written by Courtney Lynch

It’s easy to believe that the more bad habits we break, the better off we’ll be.

I’ve observed that one of the tricky aspects of growing as a professional is actually breaking good habits to become great. Let me explain.

Our careers are a series of seasons and what works well in one season isn’t always best in the next. Whereas saying “yes” may have gotten you opportunities in the past, saying “no” may be the focus you need to pursue better opportunities. Or, if hard work was what allowed you to get through difficult times, more time to relax and reflect might be what’s needed in order for you to level up.

If you are seeking to flourish, consider moving past these “good” habits:

  1. Trying to do a bit of everything. For talented professionals, the biggest barrier to exceptional success is a lack of focus. Strong performance provides you many opportunities. More is only valuable if you can choose what is best to do to contribute well and enjoy the journey. Trying to do too much is the fastest path to frustration, eventual poor performance, and exhaustion. Work hard to identify what is the priority in each lane of responsibility you fill and focus your effort there. The undisciplined pursuit of more gives you a false sense of momentum. Distraction prevents greatness.
  2. Realize that just starting somewhere isn’t always wise. A bias for action is supposed to lead us to success. And in the earliest stages of our careers, doing anything just to do something can be good. The challenge is, consistently focusing on doing can leave little room for the thinking and the discernment that allows you to be intentional with your time, talent, and resources. Great leaders make sure their actions are taking them where they want to go, not just leading them in circles.
  3. Recognize that stability isn’t always safe. While it’s important to have a safety net, playing it too safe prevents you from reaching your potential. Leaders I’ve coached are far more likely to over rely on safety than to boldly pursue risk. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. The more experienced you are professionally, the more your own initiative will lead you to the right opportunities. It’s wonderful when doors magically open for us. Yet often the best doors for us to walk through are the ones we deliberately seek, knock on, and influence opening. Having the courage to seek what we value in the face of uncertainty leads to the best opportunities. Our talent is our strongest safety net. Move towards the roles that allow you to contribute fully and leverage your strengths. Settling for less is giving into your fears.

Many will say if you want better, do better. That’s only helpful to a point. Through my work with talented leaders, I see that many more gains come from doing things differently and intentionally.

Courtney Lynch is the co-founder of Lead Star and bestselling author of SPARK, Leading from the Front, and Bet on You. As a leadership coach, she helps professionals reach new levels of success through Lead Star’s innovative coaching program, Year to Rise.