6 destructive habits you have to stop right now

Ever get that feeling where it seems like your days are crammed with life’s complexities, multiple activities and pressures that seem to come at you from all directions? Where the expectations placed on you by everyone and everything around feels like it is in constant conflict with your own goals and expectations.

Because of these pressures, do you find yourself constantly striving for more, anticipating that things have to be better, that you need to have more, be more respected, have more significance, be more successful and to get the things you want?

In this pursuit to live up to all these expectations you can become your own worst enemy by subscribing to habits that can be destructive to the very goals you are trying to achieve. It’s like a Trojan Horse that you have built, packed the enemy into it, wheeled into your own camp, and then unleashed the hostile forces to plunder your ambitions.

Take a look at the habits below and then ask yourself if there is something you might need to start changing.


1] Self Sabotage

Most people go through the day unaware that many of the things they are doing, are sabotaging the results they are hoping to achieve.

Lets say you want to bake a chocolate cake, then you will need to use the correct ingredients, all mixed together correctly, placed in the oven for the right amount of time and at the right temperature. If done correctly you can expect a chocolate cake that looks good, has a good texture and is tasty.

Deciding to raise the oven temperature much higher than indicated because you feel it will speed up the process is going to give you a result that is very different to your expected outcome. As an extreme example, using a chicken schnitzel recipe for a chocolate cake will definitely not give you what you were trying to achieve. Using the wrong recipe or process will effectively sabotage the result you wanted.

But this is exactly what many people are doing in life.  They are expecting a certain outcome, but then doing things that are contrary to the steps, processes or actions that are required to produce a desired result.

“Have a look around you and see how many people are doing things that are contrary to what they are striving for”

Putting the chocolate cake aside, how does this play itself out in real life. If your ambition is to be selected for the sports team – but you never show up for regular practice, constantly goofing around during practice, and never committing to your fitness routine – this is sabotaging your chances to be selected. You are expecting a goal but doing things that are opposite or in conflict with what is required to achieve it.

You expect a partner to be loving, caring and affectionate toward you, but on the flipside you are always criticising and withholding affection to that person. No surprises as to what you are going to get, or not get.

A manager hands you a task to complete but fails to give you access to the equipment or facilities you need. He also does not provide the right authorisations that you require. This manager has sabotaged the expected outcomes he or she was expecting.

You have a deep need for others to trust you, but you habitually use twisted truths or regularly fail to follow through on something you said you will do – this is a brilliant way to sabotage your need to be trusted by others.

Here are a few more common areas of self-sabotage.

  • Entitlement attitude (See Habit 2)
  • Blind trust, or gullibility (failing to verify or authenticate something before making a decision)
  • Indulging or participating in things that play into the hands of your weakness areas (fears, limitations and prejudices.) Listening to tear-jerk music when in a depressed mood. Watching movies with wall-to-wall foul language when you are trying to quit cussing. Hanging with pessimistic or negative people when you are trying to move ahead in life.


ACTION POINT: The best way to avoid sabotaging your dreams, goals, aspirations, wants and needs is to ensure that you avoid doing things that are contrary, or in conflict with what is required to get what you want. It may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s surprising to see how often the opposite is applied – but the anticipated end result remains the same.

If you want to be successful at something, then find out what the steps or requirements are to achieve it. Then focus on those elements, commit to them and constantly make sure that you do not do things that are in conflict to those success steps.

See Workbook: Expectation Management MAP (How to get from where you are to where you want to be)


2] Entitlement Attitude

Everything we want or desire has a price to pay. This can be in terms of money, time, effort and compromises. It’s a natural law that everything has to exchange value – despite popular practice it’s not a one-way street. When value is not exchanged an event becomes parasitic, and one entity will always deplete the other. Nature gives us a clue – this is not a sustainable model.

Having an attitude that you are entitled to things without having to do anything or pay a price for it (exchanging value) traps you into a state of inactivity and ultimately produces the unrealised expectations that go hand-in-hand with it.

“Entitlement deceives”

Entitlement is a great form of self-deception. It makes you believe that somehow someone else, something else, will always make it happen for you – without your involvement – without you having to pay a price for it. Entitlement almost always fails to produce the expected results, and is an unrealistic expectation that will fail you.

Here is the caveat – when the things that you are expecting, fail to happen the way wanted it to, you become angry, bitter, disillusioned and without a doubt you will go into a space where you blame everyone and everything for it not happening for you. You become a victim of circumstance instead of a person of designed destiny. And so a self-perpetuating cycle of entitlement, negative emotion, tainted perceptions and failed expectations is set in motion.

A word of caution to those given the responsibility of leading or managing others. When the job title is what you rely on instead of your skills to lead a team, an entitlement attitude and series of corresponding behaviours are in play. “Job title entitlement” fools you into believing that others must do your biding because your title or designation entitles you to this. Leading people is by far more rewarding.

See related article; 1 powerful bit of knowledge that can change your life


Realise that what you are wanting has a price to pay, and that you are going to have to pay it. This does not mean that there cannot be any help or assistance from others along the way. It simply means that you must not expect it all to happen for you without a major chunk of you being involved.

