4 Soul-Damaging Habits Secretly Destroying Your Life

Take care of your spiritual well-being to help your soul fly.

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Unlike the obvious benefits of exercise, the benefits of spirituality are hard to explain, but you know it when you’ve experienced it — you feel like you’ve risen above. You feel lighter. You feel like you’ve seen the light. The world starts making more sense.

However, just like your body, your soul is also vulnerable to damage by many bad habits.

These habits chip away at your spirituality, making you more miserable day by day. These habits move you closer to whatever is the opposite of enlightenment.


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Here are 4 soul-damaging habits secretly destroying your life:

1. Being complicit in someone else’s misery

It’s not always easy to differentiate between wrong and right. So here’s a simple rule I use. If my actions make someone’s life worse in any way, it’s wrong and I shouldn’t do it. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but as a general rule, it works fine.


I believe that being complicit in someone else’s misery damages your soul. And you can be complicit in other people’s misery over a spectrum — with one end being very obvious, and the other end — highly subtle.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s discuss 4 examples of how you might contribute to someone else’s misery — with each one being subtler than the previous.

  1. Stealing from someone.
  2. Owning a tobacco company.
  3. Owning a McDonald’s.
  4. Investing in shares of Coca-Cola.

Number 1 is theft, which is obviously wrong. No lunatic would argue in favor of theft unless it’s in the realm of an ethical dilemma like, "Would you steal bread to feed your family?"

Number 2 is a bit subtler. Yes, you’re selling cigarettes, but it’s still the choice of the customer to not smoke, right? I mean, you’re not forcing someone to get lung cancer.


Number 3 is furthermore subtle. Junk food is obviously better than smoking, and McDonald’s delivers happiness, doesn’t it?

Number 4 is on the end of the subtle extreme. Coca-Cola is quite unhealthy, but you’re not selling it. You’re just making money off of its progress.

Even if it’s not obvious throughout, all 4 of these actions contribute to other people’s misery. Theft is obvious. Someone who owns a tobacco company is somewhat complicit, if not completely responsible for people getting cancer. McDonald’s again has its role in the obesity pandemic. And carbonated drinks are extremely unhealthy, and when you buy shares of Coca-Cola, you’re betting on people continuing to make unhealthy choices.

As you walk on the spectrum, the difference between right and wrong gets blurred, and definitions differ individually. For some, 1–3 might be wrong, and 4 might seem harmless. For some, 1 and 2 might be wrong, and 3 and 4 — maybe not so much.


If you would have asked me a year ago, I would not have thought that 3 and 4 were wrong in any sense. But as I’ve advanced on my spiritual journey, I’ve realized that I don’t want to be complicit in anyone’s misery — no matter how little role I play. And hence, over time, 3 and 4 too became 'wrong' for me.

I’m not here to argue or tell you what’s right and wrong. I’m no one to tell you that. The purpose of this point is to make you think and define for yourself what’s right and wrong. Most people haven’t done that. But when you do, you’ll be surprised to find out how your definitions change.

An important part of spiritual enhancement is to care about others — and aid in their prosperity, not in their misery. In other words, empathy is the hallmark of spiritual enhancement, and hence by inverse, contributing to people’s misery in small ways and big leads to spiritual diminishment.

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2. Carrying bombs that will eventually explode on yourself

The consequences of the concept of hate are lost on many people. People hold grudges against others, hate others, and abuse others thinking that it somehow damages the others. It might, but more than that, it damages your own soul.

Think about it. Hatred for someone is like a bomb. And so many of us carry such bombs with us. And more often than not, these bombs explode on ourselves, and not on others. We turn bitter. We turn cynical. With no real damage to the other person.

That is why, when Nelson Mandela left prison, he said:

"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison."


That’s not an isolated incidence.

At the peak of his boxing career, Rubin Carter was wrongly accused of a triple homicide and sent to prison. But he didn’t turn bitter. He was angry, sure. But he realized that hating anyone and turning bitter wouldn’t help. Instead, he directed all his energy into fighting his legal case.

After 19 years and two trials, the verdict was overturned and he was freed. But when he was, he simply resumed his life. He filed no civil suit to recover damages. He didn’t even ask for an apology. He was wronged by society, but he chose not to feel wronged.

