Reader Question: On the show and the blog, you talk a lot about what to do, how to look at things differently, and how to make shifts. That’s great, but it still feels like things aren’t quite connecting for me. How about a list of what NOT to do? I think I’ve developed a bunch of self-defeating habits over the course of my lifetime that I don’t even realize are self-defeating.
Wise observation! Sneaky self-defeating habits really are the biggest stumbling block no matter what the subject. Trying to find a soulmate? They are the culprit. Want to make more money? Guess what’s in your way. Struggling to lose some weight? Ditto.
Truth is, they all come down to just a few things - expectations, judgment, unforgiveness - but they show up in a million different ways. Here is a list of the 27 worst offenders, but it could just as easily have been 127. What would you add?
27 Sneaky Habits that are Making Your Life Harder Than It Has to Be
1. You think some of your relationships have failed. Our relationships don't fail us. We “fail” our relationships by having expectations inconsistent with their purpose. Every relationship, every chance encounter (even the messy and painful ones) delivers a nugget of wisdom that is vital for our growth and well-being. From that perspective no relationship ever fails. Expectations have done more damage to more relationships than anything else. Most of the time, the other person is just minding their own business, doing the best they can. But their best isn't good enough because you expected something else, something different from what they are doing or how they are doing it. Wonder what would happen if you flipped your own perspective instead of getting bent out of shape? Well, that would put you in charge of your own feelings, for one thing, instead of feeling victimized, which is what feeling failed is really about. Actively look for the lesson. Be grateful for the lesson and consciously apply it to yourself. Allow your only “expectation” to be that you will grow and evolve because of this encounter.
2. You chase perfection. Perfectionism has its roots in fear and contempt. Fear that you’ll do the wrong thing or do it the wrong way, of opening yourself up to criticism, that people will see you as a fraud or imposter. Contempt that others will not live up to your expectations, that what they do will fall short, that no one can do it as well as you. Either way, it’s a form of hatred where you judge and condemn yourself and others for doing the best you/they can in the moment. It’s never good enough. Perfection, often defined as getting everything “right,” is a myth. It is subjective. What is perfect to you may be a nightmare to another. True perfection comes from inner contentment. It comes from accepting the truth of each individual moment as a soul-invited stepping stone to your own enlightenment.
3. You focus everywhere except the present moment. Ruminating over the past, steaming and stewing, wishing you had done things this way or that, stuck in how things “should” have been. Fretting about the future, making rigid plans and worrying about every tiny little detail, stuck in how things “should” be. Ask yourself this – Is everything OK right now? Well, what’s your definition of OK? If you are alive and breathing, chances are everything is OK regardless of your worries or circumstances. Savor that. Right now. Pay attention to how you feel when you catch yourself stewing and fretting so you can make a habit of pulling yourself back from the past or the future. (Gratitude is great antidote.)
4. You expect other people to give you answers instead of finding your own. Get up off your duff! Their answers won’t be your answers. They can only tell you what they think you “should” do. (There’s that word again!!). Of course you can learn from others, watch what they doing, listen to what they are saying, then apply the new information in ways that are nurturing to you. That’s how we evolve. But only YOU can decide that part. Otherwise, you’ll feel battered by well-meaning people or end up chasing every guru that comes along and feeling frustrated. Accept the experiences and teachings of others as good information, then use them to find your own answers.
5. You play the Blame Game. You blame someone else for everything that happens in your life. Why does this always happen to me? Why is god, my spouse, my boss, the government doing this to me? And when someone makes a statement of what’s true for them (When this happens, I feel...), you accuse them of blaming you for their troubles. Maybe you are just so used to blaming others that you assume everyone else blames, too. Do this for yourself: For one week, no matter what happens, say to yourself, “I invited this. What is it bringing me?” instead of looking outside yourself to lay blame. Look at even your worst moments as messengers for your growth. Allowing yourself to feel like a victim blinds you to the solutions that are right in front of you.
6. You let others make you feel guilty for doing what is best for you. At some level, you know it is essential to take care of yourself. You have to be here, after all, to take care of others. Yet, instead of making self-care (not narcissism) the quiet peaceful priority it needs to be, you get sidetracked by trying to please everyone else. You do what others think you “should” and make decisions you think will make you liked, accepted, get that promotion instead of doing what really feels best for you. You get lost in trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, doing things just to impress them or even just putting their wants before your needs, then feeling guilty when you go your own way or do what you believe is best for you. Give up guilt.
7. You justify the existence of toxic people in your life. “I would get rid of him/her, but he/she is my spouse, boss, friend.” You know they bring you down. You know they drain your energy. You know they hurt you and make you feel bad about yourself. And you know they don’t care. In fact, they probably blame you for “making” them treat you that way. Doesn’t matter who they are or what role they play in your life. You don’t have to allow people to cause you pain or make you feel small. You have two choices – usher them out of your life or change the way you deal with them. Here’s the dirty little secret – they can’t “make” you feel anything unless you let them. And you don’t have to feel guilty for showing them the exit or changing the way you engage. And if you have any doubts, refer to Item 6.
