Life is hard, right? Things go wrong from time to time, we have to struggle to maintain the lifestyle which we have become accustomed to, and our time seems to be constantly demanded by other people. And then sometimes we order a coffee at Starbucks and it’s got the wrong syrup shot in it.
Ok, so we are privileged to experience - the vast majority of the time - only these sort of first world problems. But there are, nonetheless, some ways which we seem to continuously choose to make our own lives unnecessarily difficult. Some of these are driven by our relative prosperity and good fortune. And all of them can be ameliorated with a little thought and often, simply by recognising the tendency in ourselves.
So, are you making your life harder than it has to be?
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Tendency 1 - Keeping up with the Joneses
There was a time when this problem was limited to curtain twitching and checking out who was installing a new avocado green bathroom suite on your cul-de-sac. But ever since the advent of social media, we get an insight into not only the fortunes of those on our street, but our friends and contacts from all over the world - even celebrities- we follow and share everything, from our kitchen to our kids, our high heels to our holidays.
Trying to keep up is a pressure you just don’t need. Social media does not reflect the realities of life. Just because someone chose a flawless and glowing Facebook profile picture does not mean they look like that all the time. Stop trying to keep up and start taking time to appreciate what you have around you already.
Tendency 2 - Failing to say no
Are you being a martyr? Do you automatically agree when asked to help a colleague out? Do you find it impossible to turn down an invitation - even to an event you’re not excited about? Are you always the one left making practical arrangements and sorting out your colleagues, family and friends?
We often try to avoid saying no. Nobody wants to be seen as a negative or an unhelpful person, but by continually agreeing to things without considering the drain on our own emotional and mental resources, we can make our own lives much more difficult than they need to be. Take a little time before you reply to that request or invitation. Sometimes, saying no is better in the long run.
Tendency 3 - Working without a plan
Planning - both in your personal and professional life - can make the difference between a stressful life lurching between crises’, and things running smoothly. Tolerance for risk and pleasure in spontaneity vary wildly between individuals, and finding a method of planning that works for you is important.
Having a plan can help in both small and large ways. The little practical improvements from having a plan - things like shopping with a list to minimise time and money wasted - add up; but planning can also make a difference on a larger level. Think more broadly about your plans for best effect - knowing what you’re working towards can be powerfully motivational. Whether you enjoy planning to the point of keeping notes on everything, or you just operate a functioning calendar on your smartphone, it doesn’t matter so long as you find your healthy planning balance.
Tendency 4 - Hanging with the mood hoover
Some people just suck the joy from a situation. The minute they walk into a room the atmosphere changes for the worst, and everyone notices their presence. Perhaps they’re naturally negative or critical, or tend to be abrasive and argumentative. Either way, they’re a drain on your emotional energy.
It’s not always as simple to avoid these people; although that’s a good choice if you can make it! If you have to work with people who sap your energy, for example, and can’t simply escape, remind yourself that you control your own mood, and do your best to ignore the bad vibes. Just by noticing the negative impact a mood Hoover is having on you, you can start to minimise it - take a walk in the park and force yourself to see the funny side.
Tendency 5 - Failing to learn
If failing to plan is planning to fail, then failing to learn is learning to fail. Things in life change. Learning on a continuous basis is the only way to keep up, and this comes down to attitude, not academic smarts. You don’t need to have your head in a book, but keeping an open mind and being curious about the world around you - from different people and places, to technology and thought leadership - will ensure that you continue to learn.
Failing to learn can have a negative impact on working life as well, since continual professional development is essential to many careers, but simply by staying interested you can also stay interesting, making it a good social investment too.
See also: 5 Difficult Work Place Experiences Which Inspired Me to Travel The World
Simply by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this - presumably meaning you have access to a computer, and the education to have learned to read in the first place - you are in a pretty good place. Keeping a sense of perspective is important, as there are times when things can get too much. We make our own lives more difficult than they need to be in simple ways, when we should be enjoying our privileged existence and getting the most from life. If any of these tendencies resonate with you, make some quick changes now and you won’t regret it.