Sometimes in life subtraction is addition.
When you carry around toxic beliefs every day, they slow you down and wear you out. Over time you feel exhausted and part of you knows what the problem is but it’s never the right moment to address it.
39% of Americans say they have been often or almost always burned out in 2021.
It’s time to snap out of it. Many people can’t go on living the way they have because it’s unsustainable. It frankly scares me to see how stressed out the average person has become.
I used to want so much in life for the wrong reasons. You can’t outrun the wrong motivation because nothing will satisfy you. It’s harder in the short run to give up what’s weighing you down but the other side is worth it. Life will never be stress-free but you can still move in the right direction.
Here are 13 things you should give up.
#1 Conditional happiness
In a productivity-obsessed society, goal setting is a major part of our culture. It can be a good thing when used as a way to grow. Yet too often it’s used as a barrier to feeling whole in who you are today.
- You don’t need to become a millionaire to be happy.
- You don’t need the perfect partner to be happy.
- You don’t need thousands of social media followers to be happy.
I’ve been there before myself. The desperation for external validation is the barrier to your happiness not whatever benchmark you set. Look in the other direction instead, what is causing you suffering? How can you remove these from your life or at least reduce their impact?
#2 Loyalty to your past self
Some people will claim their principles are so deeply ingrained in them that it’s in their bones. Yet all the cells in their bones are completely refreshed every ten years.
I’m not the same person I was last month let alone ten years ago. I’ve made many mistakes and learned more about myself along the way. I’m confident in a year’s time, I will consider the Amardeep of today a complete fool.
Clinging onto your past identity even when you’ve outgrown it is a sure way to cause yourself anxiety. Listen to your thoughts and feelings today. This is who you are and it’s ok if what made you happy before doesn’t make you happy anymore.
#3 Thinking you’re immortal
Multiple experiments have shown the power to resist rewards in the short term makes you more likely to be successful later in life. Yet this ignores how fleetingly short our lives are.
Oliver Burkeman covers this concept in his book, Four Thousand Weeks. Time will never be fully in your control. You can let that crush you or you can start living in the moment instead.
Work towards long-term goals but within reason. Sacrificing all of your twenties so you can enjoy life later implies the joy of youth is a never-ending resource. If you want to climb Mount Everest, doing it in your 20s will be far easier than in your 60s.
You’ll never be younger than you are today ever again.
#4 Sugar as a crutch
A decade of karate gave me strong self-control but my kryptonite is sugar.
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explains the problem the best:
“We used to eat food to fill a hole in our stomach. Now we eat food to fill a hole in our hearts.”
The chemicals released from a sugar binge make us feel good for a bit before punishing us after a few hours. This might not be so bad if 10% of the US didn’t have diabetes. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it’s not a fun disease. It’s the seventh-largest killer.
Sugar as an occasional treat is fine but work on your underlying issues rather than relying on ordering another tub of ice cream. The first step is pausing and asking yourself what the real reason you crave the sugar is. If you can build this self-awareness, you can build on it to give up sugar as a mental crutch for good.
#5 The need to be right
This is the best thing I’ve given up for my day-to-day mind state. I took so much pride in my intellectual ferocity and had to have the last word. I got suckered into arguments because I couldn’t let things go.
I’ve popped my ego somewhat now and I’m so much calmer. I don’t agree with everyone but I don’t need to force them to submit to my point of view. If someone is getting heated, I wonder if there is something else going on in their lives rather than take it personally. I can refuse to escalate a situation.
Sometimes you will listen to someone and think they are deluded but if you can aim to moderate their views by 1% then it’s progress. Changing someone’s worldview in five minutes isn’t going to happen.
I have a confession. Growing up, I used to have anxiety about large social events. I didn’t want to go but I didn’t want to miss out either. Part of me would hope the event got cancelled then both my desires would be met.
Your social exhaustion meter is one only you can read. Sometimes letting yourself skip an event or two so it can recover means you can enjoy the next occasion even more. Don’t measure your life in how many cool events you go to but the depth of your presence at those events.
