What are some ways people wreck their own lives and how can they avoid doing so? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
So here's how people are wrecking their lives. Every day. I promise I'm not wagging any fingers here because I'm guilty of most of these. But here's how I think it happens:
Believing they don't deserve more than what they have. People settle all the time for jobs that are beneath them, partners who are abusive, and friends that are lousy, and they do it happily. Sometimes they even think they're lucky to have those things. It's because they have been systematically programmed to believe that they are not worthy of things or people who are better. Training yourself to believe that you deserve more is a long and arduous process, but it's one that is always worthwhile. Get to work.
Unwillingness or inability to break free from toxic habits or patterns. Maybe it's drugs or alcohol. Maybe it's a bad relationship. Maybe it's a dead-end job. For whatever reason, many people are not willing or not able to break out of the vicious cycles that keep them dependent on whatever awful thing they're doing to themselves. Change can only happen when you're really, really ready.
Taking everything so seriously, especially other people's opinions. We waste so much precious time and energy worrying about what other people think about the things we do. We will stress out over every little detail, comment, or choice because we worry what will s/he think? Where s/he is your mom, your boss, your crush, or your dental hygienist. I don't have the emotional capital to spend on it, and I suspect you don't either. So give yourself a break from it; you've earned it.
Not knowing themselves. A friend of mine recently got into a business venture that I and everyone else knew was completely wrong for his personality and lifestyle. I found myself wondering how he could've led himself so far astray to the point where he'd make such an expensive mistake. Talking him out of it wasn't an option. Obviously, it failed, and it cost him a fortune both literally and emotionally. Denial is a powerful and dangerous thing. The lesson: be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and navigate yourself through situations that make the most of both.
Not having a plan. There's a big difference between being flexible and aimlessly floundering. You always want to have some plan, whether it's specific ("I want to be a VP at my company by the time I'm 35") or broad ("I want to have a job that makes me happy"). Everything you do should support the goals that you've set, no matter how loose or tight those goals are.
Having kids for the wrong reasons. Some people have kids because they want a do-over of their lives. Some have them because everyone else is having them and it's just What People Do. Have them because you want them. They'll thank you for it, and you'll thank yourself.
Wasting the gift of an education. I drifted through my Ivy League college experience like the bewildered, wide-eyed child that I was, fearful of challenging myself in any meaningful way, fearful of trying new things, and fearful of failure. The night before I graduated, I cried for a long time. I knew I had wasted four years of my life. I didn't learn a single thing in college except how to fake it enough to pass, and when I was confronted with reality -- the fact that I was getting a useless degree and had no meaningful plan for my life -- I hated myself. I still do from time to time when I think about the things I could have been, or learned, or done, even though my life turned out fine in the end. It's no fun to have regrets. Make the most of every single day of your education, because do-overs are expensive.
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