In life, many people will harm you. And hatred or contempt for them is a natural response. But you have to understand that hatred damages your soul because a truly content soul could never hate.


In Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty shares four levels of forgiveness:

  • Zero Forgiveness: "I won’t forgive you, no matter what."
  • Conditional Forgiveness: "I’ll forgive him only if he apologizes."
  • Transformational Forgiveness: In this type, we try to find the strength to forgive a person without needing an apology or expecting anything else in return.
  • Unconditional Forgiveness: This is the kind of forgiveness most parents have for their children. No matter what children do, parents forgive them.

It’s a difficult process, but your goal is to get to unconditional forgiveness for everyone because forgiveness is never about the other person, it’s about getting the burden of hate off of your own shoulders. In short, stop all the hate and contempt, and forgive people not for their benefit, but for the freedom of your own soul.

3. Shackling your soul

When I think of my soul, I imagine it flying among the clouds. But that can only happen when your soul is free. However, I feel like many of our souls are immobilized by metaphorical shackles. And hence, we experience no spiritual flights.

What are these shackles? Simple. Material possessions.


Think about it. By definition, Matter is heavy. It weighs down your soul. Sure, you need material possessions to live your life, but getting obsessed with material riches is essentially like applying shackles to the limbs of your soul. Abstract, on the other hand, is light — it lifts your soul.

But so often, we sacrifice our abstract happiness to gain more material possessions. We sacrifice peace to make more money to buy more things. We sacrifice time with loved ones, again, to work more hours, and make more money. And all this does is weigh down our souls.

But real meaning and happiness in life come from the abstract, and not the 'things.' Yet I see many people caring more about the 'things' than the abstract. For instance, some people care about giving and receiving expensive gifts, when in reality, a $10 gift that's meaningful and personal, is a much better gift than a $500 gift that means nothing to the person.

Material possessions are heavy, and that is exactly why practicing minimalism feels so freeing. When I donated all my extra clothes and kept only a few I actually needed, I felt free. When I bought a Kindle and gifted my old books to friends, I felt free.


Let go of your obsession with things. Break the shackles. Your soul is meant to fly. Don’t weigh it down.

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4. Always aiming low

When I think about our inner souls — I feel they’re limitless. Otherwise, how is a soul any different from a body?


And yet, all of us live within the limitations that we create for ourselves. "Oh, I can’t do that." "I’ll never be that good." "I don’t have it in me." But the thing is, all these responses are rooted in fear. But for me, the very idea of a soul produces the image of a free, fearless body of light.

Here’s a very important lesson I’ve learned about life. Nobody ever craves what’s easy. We all crave extraordinary things. But often, we’re scared we’ll fail in the pursuit of those, so we claim to not want them at all. And in that way, we undermine our souls.

Here’s an exercise. Close your eyes and imagine the best version of yourself. And then compare that to what you’ve been aiming for. The larger the gap between those two, the greater the damage to your soul.

To be clear, you don’t have to aim the highest every time. But you do have to aim high. For instance, it's not necessary to compete to be Mr. Olympia, but you can and should aim to have a decent athletic body.


Initially, I had mediocre goals for my life. And then as an exercise from a book, I decided to 10x those goals. The initial response was fear, yes. But then, I felt free. It seems paradoxical. Bigger goals should add more weight to your shoulders, but I felt lighter. I think it’s because when you truly begin to set high goals, you come to terms with what you’re capable of. And that feeling is freeing.

On a day-to-day basis, it’s okay to go easy on yourself from time to time. But don’t go easy on yourself chronically over years and decades. Instead, put in the effort to become your best self. And your soul will thank you for it.

Just like you try to take care of your physical well-being, you also need to learn how to take care of your spiritual well-being. Start by breaking these four habits:

  1. Find out the subtle ways you’re being complicit in other people’s misery and try to avoid engaging in those actions.
  2. Dislike, hate and contempt do more damage to your soul than to the person you have it for. Let it go. It’s about you, not them.
  3. The less attachment you have to material obsessions, the lighter your soul will be.
  4. Always aiming low undermines your soul. Respect your limitless soul by setting formidable goals, and putting in a formidable effort.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.