Don’t let the fear of missing out drive you to social burnout.
#7 Shaming yourself for being human
The greatest battle we all face is the battle inside our own minds.
In Buddhism, they talk of two darts. The first is thrown at us and there’s not much we can do about it as bad things happen. Yet the second dart can be more painful because it’s the dart we throw out ourselves because of our reaction to the first.
We’re all bumbling our way through life and none of us know what we’re doing. It’s scary but it’s part of the fun. It’s normal to feel lost or make mistakes. You can’t be perfect but you can grow to be stronger in the future.
#8 Short term convenience
We find infinite ways to make life easier for ourselves. Then we pay expensive fees to go to the gym. Where’s the sense in that?
You don’t need to do formal fitness training to be healthy just look at those who live the longest. Simply keeping active with everyday activity is more than enough for most of us. Rather than fixating on running a marathon, stop driving to places where you can walk. Take the stairs rather than the lift. Turn on your own lights rather than asking Alexa to do it for you.
Make your life less convenient and rediscover the simple pleasure of movement.
#9 The echo chamber
Until 2016, I was caught up in an echo chamber where I thought everyone intelligent thought like me. I was so naïve. The double whammy of Trump winning the US election and the UK voting for Brexit forced me to face reality.
I only ever read things that agreed with my opinions, which warped my perspective to demonize people outside of my bubble. This content encouraged me to be angry and to catastrophize. Why? Because it would keep me hooked and increase their ad revenue.
For some time, I would intentionally seek out opposing articles but now I only read if the writer can show both sides of an argument without attacking the people behind the ideas. Life is simpler.
#10 Expectations of praise
A pet peeve of mine is creators who think they deserve to have the world grovel at their feet.
They’ll post snarky messages about how their real friends don’t like their content or share their work. They’ll blame some form of discrimination as the reason they aren’t more successful because clearly, their content is flawless.
This toxic attitude is far too common.
If you only do something because you think it will mean others praise you then you need to examine your mindset. It’s unrealistic for any of us to expect the world to cheer our every move. When this fails to materialize, it will cause you to be bitter and lash at those around you.
It’s far healthier to be internally motivated. If other people appreciate your work then great but you should never allow yourself to become dependent.
Is a good deed truly a good deed if it’s only done for praise?
#11 Excess messages
I love talking to people but let’s be honest, messages and emails are not the same as meeting in person or even calls.
I could spend hours hitting the tiny keys on my phone’s screen each day in conversations which gave me less time to get through my to-do list. They took me out of the present moment without adding anything to my life. Earlier this year, I was replying to over 100 people each day.
Enough was enough.
Now I treat text conversations differently to voice ones. I’m happy to end message threads rather than keep them going out of a feeling of obligation. If you find yourself looking at your notifications with dread each day, start being stricter with how you reply. If a person is meaningful to you, it could be better to call them instead for a deeper connection.
#12 Other people’s dreams
I went to high school with many people who later became doctors and dentists and at the time, they thought it was what they wanted. The reality was obvious though. Their parents had conditioned them to believe this so they could boast at parties.
Many of them were miserable in their careers and several have already left.
We do this on a smaller scale all the time. We do what we think people want us to do rather than what we actually want. It’s unfortunately especially true of women in relationships. Whoever you are, your dreams are valid and you shouldn’t need to make yourself smaller to fulfil other people’s dreams.
It doesn’t mean pressing the nuke button but having an open and honest conversation. Unless you speak up, you’ll never know how accepting people could be.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Anonymous
It’s never been easier to make yourself feel inadequate. All you need to do is open up Instagram and scroll through your discover page. There will be people more beautiful, more successful, and seemingly happier than you.
It’s all fake.
Everyone goes at their own pace and has ups and downs. A picture is a snapshot of a millisecond of someone’s day out of 24 hours. Do you think someone could understand your life from a few pictures? Then why do you think you can understand someone else’s life from theirs.
You want different things from life than me. If we switched places, you might hate my life but I’m the one living it and I’m happy. That’s what is important.
Picture Credit- Edited by the author — original from Pexels