Are you unhappy with some aspect of your life–or even with its general direction?
If so, you’re in good company.
Many people try to hide it, but for them there is always a truth behind “Just kidding,” always an emotion behind “I don’t care,” always pain behind “It’s OK,” and always a heartache behind “Leave me alone.”
Whatever the cause of your unhappiness, you can choose how to respond to it. You can feed it and help it grow, or you can help yourself get past it.
Here are some of the actions that keep unhappy people stuck. If you recognize these in your own life, do everything you can to shut them down.
1. Losing track of your own goals. Don’t lose track of what you want, because then you lose track of yourself. Whether you’re working to improve your professional standing, your relationships, your health, or anything else, setting and tracking goals fosters success–and mental health.
2. Sacrificing your own happiness for everyone else’s. It may sound noble to sacrifice your happiness for someone else’s–but this is your life, and you have the right for it to be full and joyful. Life is about sharing happiness, not sacrificing it.
3. Using past failure as an excuse for not trying. Everyone has failed in one way or another, but to make it an excuse for staying stuck, not trying again, or not taking another chance will only make you unhappy. Remember, failure is not the end–in fact, it’s often the beginning.
4. Listening to your inner critic. Your self-sabotaging inner voice–who may sound a lot like a parent or an ex–enjoys blaming you, comparing you to others, setting impossibly high standards, and undermining your self-worth. This voice may be so insidious, so woven into the fabric of your thought, that you never even notice its devastating effect. If you can do only one thing, cutting this voice loose is a great start.
5. Worrying about what other people think. Life is not about pleasing others but giving yourself the best possible version of your life. You can’t control the thoughts and behaviors of others–and there will always be someone who judges you, no matter what. Focus on what you think.
6. Dwelling on things you can’t control. Much of life is outside our control–our own past, other people’s choices, unexpected events. Learn to focus on the things you can control, beginning with your own reactions, and let the rest of it go.
7. Concentrating on all the things you don’t have. Our culture encourages us to always be longing for more. Instead, learn to appreciate what you already have and be grateful for every need that is met. No one has ever been miserable while counting his or her blessings.
8. Spending time with negative people. Walk away from negativity; dismiss the people who bring drama into your life and instead surround yourself with people who lift and energize you. Life is too short to spend time with people who bring us down.
9. Perfectionism. Trying to be perfect is a common trap for people who are smart and ambitious, but it’s ultimately unachievable and a waste of your precious time. Give it up and work on just being your best self.
10. Holding grudges. Grudges are toxic and harmful especially to the person holding them. There is great power and strength in forgiveness and moving on.
Every life has its share of unhappiness, and bad things happen to us all.
But if we can stop doing the things that keep us mired in that unhappiness, we have room to focus instead on the things that nurture us.
Contented people make better decisions and tend to be more creative and innovative–and isn’t that where we all want to be?