You don’t need to live a dream life. You don’t need a bunch of money. A fulfilled life stems from the reasons why you do certain things, not the things themselves.
Too many self-improvement writers chastise you for failing to follow their script. I know not everyone wants to live life the way I want to live. But, still, there are certain signs you’re surely off track. You can find proven principles for how to live.
Ultimately, these principles come down to how you feel about your own life. As you read through these points, the signs will be pretty obvious. But they’re reminders for you to, you know, actually do something about them.
The good news about throwing away your life? You can just stop. I did. One day I just decided I wanted to move in a different direction. Sure, it took a few years to reach the destination, but once I set the intention, half the battle was over.
Take a look at these signs and if they apply to you, think about setting your intentions to change these situations today.
“People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice.” – Charles Buwkowski
You have to take care of yourself and your family, especially in the short and medium-term. But if you never make an attempt to escape the rat race and you spend the vast majority of your time doing things you don’t want to do, you’re throwing at least one major part of your life away.
Having control over your time and doing the things you want isn’t everything, but it’s a hell of a lot more than something. You could say life has four major components — health, wealth, love, and happiness or purpose.
If you spend time on the wrong things, especially the wrong job, you can be deficient in all four of those buckets. Think of someone who hates their job. They’re stressed. There goes health. If they don’t make enough, it can affect wealth and relationships. Obviously, it’s hard to be happy if you not only don’t make enough money but dislike your job.
The point isn’t to make people feel bad for being stuck in situations they don’t want to be in. Often, forces outside of your control help shape those situations. But I do encourage people to create ‘escape plans’ because failing to do so means you’re giving up a significant portion of your existence on this earth. Not good.
And when I say you’re wasting your life by doing things you don’t really want to do, it applies to any scenario. You can be rich doing things you want to do or doing things you hate doing. You can live a modest life doing things you want to do or doing things you hate doing.
An accountant can be in alignment with their purpose and a pop-star can be misaligned. It has nothing to do with what you do, but why you do it. Reaching a point of financial stability is key, but beyond that, try to figure out what works best for you.
“If you’re still in a relationship, remember that just because you can get along with anyone doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re unhappy after having tried every way to make things work, chances are that you should move on. It’s in your best interest to end a dysfunctional relationship rather than get stuck forever with the wrong person just because you’re secure.” – Amir Levine
I don’t give relationship advice. I don’t know anyone’s personal situation nor do I feel qualified to tell them what to do with such an intimate issue.
Here’s what I do know. Being in a co-dependent relationship where both partners won’t leave due to fear of being alone and starting over will have long-term negative psychological effects.
There are a ton of variables to consider, e.g., having children together. But you also have to weigh all the pros and cons, e.g., is it better to stick it out for the kids while knowing your relationship isn’t working or is it better for your kids to not have parents in toxic relationships?
Sometimes people cut things short too quickly because we’re in a culture that promotes exiting relationships when things get tough. But then there’s such a thing as too tough where you shouldn’t have to work that hard to be with someone.
Again, not giving advice, but if you know deep-down you shouldn’t be with that person, I’d encourage you to think deeply about the implications of staying with that person. I stayed in a relationship far too long and even got married when I knew deep down I shouldn’t have.
Sticking things out to see if I could work it out only made leaving more difficult and painful. Ripping the band-aid earlier would have hurt, but it would’ve been much less painful than what inevitably took place.
Work and love — those are the two biggest traps people fall into and waste large chunks of time.
“9 to 5 is not for losers. If you don’t complain […]. Your actions should match your mouth and your ambitions. I think working 9 to 5 is for a loser who says that they will rule the world, and they watch Netflix for four hours a day.” Gary Vaynerchuk
I watch Netflix and drink alcohol. Sometimes I even do illegal drugs. I waste time. I blow entire days being lazy. I’m not a self-improvement robot, a puritan, or someone who will judge you for enjoying life and having vices. But let’s call a spade a spade.
