Sep 032018 1 Response

5 Stupid Ways Normal People Screw Up Their Lives

Abnormal people screw up in abnormal ways. Katie Holmes marries Tom Cruise. Garth Brooks creates Chris Gaines. Kendall Jenner does a Pepsi commercial. Kathy Griffin does what Kathy Griffin does. Celebrities hinder or halt their careers and lives in dramatic ways. They make choices we would never and could never make.

Yet as normal people, we mess up our lives in much more mundane ways. While the choices may be less dramatic, they are equally destructive.

5 Stupid Ways

1. Whine about their problems but never try to do anything about them. It’s amazing how many people resign themselves to circumstances which they can directly influence. It’s commendable to accept the situations of life which we do not choose. We can’t dictate our families of origin, circumstances that happen to us, or aspects of our personality. But we can directly impact the job we have, who we spend our time with, or what we experience on a day-to-day basis. Yet far too often, people apathetically accept things they could change. Rather than doing something about their problems–learning a new skill, reading a book, finding a new job, improving their marriage, etc.–they simply whine about the circumstances. The whining accomplishes nothing.

We don’t like our jobs, but we aren’t doing anything to learn a new skill or find a new profession. We complain about the town in which we live, but we aren’t doing anything to make it better. We whine, but we don’t work. If we would reverse the two, life would be much better. A simple process can help us. Recognize your whining and then determine a concrete action you can take to make a minor improvement in that situation.

2. Making important decisions without intentional thought. You don’t do this, right? I’d bet you would be surprised. The longer lasting the impact a decision, the more time and thought should go into it. However, we all make a good number of decisions without a good amount of deliberation. We either fixate on our immediate feelings (a puppy looks cute so we never think through if we want a dog for the next decade) or we outsource key choices to others (our kid plays for the travel ball team so the coach decides if our family will skip church this weekend in order to play in the tournament). Either way, long-lasting, important decisions are being made without us taking the proper amount of time to weigh the choices and make the right decision.

Consider–how much time have you spent studying and deciding the best way to discipline your children? For most, they don’t. They simply do what their parents did (or try to do the opposite of how they were raised). It’s not just in parenting. Have you thought through and planned out what happens to your resources in the case of your death or are you delegating that to someone else? Are you making conscious choices about your family’s schedule and habits or are you just going along with the crowd?

3. Refusing to identify, process, and move beyond past hurts. A lot of life happens to us. It’s not the result of our choices, but instead are the negative consequences of the choices of others. While we may not choose some of the things that happen in our lives, we are responsible for dealing with all of them. This takes effort. It takes a good amount of courage to explore the pain in our lives. But make no mistake, just because we are denying past hurts doesn’t mean those past hurts aren’t wreaking havoc in our lives. Until we identify our past hurts, understand them, and head in the direction of healing, those hurts will exact a deep cost in our lives. Oftentimes, we won’t even know the source of our problems. Living in denial of our past screws up our lives. It hinders relationships, hurts our physical well-being, and plays with our emotions.

One of the healthiest steps a person can take is to better understand how past circumstances influence our present behavior. From understanding the role our parents played in our lives to looking at the choices others have made which impacted us, by exploring the past, we can far better understand the present.

4. Choosing debt over restraint. Sometimes debt is unavoidable. We are all one bad diagnosis away from serious financial peril. At times, debt is wise–student loans can be good (although they aren’t always as good as some believe), a reasonable mortgage is often a good choice, and in many cases borrowing money to buy a good business is the right move. However, in most cases, debt is a noose which is silently slipped around our necks and progressively grows tighter. For the normal person, debt is a failure of knowledge and self-control. We don’t understand financial principles and we greedily attempt to live a lifestyle we cannot afford. (See: An 85-Word Money Solution)

When shopping for cars, a salesperson doesn’t ask, “What’s the least expensive car you can buy and it work for your family?” Instead, they ask, “What car payment can you afford?” They focus on the ceiling, not the floor. When it comes to houses, we often consider the maximum mortgage we can endure rather than the most modest house which fits our needs. What we don’t realize is that debt is far more restrictive than a nice car, big house, or any other purchase is liberating. Few things can relieve stress and improve marital/life satisfaction as much as eliminating debt.

5. Ignoring what they know to be true. We don’t need more information. We need to apply what we already know. This past month I individually sat with every employee who reports to me for over an hour. While discussing their lives and their job, there was one statement repeated several times–“exercise was very helpful.” Several staff people either began or increased their exercise regiment this year. Not one person regretted it. We know the importance of diet, exercise, and sleep, yet we often fail to implement what we know. Our apathy comes at a price. Most of us carry more weight than we should. While we may not be able to lose all of it, we can likely lose much of it. Few of us sleep as much as we should. Failing to prioritize sleep makes us sick, hinders our thinking, and prevents us from properly processing emotions. With anxiety and depression on the rise, increased exercise should be the first step, but it is often ignored.

Everyone has experienced an extreme amount of stress at night only to wake up after a good night’s rest to have a different perspective. Many of us know what dropping five pounds feels like. We have experienced the energy after a good walk or game. Yet we still choose to ignore what we know–sleep, diet, and exercise play a vital role in how we feel. (See: 3 Ways You’re Living in Denial)

Life is hard. We can’t be perfect and we shouldn’t try. However, we control far more aspects of our lives than we realize. With a little intention and a little effort, we can improve our experiences. It begins with a simple step–stop screwing things up.

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