Five ways you could be ruining your life without even realising it

Life, as we all know, is not a straight line. There’s no concrete set of stages which every person passes through according to the same timetable. You’re not under any obligation to finish your education, raise a family, or start a career by a certain age. You don’t have to get married at 25 and become an executive at 30. You’re allowed to take a diversion, to take a break from it all, if you want to or need to. You have every right to take the time to find out what exactly it is that gives meaning to your life, to you personally. It’s not surprising that we often forget about this; we were all forced to start planning our lives when we were still sitting in the classroom (you know what I’m talking about: ’I want to go to thisuniversity…I want this job’). We might hate our jobs, but we still go to work every day, because we think we have to complete the plan. We drift along, trying to complete each step one at a time, in the belief that ticking off each box on the list is the route to happiness. And then one morning, we wake up feeling depressed. We feel crushed, and we don’t know why. That’s how we ruin our lives. And we do it in plenty of other ways, too.

We ruin our lives when we choose the wrong person. Why do we always feel the need to speed things up in a relationship? Surely it’s better to understand who you really are first and foremost, rather than spend all your time looking for someone else as fast as possible without even thinking about whether they’re right for you or not? Believe me — the kind of relationship which emerges simply from that emotional need to sleep next to someone every night, which is shaped by our need for attention, rather than passion, will never make you want to get out of bed at 6 am and change the world. Instead we should strive to find and feel a more profound kind of love; we should look for the kind of relationship which makes us a better person with each passing day.

’I don’t want to be alone’, we often say. It’s time to ignore that little voice. Be alone. Eat alone, go on a date with yourself; sleep alone. That way you’ll be able to better comprehend who you really are. You’ll find out what gives your life meaning, you’ll be able to better formulate your own dreams and your own innate worldview. And when you do, you’ll grow. And when you meet a person who makes every cell in your body tingle with excitement, you’ll be certain they’re the right one, because you’ll be certain of who you really are. So, wait. I implore you to wait for love, to struggle for it, to devote all your energy into finding it, because it’s the most wonderful feeling your heart can ever feel.

We ruin our lives when we let our past determine our present. Some of the things that happen to us are unavoidable. Everyone encounters grief and some degree of emotional turmoil at some point during their life, along with days when they feel worthless. We all recall unhappy moments which we can never forget, words that hurt us. We can’t let any of these past experiences shape our fate — for all those moments and words now mean nothing. If you let every unhappy experience in your life change your view of yourself, your outlook will become very negative. Think how many opportunities you might forgo all because you permanently conviced yourself five years ago that you’re useless when you didn’t get that promotion. You might pass over an opportunity for love, because you still think you weren’t good enough for your ex, and you’ll never believe someone when they tell you you’re actually a wonderful person. This is a very destructive kind of vicious circle. If you can’t get over the events, words and feelings of the past, then you’ll always view the future through a prism of regret, and every new experience will only strengthen that prism.

We ruin our lives when we compare ourselves to others. The number of followers you have on Instagram neither reduces nor increases your significance as a human being. The amount of money in your bank account has no relevance to the level of your intellect or that of your happiness. The guy who is two times richer than you is not worth two times more than you as a person, nor is it guaranteed that he gets twice as much satisfaction from life. We’re now so obsessed with keeping track of what our friends like, what everyone else is interested in, that it’s preventing us understanding and valuing ourselves. We end up with an unhealthy need to feel that we’re important, and are even prepared to exploit others dishonestly to create the illusion that we’re successful.

We ruin our lives when we deny our feelings. We’re all scared to say what we’re really feeling, think about things too deeply, and reveal to others what they really mean to us. When you show a person how important they are to you, you become vulnerable. But there’s nothing shameful in this. There’s something invigorating about those moments when you bare your soul and speak the truth. So tell that girl that you can’t stop thinking about her. Tell your mother how much you love her, looking her directly n the eyes. Express your feelings. Open up, be brave.

We ruin our lives when we give up aiming high. At the end of each day, do you feel that you enjoy your life? When we settle for less than what we once wished and strove for, we ruin our potential, and betray ourselves. It’s possible that today’s Michelangelo is sitting in front of his desk somewhere, putting paper clips on invoices — because he needs to pay the rent like everyone else, or because it’s easier than chasing his dreams, or simply because he’s expected to work in an office. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t ruin your life in this way. Life, work and love are all inseparably linked to each other. We need extraordinary work as much as we need extraordinary love. Only then can we get through this extraordinary thing we call life.

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Elizabeth Gadd
Preview photo credit Ivan Karasev

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