Motivating yourself to be your best.
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Do You Feel “Behind” In Life? Here’s How to Rapidly Get on Track
It works even in the worst of times.
Not too long ago, I felt “behind” in my life.
When I looked at other people my age (or younger), they were crushing it: They had great jobs, great partners, cool possessions, and more.
As for me, I was living in my Mom’s house at that time, working a job I hated, making a crappy paycheck, and fed up with everything.
A few years later, however, my life transformed—I figured out how to create a great life, which included a great business, tons of freedom, a great condo, and work I enjoyed.
In this article, I’ll share the seven most powerful lessons and strategies that helped me improve my life, even when things seemed bleak.
Each one compounded on each other and paid off handsomely, and I’m confident they can help you to no matter your situation.
1. Fix Your Priorities
I used to know many people who were behind in their lives.
Yet they lacked ambition, drive, and goals, and when you looked at how they spent their free time, they wasted it on mindless entertainment and things that had no impact on their lives.
I’d see them scrounge up hundreds of dollars to go on a road trip and see a concert—yet they were living at their parents’ house and working a dead-end job they hated.
In the grand scheme of things, the concert wasn’t important, and it simply revealed their poor priorities.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.
But that’s not what it means at all.
It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
You have to pick carefully.”
— Steve Jobs
When I felt behind in life, there were many lesser things I wanted to do and enjoy, but I forced myself to wait.
I knew it was far more important to focus on the main pillars of life (like health, career, love, finances, etc.), improve those first, and then have fun (and enjoy more peace of mind and less guilt).
It might be hard to say no in the short term, but you’ll focus your energy on better priorities and start making progress in the long term.
2. Know That Being “Behind” Helps You Succeed
Being behind in life can actually set you up for greater success in the future.
After all, many people who reach amazing heights started their journey making mistakes and struggling.
Yet that very process of experiencing and overcoming early setbacks forces you to grow—you have to learn new things, become more resilient, and keep striving to beat challenges.
Like a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon, the struggle is what builds your strength so you can fly.
Ironically, succeeding on your first try could actually be a disadvantage—you won’t have the strength or experience to persevere when times get tough.
“Early success is a terrible teacher.
You’re essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation, so when you find yourself in a situation where you must prepare, you can’t do it. You don’t know how.”
— Col. Chris Hadfield
You might feel behind because you see other people buy a home, get married, or start a family before you.
But if you’re actively trying new things, taking risks, and pushing yourself, it’s not like you’re idle—you’re adding skills, knowledge, and abilities for your future.
And while you might be a “late-bloomer,” once you get going, your trajectory will be higher because your early challenges taught you lessons that “early-bloomers” might never learn.
When I thought I was “behind,” it may have appeared that way at first glance, but looking closer, I still did a lot.
And because I was constantly taking shots, that period I felt “behind” is actually what helped me succeed the most.
3. Get Real-World Knowledge
Spending the beginning of your career to gain experience, wisdom, and knowledge is a worthy investment that will pay amazing dividends and drastically transform your trajectory.
“Learn in your 20s, earn in your 30s.”
— Keith Ferrazzi
Many people, however, just want to earn money as fast as they can so they grab the first job they can find.
And while it might look like they’re ahead of you because they have a higher salary or position, they missed the knowledge you gained and won’t have the same growth potential.
That’s why, if you feel “behind,” double down on real-world education.
Find people who achieved massive success, study their work, or find ways to work with them.
In fact, three months in a good internship with an expert can be worth as much as three years of experience at an entry-level job.
If you can’t get an internship, read their books, watch their videos, or even email them and ask for advice.
They’ll teach you insights you can’t find in a regular job and shortcut your growth.
4. Stop Watching Others
The reason why we think we’re “behind” in the first place is often that we spend so much time watching others consciously or unconsciously.
Maybe you see people on social media, Medium, etc., and feel envious of their lives.
But many people grossly exaggerate their success, especially online.
The truth is you have no idea what their lives are really like. (Some of them probably want you to feel jealous of them.)
“We exaggerate misfortune and happiness alike. We are never as bad off or as happy as we say we are.”
— Honore de Balzac
Don’t fall into the trap of spending more time telling others how great you are than actually being great.
After all, successful people aren’t wasting time telling everyone what they’re doing; they’re actually doing it.
Stop watching others and wondering why your life can’t be more like them.
If necessary, take a break from social media so you can focus on your priorities.
In the meantime, make fewer “announcements” and trying to stop “keeping up with the Jones’s.”
5. Surround Yourself With The Right People
Few things will impact your life more than the people you surround yourself with.
If you want to grow, you have to change your environment first.
And if your social circle is full of unambitious people with poor habits, they will drag you down no matter how hard you try in ways you might not even realize.
“If you live with a lame man, you will learn to limp.”
I used to hang out with several people who were a few years older than me, but even though I was struggling, I would think to myself, “When I reach their age, I don’t want to be like them.”
But I knew if I kept hanging out with them, my fate would be sealed—so I gradually found new friends.
Be selective of your social circle.
Find a tribe of people who want more out of themselves and who push you forward.
Distance yourself from people who are negative influences or stagnating.
In a weird way, you almost want friends who make you feel behind—because that’s how you grow.
“Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”
— Jim Rohn
6. Take Action
Many people are terrified of looking stupid, embarrassing themselves, or making mistakes.
And because they can’t handle rejection or failure, they avoid taking action and limit their own potential.
If you want to fast-track your success, you must get over your fears of “what people might think.”
You have to learn to accept whatever results might come your way, good or bad.
The worst-case scenario?
You get a “no.”
The best-case scenario?
You find an opportunity that changes your life.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.”
— Zig Ziglar
When I felt “behind” in life, I had nothing to lose.
No one knew who I was; if they rejected me, it didn’t matter.
So I used that to my advantage.
I didn’t care how stupid I looked or how pathetic I seemed.
I emailed everyone, asked for phone calls, and took pages of notes.
Eventually, I got more advice and learned more than I could’ve from a job or a degree — all because I had no shame in my game.
7. Take Ownership Of Your Life
It’s no coincidence that, when I fell behind in life, I made a lot of excuses: I blamed my company, my boss, my race, and a whole lot more for my predicament.
But it didn't matter if those things were actually contributing to my issues; what mattered was that I believed they were—and that was what held me back.
By making excuses, I empowered outside factors, wasted mental energy, and created resentment and bitterness.
Because with all the things outside of my control, there was still so much inside of my control.
After all, no one was stopping me from working harder, taking risks, or learning.
To accelerate your life, you must take full ownership of your life and situation.
Once you do, everything changes.
You can focus your energy to move toward your goals.
You stop letting life push you around and stop wasting energy on things you can’t change.
You must control your life otherwise life will control you.
