“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.”
― Heath L. Buckmaster
About a decade ago, when I told my grandmother that I was worried about making a significant life change and then regretting my choice, she said, “Do you know what my biggest regret is? Not taking more chances and making necessary changes when I was your age.” Her words have been stuck in the back of my mind ever since, and they have helped me make many positive choices in life. This is especially true whenever I bump up against the reality that something in my life isn’t working, and that it’s perhaps time to make some changes.
If you are currently facing a similar reality, ask yourself this: “What am I focusing on that isn’t working?”
A big part of your life is the result of what you choose to focus on. If you don’t like something, it’s time to choose differently. Don’t be afraid to let go of your old ways and start over today. It’s a brand new opportunity to rebuild what you truly want.
Here are nine things I have addressed and purged in my own life – some common emotional traps we are all better off NOT caring about:
1. Old regrets.
You don’t have to be defined by the things you did or didn’t do in the past. Don’t let yourself be controlled by regret. Maybe there’s something you could have done differently, or maybe not. Either way, it’s merely something that has already happened.
Cleanse your heart of these regrets every night. Just as your body needs regular washing because it gets dirty every day, so does your heart. Because every day people may hurt you, offend you, forget you, snub you, step on you, or reject you. But if you choose to forgive these people and let these things go before you go to sleep, you cleanse your heart. You wake up the next morning refreshed and free of negativity. Refuse to carry old regrets, mindsets and distractions into each new day.
2. The excuses you’ve been telling yourself.
In life you always have one of two things, either you have the thing you are capable of achieving, or the reasons why you don’t. Laziness may appear attractive, but dedication and work leads to fulfillment and happiness in the long run. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
Truthfully, almost anything is possible if you’ve got enough time and enough nerve. What you need to remember is that you can’t always wait for the perfect time and conditions, because there may be no such thing. Most of the time you must simply dare to jump.
And don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, etc… (Read Flourish.)
3. What you don’t have.
You will NEVER have enough time, enough resources, or enough money to do the perfect thing. But what’s truly amazing is what you can achieve without “enough” of these supposed requirements. Sooner or later you will come to realize that it’s not what you are missing that counts; it’s what you do with what you have.
To be upset about what you don’t have is always a waste of what you do have. The happiest and most successful people aren’t the luckiest, and they usually don’t have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes their way. The reason so many people give up is because they tend to look at what’s missing, and how far they still have to go, instead of what’s present, and how far they have come.
4. Always feeling safe and comfortable.
To play it too safe is one of the riskiest choices you can make. By leaving your comfort zone behind and taking a leap of faith into something new, you find out who you are truly capable of becoming. Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is really worth fighting for.
Remember, the strongest people are the ones who feel pain and discomfort, accept it, fight through it, and learn from it. They turn their wounds into wisdom and growth.
5. Fear of failure.
If you are too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful. Your desire to succeed must overpower your fear of failure.
Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what could be. Just keep going and keep thinking, “I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday!” Inevitably, you will make lots of mistakes and you will feel plenty of pain, but in life, mistakes make you smarter and pain makes you stronger.
Bottom line: Don’t worry about mistakes too much, because some of the most beautiful things we create in life come from changes we make after failures.
6. Relationships that suck the happiness out of you.
Give, but don’t get used. Never waste too much of your time on someone who doesn’t value it.
A good relationship doesn’t drag you down, it lifts you up. Listen to positive people and ignore negative ones. People that doubt, judge and disrespect you are not worth your time and attention. Life gets easier when you delete the people that make it difficult. All failed relationships hurt, but losing someone who doesn’t appreciate and respect you is actually a gain, not a loss.
Being alone in the long run is far better than being with someone who doesn’t appreciate your worth. Know your worth. Know the difference between what you’re getting and what you deserve. There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for the people who won’t even jump a puddle for you. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. Being rewarded for every good deed you do.
Most of the time the people who want more than they need end up losing everything altogether. Greed and selfishness will get you nowhere in life. The happiest, most successful people are looking for ways to help others. The unhappiest, most unsuccessful people are still asking, “What’s in it for me?”
A life filled with loving deeds and good character is the best tombstone. Those who you inspired and shared your love and compassion with will remember how you made them feel long after your time has expired. So carve your name on hearts, not stone. What you have done for yourself alone dies with you; what you have done for others and the world remains.
8. Shallow judgments.
It’s impossible to know exactly how another person is feeling or what kind of emotional battles they’re fighting. Sometimes the widest smiles hide the thinnest strands of self-confidence and hope. Sometimes the ‘rich’ have everything but happiness. Realize this as you interact with others, long before you pass judgment. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own.
It’s a sage fact of life, really, that every one of us encompasses a profound and unique set of secrets and mysteries that are absolutely undetectable to everyone else. So smile at people who look like they are having a rough day today. Be kind to them. Kindness is the only investment that never fails.
9. Your obsession with the end result.
Fulfillment is not a matter of achieving a specific goal; it is a matter of mindfully enjoying the process required to achieve that goal. Fulfillment flows from focusing your life around specific and authentically held intentions – ideas and activities that genuinely speak to your purpose. When these intentions are clear, consistent and meaningful, you have sufficient means to bring fulfillment and joy to your life, whether you ever fully achieve your intended goal or not.
In other words, it’s the process of following your path that’s important, not the speed at which you progress down it. Happiness is found during the journey, not at the destination. Slow down so you can appreciate the forest for each of its trees. You have a better chance of truly seeing where you are when you stop spending every waking moment trying to get somewhere else.
Take the time to celebrate the goodness surrounding you and how far you’ve come, rather than focusing exclusively of what’s still left to be done. (Read Learned Optimism.)
Do you hold too tight to your comfort zone? Do you judge yourself and others unfairly? Do you let someone constantly suck the happiness out of you? You know which of the points above apply to you. Pick one and focus on improving in that area every day for the next 30 days.
The floor is yours…
So which of the points above are you struggling with most right now? What else would you add to the list? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights with us.
Photo by: Martin Fisch