8. You judge others. It’s not their job to do what you think they should do the way you think they should do it. Everyone is doing the best they can from where they are and what they know at this point. Let that be OK. Respect the perspective of others. You might just learn something.
9. You have been a taker and didn’t know it. When you give and harbor an expectation of how the receiver should respond, you are a taker in disguise because you are giving from your own unconscious needs, self-interest, and insecurity. The same is true if you impose your giving on another, giving them what you want them to have or what you think they should have. One of life’s greatest challenges is learning unconditional giving, savoring the giving itself as enough, allowing the act of giving to be its own reward. Practice the fine art of allowing the gift to find its own mark, create its own impact. There’s no question that doing good for others, giving forward or giving back, is the best antidote for your own stress or loss, if it is given freely. Giving with strings attached only sets up new stressors and potential losses. And it makes you a taker, giving mainly for that self-absorbed outcome you are chasing. If you find yourself preoccupied with what’s in it for you, you have crossed over and become a Taker Unawares.
10. You criticize or find fault. You mainly see what needs to be different, without pausing to appreciate what already is. You have a running dialog, spoken or internal, of criticism, often about trivial things. Your go-to mode is to find the flaws. You view the world with a critical eye, justifying it as constructive criticism. You have a tendency to see differing opinions as wrong instead of just different. Seeing how things can be better is fundamental to innovation. However, if you find fault with everything, how do you hope to ever be pleased by anything?
11. You allow yourself to be sucked into drama. Drama comes in two flavors - the drama you make and the drama you allow yourself to get pulled into by others. Drama comes from a misguided need for attention, a backwards attempt at getting sympathy which is sometimes mistaken for love. It’s a poor substitute. You can’t stop others people’s drama, but you can decline the invitation to participate. You can ignore it and not get drawn in. As for drama of your own creation, do an about face. When you feel that need for attention and sympathy, counter it by saying or doing something kind and thoughtful. It doesn’t have to be for the person you are almost doing the Drama Dance with. Incredible things happen when you distance yourself from negativity (including your own) and those who create it.
12. You take “everything” as a personal insult. You often feel slighted. You assume others are deliberately being offensive towards you. That person who cut you off in traffic is out to get you. It’s easy to find reasons to feel offended, but what really caused the feeling? Their behavior or your attitude? What if their actions were accidental and the only offense is coming from you and your perspective? You are the one who assigned negative intent to what may have been innocent, though perhaps thoughtless, actions. You took it as a personal insult – a slap in the face. Don’t do this to yourself. That’s a victim mentality and you are the one setting yourself up.
13. You are worried that people will steal your stuff. You barricade your house and worry about break-ins. You agonize about banking and investments. You fret about people stealing your work, your creative output. That’s an especially tender trap for writers, artists, and musicians. So you hoard instead of share. Stop it. There is always more to be gained from sharing knowledge, creative output, or goods, than from hoarding it. Be generous. Encourage others to share in what you have and have created. Give freely with no strings attached and watch it be multiplied back to you. Important messages from the Universe will be given to many people, sometimes in the same words or images. Instead of being offended, be honored to be among the messengers.
14. You dwell on worst-case scenarios. You worry about what could go wrong instead of calmly focusing on how to achieve what you want. Something happens or a thought pops in your head and you immediately spiral down into all the possible problems. Forget that most of them are not even remotely likely. In that mindset, every hiccup is life-threatening, every incident gets blown out of proportion. Fear and negativity breed more fear and negativity, and before long you’ve thrown away your own peace and happiness with both hands. Life happens. It’s supposed to. That’s how we learn and evolve and become enlightened. Will you see it through doubt and gloom or optimism and enthusiasm? As in everything, you get to choose.
15. You compete with yourself and everyone else. Competition is divisive. Soul (and peace) is collaboration and co-creation. “Us and them” makes everybody “them.” If you are competing, you believe there isn’t enough to go around and you must get yours at any cost. Competing with yourself traps you into thinking you aren’t good enough. Life is an ever-evolving momentum fueled by collaboration and co-creation. Seeing the world through the lens of competition will automatically blind you to soul expansion opportunities, including your soulmate relationships, even if they are right in front of you.
16. You procrastinate. Wonder where we got the idea that putting things off, avoiding responsibilities or decisions, would make the issues go away? More often than not, they fester and you end up with the built-up added-on weight and guilt of procrastination. Procrastination rarely makes you feel better, even in that moment when you are avoiding whatever it is. There’s a huge difference between pausing for understanding and procrastinating for avoidance. Indecisiveness only increases your burden and makes it harder to see solutions or take action. Think on this: You are more likely to regret the chances you didn’t take, the relationships you were afraid to have, the times you waited too long to take action, the hope you squashed like a bug.