Because it’s never too late to start writing a new story.
And that, my friends, is how you hit the launch button in life—even if you feel behind.
10 (More) Important Life Skills Nobody Taught Me
They led to more joy, confidence, and happiness.
Recently, I shared several of the most important life skills I had to learn on my own.
No class, parent, or book could show me those lessons—I had to make mistakes and discover them myself, which oftentimes is the best way to learn.
“Formal education will make you a…
In this article, I’ll share ten more extremely powerful life skills I learned over the years that transformed everything from my relationships to my productivity to my happiness.
Once you learn these for yourself, I’m sure they’ll help improve your life too.
How to Love
My parents divorced when I was very young and, frankly, they were two people who should have never gotten married. So as I grew up, I had to learn—in the hardest way possible—what “love” actually is.
For example, I feel like many people, especially my age or younger, think of “love” as a shopping list:
- 6 feet tall (1.83m)
Voilà — you’re in love.
But that is not love. (And it ain’t gonna last if that’s all you care about.)
Love isn’t winning the “Cutest Couple” award.
Love isn’t weddings and flowers. Love is finding someone you can grow together with.
Someone you can navigate difficulties with (raising children, money problems, health issues, etc.) Someone who you deeply respect and appreciate.
I’ve also realized that much of what we think is “love” is really manipulation. How can I make you like me?
How can I keep you for myself?
As Anthony de Mello would say, people think of love as a barter: “You be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you, okay?”
Yet once that person isn’t nice to them, they stop loving them—but is that really love?
“What does it mean to love?
It means to see a person, a situation, a thing as it really is, not as you imagine it to be.
And to give it the response it deserves.
You can hardly be said to love what you do not even see.
And what prevents us from seeing?
— Anthony de Mello
When you truly love someone, you want what’s best for them and you want their freedom.
Don't let the little things get in the way of what really matters.
How To Ignore Useless Information
Your input shapes your worldview.
So if you always consume negative, pessimistic, and stressful information, how do you think you’ll feel?
No one teaches us how to sift through the noise to determine what is actually useful and what isn’t.
The truth is the vast majority of information you consume from news, social media, or elsewhere is, at best, a distraction and, at worst, an anchor.
Consuming it only makes you feel worse, yet so little of it actually impacts you.
Instead, practice selective ignorance. What information, however “juicy” it may seem, can you avoid so it doesn’t cloud your mind? Ruthlessly eliminate it and you’ll regain your freedom.
How to Stand Up For Me
Because of low self-esteem, I long struggled to stand up for myself.
When people were disrespectful to me, I didn’t speak out because I was afraid to upset them or put myself in a vulnerable situation.
But letting people walk over me was self-defeating and only made things worse.
No one can teach you how to stand up for yourself.
Sure, you can study techniques to diffuse situations, but the only way to learn is to take action at the moment to start reshaping your identity.
Remember: It’s not about insulting someone or violence; it’s about speaking out against disrespectful behavior in a firm and respectful way. It’s about not letting yourself get bullied, pushed around, or treated unfairly.
How to Work
For all the homework and tests I did in school, no one really taught me to how to work.
So much of the work we did was just mindless busy work with little critical thinking or creativity.
There was no prioritization and no goals. Rather than focusing on the result, we focused on being (and looking) busy.
Then, they expected us to take those same strategies into the workforce.
Punch the clock.
Have useless meetings.
Work until you’re exhausted.
Yet I’ve learned that productivity is about how much you create and deliver, not just doing busy work. Don’t overfocus on minor details like having the perfect calendar; instead, focus on your results and your work will improve.
How to Ignore Opinions
Why would you do this?
You can’t do that.”
So much of the feedback I got in life was horribly skewed—people simply projected their own insecurities, problems, and prejudices onto me and taught me their distorted reality.
But why should I listen to them?
“Most of us fail in life because we’re afraid of what everyone around us is thinking. We live by the narrative of other people.”
— David Goggins
Learn to ignore the noise. Realize that most of the “rules” in life are created by people who’ve never achieved their dreams, and so they tell you that you can’t achieve yours either. Don’t let people project their own issues onto you and bring you down to their level.
Choose your own life and choose your own path.
Knowing When To Quit
“If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.”
— Chinese Proverb
They say that “winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Yet some of the best decisions of my life were to quit jobs, friendships, lifestyles, etc. that were going nowhere.
It eliminated massive barriers to my growth and gave me the freedom to find something better.
The world is too big to settle and cling to something uninspiring or unfulfilling.
Let it go so you can grab onto something greater.
I believe true joy comes from the pursuit of your dreams.
At least, that way, every moment of your life is dedicated to what you believe in.
How to Change My Personality
Reading self-help taught me I could set my own path in life and learn new skills and traits.
As I studied more, I thought I changed as a person, but in reality, I was still the same person with some shiny new tricks.
No one showed me how to actually change my personality.
You don’t just read a book, see a quote, or attend an event and instantly “change your life.”
To change your life, everything has to be different.
You have to overhaul your environments, your inputs, your social circles, your behaviors, your thoughts, your habits, and more.
It takes time, patience, and a lot of difficult moments.
But that is the only way to real change.
How to Deal With Adversity
How do you handle challenging situations?
How do you bounce back from catastrophe?
You can read all the books in the world and think you know what to do, but until you hit real adversity, it's a completely different story.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
No one can teach you this; it’s something you have to experience for yourself.
All I can say is two things:
First, regularly put yourself in situations where you feel uncomfortable—that way, you expose yourself to stress, learn to adapt, and gradually increase the level of difficulties you can successfully handle.
Second, when shit hits the fan and you feel like giving up, keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Bad times will come to an end.
How to Take Action
When I was painfully shy, I read books on conversations.
They taught me some good advice, but there was one critical thing it — and every other book — couldn’t teach me: How to overcome my fears and actually talk to a real person.
No book could move my feet toward someone and make me speak.
Yet until I did that, I wasn’t really using the information.
It’s like learning how to swim: You can study all you want, but until you get into the water, you haven’t learned shit.
And it wasn’t until I forced myself to talk to people that I finally learned how to do it.
Nothing can teach you to take action:
You have to put yourself in that situation (or have someone else push you into it) again and again. Only then will you truly learn and grow.
How to Be Alone
The world convinces you that being alone is awful.
Seemingly every song is about how terrible it is to be alone, every TV show is about how dreadful being single is (How I Met Your Mother, for example), and everyone feels “sorry” for you when you’re alone (which I’ve experienced many times).
But there are two hard truths I had to learn for myself:
(1) If you need people in your life to be happy, you will never be happy.
(2) If you can’t be happy by yourself, you will never be happy with others.
Once you remove your attachment to others, your life will improve tremendously.
