For the longest time I had tunnel vision and expected life to be a certain way. I studied my failures until I lost sight of my successes. I surrendered my dreams to feel a sense of comfort. I crafted limiting beliefs and shielded myself from love and happiness by refusing to put myself out there. And as I did all of this, I sat back and wondered why life was so miserable.
Obviously, I was very lost.
I began to turn things around about a decade ago when my stubborn habits led me into a chaotic argument with Angel. As we both stared at each other through tears, she said, “Marc, you are the enemy – your enemy. It’s your choices. I can’t sympathize any longer. You can choose differently if you want to, but you have to want to. Please want to!” And after some extensive soul-searching, lots of reading, a little sabbatical, and continuous support from a loving wife and a few close friends, I learned to choose differently and eventually found myself again.
I tell you this because I know you struggle with similar inner demons – occasionally we all do. Sometimes our thoughts and routine choices are our biggest enemies. Which is why I want to remind you to beware of…
1. Your expectation of constant contentment.
Nothing in life is constant. There is neither absolute happiness nor absolute sadness. There are only the changes in our moods that continuously oscillate between these two extremes.
At any given moment we are comparing how we currently feel to how we felt at another time – comparing one level of our contentment to another. In this way, those of us who have felt great sadness are best able to feel heightened feelings of happiness after we emotionally heal. In other words, happiness and sadness need each other. One reinforces the other. Humans must know misery to identify times of elation.
The key is to focus on the good. May you live each moment of your life consciously, and realize that all the happiness you seek is present if you are prepared to notice it. If you are willing to appreciate that this moment is far better than it could have been, you will enjoy it more for what it truly is. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Happiness and Growth chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
2. Your obsession with examining personal failures.
Imagine being enrolled in five college classes in which you achieved one A, two B’s and two C’s. Would you concentrate on the A or the C’s? Would you berate yourself for falling short in the C classes? Or would you capitalize on your obvious interest and aptitude in the subject matter of the A class? I hope you realize the value of the latter.
Every morning when you wake up, think of three things that are going well in your life at the moment. As you fall asleep every night, fill your mind with an appreciation for all the small things that went well during the day. Examine your successes.
Give the power of your thinking to the positive influences in your life, and they will grow stronger and more influential every day. Remind yourself often of what works well and why, and you’ll naturally find ways to make lots of other things work well too. The most efficient way to enjoy more success in life is not to obsess yourself with what hasn’t worked in the past, but instead to extend and expand upon the success you already know.
3. Your urge to surrender to the draw of comfort.
The most common and destructive addiction in the world is the draw of comfort. Why pursue growth when you already have 400 television channels and a recliner? Just pass the chip dip and lose yourself in a trance. WRONG! That’s not living – that’s existing. Living is about learning and growing through excitement and discomfort.
Life is filled with questions, many of which don’t have an obvious or immediate answer. It’s your willingness to ask these questions, and your courage to march confidently into the unknown in search of the answers, that gives life it’s meaning.
In the end, you can spend your life feeling sorry for yourself, cowering in the comfort of your routines, wondering why there are so many problems out in the real world, or you can be thankful that you are strong enough to endure them. It just depends on your mindset. The obvious first step, though, is convincing yourself to step out of your comfort zone. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
4. Your self-limiting beliefs.
You do not suffer from your beliefs. You suffer from your disbeliefs. If you have no hope inside of you, it’s not because there is no hope, it’s because you don’t believe there is.
Since the mind drives the body, it’s the way you think that eventually makes the dreams you dream possible or impossible. Your reality is simply a reflection of your thoughts and the way you routinely contemplate what you know to be true. All too often you literally do not know any better than good enough. Sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN.
It all starts on the inside. You control your thoughts. The only person who can hold you down is YOU.
5. Your resistance to being vulnerable.
Love is vulnerability. Happiness is vulnerability. The risk of being vulnerable is the price of opening yourself to beauty and opportunity.
Being vulnerable is not about showing the parts of you that are polished; it’s about revealing the unpolished parts you would rather keep hidden from the world. It’s about looking out into the world with an honest, open heart and saying, “This is me. Take me or leave me.”
It’s hard to consciously choose vulnerability. Why? Because the stakes are high. If you reveal your authentic self, there is the possibility that you will be misunderstood, judged, or even rejected. The fear of these things is so powerful that you put on an armored mask to protect yourself. But, of course, this only perpetuates the pain you are trying to avoid.
The truth is nothing worthwhile in this world is a safe bet. Since love and happiness are born out of your willingness to be vulnerable – to be open to something wonderful that could be taken away from you – when you hide from your vulnerability, you automatically hide from everything in life worth attaining. (Read Daring Greatly.)
6. Your expectations of how things are supposed to be.
There’s this fantasy in your head about how you think things are supposed to be. This fantasy blinds you from reality and prevents you from appreciating the genuine goodness that exists in your life.
The solution? Simple: Drop the needless expectations. Appreciate what is. Hope for the best, but expect less.
You have to accept reality instead of fighting it. Don’t let what you expected to happen blind you from all the good things that are happening. When you stop expecting people and things to be perfectly the way you had imagined, you can enjoy them for who and what they truly are.
In what way are you your own worst enemy? Please leave us a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Brendon Burton