When you look back on the past year, don’t think of the pain you felt. Think of the strength you gained, and 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, and then step forward again with grace.
The next best step forward?
Doing something uncomfortable that will move your life forward. Let me explain…
Almost two decades ago, when I told my grandmother I was worried about taking a chance and regretting my choice, she hugged me and said, “Trust me, kiddo, that’s not what you’re going to regret when you’re my age. If anything, you will likely kick yourself for not taking more chances on the very real and accessible opportunities you have today.” And the older I get, the more I realize how right she was. Life is about trusting yourself and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the journey, and realizing that every step is worth it.
But (and this is a big “but”)… you have to be willing to take each step. You have to give yourself a fair chance. Because in the end, more than anything else, we regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too busy to nurture, and the decisions we waited too long to make.
Think about it…
The big opportunity you procrastinated on. That friend you never called. Those important words you left unspoken.
You know what I’m talking about.
Why do we do these things to ourselves?
Why do we make so many regretful decisions along the way?
In most cases the poor decisions we continuously make, and the ensuing regrets we face, are caused not by physical problems in our lives, but instead by common weaknesses of the inner mind—weaknesses that encourage us to avoid discomfort.
Discomfort is a form of pain, but it isn’t a deep pain—it’s a very shallow one. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone. The idea of exercising every morning, for example, brings discomfort—so we don’t do it. Eating green vegetables brings discomfort too. So does meditating, or focusing on a difficult task, or saying no to others. Of course, these are just examples, because all of us find discomfort in different things at different times, but you get the general idea.
The bottom line is most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we subconsciously run from discomfort constantly. The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are forced to participate in only the (easy) activities and (unexciting) opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle that often leads to regret.
Turning Things Around in 2018
Are you tired of dealing with the same types of headaches and heartache over and over again?
Then it’s time to break the cycle, purge some bad habits, and embrace discomfort as you prepare for the year ahead. It’s time to learn from your mistakes rather than be conquered by them, and let your errors be of commission rather than omission.
Remember, you ultimately become what you repeatedly do. If your habits aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you. Which means it’s time for a change.
Here are 18 uncomfortable things to start doing for yourself in the year ahead…
- Challenge your understandings and certainties. – Life’s richness does not come from always residing within familiar territory. It’s when you venture out, away from the familiar, that you grow stronger and more capable. You must hold tightly to your core values while at the same time opening your heart and mind to new ideas, feelings and experiences. Your own perspective will become clearer when you look at things from different angles. Find ways to provide a healthy challenge to your current understandings of life, and you will discover and experience far more of life’s magic in the year ahead.
- Track how you invest your energy and make productive shifts. – To attract better outcomes in life, you have to become better on the inside. Again, you can’t do the same things and expect change. You can’t blame someone else. Take full responsibility for the next step. Start transforming your mindset. Start upgrading your habits. Your life is 90% your choice! Seriously, don’t settle! Don’t exchange what you want most for what’s easiest at the moment. Study your agendas and routines closely. Figure out where your time goes, and remove needless distractions. It’s time to focus on what really matters.
- Work diligently and consistently on meaningful goals. – When you focus your heart and mind upon a purpose, and commit yourself to fulfill that purpose through small daily steps, positive energy floods into your life. Sadly, many of us miss the mark. A few years ago when the Guardian asked a hospice nurse, Bronnie Ware, about The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, one of the most common regrets she noticed was that people regretted not being true to their goals. In fact, she said that most of the people she cared for admitted to not honoring even half of the goals that were meaningful to them, and so they ended up dying with regrets. Let this be your wake-up call! Good health brings a level of freedom and opportunity very few of us realize until we no longer have it. As they say, there are seven days in the week and “someday” isn’t one of them.
