In this article, we will be focusing on eliminating threats that diminish our ability to be better humans. To lead a joyful life, there are numerous things to avoid.
Life is a space full of opportunities and threats to match. Some people are not even aware of how fragile and short their life truly is. I sometimes find myself guilty of taking loved ones and things – including my well-being – for granted. It is important to acknowledge both threat and opportunity, to appreciate each moment, and contend with harsh realities we will all surely face. However, if we don’t manage potential dangers properly, it could lead to our demise.
It would be impossible to cover this topic in one blog post. However, today I will be sharing my top 10 things that hold us back from experiencing life to the fullest.
After some trauma I had experienced while I was homeless, I needed to eliminate self-destructive habits. I was then able to make tremendous progress toward my goals. I wouldn’t be here writing this post if I hadn’t purged what was toxic to me and taken ownership of my thoughts, emotions, and actions.
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Things to Avoid
1. Not Asking for Help From Family, Friends, and Community
There is no shame in leaning on your support system.
One of the biggest mistakes I have made was keeping up the illusion that I could handle everything life dished out to me. There was a false narrative around being vulnerable as well. Growing up, I was not rewarded for being vulnerable. Vulnerability got me bullied at the bus stop. It got me called names like “crybaby” or “wimp” or worse. Sharing feelings was not a behavior taught in our household. You either bottled everything up or had a meltdown.
I acknowledge that my lack of vulnerability protected me from adverse experiences no child should have to know. This adaptive child was only doing what was necessary to survive. While I recognize this, I also see that this behavior in adulthood is self-defeating.
As a result of suppressing your emotions, you carry anger, resentment, and insecurity. I want to thank the adaptive child, but it is time to step into my most authentic self. I am a human with a soul, and people care about me.
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Asking for help is a superpower. Vulnerability is a strength and something that should be honored. No one can read your mind, so express what is on it. Isolating and believing “I can do this on my own” – as I believed – will only leave you more alone with the storm inside you. Even if you have no close friends, try to reach out to someone you know, and by being vulnerable, you will allow that relationship to deepen. By showing some dependency on another, we allow someone to show up for us. Not only that, but it lets that person know that they can rely on us for support.
If you truly are having a hard time connecting with another person, please know that there are professional services (e.g. therapy, psychiatrists, hotlines, counselors) out there to utilize unapologetically. Someone will listen to you with a nonjudgmental ear and compassion in their heart for you. They will get you the help and support you need. I have been guided by a therapist and psychiatrist for almost two years, as well as working with a life coach for about three months. Place your trust in the kindness and beauty of another human being. Someone will be there for you.
2. Blaming Other People Instead of Looking Within
We will all find ourselves victims of circumstances (e.g. trauma, crimes, pandemics, natural disasters, poverty, inequality, etc.). There is no question about this. When heinous acts are committed, we demand the assailant(s) be brought to justice, and the victim(s) compensated rightly.
Yet we also play a part in how we react to overcome our circumstances. Generally speaking, outside of wicked acts and destructive events, we play a part in deciding if we are the victim or the hero. If we go around blaming others – as I have been guilty of doing in the past – we relinquish our power to change the situation we find ourselves in. If you believe the fault falls 100% on the other person’s shoulders, then the solution is also 100% with them.
Why give up your power to take control of your circumstances?
Change From Within
I have mentioned leadership coach and author, Jerry Colonna, in a previous article, but he has this powerful quote that I wish to revisit:
“How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”
By being open-minded about this question, you will see that the solution often rests within us. Furthermore, by discovering how we may be complicit in our conditions, we have more direct control over our experiences. There is a power that manifests internally. It fuels your ability to change a situation.
Remember: this quote does not hold for extreme cases like war, pandemics, abuse, and extreme acts of violence.
However, in most cases, this will aid you in doing the deep work that is required to retrain your mind. This one question can be the catalyst to helping you follow your goals and dreams. It has the potential to assist you in reclaiming your life.
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3. Obsessing About What Others Think of Us
I have written a whole article on why we might obsess over what other people think of us. You can read more about this here.
The bottom line is this: How can we expect to find peace in life if we are constantly worrying about how we appear in the eyes of other people?
Criticism is a part of life. You practically cannot take two steps out of your house before getting judgment cast upon you. No matter what pursuit you have in life, there will be those who oppose it and those who support it, so take everything with a grain of salt. Both negative and positive feedback is to your benefit. It is for your growth. And remember, at the end of the day, you are doing what your doing not because of what others think, but because you are excited to do it and do not need external validation to know your worth.
Ask yourself, “Where have I put this person on a pedestal? Where have I given too much weight to their opinions or praise?”
As always, have a little self-compassion. It can be challenging not to please others constantly. It will take time and energy to relearn how to put yourself first.
4. Spending Time With the Wrong People
Have you ever heard the famous Jim Rohn quote, “We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.”? I have heard it more times than I can count.
When we give our energy to the “wrong people” (e.g. the news, wasteful internet time, toxic work environments, binging Netflix, friends who might pressure us into self-defeating behavior, family – who love us – but may not support our visions or goals in the way that we need, isolation, etc.) we dim the light of our soul. It is challenging – if not impossible – to realize your fullest potential when you are surrounded by those who are draining your energy.
If you think this might be you then run a “friendship audit.” Ask yourself, “Do I feel heavy or light after I spend time with these people?” If it is the former, there is a good chance your attention is invested in the wrong crowd.
This tip is nothing to sneeze at. The people you spend your time with can and will make or break your overall well-being.