Most people have no idea what the cost is for what they want. They simply want it. You have to know what it entails and what the cost to you is going to be before you jump up chanting all types of self-actualisation and positive thinking mantras. Map out what this journey of yours looks like, what it entails and what the cost in time, effort, money, commitment or anything else is going to be to you – if you want it.


3] Intention and no action

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s an age-old saying that helps paint a vivid image of an all too common problem. There are many great intentions that fail to produce any results and then become the cause of negative emotions, disillusionment and a lack of desire to ever try anything worthwhile again.

Having the best intention, but taking no action (or poorly planned action), and then expecting a positive result is a form of self-deception and self-sabotage all rolled into one. Are you someone who goes around talking about “someday” or “if only” or telling everyone about the intentions you have, the ideas you have, and the plans of achieving your vision – and then months later, you are still saying the same things but nothing has been set into motion?

“It dreams and imagines – and then stops there”

Intent (on its own) has to be one of the most negative forces around. It builds your hope for great things, and then becomes destructive when it fails to materialise. Without action it evolves into something that has the ability to rob you of your future dreams, limit your imagination and take the wind of enthusiasm right out of your sails. Intent without action is responsible for the destruction of so many great ideas and innovation that the world may never see, because intent dreams and imagines – and then stops there.

If you have intention and want to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above, you have to establish an action plan to move you from where you are now, to where your intentions can become a reality.

See Guideline: Expectation Management MAP (How to get from where you are to where you want to be)

A word of caution. The close ally of intention without action, is “busy.” Never confuse being busy with results. An ill conceived and executed plan can find you being busy, but can fail to produce results that move you forward. Like a treadmill – there is a lot of effort and energy being expended, but you are not moving one inch forward.

Being busy without being effective is more common than you might realise. To avoid this, make sure that your plan has plenty of progress checks that you have defined as being critical to the success of what you are pursuing. A plan needs committed action. Intention with a plan and no action is still just a figment of your imagination and a vain unachievable expectation.

Related article: It’s useless unless intent is converted into results.


4] The pursuit of illusions

A mirage in the desert gives the illusion of a palm tree oasis filled with water that hypnotically draws a thirsty traveler towards it. However, the mirage is not real and tragically commits a traveler to expending precious energy and hope in order to reach it.

When you have something that you place your hopes in, investing time, effort and emotional capital into, it can be devastating to find out that it was a mirage, an illusion. Many of the things you pursue could be fooling you into believing that this is where you need to be heading, but in reality it is an illusion.

What are these illusions and mirages in our lives? Most occur through our perceptions of reality. How we choose to see the things around us. Much of what we perceive as reality is in fact a combination of external influencing factors and our own interpretation or definition of what we believe something should be. Often how we see things is different to what it actually is.

“Are you sure you have the right ladder and the right wall before starting out?”


One of our flaws is to find the quickest, easiest, least effort approach. The flaw is that it can cause us to overlook crucial factors that we should be focused on and sets us down a path least traveled with unknown perils.

When you fail to verify something, check it out, or research it; you run the risk of having subscribed to an illusion, and deluded yourself. You are gambling and the result you are expecting has a weak chance of materialising.

What causes this kind of behaviour in us? Very few things can compare with the drawing power of instant gratification and effortless gain. It is one of the greatest illusions. Con artist and their schemes have abounded for centuries based on these two elements. Regardless of what the drivers are in your life, the temptation is very strong to go for something where you can instantly be wealthy, instantly have all the material possessions, popularity or success.

The same can be said for accomplishing something, or gaining something if the amount of effort you need to put in is very little, or none at all. Now combine the two elements of quickly getting something you want, and not having to expend any effort to get it, and you have a very powerful but dangerous cocktail.

Get rich quick schemes are prime examples of illusions that find their success in instant gratification and effortless gain. You build an extreme expectation where you believe that very quickly, and with no effort, you will become successful and wealthy, and so you invest in the scheme without properly checking it out.

Building expectations, placing hope in something, and believing in the end result without verifying something is a vain imagination and an illusion. Its eventual outcome will hurt you emotionally, scar your perception, limit your future decision making abilities and can even make you desperate – setting in motion a self-defeating cycle of similar pursuits based on illusions.


Make sure that your expectations are solidly grounded. There is a great quotation that is a very good mantra to subscribe to – “Trust – then verify”.

Do not run based on vague assumptions or the unverified opinions of others. Always do your homework on something before committing your emotions, expectations, time, effort or money to it. Realise that subscribing to instant gratification and effortless gain in an illusion that will set your expectations up for heartache.

See Related Article: Perception – is it really what you think it is?


5] Self-absorption (No reciprocity)

You are not aware of, or fail to apply the Rule of Reciprocity.

To reciprocate means move back and forth or to reverse the motion of something. In the context of this habit you can say that it means when one expectation is put on the table, it has a reverse expectation that challenges it and will go back and forth until all expectations are aligned to produce a desired outcome.

