Self

Things We ALL Do To Wreck Our Own Lives (And How To Stop)

Photo: Joshua Rondeau | Unsplash
Woman looking out glass

Let me ask you a question. Are you trying to wreck your own life? I’m not pointing fingers. Think of me as the little Monopoly guy in a striped jailbird suit — Guilty as charged! But, I'm going to be blunt, we all seem to love wreaking havoc in our own lives by clinging to ideas and behaviors that are getting us nowhere.

It makes me wonder if we love feeling terrible because that’s what we keep reading, posting, tweeting, and connecting on: I'm so stressed. I'm so overwhelmed. You won't believe what went wrong now!  I think it’s time to put the smackdown on this pattern before we ruin our lives. 

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Here are the 3 things we all do to wreck our lives (and how to stop).

1. Creating a routine and rigidly sticking to it

Routines are supposed to make things better and easier, right? The self-help section of any bookstore almost assures that this is a way to improve your life.  But routines can make sure you stay small. You know how everyone says to "think outside the box"? That sounds like an amazing way to live — beyond boundaries where everything is possible. Well, perish the thought. It’s not what you want anyway.

Nothing makes you feel like you're in a box as adhering to a rigid routine. You know who you are, what you're doing, what is expected of you, and all the characters in your life. You gain identity and certainty. Hooray! It doesn’t stop there. Any stringently held routine offers the potential for an incredible amount of self-judgment when you don’t successfully stick to it. (I don’t know about you, but whenever I have to do something, I am the least compliant and cooperative).  That judgment takes energy — your energy. It takes effort and energy to disdain, criticize, and discipline yourself for your/ability to follow your invented protocol.

But wait, there’s more! When you have a routine that you need to know who you are, what is expected of you, etc., then you need other people to adhere to this routine, too — because if they mess up, it messes you up. So, your identity and stability are in their hands. What could be more relaxing than that? I don’t know about you, but have you seen how messed up some people are?! So yes, place my stability in their hands, dependent, at least in part, on their ability to know how much this means to me and to perform well and consistently. Then, I can spend a considerable amount of energy to make sure they stay in line so my life will be on schedule. (Ugh!)

Multiply that stress times the many people in your life (kids, friends, sisters, brothers, and bosses), and then say goodbye to the rest of your energy. You will never have to pretend to be happy or creative again. Who’s got brain power left for that? 

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2. Comparing yourself to other people

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So all those Facebook pictures from your friends are telling the whole story of their life, right? (If there’s 30 of them, that’s 30,000 words)! You can use all those FB and Instagram postings as evidence — what they have, and you do not.

Comparing yourself to others is foolproof. You're taking what you have, anything you enjoy, and giving it a grade. And that the grading system is arbitrary, misinformed, and cares very little about what you value but what this reality claims you should value — money, time, winning, and appearances.

So, that bike ride you genuinely enjoyed this morning that got your heart racing and lungs burning? You didn't document it, so it probably never happened. Or, if you didn't get enough likes on the photo you did take of it, maybe that means the ride wasn't as fun as you thought.  

Oh, you didn’t ride this morning? Hmmm (you know the face that goes with that). All of your pictures are selfies? You must be alone. Are we supposed to enjoy that amazingly cute latte art alone? Sigh ... Wish I had a moment to myself.  

Do you catch my drift? Doesn't feel good, does it? Like Sisyphus when he reached the top, and the rock rolled back down to the bottom, you are constantly deflating. Who could soar or roar with no "wind in the sails?"

Comparison is the opposite of gratitude and living by your values. That is why it sucks so much joy and energy from your life. How fabulous?! 

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3. Caring about what other people think and taking things way too seriously

Caring about what other people think is based on nothing. You invest energy into an opinion of someone you may or may not care about (sapping energy) and over an opinion that they may/may not have (projection or assumption).

Comparison and deflating feelings aside, this one drains energy. It’s the hole in the cartoon boat — you are bailing water while the boat is filling. Motion that doesn’t go anywhere! Oh, rapture! Now, you will never have to take a forward step for as long as you choose this!

Taking things seriously injects this meaningful meaning into your life. You know why you are living and what you are living for. You know that everything happens for a reason, and if you can figure out that reason, you can align with it and have an easy life.

You connect everything to you — you are the center of the Universe. I’ll bet you can correctly guess, figure out, or otherwise see the reason something or someone was what it was.

And it’s a good mental exercise! You can draw on your creativity to come up with connections and interpretations that only make sense to you and sharpen your debate skills by verbalizing, legitimizing, and defending the accuracy of these interpretations.  One can go for hours, or days, on this dynamo hamster wheel. You don’t burn any calories, but you can glow in the warmth of your self-righteousness. So there they are, the top three ways to stunt your life.

Now, be cautioned that the disaster state of your life is a fragile one. All the time and energy you’ve put into the case against your ability to be happy and create a fun life can be dashed in a moment. But remember, at any time, by accident or spite, you can choose to live beyond the box and question the necessity or efficacy of your routine. Yes, you could refuse to compare yourself to others or binge on Facebook or Instagram, or you could choose not to care about what other people think of you or your choices and place greater value on choosing what will work for you to bring enjoyment and ease into life.

This does not require choosing against what you think another person would like to prove, either. You could use your energy to create and have fun living. Your choice will either promote or counter and eventually defeat your quest to hate your life and connect on a problem level.

What will you choose? Is it time for you to choose something other than self-destruction?

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This article was originally published at Venus In Motion blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.