It’s funny how when everything is going well in life — goals are being met, dreams are coming true — do we stop we stop to consider the habits behind our state of contentment. We walk around on top of the world thinking, “This is just how I am. This whole ‘life’ thing is cake.”
It’s only once the walls start closing in do we stop and ask, “Why is this happening? What am I doing wrong?”
There’s a reason the phrase “ebb and flow” has cemented its way into our culture’s lexicon. Life is not a cake walk through and through. Days of feeling untouchable are followed by waves of doubt, depression, and an overall sense of malaise.
Maybe one day I’ll create a list of 7 habits for building a rainbow bridge to a field of permanent elation. For now, please join me in keeping this “not-to-do-list” close by for when the emotional waters get dicey.
The 7 Deadly Habits
1 Never Giving Up
I worked on a different article I wanted to share, except it didn’t turn out very good. But the more energy I spent on it the more difficult abandoning it became. The article’s perceived importance grew in my mind with each hour I worked.
If you were reading it right now it would only be because of my ego. It would be me saying, “I worked really hard on this so it must be important and you had better enjoy it.”
Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But knowing when to quit — when ego overshadows quality — is just as important as knowing when to stick it out.
2 Feeling Sorry For Myself
Last week my dentist said I need an expensive and painful procedure. On the way home my car broke down. “Well, cancel everything! Hopes, dreams — just forget it. The universe is against me!”
I have pity parties for myself and they consume all my energy. I go home and close the blinds and shut out the world. This is a highly effective way to miss beautiful sunsets.
Feeling sorry for ourselves bleeds into all areas of our lives until, instead of one problem, everything is unbearable. We waste time that could be used creating, laughing, or cheering up others.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, “It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed.”
3 Going into “Story Mode”
A small doubt floats into my head and the storyboards light up. It’s as if there’s an entire room of writers in my brain who sit around projecting doomsday scenarios onto my imagination.
Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
We often suffer more in our minds than in reality. We worry most about what could happen. Most of which, of course, never does.
4 Not Sleeping
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” I’ve always been jealous of people who can operate at a high level with little to no sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep (7–8 hours) simple tasks require twice as much brain power and I get half the quality of work.
Plus, I get cranky — with others and myself. I walk around like a little boy who needs a nap.
Same goes for not eating right or not exercising. If you’re feeling miserable, I’ll bet you’re ignoring one of these three pillars of health.
Health is the foundation of everything else. When we ignore health we always lose.
5 Being Jealous
Sometimes jealousy can be good. I use jealousy as one metric to measure quality work. When I say to myself, “Man, I wish I’d written/painted/cooked/built that,” it’s an indicator that something is high quality (because I have great taste).
However, jealousy usually takes us off our path. We see what comes with other people’s success and think, “That’s what I need to do!”
Jealousy is a distraction that blinds our eyes from our own big picture. It distracts us from playing the long game.
6 Doing, Doing, Doing
Productivity porn is everywhere. Hide your children’s eyes!
I understand getting things done is important, but doing, doing, doing when we shouldn’t is one of the deadliest habits on the list. When we force ourselves to “accomplish” when we’re feeling down, tired, or jealous — the results are always less than our best.
When we’re riding a wave of negative emotions, the best thing to do is nothing. We need to recharge and let those feelings pass rather than trying to “do” our way past them.
7 Not Being Grateful
I still hear my Dad yelling at me from the front seat of the car, “Don’t be ungrateful!” But only in the last few years have I learned that’s not enough.
We must be actively grateful each day.
Meditation is a great tool for keeping life balance, yet it can take some consistent work before noticing a real shift in mood. Gratitude practice, however, is one thing I’ve seen create an immediate shift in mindset for myself and others.
Simply writing down 3 things you’re grateful for can be a silver bullet for turning a bad day upside down on its head.
What deadly habits did I miss? Let me know in the comments below.