Are you already failing on your resolutions? Here’s why:
The world often places obstacles on our path to happiness in life and work. But you know what? We often do a lot more to mess up our own happiness. I see this in my coaching clients all the time, and you are probably doing some of these things to yourself.
Often the conversation about “what’s getting in the way of achieving your goals?” starts with the Blame Game: my boss won’t…, my spouse doesn’t… , my family is…, and so on. Sometimes all that venting about the world being unfair or “that person” being difficult/stubborn/evil offers short-term relief. Anyone who’s been a client of mine for more than five minutes knows that, once the venting is done, I’m going to say, “Let’s bring it back to you.”
Let’s Bring It Back to You
You can’t change other people, so you have to work on you. You are 50% of every conversation, so let’s notice what you’re doing and saying. You are the person who chooses your words, puts the food in your mouth, makes the decision to act – or not – so let’s look at the stories you tell yourself or the behaviors you keep repeating that get in your way.
And when you step into self-examination, what you will find is that you are REALLY good at messing up your own happiness. I’ve compiled a list of over 100 ways people get in their own way, and offer here some of the most common. As you read, I invite you to keep track of which patterns show up in your own life, and consider what you want to do with those in 2014.
19 Ways You Mess Up Your Own Happiness
- Losing before you start: This shows up in your self-talk, e.g. I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I’m not pretty enough. I’m too stupid to deserve to be happy. I can’t…<whatever>. I suck at <that>. Looking for reasons you won’t succeed.
- Believing the Good Stuff is always temporary. This is too good to be true. This is too good to last. That time I succeeded – that was a fluke. I shouldn’t be so happy because something bad is bound to happen.
- Never exposing you. Nobody knows the real me – if they did they wouldn’t like me. I shouldn’t extend myself too much because I’ll get hurt. You can’t trust anybody. Others will judge me.
- Assuming you will always be how you’ve always been. I can’t escape from my past. It is too hard for me to change. I have created my mess; I will just have to live with it. Nothing good ever happens for me.
- Making excuses. I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I don’t feel very well. I don’t feel good.
- ALWAYS taking care of everybody else first. All I do is make sure everyone else’s needs are met; no one cares about what I want, what I need. I will disappoint family/friends/spouse if I change. I can’t leave <them> alone; I have to be there for them.
- Forgetting that you are an employee, not a slave. There’s nothing I can do; they’re in charge. My boss sucks and I’m stuck here. I hate my job; but I don’t have time to look for a new one because I’m working so much.
- Making happiness conditional. When I find the right job, I’ll be happy. When I get my degree, I’ll be happy. I’ll be happy when…. I have kids, the kids move out, I buy a house, I sell the house, I make a million dollars, and I lose weight. When my life is all settled and the conflicts have been resolved I’ll be happy.
- Blaming the gods. I’m not dedicated enough to my religion to deserve to be happy. God hates me (and you know this how?). Not having a healthy relationship with God/the Universe/Nature or a higher power.
- Comparing. Other people are wealthier/more successful/better educated/more experienced than I am. They like her/him/them better.
- Striving for Perfect. Always comparing to “perfection” standards. Tweaking and editing and improving, but never putting it out there. Being a perfectionist about Everything.
- Playing the Blame Game. Blaming yourself. Blaming the past. Blaming others. Holding onto regrets/grudges (I can’t ever be happy because XX happened to me). Dwelling on past failures
- Ignoring your physical needs. Not sleeping enough. Not listening to your body and working out. Being a huge hypochondriac. Working harder/not smarter. Eating crap and pretending you don’t understand why you feel like crap.
- Never setting boundaries. Leaving little or no time in your day to rest/meditate/be in nature. Saying “yes” to things you really don’t want to do and/or not saying “no” often enough. Never pushing back so as to avoid conflict or hurting others’ feelings.
- Making it all or nothing. Thinking that your only options are sheer indulgence or total denial, e.g. it’s either the entire cake or nothing – you can’t just have one piece. You can’t walk a 5K; you have to run the whole marathon.
- Obsessing. Stressing out about things that are not in your control. Not giving yourself a break. Identifying only with your job/profession with no balance.
- Cutting off connection. Shutting out people who can help you. Holding in emotions—not crying or yelling or venting, so no one ever knows you’re troubled. Refusing to accept a compliment.
- Giving up your Power. Tying your happiness to something outside your control—like sports or gambling. Compromising your values. Allowing others to treat you poorly. Not speaking up when something is wrong. Staying in a negative relationship.
- Waiting for your situation to change, instead of changing your situation. Ignoring a small problem until it gets huge and explodes. Not initiating difficult conversations. Not taking care of you physically, emotionally, spiritually, and telling yourself, “I’ll make it up later.”
So, how many of these behaviors or thinking patterns feel like they show up in your world? If you checked off all 19**, Congratulations – you’re human! Most of us engage in these patterns a little bit in life. You only need to focus on the few that resonated with you.
**If you checked off zero, you may be in denial (I’m just sayin’…).
DO NOT create a list of ten things you’re going to change. That will overwhelm you. Just pick one or two areas where you want to change a behavior or outcome. Break your commitment into small, digestible chunks. For example, if #18 resonates for you and you commit to “Never say Yes to any request!” you’ll fail quickly.
Instead, ask yourself, “what is a small step to which I can commit totally?” You might say, “I will say No to one request someone makes of me each week.”
Remember that happiness is less a destination than a way to proceed on your journey. Changing any of the above behaviors will remove a self-imposed obstacle from your path.
Do this for you, not for anyone else. Happiness Principle #1 reads,
Become Positively Self-ish. When you take care of yourself first, you build a foundation for stronger relationships with others, increase capacity, and reduce doubt.
Photo Peter Kaminski via Compfight