A recent Inc. article cited 10 common bad habits that endanger our health, hamper our productivity, and harm our relationships. Some habits identified are widely acknowledged “no-nos,” such as cigarette smoking and using electronic devices before bed. Other cited habits that I personally struggle with are keeping a cluttered desk and snacking out of stress or boredom. The article is worth a read, but, given both their personal and professional implications, three bad habits really struck a chord with me:
Complaining in excess of 30 minutes a day damages a person’s brain, according to research by Stanford University biology/neurology professor Robert Sapolsky. Whether you’re the griper or the listener, persistent exposure to negativity peels back neurons in the hippocampus – the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. Over time, complaining becomes habitual, and, if you’re surrounded by complainers, you’re more likely to become one.
To keep my brain as sharp as possible, I surround myself with positive people. Chronic complainers who consistently give voice to what’s wrong in their lives or who persist in seeing the world from a “glass half empty” perspective drain my energy and I avoid them. I also strive to practice discernment instead of judgement. Discernment is looking at a situation and saying, “I would have handled it differently.” Judgement is saying, “I can’t believe the fool did that.” Judgement is draining, discernment is not.
“Gossip creates gall, envy, and torture that disrupt digestion and create mal-stress,” writes Dr. Kathy Dooley. “This stress exacerbates anxiety, tension headaches, and other pre-existing symptoms associated with stress.” On top of the physical maladies a gossiper themselves can experience, their words can hurt others and disrupt otherwise healthy workplace relationships and environments.
When I witness high school level social interactions in a professional world, gossip usually plays a large part. My customary counsel is never to say anything behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. Of course, in business, there are times when we have to coach up or part ways with an associate and determining the right course of action requires discussing the person without them present. But if you have your coworkers, clients, and the business’ best interests at heart, the odds are any discussions will be devoid of gossip.
All of us fall short sometimes. But explaining why we failed doesn’t negate the fact we did. Nor does prefacing a new project with a big disclaimer so we have a ready excuse when we don’t succeed.
“Wisdom stems from personal accountability. We all make mistakes; own them… learn from them. Don’t throw away the lesson by blaming others,” advises behavior scientist and author Steve Maraboli.
Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals at the outset of any project increases the likelihood of repeated success. And embracing failures when they do occur demonstrates maturity and self-awareness. In my experience, people who succeed more than they fail and who own up to their failures are best suited for leadership roles.