Instead of relying on others for your happiness, you bring your own joy and self-acceptance, which creates happier, healthier relationships.
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”
— Wayne Dyer
Don’t let people convince you to feel sad because you’re by yourself, not in a relationship, etc. Instead, learn to enjoy your own company.
Be your own source of happiness and fun.
No one can teach you how to do that: You have to discover (and practice) it yourself by learning to be comfortable alone.
Once you learn how to, you’ll be able to do whatever you want by yourself — and still be happy.
And you’ll finally be free.
Four Things That Restore My Faith in Humanity
These realizations help me when I’m in my darker moods.
The Black Friday chaos recap is the worst.
News stations blast footage of people fighting and “throwing hands” in their local Walmart, breaking through the entrance and trampling each other.
There are hospitalizations and…
Dignity and self-respect sell for cheap these days. It makes me question the necessity of humans on this planet.
I’m also filled with joy and hope in other aspects of life. We should be proud of humanity’s accomplishments. We should remember the following things in our darker moments.
We slay huge problems
Smallpox arrived more than 10,000 years ago.
In the 20th century alone, it killed 300 million people.
A full 30% of those afflicted died.
A majority of those who survived were terribly maimed.
30% of all blind people lost their vision because of smallpox.
Between 1850 and 1910, mandatory vaccines pushed the disease out of North America and Europe.
Then, a global push by the World Health Organization led to the complete eradication of smallpox, with the last case being seen in 1977.
This was a horrible disease that killed billions.
People came together to end it. Smart, healthy workers around the world risked their lives to innoculate strangers solely because they cared about their suffering.
Mankind’s ability to collaborate and solve our biggest problems should give you hope.
Life can seem so bleak these days.
But as we always have, we’ll solve this pandemic and any future global emergencies.
News stations are addicted to ratings-boosting negativity.
You never hear about the good stuff.
The hole in our ozone layer is repairing itself. Cancer survival rates are at an all-time high and trending better. There was a time when we thought HIV/AIDS was world-ending (it’s killed 36M people).
Today, we can treat HIV so well that it’s non-detectable on a test.
I could go on for pages. Things aren’t as terrible as they seem.
Sloths somehow pulled it off
Where nature is cruel in its random disasters and diseases, it can be equally cruel in its allocation of gifts and talents — or so it seems.
If you were reborn as a sloth, you’d curse your fate and wonder, “What did I do in my previous life to deserve this?”
Sloths have no physical armor. They have no deterrent weapons: horns or chemical sprays.
They can’t kick.
Their bite is weak.
They have claws but no speed or power to use them.
They suck at fighting.
When it comes to athleticism, they are nature’s bench warmer.
They’re an anomaly of evolution and the only animal named after one of the seven deadly sins.
Did I mention they are slow?
The fastest man in the world can run the mile in 3 minutes 43 seconds.
A sloth can blaze that race in a mere 6.6 hours.
But really — how in the hell are sloths still alive?
Sloths survived because they bumbled their way to a region with relatively few predators.
Their main predator, jaguars, are on the ground.
Their other predators, large hawks, face an interesting visual dilemma.
They see the world like a high-detail painting.
hey fixate their gaze on the scenery, watching it in all of its stillness, waiting for something to move and catch their eye
But because sloths move so slow, they don’t get noticed by hawks.
And even further, their lack of mobility allows green algae to grow on their back, giving them camouflage.
Sloths somehow turned a flaw into a strength.
Although I still don’t know why they climb down the tree to poop (they really do). Perhaps they just have good manners.
Sloths are bizarrely relatable to everyday life. So many people, who you knew in high school, who were strikingly average, have slid into high-level positions.
Nothing on the paper said they would achieve such great heights.
Their test scores were mediocre.
They weren’t charismatic.
Yet here they are, a boss of people.
Just as the seemingly low-talent sloth has the ability to succeed when so many gifted animals get devoured, we each have our own unique combination of gifts, a DNA of success waiting to be revealed. Sometimes, like a sloth, you just need to be patient and hang on.
Your actions have a splash effect
Researchers asked a handful of people to go out into the world and do something nice for strangers.
At the end of the study, those givers reported feeling happier and more content.
Even further, the people they did favors for, reported being happier and also did nice things for strangers.
In essence, the energy you put into the world is proven to ripple outwards and affect more people.
I try to be extra nice to service workers and people who are often treated poorly.
A mentor taught me a great, simple trick: tell someone they did a good job.
Be specific about why and say you appreciate them being diligent with their work and caring enough to get it right. It will often make their day and spread more kindness. It takes character to give your all to a thankless job.
The secret sauce of compliments
As a normie straight dude, this next thing doesn’t happen very often.
to be honest, I can only remember it happening twice in my 38 years.
I was out and about, walking through the world.
Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a woman.
She was paused, looking me over from head to toe.
It was a full-body laser scan.
I thought, “Wow. She was definitely checking me out.
For a very brief moment, I felt like a rockstar.
Of course, I had a wife at the time and, even if I didn’t, I’m not sure I had the courage to approach this woman.
Think about those times you’ve seen someone and thought about how smart, beautiful or charismatic they were.
Think about how many times you never mentioned it to them.
People do this every day — about you.
They see your amazing qualities, but they don’t say anything. I promise.
Each and every day, you are swimming through invisible compliments.
Recap for memory: 4 things that restore my faith in humanity
- We are conquering most major problems in our world. And when we really need to, we come together to overcome the biggest threats.
- Kindness is proven to be contagious. It ripples into the world. The opposite is also true. Don’t be a problem child. Pay it forward.
- You don’t need to be remarkably talented to succeed. Like a sloth, it’s just a matter of figuring out where your skillset perfectly aligns. Our flaws often morph into advantages without us knowing.
- Every day, people think good things about you without you ever knowing.
7 Habits You Can Start Today To Feel Better Immediately
You don’t need to buy any books.
You don’t need any gurus.
You can do this.
Toward the end of one of my all-time favorite films, My Dinner With Andre, the character Wally (played by the inconceivably talented Wallace Shawn) says to Andre:
“I’m looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive. I mean, I’m trying to protect myself because, really, there’s these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look!”
Ain’t that the truth, Wally.
We are too busy.
We are too caught up in the world and not enough in taking care of ourselves.
If we keep up this pace much longer, we’re going to burst into flame.
The good news is that it can all be avoided, and you can start to feel better almost immediately by adopting a few simple habits.
Leave the abrasive beatings behind.
Take a moment to appreciate the beauty
In case you ever wondered, the advice that goes “stop and smell the roses” comes from an autobiography by golfer Walter Hagen and originally read as, “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry.
And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
I don’t know much about golf, but I imagine it’s an unhurried game that requires some patience.
Such is life.
It doesn’t need to seem so rushed all the time.
We’re all so busy.
