9 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin Your Career

career goals

Have you ever wondered why success seems to come so easily to some people while it remains so elusive to others? If you fall into the latter camp, you may wonder what you’re doing wrong. We have answers. More than 3 decades of brain imaging work and clinical practice at Amen Clinics have taught us so much about people who aren’t reaching their potential. Based on over 170,000 brain scans and tens of thousands of patients, Amen Clinics has identified 9 brain-related traits and habits that can hold you back from reaching your career goals. Find out if you have any of these unhelpful career habits and how to fix them.

Based on over 180,000 brain scans and tens of thousands of patients, Amen Clinics has identified 9 brain-related traits and habits that can hold you back from reaching your career goals. Click To Tweet

9 brain-related traits and habits that can hold you back from reaching your career goals:

1. Taking impulsive risks.

Are you the type who thinks you need to “go big or go home?” Taking risks is necessary in business, but the key is taking measured risks. If you make major decisions impulsively without performing your due diligence, it can cost you dearly and keep you from advancing up the ranks. For example, one Amen Clinics patient named Adam excitedly purchased new technology for his department after seeing a dazzling presentation at a conference. He neglected to investigate how the next-generation tech would integrate with their current system, and it ended up being a failure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. When a partnership opportunity came up, Adam was passed over even though he had been at the company longer than others.

The Fix: Brain SPECT imaging shows that impulsivity and excessive risk-taking are often associated with low activity in the brain’s frontal lobes, which is common in people with ADD/ADHD. To boost activity in this region, be sure to engage in physical exercise every day and try nutritional supplements such as rhodiola, ginseng, green tea extract, ashwagandha, and L-tyrosine.

2. Letting fear, anxiety, and worries keep you stuck.

Are you so afraid of failure that you shy away from taking any risks? These people tend to underachieve. Take Shelly, for example. She was so worried about failing that she didn’t follow up with a potential client about a freelance project that could have dramatically advanced her career. The project would have required her to stretch her skillset, and she wasn’t sure she was up to the task, so she didn’t even call the client back. She’s still stuck doing the same low-level projects as when she started her career over a decade ago.

The Fix: Fear of failure is often seen in people with too much activity in the brain’s anxiety centers. Calming the brain with stress reduction techniques and the nutraceutical GABA may be helpful.

3. Being too negative.

Are you one of those people who fosters a culture of negativity at work? Do you tend to notice what’s wrong with the work other employees are doing? Do you point out to your colleagues why a new initiative will never work? Do you tell your supervisor why the new hire isn’t up to snuff? Being overly negative brings everyone down. It doesn’t inspire others to perform at their best, drains energy, and squashes creativity. That is not a recipe for success.

The Fix: Negativity is associated with overactivity in the brain’s limbic system, our emotional centers, and can be a sign of depression. Making a concerted effort to look for the positive rather than immediately zeroing in on what’s wrong is the key to changing your outlook.

4. Being a rigid thinker.

If your personal motto is “It’s my way or the highway,” it could put you on the expressway to the unemployment line, or it could seriously impact your company’s bottom line. For example, if you’re constantly butting heads with your boss, it doesn’t bode well for your career advancement. Or if you insist that colleagues or subordinates adhere strictly to your playbook, it can backfire and cause them to jump ship.

The Fix: Brain imaging shows that people who are rigid thinkers tend to have too much activity in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG). This can cause you to get stuck in certain thinking patterns or actions even if they aren’t helpful to your career or business. To promote more flexible thinking and collaboration, boost serotonin with complex carbohydrates (think sweet potatoes, not potato chips) and the nutraceuticals 5HTP and B6.

5. Procrastinating and missing deadlines.

Do you habitually put off assignments until the last minute then turn them in late? Being unreliable can be a career killer. Jessica came to Amen Clinics when she was in jeopardy of losing her job as a paralegal in a large firm. Although she was highly intelligent, Jessica had a tendency of waiting to file court documents until her boss reminded her that they were due. She needed help learning how to focus and get her work done on time.

The Fix: Jessica’s brain scans showed low activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area involved in planning, focus, and follow-through. To boost focus, Jessica began meditating daily, made sleep a priority, and started eating a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet.

6. Thinking you’re special and don’t have to follow the rules.

When the HR department sends out a link to a new training course that all employees must complete, do you roll your eyes and delete the email? Do you have a tendency to skip weekly mandatory Zoom meetings because you have more important things to do? Thinking you deserve special treatment can breed resentment in others, and it certainly doesn’t put you on a path to promotion.

The Fix: Thinking that everyday work activities are beneath you is a sign that you may be under the sway of what Dr. Daniel Amen calls the Special, Spoiled, or Entitled Dragons in his book Your Brain Is Always Listening. These inner dragons breathe fire on the emotional brain and drive behavior in ways that don’t serve you or your career. These particular dragons often originate if your parents never said no to you or did everything for you, creating a sense of entitlement. To tame these dragons, start taking responsibility for your life and practice seeing things from others’ points of view.

