You ultimately become what you repeatedly do. If your habits aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you. Here are some fairly common and widespread examples of the latter that will drain all your joy if you let them:
1. Focusing on how life “should be” every step of the way.
Try to use frustration and inconvenience to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Instead of getting angry, find the lesson. In place of envy, feel admiration. In place of worry, take action. In place of doubt, have faith. Remember that your response is always more powerful than your present circumstance. A small part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by your responses. Where you ultimately end up is heavily dependent on how you play the hands you’ve been dealt.
2. Wanting to control the uncontrollable.
Be selective with your energy today. If you can fix a problem, fix it. If you can’t, then accept it and change your thoughts about it. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to invest more energy than you have, tripping over something behind you or something that only exists inside your head. Truth be told, some of the most powerful moments in life happen when you find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed. Because when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself — to grow beyond the unchangeable. And that changes everything.
3. Holding tight to the way things once were.
You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago. You’re always learning and growing, and life is always evolving. Again, even though you can’t control everything that happens, you can control your attitude about what happens. And in doing so, you will gradually master change rather than allowing it to master you. So be humble today. Be teachable. The world is often bigger than your view of the world. There’s always room for a fresh idea or a next step. But first you must accept the fact that things may never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really a new beginning.
4. Refusing to practice self-forgiveness.
Forgive yourself for the bad decisions you’ve made in the past, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that accidentally hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them. (Note: Marc and I discuss this further in the “Adversity” chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
5. Endlessly settling for the default settings.
There are thousands of people who live their entire lives on the default settings, never acknowledging the fact that they can customize everything. Don’t be one of them — don’t settle for the default settings on a daily basis. Don’t hide behind indecision or laziness either. And forget popularity! Just do your thing with passion, humility, and honesty. Do what you do, not for an applause, but because it’s what’s right. Pursue it a little bit each day, no matter what anyone else thinks. That’s how dreams are achieved.
6. Resisting new ideas and lessons.
To make real progress in the long run you must let go of the assumption that you already have all the answers. So don’t stop learning! Don’t stop investing in yourself. Research. Read. Devour books. Engage with people, including those who think differently. Ask questions. Listen closely. And don’t just grow in knowledge. Be a person who gives back. Use what you’re learning to make a real and lasting difference. (Note: “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day” is a great tool for noticing and keeping track of all your lessons learned.)
7. Constantly seeking fleeting contentment.
There are two variations of contentment in life — fleeting and enduring. The fleeting type is derived from instants of material comfort, while the enduring type is attained through the gradual growth and progress on matters that are truly important to you. At a quick glimpse it might be difficult to decipher one from the other, but as time rolls on it becomes vividly obvious that the latter is far superior. So just remember, if it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kinda want at the moment. Study your routines. Figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions. It’s time to focus more on what matters in the long run.
8. Always worrying about everyone else’s story.
Don’t be so satisfied with the success stories of others and how things have gone for them, that you forget to write your own. Unfold your own tale and bring it to life on a daily basis. You have everything you need to become what you are capable of becoming. Incredible change happens when you decide to make yourself a priority. And remember, you won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become a daily part of your own support system. This means consuming less and creating more. It means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and deciding for you. It means learning to embrace and use your ideas and instincts to write your passage, one day at a time.
9. Fearing little (necessary) failures.
Sometimes we literally have to fail dozens of times to succeed. And no matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. So don’t get so hung up on a few failed attempts that you miss the opening for a hundred more opportunities. All of your ideas that don’t work are simply stepping stones to the one idea that does. And remember, failure is not falling down; failure is staying down when you have the choice to get back up. Always get back up! Oftentimes good things fall apart in the near term so better things can fall together in the end. (Read Stumbling on Happiness.)
10. Waiting for the “perfect” moment to take the next step.
Don’t buy into the myth of the perfect moment. Moments aren’t perfect, they’re what you make of them. So many people wait around for the stars to align to do what they’re here to do. The perfect moment, the perfect opportunity, the perfect state of being, etc. Wake up! Don’t “wait” away the vast majority of your life! Remind yourself that too many people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness. And you don’t be one of them. Ultimately, you will come to succeed not by finding a perfect moment, but by learning to see and use life’s imperfections as stepping stones.
An Exercise for Feeling Better & Building Better Habits
If you feel a like you’ve wasted too much time and joy on one or more of the points above, this quick actionable closing exercise is for YOU.
Choose any area in your life that you want to improve, and then:
- Write down the specific details about your current circumstances. (What’s bothering you? Where are you stuck? What do you want to change?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that have contributed to your current circumstances? (Be honest with yourself. What are you doing regularly that actually contributes to the situation you’re in?)
- Write down a few specific details about the “better circumstances” you’d like to create for yourself. (What would make you happy? What does an improved situation look like for you?)
- Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that will get you from where you are to where you want to be? (Think about it. What small, daily steps will help you gradually move forward from point A to point B?)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to not fall back into your old patterns of living simply because they’re more comfortable and easier to access. It’s your turn to remember that you’re leaving certain habits and situations behind for a reason: to improve your life — because you can’t move forward if you keep going back. And it’s undoubtedly your turn to reclaim your joy and make your time count going forward!
But before you go, please leave Marc and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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Photo by: Georges Petrequin