We’re all hustling.
We’re all getting stressed.
There is a lot to be said for appreciating the fleeting wonder of a rainstorm, a sunset, or a squirrel running along a fence.
The world is amazing, and there is beauty everywhere.
It’s big and small.
Don’t miss out on it.
Take a moment.
Life gurus spill a lot of (virtual) ink writing about mindfulness and meditation.
Apparently, it’s for a good reason. It works.
It doesn’t matter what time of day you choose to sit for ten or twenty minutes in thoughtful contemplation — or no contemplation.
It doesn’t even have to be the same time every day.
After a little bit of practice, I’ve found that I can snatch a fruitful dose of meditation at almost any time of the day when I know I’ll have ten or twenty minutes to myself. It doesn’t even have to be quiet, but it helps — particularly when first starting the practice.
Give me some time to conduct an internal visualizing exercise, or to think of nothing (or no-thing as the Buddhists might say), or to even contemplate an object (for me, it’s often a wooden apple on the kitchen table) all while being aware of my breathing… in… out… in…
Anyway, you get the idea.
The point is that afterward, I feel both mentally and physically refreshed.
Over time, the practice contributes to an overall sense of well-being.
You can start today.
Find a place to be by yourself for a short bit. No one needs to know.
Free yourself of grudges
How long can you stay angry?
Probably quite a while.
It’s an easy emotion.
And it feeds upon itself — consuming you with it.
Instead, let it go.
Take some perspective and ask yourself if, in the grand scheme of things, does a grudge or other bad feeling toward someone really matters?
What matters is you.
Don’t let negative feelings take away your peace and energy.
Let it go.
It might be hard at first, but if you start today, you’ll be on the road to feeling better today.
Let it go.
Celebrate other people’s success
I know a lot of successful people.
They have successful careers.
Some have boatloads of money.
Some are almost universally admired for one thing or another.
And you know what?
Good for them!
Am I rich?
Do I have a successful career?
Well, I’m not at its pinnacle yet, but I’ve got forward momentum.
My dog likes me.
But gnawing enviously at other people’s success doesn’t really do much to help me move forward, does it?
What does move me forward is turning negative feelings into positive ones.
I know a lot of very happy people, and I am very happy for them.
And I feel a lot better about myself because of that.
Spend time outside
If you don’t spend much time outdoors, try to change that right away.
Get away from your desk.
Get off the couch.
Go for a ten-minute walk.
Go for a twenty-minute walk.
Just get outside for a little bit.
I like to walk because I’m inherently lazy.
You might be more of a runner or biker.
Go for it. Whatever you do, getting outside is the important thing.
Buildings — whether they be homes or places of business — can be confining and, after a while, it gets too much to be healthy.
Getting to where there are fewer walls will make you feel a bit freer and maybe a bit less trapped.
Find a park.
Find some woods behind the company building.
Stroll along a city sidewalk or median if you have nothing else.
Even downtown Chicago has grassy areas and the occasional tree.
The fresh air and exercise will do you good.
Get enough sleep.
Ideally, all at once.
If your schedule permits, get your sleep at night.
Be awake during the day.
Take advantage of natural light cycles.
Avoid caffeine or alcohol before going to bed.
Drink some water and do some stretches when you first get up.
But get enough sleep.
You’ll thank me in the morning.
Have a morning ritual
Are they good or bad?
I have opinions — mostly in favor of routines, but routines are not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about having a morning ritual.
This is your one act in the morning that you tie into greeting the day and contemplating the day ahead.
For me, it’s my morning tea.
After I stumble out of bed, stretch, drink a glass of water, and let the dog out, I then prep the kettle and get the water boiling.
I’ve got an interesting green tea with toasted rice I’ve been digging lately, but my standby is an English breakfast.
All the while, the water is heating, then the tea is steeping.
This is my quiet time to think about the day ahead.
Sometimes I’ll think about the previous day.
But in general, it’s a morning ritual I’ve tied to a personal reflection of some kind.
And I get a cup of tea in the process.
And when that’s done, my day officially begins.
For you, it might be brewing some coffee.
Or frying some eggs.
Or writing in a journal.
The idea is to identify it as your ritual and letting that magic happen.
Sure… the morning ritual gets disrupted sometimes.
If I miss the ritual every now and then, that’s okay. I can pick it up again and reap the benefit.
On taking care of oneself
If you don’t take care of yourself physically, you’ll hurt yourself mentally.
And vice versa.
All of the tips above for feeling better immediately are tied to the idea of self-care.
Some may be easier than others.
Your life right now might make some of these suggestions difficult.
Pick and choose what works best for you.
Every little bit helps.
9 Simple Things I Avoid For a Greater Life
Cutting these gave me more freedom, joy, and success.
If you want to reach greater heights in your life, you must let go of what’s holding you back.
Otherwise, your progress will be like trying to drive a car while pressing the brakes — slow, ineffective, and unnecessarily difficult.
Here are the 10 simple things I avoid for a better, more fulfilling, and more successful life.
It helps me attain the lifestyle I enjoy and the motivation to make the most of my life without being swayed by outside pressures.
If you eliminate these, I’m confident it’ll help you reach greater levels in your life too.
1. The Hedonic Treadmill
Many people chase achievements to feel happy.
They live a “life-deferment plan” and can’t be happy until they finally get certain things (ex. a house, promotion, car, life partner, etc).
Once they get it, however, they’ll quickly adapt and lose their happiness; then, they’ll chase another goal for happiness and repeat the cycle, which is called the “hedonic treadmill.”
But if you endlessly chase goals to try to achieve happiness, you’ll never enjoy what you already have, you’ll become attached to those things, and you’ll live in the constant fear that you’ll lose what you have.
“There are two things to aim for in life: First to get what you want, and, after that, to enjoy it.”
— Logan Pearsall Smith
Instead, learn to reach your goals without making your happiness depend on them.
Learn to be happy, win or lose, and in the present moment.
Realize that no achievement — no matter how shiny, cool, or sexy — will bring the fulfillment that motivated you to pursue it in the first place.
If you can learn to savor everything you have right now, it gives you more freedom, ease, and peace — and it’ll help you live a great life.
2. Too Many Priorities
The key to a great life is discovering what’s most important to you, focusing your energy there, and moving forward on those priorities.
Yet you only have a finite amount of energy. What are you going to focus it on? You can’t do everything at once; you have to say “no” to something.
To make real progress in life, prioritize your goals based on importance. Identify what would bring the biggest impact and hold off on the lesser things until you finish.
“Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking twenty steps in a singular direction.
Most people take one step in twenty directions.”
— Dr. Benjamin Hardy
By removing options, it makes the path to success so much easier.
Rather than spreading yourself across many tasks you’re weakly committed to, you can zoom in on the things that you’re truly committed to.