17. You worry about what other people think. Call it what you will, but this is just insecure teenage popularity-seeking rearing its ugly little head in your adulthood. For some, it goes even deeper, back into a childhood of feeling unloved, invisible, or criticized. Instead of trying to be liked by everyone, focus on being helpful. Act in ways that garner respect. Forget about being an attention hound, or conversely, letting what others think paralyze you with unworthiness. Which would you really prefer? Being liked, which is often temporary and conditional, or being respected which means you’ve been effective in making a difference. If you try to please everyone, you will please no one.
18. You look for short cuts, easy answers, and instant gratification. There is a significant difference between being in the effortless flow and taking the easy way out. It’s the difference between being mindless and being mindful, between swimming with the current or against it. Here’s the paradox: The more you push for short cuts, the longer, more frustrating, and more arduous your task becomes.
19. You get bogged down by your mistakes. What if I told you there is no such thing as a “mistake”? Everything happens at your soul’s invitation for your enlightenment. From a human perspective, that can be tough to accept. From a soul perspective, it makes perfect sense. There is a good-for-you purpose in even your most painful or embarrassing moments. Though it may initially sound counter-intuitive, allow yourself to be “defined” by your past and your mistakes by learning and rising from each one. Love yourself dearly for having the courage to emerge better.
20. You have an “all or nothing,” “black or white,” “right or wrong,” “my way or the highway” mindset. Call it what you will, if you want to stay stuck, then continue indulging in rigid thinking. Trying to force others to adhere to your inflexible rules will only isolate and blind YOU. Allow yourself to learn from the perspectives of others. You may not agree, but you will become more aware of the feelings behind your own beliefs. Life is perfectly imperfect. Every day, it brings you new opportunities, new perspectives, new possibilities. Accept that what feels right for you may be all wrong for someone else – and that’s OK. Remember, all yellow brick roads lead to Oz.
21. Your losses are casting a big shadow. Some hurdles in life are huge and hugely painful. Sweeping it under the proverbial rug is one of the worst things you can do, but dwelling on it doesn’t help either. Be kind to yourself and refrain from demanding instant healing. Take your time returning to a more positive frame of mind instead of trying to be falsely positive too soon. There’s a difference between gently navigating the process and getting stuck in the loss. Maybe you need to forgive someone. That someone might be you. Maybe you need to let go of someone. Allow that relationship to float away. Maybe a loved one has passed and you need to reexamine your thoughts on death. Life is full of loss, but just as sadness helps us recognize happiness, loss can lead us to gain. It helps us grow. Loss can take us into dark places where we think we’ll never see the light again. If that’s you, you are not alone. The danger is getting stuck there. As difficult as it may seem, this may be your opportunity to learn how to reach out, ask for help, and learn how to accept it.
22. You avoid facing the truth. The truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored. It does not need you to believe in order to make it true, but you will be affected by truth with or without your belief. You cannot find peace by avoiding things. You have to feel it to heal it. Bring your fears and weaknesses front and center and shine a blazing spotlight on them. Because the only way out is through. At the same time, do not lie to yourself and call it truth.
23. You expect happiness to be automatic. Happiness in the form of contentment is your birthright. However, the choices you make moment by moment, day by day determine how you experience that legacy. Duality is the nature of human experience. You need sadness in order to understand and appreciate happiness. You can’t completely shield yourself from sadness without also shielding yourself from happiness. Unhappiness comes from fighting with What Is. It come from expectations. It comes from hiding and judging. It comes from lack of gratitude. If you are unhappy, make different choices.
24. You forget to practice simple daily gratitude. You see the flaws and ignore the gifts. You take the wonderful little moments for granted. You forget to consciously express thanks for everyday blessings. Picture this – When you consciously, verbally express your gratitude, the little elves of the Universe scurry around to bring you more and more. The more you are grateful, the more they bring. I’ll take that math any day!
25. You fight against the things that bother you instead of fighting for the things you believe in. Another subtle, yet profound and very sneaky little negative mindset. Social activists are particularly vulnerable here. Mother Teresa summed it up best: “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” Pay attention to how you approach issues. Is it tearing down or building up?
26. You harbor unforgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you. Don’t worry about whether or not they “deserve” it. That’s judgment which only hurts you. Unforgiveness keeps you chained to the person and incident that has hurt you plus all the feelings and habits that have sprung up as a result. It consumes your life, clouds your pleasure, and leaves no room for the love you so deeply desire.
27. You can’t/won’t let go. By now, you’ve probably noticed a couple of themes. You hang on to expectations and have a list of “shoulds.” You hang on to disappointments and losses. You hang on to unforgiveness and judgment. You hang on to unhealthy relationships and habits. You hang on to wrongs and slights. You dwell and worry and fret. The truth is, you will have some regrets. Things won’t always work out the way you’d prefer. You will screw up. You will be tempted to second-guess. Remember this: The unpleasantness in life is a lot like 7th grade. It happened. It sucked. It’s over. Let it go. Truly, it is as simple and as complicated as that.
And if you want hilarious confirmation, watch this Bob Newhart TV clip.
Anne Wade is the founder and publisher of The Soulmate Dance. She is a writer, educator, life coach, and lifelong student of soulmate relationships, devoted to expanding our understanding of all types of soulmate relationships and experiences.