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Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Fear of feedback

Most people avoid feedback because they hate being criticized. "But if you don't get feedback, you have no idea what you're doing wrong," explains Dr. Jackman. "You become your own worst enemy because you persist in the same destructive behaviors."

What to do:

If you're concerned about something personal, reach out to your friends; they can act as a sounding board. You don't necessarily have to spend hours with them: Sometimes, firing off an e-mail asking for an opinion is enough. And if it's a problem at work—you were passed over for a promotion (again) or are not included in a project you'd asked to be a part of—talk to a trusted colleague. She can help you figure out if you're somehow at fault.

Procrastination

Putting things off undermines your chances of succeeding—it's a way of setting yourself up for failure. "You left something to the very last minute, so there's no way you'll do as good a job as if you'd tackled it earlier, when you had more time," explains Curtis. Procrastinators tend to be less healthy and make less money than those who tackle problems and projects straight on, reports a review published in January 2007 in the journal Psychological Bulletin .

What to do:

If you're procrastinating because you're overwhelmed, try breaking down each task into smaller parts and focusing on one at a time. Carlene LeBlanc, 40, a contractor in Canton, LA, felt completely at sea when she lost her customer service job in March of last year. At first, the only work she could find was at a fast-food restaurant. Then she heard about another opportunity—but it required contractor's certifications. "I kept thinking, There's no way I can do all this," she says. "But I realized that my attitude was sabotaging me. So I broke up what I had to do into smaller goals. I set the bar low and kept raising it bit by bit until I got the certifications."

Dr. Jackman and Strober also found that people who give themselves rewards for their achievements are less likely to engage in negative behavior like procrastination. "The reward can be as small as a manicure," says Strober. "It's your way of patting yourself on the back for positive behavior."

And when the occasion warrants, treat yourself like a queen. When Lisa Grossman, 36, decided to go back to school to become a teacher, she rewarded herself after every exam period with a romantic dinner with her husband. "Knowing I had that to look forward to made the late-night studying much more palatable," she says. After three long years of going to school, interning, and continuing to work two days a week at her old job, her efforts paid off: She starts teaching her first class of high school math in the fall.

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