3. Proving Myself
Many people constantly try to prove something to others (and to themselves), but it’s utterly self-defeating.
They’ll always seek approval to compensate for the lack they feel inside, they’ll always be controlled by other people’s opinions, and they’ll never be free.
No achievement will make you more worthy as a person.
You are “good enough” regardless of what you accomplish in life—and the more you forget this, the more likely you are to do things to sabotage yourself.
Stop trying to prove yourself.
Keep more plans, announcements, and victories to yourself.
Once you stop seeking validation or praise, you’ll become liberated.
You’ll enjoy the freedom to do as you please, and you won’t be controlled by others because you won’t need them to applaud you to feel worthy.
Then, find goals that you would still want to accomplish even if no one knew you accomplished them.
A simple test is to ask yourself:
“If I could never tell a single person about my achievements, would I still pursue them?”
That way, you’re not influenced by proving yourself or what people might think of you—instead, you’ll do things purely for enjoyment and love.
4. Too Much Screen Time
Every day, the average American adult spends 4.5 hours on their smartphones, 4.5 hours watching TV, and 5 hours on their computers.
And whenever there’s a pause in our days — waiting at a red light, waiting in line, eating a meal, etc. — we grab our phones and plug right in.
But life happens outside of a screen.
Worse, excessive screen time causes anxiety and depression and worsens your addiction.
In fact, just seeing your phone reduces your brainpower.
(And no one lies on their deathbed wishing they watched more Netflix.)
Cut back on your screen time.
Use Airplane Mode or hide your phone so you don’t feel compelled to check it constantly.
If necessary, cancel your subscriptions and buy things à la carte.
Then, apply all that extra free time toward more rewarding activities.
Spend more time with your kids.
Do more exercise.
Learn a new skill.
Your quality of life will grow in proportion to the amount of time you spend in reality.
5. Accepting My Situation
We all have so much potential in our lives.
No matter our obstacles, we can still maximize our body, intelligence, personality, and so much more.
Yet how many people actually attempt to reach their full potential?
How many are making the most of their gifts rather than making excuses and rationalizing their situations?
Ultimately, it’s the path toward your full potential that leads to self-acceptance.
It creates joy, pride, and confidence to know that you’re giving your best effort to make the most of your life.
You might never reach your full potential, but at least you’ll experience the peace of mind of moving toward greater heights.
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
— John Wooden
Success always comes from within first.
Be the person you want to be, and you’ll have the things you want to have.
6. Staying Up Late
If you’re a night owl, that’s fine.
But don’t call yourself a night owl to justify watching Netflix or playing video games until 3 AM.
(If that’s the case, being a “night owl” might be holding you back.)
This isn’t about becoming a morning person; this is about becoming wiser with your time.
Once I went to bed earlier, I was quickly able to eliminate a lot of time-wasting distractions from my life.
“A powerful antidote to wasteful distractions and poor behaviors at night is to go to bed sooner. Rarely are the evening hours spent powerfully.
Usually, there is a point of diminishing returns — usually after eight or nine p.m., give or take an hour…
Going to bed one hour earlier than your norm is one of the fastest ways to becoming your future self.
You avoid wasteful consumption.
You get more rest.
You enable yourself to wake up earlier and get to work on your goals before the busyness of the day.”
— Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D.
To help, set a nighttime alarm to let you know when to turn everything off and get ready for bed. That way, you can sleep at a consistent time and improve your sleep hygiene.
7. Bad Relationships
Your relationships are the strongest factor in a life of happiness and health.
Avoid people that create anger, unhappiness, or self-doubt, and avoid negative, unpleasant, or unstable people because they will affect you tremendously.
Also, avoid weak friendships — the friends you don’t really care for, but keep around so you’re don’t feel alone.
That is not going to lead to a great life or a fulfilling, enriching relationship.
(Hell, I’d rather be by myself than spend time with someone who’s only with me because they’re lonely.)
Finally, learn to be happy by yourself so you don’t become attached to other people or rely on them for your joy.
Life is a series of big decisions — each one can lead you down tremendously different paths and alter your life.
Yet many people hesitate in their decisions because they’re afraid of closing options and committing. Instead, they deliberate, delay, and get stuck in paralysis by analysis, waiting for the “right moment” that will never come.
“The best thing is to do the right thing; the next best is to do the wrong thing; the worst thing of all things is to stand perfectly still.”
— Alfred Henry Lewis
If I waited for the “right moment” or until I “felt ready,” I would’ve never made any of the greatest decisions in my life.
That’s why I forced myself to take action and learn through experience — even if I failed, at least I found out instead of not trying and failing by default.
The longer you wait, the longer it’ll take to get to where you want to go.
Practice being decisive.
Learn to choose quickly and stick to your guns.
You might worry you’re “missing out” or making the wrong choice, but the more you take action, the more you realize that those fears are unfounded.
9. Being Too Serious
When I’m too serious in life, I feel robotic and unnatural.
But when I let go and live as if I was playing a game, I feel free to take risks and make the most of my life—I can do what I enjoy and I don’t stress about what others think.
When was the last time you were singing to yourself in public?
When was the last time you did a little dance move in front of a mirror?
When was the last time, instead of throwing something into it a trash can, you crumpled it up into a ball and shot like a basketball?
When we were kids, we didn’t think twice about running around and playing.
We’re so worried about what other people might think of us that we wouldn’t dare let loose.
Who gives a shit how you’ll look?
Life is a game.
Start making more jokes, not to please others, but to please yourself.
Once you get over your fear of “looking stupid,” you'll unlock a lot more freedom, fun, and spontaneity.
And it’ll enhance your life more than you could imagine.
How to Use Annoying Comments to Your Advantage
Criticism is an opportunity to grow and doesn’t always mean someone is a troll.
I’ve been harassed to the moon and back in my five years of online writing.
Heck, on Quora, I can’t even load my blocklist because it’s so large.
My browser crashes.
Harassment doesn’t bother me anymore.
If anything, it’s a sad indictment on humanity. I don’t write about politics or controversial issues.
Yet here I am, working a second job as a digital bouncer, throwing people “out of the club” for getting too belligerent.
As someone who makes his living with content that is open to comments, I’ve learned to harness that feedback.
You can too.
Not all negative comments are trolls
I learned a deceptively simple, all-powerful insight from my years in business: the opinion of one customer often represents the opinion of many.
Years ago, when I was new at writing, I wrote a humor piece, “The Signs of a High Maintenance Woman.”
Even writing that title now, I wince a bit.
It was a bit basic and ill-advised.
But I was naive.
I figured it was all in good fun, “Hey, it’s a joke right?”
Really, it was just lazy writing and preying on cheap jokes.
Very soon after hitting publish, someone commented saying I was being insensitive.