- Do the hard things. – Lose the expectation that everything in life should be easier. There are rarely shortcuts to any place worth going. Enjoy the challenge of your achievements. See the value in your efforts and be patient with yourself. And realize that patience is not just about waiting, it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your important goals. It’s knowing deep down that doing the hard things is worth it. Why? Because those are the things that ultimately define you. Those are the things that make the difference between existing and living—between knowing the path and walking the path—between a life of mediocrity and a life filled with progress and fulfillment.
- Study your mistakes closely and learn from them. – Disappointments and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to the places you want to go. Don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart. When things go wrong, learn what you can and then push the heartbreak aside by refocusing your energy on the present step. Remember that life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes. We must fail in order to know, and hurt in order to grow. Good things often fall apart so better things can fall together in their place. And what’s better already is the more informed step you’re able to take right now.
- Choose a positive and effective response. – Happiness doesn’t start with a relationship, a vacation, a job or money. It starts with you. If you want life to be happier, you need to be mindful of your present response. It’s how you deal with stress in each little moment that determines how well you achieve happiness in the end.
- Directly confront the thoughts that worry you. – A tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by how you respond to them. Whenever our Getting Back to Happy course students and Think Better, Live Better conference attendees come to us feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible—or simply not possible soon enough. But you CAN always choose a mindset that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control at any given moment. Here’s a powerful question that will support you with an attitude adjustment when you need it most: Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you removed the thought that’s worrying you?
- Learn to be more human again. – Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind gadgets. Smile often. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. You can’t connect with anyone, including yourself, unless you are undistracted and present. And you can’t be either of the two when you’re Facebooking, Instagramming or Snapchatting your life away on your smartphone. You just can’t! If you are constantly attached to your smartphone and only listening with your ears as your eyes check for the next social update, you are ripping yourself off of actually experiencing real relationships and real life. The same is true for texting too. Yes, someday you will be slapped with the reality of a missed MEMORY being far more unsettling than a missed TEXT!
- Be strict about making time for the right people. – At some point, when it comes to relationships, you’ll just want to be around the few people who make you smile for all the right reasons. So be intentional about spending more quality time with those who help you love yourself more. And remember that nothing you can give them will ever be more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention—your full presence. Truly being with them, and listening without a clock and without anticipation of the next event, is the highest form of compliment.
- Choose yourself, too. – You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a top priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system. Love yourself first and foremost every day, instead of simply loving the idea of other people loving you. Your needs matter. Start meeting them. Don’t wait on others to choose you—choose yourself! And remember that once your needs are met, you will be better equipped and capable of meeting the needs of those few people who matter most to you. (We discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of our book.)
- Invest in your health. – There’s no getting around it: no matter how much you think you dislike exercise and healthy eating, both will make you feel better in the long run. If you don’t have your physical energy tuned up, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. In fact, did you know that recent studies conducted on people who were battling depression showed that consistent exercise combined with a healthy diet raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Even better, six months later the people who participated in this exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
- Walk away from the drama you feel inclined to engage in. – Say less when less means more. Sometimes, you are as wise as the silence you leave behind, because sometimes the right words aren’t words. Deep down you know this is true. Live accordingly. Do your best not to judge other people, for you do not know their pain or sorrows. If you cannot speak a kind word, say nothing at all. And if they cannot speak a kind word, say nothing at all. Enjoy the inner glow you get from letting go and not engaging in drama. When you no longer waste your energy worrying about things that don’t evolve you, everything gradually changes. You stop doing the wrong things, and the right things suddenly have a chance to catch up with you.
- Say “no” when you need to. – Saying “yes” to everything puts you on the fast track to a regretful existence. Feeling like you’re constantly busy and overwhelmed is typically the result of saying “yes” to too often. We all have obligations, but a healthy, effective pace can only be found by properly managing your yeses. So stop saying “yes” when you want to say “no.” You can’t always be agreeable; that’s how people and situations take advantage of you. Sometimes you have to set clear boundaries.
