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How To *Not* Screw Up Your Life

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I’ve seen many people screw up their life over the years.

Most of it has been the result of poor decisions and a lack of discipline. I’m no angel myself – I too have screwed up parts of my life as well.

Your life is something you should reflect upon regularly. Learn to become your own critic and commit to fixing the things you know deep down inside are screwed up. Sometimes it takes a rock bottom period in your life to work out that you’ve screwed up.

The frustrating part is that you shouldn’t have to go to hell and back to figure out that you have screwed up your life. Personal improvement and reflection can get you to a place of understanding much faster. It takes time to get there though.

You might need to spend ten minutes a day assessing your life and seeing your decisions for what they are. I know what you’re thinking though: “Tim, I don’t have ten minutes a day, I’m flat out trying to survive and stay above water!”

If that’s your answer, then my response is this: If you don’t have ten minutes a day to reflect on your life and make sure you’re not screwing it up, then you already have a massive problem. Lack of time is the beginning of all of your problems.

Here’s how you will screw up your life:

Falling for addictions you think you don’t have

We all have one of the following addictions:

– Food
– Drugs
– TV shows / Online Games
– Sex
– Escapism
– Depression / anxiety
– Money

These addictions are at the root of what goes wrong and force us to screw our lives up. No matter who you are, you’re probably suffering from one of these even if you won’t admit it. I know I’m guilty of many of these. The first step is to admit your addiction.

Pretending you’re fine and not obsessed with one of these will force you to become ignorant. Ignorant people then go on to believe the lie that they can be perfect and that the problem is with everyone else. Before you worry about someone else’s backyard, think about your own first.

“If your own backyard is full of weeds, it’s because of your addictions”

Significant other

Romantic relationships are a big part of why we screw up our lives. While it’s impossible to avoid making mistaking in this area of your life completely, you can certainly minimise the damage. Ask yourself the following questions:

Why am I in a relationship?
How do I treat the other person?
What’s one negative similarity I have experienced in each romantic relationship?

The key phrase to remember with this part of your life is that you take “you” with you to each relationship.

Until you answer the above three questions, you’ll keep experiencing the phenomenon that is déjà vu in your romantic life.

Not saying this word enough

Your life get’s screwed up because of complexity. When your time is not focused in the right areas of your life and you have too much going on, everything goes bad.

Saying no is how you take back control. If you listen to interviews of billionaires, you’ll find that they are all superb at doing one thing: saying no unashamedly.

Part of what causes us to say yes to so many meaningless offers is that we don’t want to upset people. Living in this pretend world where everybody loves us causes us to become lost. Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay. The key I’ve found is to learn to say no with respect.

By saying no respectfully, you become much better at it. That’s because the reactions you’ll get will be far more positive.

Never taking risks

Making the decisions that are always comfortable is the fastest way to screw up your life. We must grow as human beings otherwise we fall for addictions because we become bored. Life starts to lose it’s meaning when we don’t choose uncertainty.

Having the answer to every problem is not the way to go; not having the answer to every problem but taking the risky option anyway is where you want to get to. Everything I’ve achieved in my life has come from taking a chance and not knowing what could happen.

“The times I’ve personally fallen for addictions have been when I’ve become bored or stopped growing”

In this state, I’ve wanted to choose addictions to help experience some uncertainty or a high that quickly wears off and brings me crashing back to rock bottom.

Taking risks is harder than it seems. It takes practice and discipline. The beauty is that we all get options to take risks every single day. There’s no lack of risky decisions in this world. You’ve got a playground to practice in.

“Sometimes it’s fun to swing on the monkey bars of life and fall down a few times”

Taking these seemingly crazy risks opens up your perspective. From these new heights, you can see the world for what it is: a beautiful place, full of wonderful people all trying to live their purpose and find meaning.

Risk taking will eventually lead you to your individual purpose if you stay on the right path and don’t fall for comfortable results or addictions.

Allowing limiting beliefs to win

The beliefs you have will determine whether you’ll make decisions that will screw up your life. We all have limits that are caused by our beliefs. For a long time, I thought that I couldn’t be world class because I wasn’t smart enough and didn’t have the resources.

When you analyze your beliefs (and I recommend you do), you realize that they can limit you in so many ways. The reason you don’t make certain decisions is because of the underlying belief of what you believe the outcome might be.

When you remove the speed limiter that’s controlling your life, you can go in any direction you want, at whatever pace you want. You can achieve what ever you want, whenever you want. All of a sudden, anything is possible. The challenge is that your limiting beliefs are invisible to your brain.

They’re not easy to see and it takes practice to find out what they are and then throw them in the bin. It’s worth doing though because your beliefs can mess everything up. They can cause you to be broke, selfish, unlovable and very unhappy.

Not believing in yourself

“The biggest idea, the best person, the greatest tool you have, is you!”

Your life will be screwed up when you don’t believe that you can achieve your dreams. No one else can believe in you unless you do so first. You must know that you have everything inside of you to produce any outcome you desire.

Think about all the good things you have done and focus your time on that. Be grateful for how far you’ve come and then you’ll appreciate what it takes to get to the end game. Most of all, treat yourself nicely. Talk nicely to yourself and be patient.

Thinking change is a problem

Change is not a problem; it’s an opportunity. Nothing stays the same forever and to think it will is how you’ll screw up your life. When you accept that constant change is going to occur no matter what, the surprises, shocks and bumps in the road become something you look forward to.

You’ll begin to understand that every little change is the start of a new season in your life. Change becomes a challenge to keep on growing in new and wonderful directions. The strategy you’ve been searching for is hidden in the change that is right in front of you.

Change is not the problem because change is the start of the solution. Change is the first step.

Change equals uncertainty and we’ve already said that this risky place is the destination you need to aim for. It’s where the yacht is waiting for you to take you to that place you’ve always dreamt of.

Stop screwing up your life.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship.You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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