Ironically, in my own hyper-sensitivity, I got combative and argued with them about it.
Soon, I realized they were right and deleted my post before it got worse.
It was an early and important lesson in consideration for my audience.
The customer isn’t always right (and if they use that phrase, they definitely aren’t). But often — they are on to something.
Leveraging pedantic jerks to your advantage
Cunningham’s Law states that “The best way to get the right answer on the internet isn’t to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.”
People dive like a hawk at the opportunity to sound smart.
You could make the most obvious observation, stating that the sky is blue, and if the article gets enough eyes, you’ll invariably get a slew of irritating, poorly formatted comments.
- “OH so because YOU think the sky is blue WE should think it’s BLUE.”
- “Based on what empirical evidence can you state this? Citations needed. Reported.”
- “Well actually the sky isn’t blue, it’s that blue light gets reflected most out of the seven colors. If you had taken science, you would already know this.”
These people walk around you in everyday life.
You bump into them at grocery stores and gas stations.
They smile at you and wave.
Then they go home and raise all hell on their keyboard.
You can’t win with some people.
But the mere presence of nitpicky audience members should get you thinking more.
I try to anticipate the counterarguments they’ll make and write to them.
It strengthens your message with the entire audience.
You can do this with pending conversations too.
Scenario planning helps you excel with negotiations, relationship “talks”, and asking for a raise.
Map out possible reactions and how you’ll accommodate them.
A quick tip: how to effectively reply to a bad comment
It’s usually a waste of time to engage with hostile users, but if you must, validate them in some way. Do this by acknowledging their feelings or some truth behind what they say.
Then, offer your rebuttal.
If you don’t do that, they’ll only see you through a combative lens, forming their counterargument as they read.
Use the “sandwich” strategy
A surgeon-friend told me a joke about a patient who just woke up from surgery.
The doctor tells the patient there’s good news and bad news.
The patient says, “Well, give me the bad news first so the good news lifts me up.”
The surgeon says, “The bad news is that we had to amputate both legs.
The good news is that the guy down the hall wants to buy your shoes.”
Thankfully, the story is fiction, but it illustrates a feedback mechanism called a “sh#t sandwich”.
It’s when you give bad news with a positive spin that does little to make things better.
It’s common, ineffective, and often makes the recipient hate you.
The more effective version of this is a “praise sandwich”.
You say positive things, give critical feedback in the middle.
Then you end with a compliment.
This management tactic is proven to affect change and influence people.
Humans are sensitive creatures.
If you aren’t good at taking criticism, you can deploy The Batman Effect.
Look at yourself as a third-person entity, an alter ego.
It distances you from your immediate feelings.
You’ll see the situation more objectively and actually utilize what is said.
The truth of Grammar nazis
I saw a guy comment on someone’s Quora answer, pointing out that it is “your instead of you’re” and this led to a full-blown, 18-reply argument that ended in name-calling.
Studies show that grammar nazis, as the name implies, have highly disagreeable personalities.
However, their critiques are often accurate.
We should know the difference between you and you’re.
Yes, sometimes that mistake is just a slip of the hand.
And yes, it’s annoying when someone comments only to point out a mistake rather than message us directly.
Nothing is more annoying than people who only comment when they disagree.
Grammar nazis have a purpose.
As a writer, I’ve grown to appreciate nitpicky readers who see small problems in writing.
It’s a talent.
My girlfriend is an academic editor and picks off my mistakes with ease.
If you are highly self-critical, channel that into your communication and writing.
Plan ahead and think through what you’ll say.
The internet is full of trolls and the real world is infested with closet trolls.
But don’t dismiss every criticism.
Information is inherently neutral.
It’s how you use it that determines its value and alignment.
Accepting mistakes is a way of exorcising your ego and growing in a way that most fail to.
Earlier today, I was sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich for lunch when an elderly couple pulled their car up under a nearby oak tree.
They rolled down the windows and turned up some jazz music on the radio.
Then the man got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the door for the woman.
He took her hand and helped her out of her seat, guided her about ten feet away from the car, and they slow danced for the next half hour under the oak tree.
It was a beautiful sight to see.
I could have watched them forever.
And as they wrapped things up and started making their way back to the car, I clapped my hands in admiration.
Perhaps doing so was obnoxious.
Perhaps I should have just appreciated being a silent witness.
But I was so caught up in the moment—so incredibly moved—that my hands came together before my conscious mind caught on.
And I’m sincerely grateful they did because what happened next inspired the words you’re reading now.
The elderly couple slowly walked over to me with smiles on their faces.
“Thank you for the applause,” the woman chuckled.
“Thank YOU,” I immediately replied.
“You two dancing gives me hope.”
They both smiled even wider as they looked at me.
“Us dancing gives me hope too,” the woman said as she grabbed the man’s hand.
“But what you probably don’t realize is that you just witnessed the power and beauty of second and third chances.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“My college sweetheart—my husband of 20 years—lost his life to cancer on my 40th birthday,” she explained.
“And then my husband of 6 years died in a car accident when I was 52.”
As my mouth hung open, we all shared a quick moment of silence.
Then the man put his arm around her and said, “And I lost my wife of 33 years when I was 54.
So what you see here before you—these dancing partners—this incredible love—this marriage of only 3 years between two kindred souls in their late 60’s . . . all of this is what happens when you give yourself a second and third chance.”
Finding Peace Through Painful Experiences
I’ve spent the rest of the day thinking about that beautiful couple, about second and third chances, and about how human beings find the motivation to keep going . . . to keep loving . . . to keep living, despite the pain and grief and hopelessness we all inevitably experience along the way.
And this topic hits close to home too.
About a decade ago, in a relatively short time frame, Angel and I dealt with several significant, unexpected losses and life changes, back-to-back:
- Losing a sibling to suicide
- Losing a mutual best friend to cardiac arrest
- Financial unrest and loss of livelihood following a breadwinning job loss
- Breaking ties with a loved one who repeatedly betrayed us
- Family business failure (and reinvention)
Those experiences were brutal.
And enduring them in quick succession knocked us down and off course for a period of time.
For example, when Angel’s brother passed, facing this reality while supporting her grieving family was incredibly painful at times.
There were moments when we shut the world out and avoided our loved ones who were grieving alongside us.
We didn’t want to deal with the pain, so we coped by running away, by finding ways to numb ourselves with alcohol and unhealthy distractions. And consequently, we grew physically ill while the pain continued to fester inside us.
We felt terrible, for far too long.
And getting to the right state of mind—one that actually allowed us to physically and emotionally move forward again—required diligent practice.
Because you better believe our minds were buried deep in the gutter.
We had to learn to consciously free our minds, so we could think straight and open ourselves to the next step.