5. Not Setting an Intention for the Day
If we do not wake up and actively take control over where we want our energy to be focused, then our life-creep (e.g. jobs, friends, family, the news, pandemic, micro-stressors, etc.) will make that decision for us. Before allowing our life-creep to take control over our energy, ask yourself what you want this day to mean. Wake up and decide what today’s intention will be.
If you are reading this, congratulations! YOU ARE WINNING!
You woke up today alive, well, with air in your lungs, and life flowing through your veins. What will you do with it? You can put out a vision and secure it – today, tomorrow, then the next day, so on and so forth.
Isn’t that freakin’ cool! You have this one life to create something bigger than yourself one, tiny action at a time!
However, we must aim our energy in the right direction to make a difference. Otherwise, if we fly on autopilot, our energy gets used on the things that hinder our progress. By setting a clear intention, before bed or in the morning, you avoid life-creep that will hijack your energy. With this idea or vision, you know exactly where and what your energy is going toward.
Tip: Try writing it in a personal journal right before bed each night.
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6. Wasting Time On Social Media
I do not believe social media is good or bad…
In fact, it has the potential to be both depending on our use.
Social media can be a means of connection. It can build communities, pull people out of loneliness, and promote collaboration.
Then again, it has its fair share of risks as well. People can fall into passive consumption of social media. We can also get sucked into echo chambers that provide evidence for what we need or want to believe.
If you feel stuck, alone, not enough, inadequate, etc., there is a risk of falling deeper into those feelings – as I have done many times in the past. It is challenging to get over the hurdle of our own confirmation bias without guidance (e.g. therapy, counseling, coaching) or intentional consumption of social media.
7. Being Too Hard on Yourself
And often, too hard on yourself – every day.
Regrettably, I treated myself like dirt for years. I was abusive with my negative self-talk, and what is sad is that I am not the only one who struggles with this. Many people beat themselves silly over anything and everything. I would never talk to my beloved girlfriend, Angela, the way I talk to myself. It would make me sick to speak to a younger child – or my future kids – the way I spoke to my own inner child.
It is counterproductive to be so brutal to yourself. Human beings were not created unlovable. At some point in life, it is something we were unfortunately taught.
Here are a few journal prompts and affirmations I used to start becoming a friend to myself. To start becoming someone who could love himself, and could see the beauty in others:
“Is this my voice or someone else’s? Are these my insecurities or insecurities that have been put on me by others?”
“I am learning how to love myself. This thought, I can believe. I know in my heart human beings are not born to hate themselves. So why does this have to be the case for me? It doesn’t.”
Once we develop awareness around our self-defeating beliefs and behavior patterns, we start to realize they are no longer needed. Note: If you are struggling with this, pick up the book, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. You can tap the link, and it will direct you to the book.
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8. Not Reading Books That Support Your Development
Fortunately, according to Pew Research Center, the average American reads about 12 books per year! I am ashamed to say I thought it would have been much lower than this. However, there is room for improvement, people.
Research books that you are interested in that will be conducive to your personal development. Set a time to read (e.g. 30-minutes once or twice a week to start). Distance yourself from distraction and technology – focus, and dig deeper. Books have helped me mature and flourish, and they will continue to be my companions in my life. Reach out to me for book recommendations, or click here to pick up the “Book of the Month“!
9. Being Inflexible With Your Opinions and Beliefs
By being inflexible in our opinions and beliefs, we close ourselves off from growth and learning.
Chinese American martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, has a famous quote saying,
“Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water, my friend.”
Let this sink into your mind.
Our soul (i.e. the water) is naturally boundless. It has limitless potential. Notice how the water takes on the shape of its container. The containers are what we limit our soul with (e.g. opinions, beliefs, expectations, language, what we identify with, etc.). Why not be a little more flexible in our thinking? Why not be like water?
Tip: Whenever I fill up a glass of water to drink, I say to myself, “My soul is boundless” or “I am learning to have a boundless soul. I am learning to see that I – like all humans – have limitless potential.” A glass of water acting as an anchor point can be incredibly powerful! When you go to drink life-giving water, your awareness is brought back to the present moment. You’re able to give your soul life as well. You will align your actions with your thoughts of learning how to be boundless, limitless, and purposeful.
If we can realize how truly flexible our thinking can be, then we can also see that we don’t have to live in containers that no longer serve us.
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10. Living the Life That Others Expect of You, Instead of the Life That’s True to You
This regret in life comes from the book “The Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. It is a memoir of her work as a palliative care nurse, and the top regret she heard when her patients were on their deathbed was, “I wish I lived the life that was true to me instead of the life that others expected of me.”
Let me say it one more time with emphasis:
This was the number one regret of people who lived full-lives with many colorful seasons.
“I wish I lived the life that was true to me instead of the life that others expected of me.”
Can you imagine the weight of that regret at the end of life? Imagine for yourself that you are on your deathbed… Would you carry this regret? If so, stop living the life that others expect of you, and instead live the life that is truest to you.
Honesty and Courage
It takes tremendous honesty and courage to live a true life.
Ask yourself, “Where am I currently living a life that someone expects of me that comes at the cost of a life that’s true to me?”
Look around you.
There is so much crap we are dealing with right now that won’t matter when we are on our deathbeds. Would you rather live with others’ disappointment now or live with regret in your heart when you leave this earth? Which one is more unbearable?
I don’t know about you, but if living a life that is truest to me means not meeting some people’s expectations of how I should live my life, then I am happy to disappoint them.
I do not want to make this sound easier than it is…
It is not easy.
It may sound simple, but it is extremely challenging to do. There is a reason its the top regret of the dying.
Be that as it may, if you wish to move forward in life, you must take the steps necessary to lead with your truth. You might upset people, and that is fine. Do it tastefully and with integrity. You will thank yourself later.
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