7. Being unable to cope with criticism or feedback.

If you crumble when someone critiques your work, it can hold you back from learning from your mistakes and going for your goals. This is often seen in people who are perfectionists. Being a perfectionist is associated with toxic thinking that your work has to be the best ever or it isn’t good enough. Hearing even the smallest critique from a coworker or supervisor can send you into a dark spiral of thinking you’re a failure or aren’t worthy of a bigger job. It leads to self-sabotage that holds you back.

The Fix: People who are perfectionists are often filled with ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that make you feel bad about yourself. To combat toxic thinking, learn to challenge your negative thoughts.

8. Being forgetful.

Do you walk away from important meetings with every intention of following through on the great ideas but quickly forget what was discussed or what actions you were supposed to take? Do certain aspects of your job slip your mind? Do you forget to do the accounting, payroll, or account reports? Or do you have trouble remembering people’s names? Having memory problems can sabotage your success in so many ways.

The Fix: Finding out what’s causing your memory issues is the key to fixing it. Brain SPECT imaging can help determine if memory loss is a sign of early dementia; related to stress, anxiety, or depression; a side effect of medication you’re taking; or something else.

9. Not treating mental health issues.

Did you know that having untreated ADD/ADHD, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or other issues can get in the way of your success at work? Not seeking treatment because you’re worried about the stigma attached to mental health problems or because you don’t think you deserve to take the time to invest in your mental well-being can hold you back from performing at your best.

The Fix: Seeking professional help can help you be the best you can be, so you can make more progress toward your goals.

Problems with focus, anxiety, negativity, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. This is wonderful comprehensive information that can not only be helpful to the individual reading it, but also gives a coach additional information they can use when working with different clients. I love the “solution suggestions.”

    Comment by Jeanne — October 8, 2021 @ 3:59 AM

  2. Great info….I have been dreaming of making an appointment ever since I saw you live in Georgia a few years ago I purchased a few of your Memory Rescue books that I gifted my friends.

    Comment by Sharon Thompson — October 8, 2021 @ 6:06 AM

  3. Wonderful information on the subject and how to fix it. I loved the suggestions and I will implement a few for myself.

    Comment by Lucia — October 8, 2021 @ 6:37 AM

  4. Thank you for this practical and wise post that can help anyone keep a job and thrive at work.
    Indeed, I emailed it to my son who started a new job this week, to some neighbors that run a Sober Living facility, and also posted it on my MS. CURRY’S NEIGHBORHOOD website for my parent-clients because sometimes a checklist goes a long way to making any day a great day.

    Comment by Valerie M Curry — October 8, 2021 @ 7:08 AM

  5. I have always had problems remembering peoples name and recalling their name when I see them. I can remember numerical information about them, but their name is a stumbling block. Any Thoughts?

    Comment by Andy H — October 8, 2021 @ 8:02 AM

  6. I would love to get a brain scan as I do exhibit some of the issues described in this post. I am however concerned about the cost. Can you tell me the price of an office visit/brain scan and if you accept insurance or payment plans?

    Comment by April Rodriguez — October 8, 2021 @ 8:16 AM

  7. Yes, this is a great article…all 9 of these issues can definitely contribute to “ruining” a career. I recently attended Dr. Amen’s presentations at the AACC Conf. in Orlando, FL and I have already reached out to him regarding the hiring of Career Counselors to assist his patients. I am also a Certified Neurodiversity Professional, & former K-12 School Counselor who has worked with all ages of clients, as well as a former Nuclear Med. Tech. who understands the concept of Brain Imaging. I am also registered to take the Amen Clinic Brain Health certification. My son currently is a patient at the Dunwoody Amen Clinic. I may be reached at the above email address. Thank You.

    Comment by Debra Ruddell — October 8, 2021 @ 10:10 AM

  8. Regarding trait #9, I thought Dr. Amen hated the term “mental health issues”, and refused to use it in his practice, preferring & using the term “Brain health issues” instead?

    Comment by Scott Mullen — October 8, 2021 @ 3:23 PM

  9. Hello April, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding prices, insurance, reimbursement, and financing options. We look forward to speaking with you!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 8, 2021 @ 7:33 PM

  10. Touched the Reality in the Business World, adding one more to the list “Inferiority Complex”

    Comment by Ahmed — October 9, 2021 @ 8:33 AM

  11. These diagnosis are usually wrong. Doctors and pharmacituical companies making billions. Bury patients twenty years early. I’m deleting your emails. Totally for profit and don’t care about patients. Your diagnosis can’t be proven. Guesswork. Brain washing. Early in infancy. Over medication. Bad med

    Comment by J — October 11, 2021 @ 3:41 AM

  12. I had a car accident more than 20 years ago, which resulted in my admission to the hospital with a small skull fracture. I didn’t experience any problems for almost 3 years but I am now experiencing a lot of head congestion (tightening of muscle from within), which usually resulted in frequent headaches, difficulty focusing and poor sleeping. I have gone through a lot of MRI/CT Scan testing but the doctors always said the skull fracture has healed and I have nothing to worry about. I can tell that the my headaches usually originate from where the fractured occurred and seems to be getting worse as the years go by. Any recommended treatment to reduce the pain in my head? I often visit your website for new ideas/recommendations for people in my situation, and look forward to any solution coming from Dr. Amen. Thank you.

    Comment by Tamdad — October 19, 2021 @ 7:45 AM

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