We learned that when you face struggles with an attitude of openness—open to the painful feelings and emotions you have—it’s not comfortable, but you can still be fine and you can still step forward.
Openness means you don’t instantly decide that you know this is only going to be a horrible experience—it means you admit that you don’t really know what the next step will be like, and you’d like to understand the whole truth of the matter.
It’s a learning stance, instead of one that assumes the worst.
The simplest way to initiate this mindset shift?
Proactive daily reminders…
Mantras for Finding Motivation in Hard Times
It’s all about keeping the right thoughts at the top of your mind, so they’re readily available when you need them most.
For us, that meant sitting down quietly with ourselves every morning (and on evenings sometimes too) and reflecting on precisely what we needed to remember.
We used short written reminders (now excerpts from our books) like the ones below to do just that. Sometimes we’d call them mantras, or affirmations, or prayers, or convictions, but in any case, these daily reflections kept us motivated and on track by keeping grounded, peaceful, productive thoughts at the top of our minds, even when life got utterly chaotic.
We ultimately discovered that peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard realities to deal with—peace means to be in the midst of all those things while remaining calm in your head and strong in your heart.
Challenge yourself to choose one of the bolded reminders below every morning (or evening), and then sit quietly for two minutes while repeating it silently in your mind like a mantra.
See how doing so gradually changes the way you navigate life’s twists and turns and hard times.
- Never assume that you are stuck with the way things are right now. Life changes every single second, and so can you. – When hard times hit there’s a tendency to extrapolate and assume the future holds more of the same. For some strange reason, this doesn’t happen as much when things are going well. A laugh, a smile, and a warm fuzzy feeling are fleeting and we know it. We take the good times at face value in the moment for all they’re worth and then we let them go. But when we’re depressed, struggling, or fearful, it’s easy to heap on more pain by assuming tomorrow will be exactly like today. This is a cyclical, self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your future through that same dirty lens, and nothing will be able to focus your foggy judgment. You will keep on justifying, reliving, and fueling a perception that is worn out and false.
- It is what it is. Accept it, learn from it, and grow from it. It doesn’t matter what’s been done; what truly matters is what you do from here. – Realize that most people make themselves miserable simply by finding it impossible to accept life just as it is presenting itself right now. Don’t be one of them. Let go of your fantasies. This letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about something or someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only thing you really have control over is yourself in this moment. Oftentimes letting go is simply changing the labels you place on a situation—it’s looking at the same situation with fresh eyes and an open mind, and then taking the next step.
- Use pain, 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. Again, your response is always more powerful than your circumstance. A tiny 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.
- The most effective way to move away from something you don’t want is to move toward something you do want, gradually and consistently. – The key is in building small daily rituals, and understanding that what you do in small steps on a daily basis changes everything over time. This concept might seem obvious, but when hard times hit we tend to yearn for instant gratification. We want things to get better, and we want it better now! And this yearning often tricks us into biting off more than we can chew. Angel and I have seen this transpire hundreds of times over the years—a course student wants to achieve a new milestone as fast as possible, and can’t choose just one or two small daily habits to focus on, so nothing worthwhile ever gets done. Let this be your reminder. Remind yourself that you can’t lift a thousand pounds all at once, yet you can easily lift one pound a thousand times. Small, repeated, incremental efforts will get you there. (Angel and I build small, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
- The effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger, more educated, and more experienced. – So when the going gets tough, be patient and keep going. Just because you are struggling does not mean you are failing. Every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there. Again, it happens one day at a time, one step at a time. And the next step is always worth taking. Seriously, no matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Practice patience. And remember that patience is not about waiting—it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working diligently to make daily progress.
- Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being derailed by them. – As you strive to make progress, you will inevitably encounter roadblocks in the form of difficult people. But realize that the greatest stress you go through when dealing with a difficult person is not fueled by the words or actions of this person—it is fueled by your mind that gives their words and actions importance. Inner peace and harmony begins the moment you take a deep breath and choose not to allow outside influences to dominate your thoughts, emotions, and actions. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our “1,000 Little Things” book.)
- As you age, you’ll learn to value your time, genuine relationships, meaningful work, and peace of mind, much more. Little else will matter. – Remember this, especially when the going gets chaotic and tough. Focus on what matters in each moment and let go of what does not. Eliminate needless distractions. Realize that too often we focus our worried minds on how to do things quickly, when the vast majority of things we do quickly should not be done at all. We end up rushing out on another shopping trip, or hastily dressing ourselves up to impress, just to feel better. But these quick fixes don’t work. Stop investing so much of your energy into refining the wrong areas of your life. Ten years from now it won’t really matter what shoes you wore today, how your hair looked, or what brand of clothes you wore. What will matter is how you lived, how you loved, and what you learned along the way.
Afterthoughts… On Deep Loss & Renewal
Before we go I want to briefly address the biggest elephant in the room.
That elephant is losing someone you love.
The elderly couple in the opening story lived through this kind of loss.
Angel and I have lived through this kind of loss.
And although there are no words to make it easier, I want those who are presently coping with this kind of loss to know that the journey forward is worth it.
The end is always the beginning. There’s more beauty—a different kind of beauty—ahead.
You see, death is an ending, which is a necessary part of living.
And even though endings like these often seem ugly, they are necessary for beauty too—otherwise, it’s impossible to appreciate someone or something, because they are unlimited.
Limits illuminate beauty, and death is the definitive limit—a reminder that we need to be aware of this beautiful person, and appreciate this beautiful thing called life.
Death is also a beginning, because while we have lost someone special, this ending, like the loss of any wonderful life situation, is a moment of reinvention.
Although deeply sad, their passing forces us to reinvent our lives, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places.
And finally, of course, death is an opportunity to celebrate a person’s life, and to be grateful for the beauty they showed us.
That’s just a small slice of what living through deep loss has taught us.
Just a short piece of a longer story that’s still being written . . .
A story of second and third chances, renewed hope, and heartfelt dances.
And the reminders above will get you there, one day at a time.
Before you go, let me ask you a quick question:
- Which point above resonates the most with you right now?
And how might reminding yourself of it, daily, change your life?
I’m sitting here on the tenth anniversary of a dear friend’s passing, thinking about the last conversation I had with her.
With a soft, weak voice she told me her only regret was that she didn’t live every year with the same level of love, passion, and purpose she had in the final two years of her life after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“I’ve accomplished so much recently.
And I’ve touched so many people,” she told me.
“If only I had listened to the good advice of my elders—if only I had known—I would have started sooner.
I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on drama and distractions that don’t matter.”
My friend’s words were hard to hear in that moment, for many reasons.
And although her sentiments—her lessons—were concepts I had listened to others say a hundred times before, I had never truly heard them until that moment.
My heart broke wide open for her, and for me.