If you’re doing the work a job you hate, go home and watch Netflix nightly 3–4 hours, and drinking all weekend, you’re wasting your life. When you’re engaging in that level of entertainment and distraction, you’re trying to hide from something. You’re coping with something. As soon as you feel you need to do those activities instead of wanting to do them, you’re in the trap.
I’ve been in that trap myself. And I escaped by finding something compelling enough that I no longer needed to fill a void. I found writing. For you, it could be a hobby, a side business, a new skill you want to learn, a means to build your knowledge.
Again, not because you need to be some self-improvement robot to have a good life, but because a life comprised of hedonism in distraction is a waste. A life of all work and no play is also a waste. You’re smart. You know what I’m getting after. You can do both.
Say you get up on a weekend at 8 a.m. You could do something positive and meaningful for a full 8 hours and still enjoy an entire evening after that. You could watch one less hour of Netflix and put it into a beneficial activity.
This isn’t rocket science, but we hide and we cope and we distract because we’re so afraid of having to experience our life in full clarity, face our demons, and fully come to grips with the present moment.
Many people suffered during the pandemic because they lost some of their outlets and had to spend time thinking about their life. If your life isn’t good without your vices, you’re not living a good life, period.
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” – Seneca
Learning to say no is a superpower. We feel this guilt and obligation to freely give away our time and often people don’t deserve it. You have to remove the idea that it’s selfish to judge how worthy people are of your time.
People will respect you more if you have boundaries. Subconsciously, people don’t like walking over you, but they will if you give them the opportunity to. Human nature 101.
Get comfortable just saying no without tacking on an excuse to save face. A line I like to use, “I just can’t make that a priority.” That frame lets both you and the other person know that you’re conscious about what matters in your life.
It’s not that certain opportunities aren’t cool or that you wouldn’t like to do them, but you just can’t prioritize everything at once. Most people suffer not because of a lack of time management, but a lack of priority management.
When you treat everything equally, nothing truly gets done. When you give your time away freely because you want everyone to like you, fewer people love you.
If you look at a ‘wasted’ life, you’ll see a long, long, long, long series of tiny concessions — saying yes to things that don’t matter until it builds this inertia in your life where you’re trapped by all your obligations.
Look at points one and two — work and marriage. They’re ultimately failures because of the huge time costs each of them entails. Your time is everything. Use it will.
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.” – Marcus Aurelius
If you disagree with this post, you should probably just click away and go about your life, yet some people will comment. Why? Because they don’t mind giving away their time based on someone else’s opinion.
If you look at the life of someone who’s wasted time, wasted relationships, wasted their work, wasted energy on distractions, you see the common thread of fear.
Fear of not fitting in, fear of social rejection, fear of lowered status in the tribe. You care because your brain is wired to care, but you can fight that wiring.
Your parents don’t approve of your career choices? Well, as much as you love them, their opinion doesn’t matter because they’re not living your life.
Society doesn’t approve of your choices? Well, I’ll keep in short in saying that ‘society’ is not the friend of individual success by any stretch of the imagination.
Your friends and peers are naysayers? They’re naysayers because they can’t do it, not because they don’t think you can do it.
Ultimately, when you decide to live your life on your terms and march to the beat of your own drummer you reflect people’s insecurities back onto them. You’re a mirror showing them what they could be but aren’t willing to do the work required to be. The weight of their insecurities is theirs to bear though, not yours.
You’re only responsible for yourself, your family, and the people you care about most. And your ability to be your fullest self does impact those relationships. That’s the classic mistake people make — shrinking because they think it’ll help others. Your children don’t want you to shrink and become martyrs for them. They want to see you living boldly, making mistakes, and getting back up anyway.
You’ll be able to be more present and caring with the people you love when you meet your own needs first. Society is better off with you finding your path and being happy. Why? Because you’ll be one less outraged, sad, and anxious person in the collective.
Do what you want to do. Not what society, your friends, your family, or even I want you to do.