At the heart of the expectation rule of reciprocity is this; each expectation has an interconnected expectation on the other side. Everything is interconnected, and when one expectation is set in play without the consideration of the reciprocal expectation/s, all expectations will fail to materialise.

But let’s look at an example to help remove any over-complication on my part. David is Susan’s manager and asks her to collect some files from the company safe and have it on his desk within the next hour. This is David’s expectation.

Susan on the other hand has a reciprocal expectation – whether she has thought about it or not, and whether she has expressed it or not. Susan’s expectation is that David makes arrangements with the manager of the safe authorising her to access the files. (She has no authority to do this). She also has an expectation that she has transport to drive the 20Km’s to the building where the safe is (She has no vehicle).

“Any expectation by one party without reciprocity is an Unrealistic Expectation

If David fails to take care of the reciprocal expectations, then Susan cannot deliver on her task and therefore the original expectation of David to have the files on his desk within an hour will go unrealised.

When there is an expectation without reciprocity it becomes an Unrealistic Expectation and is almost always the cause of conflict. When two or more elements cannot find common ground or alignment, then a state of conflict exists. Look back on some of your relationships or in the work environment and you will quickly identify where a one-sided or self-serving approach has been the cause for conflict, discontent and sub-par results.

Almost every scenario I have been privy to is devoid of reciprocity. As I observe people in social settings or in the office, it quickly becomes apparent that single sets of expectations are in play. On rare occasions I will observe someone counter with questions and statements that challenge the singular expectation. These people are not consciously aware of the Rule of Reciprocity, but they are applying its fundamental principles.

The results of the singular expectation are predictable and when I get to observe the end result, it is always a matter of unrealised expectations, raised emotions, defensive stances and a further eroding of relationships.


There are always interconnected and interrelated expectations in play. You need to be aware of this, raise the subject of reciprocity, explore and ensure that all expectations are in place. When an expectation with boundaries and requirements outside of your control are established, you need to respond with a reciprocal expectation.


6] Altered opinion of integrity – why we struggle to trust

The most powerful expectation we have is trust – and it is causing havoc and devastation.

There used to be a time when a person’s word was their bond. Expressed in a different way, what you said you would do – you would do. It was trust based on the true definition of integrity (honesty, truth, honour, reliability)

The prevalent culture of altering words to mean something else other than its original and correct meaning (sick = awesome) has is one of a number of elements responsible for eschewing the moral perspectives of people. It creates misperception and confusion to a point that even moral compasses have had their true North redefined.

If we constantly subscribe to behaviours that alter our perception of the truth, or the values and ethics that form the foundation of civilised society, then the outcome is rampant mistrust in the wake of widespread compromising of principles.

Examples are all around us where the “truth” is what people have redefined because it better suits them, despite it being contrary to what reality is. It is dangerous when lies and untruths become the new moral standard. The ultimate self and social deception is set in motion.

A conviction and moral commitment to doing what you said you would, or undertook to do, has been cheapened to a point where no one really cares anymore whether they follow through or not. Its common practice that an apology would appear to be the magic elixir that fixes all sorts of integrity lapses or violations. It has birthed a “whatever” culture where responsibility, accountability, commitment and conviction has been cheapened to a point of no value.

The problem is that even though you may be on the giving end (flippantly moving from one dishonourable event to the next without any conscience or consideration) because it suits you; you are also going to be on the receiving end. The bottom line is that if everyone has the same opinion regarding the value (or lack of value) of integrity, then no one will be able to believe that anyone is going to be true to their word, or that you can trust others.

Does any of this seem familiar?;

“I’ll call you” and then you never do. (To you it’s just another catch phrase like goodbye, and you had no intention of calling) The other person is still waiting for your call. One guess for what they are thinking of you now.

“We must get together” but you never hear from the person again.

“I will get those products to you this afternoon” and two days later the client is calling you to find out what’s going on. (They will probably move onto another supplier)

It all comes down to “can I trust you?” Your integrity is your trust billboard – what message are you advertising?

Once trust is lost it is almost impossible to win back. Trust and integrity are inseparable. How many times have you tapped out on your integrity because of circumstances, peer pressure or the need to fit in? How many times have you given an undertaking to do something and then failed to commit and follow through on it? These are only two examples of integrity being sold down the road and along with it the most precious of all human commodities – trust.


Guard your integrity as if everything in your life relied on it. Don’t do things that sabotage your trustworthiness. Fail here and it becomes a lonely road, (unless you plan on aligning with other people who are all comfortable with deceiving each other as the accepted norm.)

Integrity will open many doors for you. Trust will give you stability in life and enduring relationships. The flipside to trust is short untrustworthy relationships filled with back stabbing and opportunity doors that remain shut. Whether you like it or not, your integrity and trustworthy are a lifelong companion. What does your billboard look like?


To find out more on how to avoid, change and manage destructive habits, and how to better understand the powerful elements that exist with the expectations continuum, explore the articles and workbooks at stevederek.com.

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About the Author : Steve Vanstraaten

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