It was downright painful to see the glimmers of regret in her eyes, and then to realize that I too had wasted time … that I too had let so much good, common-sense advice go in one ear and out the next.
For a decade now, I’ve lived with my late friend’s words echoing in the back of my mind.
I’ve let them guide me through thick and thin.
And I’ve also committed myself to hear more good, hard advice, and living by it.
The list below is a highlight of that advice—some hard things I remind myself of often … some hard things we all need to hear sometimes.
- When you hear only what you want to hear, you’re not really listening. Listen to what you don’t want to hear too. That’s how you grow.
- Fantasizing about other times and places can be dangerous. Don’t cling so tightly to the past, or dream so fervently about the future, that you miss out on the real value and beauty that is here and now. Don’t live entirely in your head. Don’t miss your life!
- You often waste your time waiting for the ideal path to appear. But it never does. Because you forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting.
- You will never feel as confident as you want to feel. Stop believing that you should feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence.
- Distractions will get the best of you if you let them. Study your routines, figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions. You become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus—where your attention goes.
- There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Know the difference. Life is too short. Invest in the activities (and relationships) you deeply care about. Value what you give your energy to. Focus on what matters and let go of what does not.
- Self-neglect is super common. Realize this! Your needs matter. Do NOT ignore them. At times you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not just what’s best for everyone else. There’s absolutely nothing selfish about self-care and self-love. We can’t give what we don’t have. Enrich your life and you’ll be life-giving to others, too.
- You don’t give yourself enough credit sometimes. Remember that time you thought you couldn’t make it through? You did, and you’ll do it again. Don’t let your challenges get the best of you. Appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience.
- Your response is always more powerful than your circumstance. A tiny 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.
- Everything gets a bit uncomfortable when it’s time to change. That’s just a part of the growth process. Things will get better. Be patient.
- Patience is not about waiting. Patience is the ability to keep a positive, focused attitude while working hard to move your life forward.
- New, good habits don’t form overnight. It takes roughly 66 days to form a habit. So for the next nine weeks, look at the bright side of your life, and you will rewire your brain. Then apply this same principle to other areas of your life. (Marc and I build small, life-changing habits with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
- Mental strength is incredibly important and easily overlooked. Go to environments that expand your mind. Spend time with people who truly inspire you. Read books. Learn. Grow. Get better. Your life is your choice.
- Old patterns are hard to break. Be aware. Act consciously and consistently. Don’t fall back into your old patterns. Toxic habits and behaviors always try to sneak back in when you’re doing better. Stay focused.
- Sometimes it’s better to let go without closure. Actions and behavior speak volumes. Trust the signs you were given and gracefully press on.
- If you always play the victim, you will always be treated like one. Life isn’t fair. But you don’t have to let the past define your future. Try to take life day by day and be grateful for the little things. Don’t get caught up in what you can’t control.
- Life doesn’t always give you the circumstances you want. Life gives you the circumstances you need … to learn, to grow, and to fall in love.
- When you really pay attention, everyone and everything is your teacher. Take time to observe and listen. Take time to learn something new.
- No one wins at chess by only moving forward. Sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. This is a perfect metaphor for life.
- Your hardest challenges will teach you your best lessons. There is an opportunity in every difficult situation to understand yourself more deeply, and also to improve your life. Take one small step at a time.
- The vast majority of your stress is self-inflicted. And the most powerful weapon you have against stress is your ability to choose one thought over another. Learn to manage your thoughts, before your thoughts manage you.
- Your mind will forever produce negative thoughts. So the goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts. That’s impossible. The goal is to change your response to them. In fact, the strongest sign of your inner growth is realizing you’re no longer worried, stressed or pained by the things that once used to drain you.
- Calmness is a superpower. The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps your mind clear and your heart at peace. Once you begin to value your inner peace over your need to react and be right, you will in fact experience more inner peace, and happiness.
- You are holding on to things that hold you back. When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated. Not everything and everyone you lose is a loss.
- “Busy” is mostly just an excuse. In a world with so much noise and clutter, you must make room to hear yourself and others. Embrace silence and space. Breathe and listen. Be where you are. You’re where you’re supposed to be at this very moment. Every step and experience is necessary and can be enhanced with your presence.
- You ignore your inner voice too often. Give yourself the space to listen to your own voice—your own soul. Too many of us listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd.
- You often seek validation from the wrong sources. You will never find your worth in another human being—you will find it in yourself, and then you will attract those who are worthy of your energy. So stop waiting for others to tell you how impressive you are. Impress yourself. Show yourself that you can grow and get better. It’s never about competing with others. In the end, it’s just you vs. you.
- Popularity is irrelevant. Forget popularity. Just do your thing with passion, humility, and honesty. Do what you do, not for applause, but because it’s what’s right. Many of the kindest gestures you’ll ever make, and the most important things you’ll ever do will never be seen publicly. Do them anyway.
- You have been impressed with some people for the wrong reasons. Be less impressed by money, titles, degrees, and looks. Be more impressed by generosity, integrity, humility, and kindness.
- People will not always tell you how they feel about you. But they will always show you. Pay close attention.
- Your expectations of others cause you unnecessary pain. Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them.
- You will end up heartbroken if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.
- Life is too short to argue and fight. Remember to be selective in your battles. Peace can feel better than being right. You don’t need to attend every argument you’re invited to. Count your blessings, value the people who matter, and move on from the drama with your head held high.
- You will gradually attract people that think and behave like you. If you want to be surrounded by positive people, you need to be positive too. And the opposite is also true. So do your best to surround yourself with people who push you to be your best. Less drama—less mess. Just higher vibrations and intentions.
- You need to learn to be more human again (we all do). Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind gadgets. Smile today. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our “1,000 Little Things” book.)
- Sometimes you subconsciously dehumanize people you disagree with. Be careful. In our self-righteousness, we can easily become the very things we dislike in others. Ultimately, the way we treat people we disagree with is a report card on what we’ve learned about love and compassion. Every single person you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. Know this. Respect this. And be extra kind.
- “Bad” people can change for the better. If somebody is working on themselves and changing for the better, it’s unnecessary to keep bringing up their past. People can change and grow.
- Forgiveness is necessary for personal peace. Forgive others, not because they absolutely deserve forgiveness, but because you absolutely deserve peace. Free yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.
- Life will take things from you, and give things to you, gradually and continuously. It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Do your best to embrace life’s uncertainties. Some of the best chapters in your life won’t have a title you feel fully comfortable with until later.
- Everything you have right now is in the process of changing again. Look around, and be thankful for your life right now. For your health, your family, your friends, and your home. Nothing lasts forever.
Before you go, let me ask you a quick question:
- Which point above resonates the most with you right now?
And how might reminding yourself of it, daily, change your life?
self-indulgently sorry for yourself
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