- Distance yourself from hurtful relationships. – One of the absolute hardest parts of loving someone: you have to give things up because of them. And sometimes you even have to give them up. Of course, it’s difficult to distance yourself from someone you care about (or cared about) without getting hurt in the process. Even if this person has hurt you a hundred times, you start thinking of all these “what ifs”—these “maybes” about the future. But that’s just the thing, there’s nothing concrete and reliable about these fantasies. The reality of this person’s consistent actions has disproven them. When someone shows you their true colors time and time again, it’s best to believe them and distance yourself. (We discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our book.)
- Forgive the people who don’t necessarily deserve it. – Distance yourself, but don’t forget them; forgive them. Forgetting about the people who hurt you is your gift to them; forgiving the people who hurt you is your gift to yourself. Let this sink in. You need to forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness at the moment, but because you deserve peace of mind going forward. And also keep in mind that some relationships will temporarily split, only to heal and grow back together over time. Forgiveness alone makes this possible, if it’s meant to be.
- Find joy in less. – People who spend all their time trying to make money, spend all their money trying to make time. Don’t do this to yourself. Remind yourself that the richest human isn’t the one who has the most, but the one who needs less. Wealth is a mindset. Want less and appreciate more today. Challenge yourself to be less impressed by the things you own, and be more impressed by the life you live. You are incredibly fortunate to be experiencing this moment right here, right now. And the more you appreciate it, the better it will be. (Read Soulful Simplicity in the New Year—we read an advance copy and it’s a true game-changer.)
- Say “goodbye” so you can say “hello.” – Learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it. When people and circumstances close their doors on you, it’s a hint that your personal growth requires someone different and something more. Life is simply making room. So embrace your goodbyes, because every “goodbye” you receive in life sets you up for an important “hello.”
- Start over again, and again. – No one wins a game of chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. Think about how this relates to your life. Sometimes when it feels like you’re running into one dead end after another, it’s actually a sign that you’re not on the right path. Maybe you were meant to hang a left back when you took a right, and that’s perfectly fine. Life gradually teaches us that U-turns are allowed. So turn around when you must! There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past mistakes and regrets, and get you back on track in the year ahead. These words are: “From now on…”
A Daily Challenge for 2018
I sincerely hope you found value in the reminders above. No doubt, they are important to think about. But right now, with 2018 literally knocking hard at the door, these reminders are even more important to act upon. And since taking action is where most of us get hung up, let me ask you a few quick questions…
- How many times in the past year has the psychological draw of comfort plagued your best intentions?
- How many workouts have you missed in the past year because your mind, not your body, told you that you were too tired?
- How many workout reps have you skipped in the past year because your mind, not your body, said, “Nine reps is enough. Don’t worry about the tenth”?
In the past year alone the answer to all three questions is probably dozens for most people, including myself. And obviously these questions can be slightly tweaked and applied to various areas of our lives too. The bottom line is that weakness of the mind combined with lack of action devastates our potential. When we avoid discomfort, nothing worthwhile gets done. And the only way to fix this predicament is daily practice.
Your mind needs to be exercised to gain strength. It needs to be worked on a daily basis to grow. If you haven’t pushed yourself in lots of small ways over time—if you always avoid doing the uncomfortable things—you’ll almost certainly crumble on the inevitable days that are harder than you expected. (Note: Angel and I build small, uncomfortable, life-changing daily habits with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
So, my challenge to you in 2018 is this:
Choose to go to the gym when it would be more comfortable to sleep in. Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be more comfortable to quit at nine. Choose to create something special when it would be more comfortable to consume something mediocre. Choose to raise your hand and ask that extra question when it would be more comfortable to stay silent. Choose to stand your ground when it would be more comfortable to fit in. Just keep proving to yourself, in lots of little ways every day, that you have the guts to get in the ring and wrestle with life. And reference the list of 18 above anytime you feel like you’re slipping off track.
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
Which point above resonates the most with you right now?
Anything else to share about this article, or your plans for 2018?
We would love to hear from YOU.
Happy holidays! 🙂