s possible. Don’t even ask how my room looks like 😉
    3. When “Not good enough” thoughts come I ask “who said so?”. If I did something similar before than I am good enough, and if my boss didn’t fired me than I’m good enough for that job.
    4. 5% of time for planning and then start, solving cases as (and if) they appear.
    5. Doesn’t matter? Then why did I started it? And keeping an attitude of “plan firmly, make flexibly” helps too.
    6. For that I have my fav answer “Yes!”. They are. Also some people do that worse. Like with everything we do. Question is do I do it good enough? and Am I better with it then the last time?

    That are my ways for continuing, but if it’s not enough? Well, I forgive myself anyway. Want some chocolate? 😉

  10. 6 and 7 are what I think most people think when they don’t want to follow through with something. There’s just too much talk and not enough action. No matter what happens, you’re not going to die if you fail. And who knows if other people do it better if you’re doing it better than all other people.

  11. Hey Dragos,

    I think the Fear of Not doing it Good Enough is something I’ve struggled with, and I’m sure will continue to… We are ourselves biggest enemy, after all.

    Sometimes it takes a 3rd party to help me through this – everytime I enter a new venture :-/

  12. all of the above apply to me – other than the bad health one….. Interesting one at 6 though. I understand fully what you’re saying however I actually turn this one around and use it when I’m anxious or worried about something. In those situations I ask myself “does it matter?”, “does it really matter?” – the answer is invariably ‘no’ – and the worry and anxiety subside.


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