These Might Be Holding You Back

It’s not guaranteed, but if your current level of productivity and success seem less that what you hope for, you could be suffering from character flaws and behaviors that hold you back from operating at your best.

The simple truth is this: failing to step forward when you can and should is a surefire way to limit your results.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of improved performance when you quit these limiting traits and behaviors, just as athletes who train while wearing ankle chains or weight belts can’t guarantee to set world records when they free themselves from their self-imposed restraints.

But there is hope for improved performance, because removing excess weights and restraints tends to promote greater freedom of movement and better results.

So let’s go over some of the most common ways that people unintentionally limit their level of productivity and success:

Avoid Novelty

It’s safe and comfortable to stay with what you know, your established circle of friends and colleagues, and the skill-set you’ve already mastered. Unfortunately, this leaves you vulnerable to falling behind others who are more willing to embrace novelty.

This happens because change is one of the world’s few constants – and becomes more important every day. Not surprisingly, therefore, avoiding novelty is an unintentional strategy for limiting your level of productivity and success.

One good remedy is to make efforts as often as you can to meet one new person, learn one new thing, or engage with one new experience. You’ll find the more you embrace novelty, the easier it becomes to embrace more of it.

Expect Gratuities

No matter what connections, credentials, or intrinsic advantages you have (think metaphorical “superpowers”), it’s a mistake to sit in your “Fortress of Solitude” and wait for people to bring you opportunities and rewards.

Opportunities and rewards may come your way when you’re reclusive, but not as many and not necessarily the same quality as the opportunities and rewards you can search out and capture when you explore for them.

Seeking out opportunities and rewards is helpful because the right ones can catapult you into more advantageous circles of activities and relationships. Missing out on them can leave you disappointed.

Overvalue Safety

No one wants to get hurt or make mistakes, but overvaluing safety can cause you to miss out on some of those opportunities and rewards I’ve mentioned.

One of my favorite sports metaphors for this is personal fouls in basketball. If you’re called for too many, you’ll be ejected from the game. But if you’re never called for any personal fouls, chances are you’re not trying hard enough or taking enough prudent risks toward winning.

Balancing safety and risk calls for a delicate balance. Here’s a simple guideline: if you’re not scared about your future at least once a year, you’re probably playing it too safe.


Although not always, the Universe often seems to reward decision-makers much more generously and more often than wafflers. If you’re unwilling, or unhappy about having to make a decision, you may be waffling.

Waffling generally leads to unhappiness and regret, because you can almost always look back and see the benefits and payoffs from a course of action you didn’t follow.

Even worse, waffling fails to capture important advantages, because the simple act of making decisions:

  • Reduces regret, which can be more painful than most unsatisfactory outcomes.
  • Feels good, regardless of how well or poorly your decisions work out.
  • Promotes happiness, because decisions help you follow your heart and control your own destiny.
  • Supports productivity and success, because regardless of what you decide, you can very often take steps to make decisions work out favorably.

Wallow in Self Doubt

In many situations, confidence breeds success. That’s why lack of confidence is often a significant restraint on almost every person’s level of productivity and success.

Not everyone is born brimming with confidence, of course, but it’s a trait you can acquire. I’ve offered some suggestions on how to do this here and here.

Confidence is also a trait where you can “fake it until you make it:” Acting as though you have self-assurance turns out to be a great way to help you develop genuine, lasting confidence.

It’s helpful to regularly evaluate your personality and your behaviors for these traits, and – if you find any – take steps to reduce or eliminate them. You’ll almost certainly benefit, as I have.

The reason is simple: Although we’re not all born superstars, we’re all capable of excellence, if only we stop holding ourselves back.

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