Do you feel stuck….
like you’re not moving forward in life?
People end up here for different reasons but stucksville is not a neighborhood you want to stay in. Your first clue on how to escape this unproductive unforgiving place — that you know you’re better than — is to look at your habits!
Habits are all the little things that we do day in and day out, and some of yours could be crushing your motivation and leaving you feeling stuck.
To feel motivated to do something about our dreams, pursue our interests and fix problems in our lives, we need energy. Energy has a physical, emotional and spiritual component to it; and without a certain amount of it, we find it hard to stick to things or even start them.
File these ten habits under not-so-obvious energy drainers that may be keeping you stuck.
1. Comparing yourself to others
If you don’t have a strong sense of self, comparisons can leave you feeling less capable than you really are and when you feel like that, it’s going to be hard to shore up interest in things you could otherwise easily accomplish.
- Work on becoming a person who is less focused on “stuff.”
- Be more discriminating about your friendships – IRL and on social media. People who flaunt superficial success may not be the best influence for you right now.
- Master something you love — even if it’s ping pong. Mastery and the discipline you gain from working on something for a while, make you feel more capable and that confidence is transferable.
- Root for others… yes, even that “annoying” friend on Facebook who keeps saying how blessed she is for her kids, friends, her morning hikes.
- Appreciate what you have. We’re usually comparing our worst to other people’s best, but to someone less fortunate, you have the life and things they’d gladly trade.
- Become aware of when you’re comparing. We’re usually doing this unconsciously but by being aware, we can catch these thoughts and reframe them.
2. Watching too much TV
Too much (I’d say more than 90 minutes a day) may be too much if you have goals you’re not pursuing.
THE FIX: Swap some of your TV time for entertaining hobbies like photography, cooking, playing an instrument or learning something like DJing and video editing. Your body will produce more serotonin and feel-good hormones when you do those things and will raise your energy.
If you find it hard to cut down right away, start by watching more YouTube tutorials and Talks. That way, you get your TV-fix and learn something while you’re at it.
3. Not doing things that are stimulating or interesting
Your days just seem to run into each other with a sameness from day to day.
THE FIX: Stimulating things are hobbies and interests, find some. Until you do, go on TimeOut and apps to find things going on in your neighborhood or in a city near you. Learn a new language. Volunteer at a shelter. There are so many things you can do to break up the sameness and almost all will probably be more interesting and stimulating than your day to day and take you to the most important thing capable of changing your life and outlook–new people.
4. Not figuring out what you want
Without context and direction, we feel lost. Not taking the time to figure out you and what you want doesn’t give you something real to shoot for.
THE FIX: Read these books to start you on your journey: Now Discover your strengths and Flow. Start having this internal conversation, What do I want? Look around and start jotting down things that interests you–start with what interests you now — Music (what kind, what do the artists you like all have in common?) Video games? Take a course in video game design. Once you start recognizing your interests, make your main goal something concrete. To run a company or design video games isn’t concrete. To start a non-profit that helps young people in South Central is closer, but still not concrete. Keep going deeper by including what you value–what matters to you. This is how you figure out what you want. It takes a little time and starts by asking yourself the question and start looking around you for the answers.
5. No discipline/Loving Comfort
I believe people reach stucksville because they fall asleep on the train (of life) and never get off. We get used to being comfortable, or because we didn’t grow up with structure (rules, chores, responsibilities), don’t realize that it’s a requirement for a productive life.
THE FIX: The route is like being on vacation–perpetually. Part 1: Create routines and structure around even the simplest things you do–eat at regular times, always make your bed, etc. Part 2: Start something you can lead like a Facebook or Meetup group. Get a pet or something to be responsible for. Part 3: Get a mentor or someone to look up to. Part 4: Research things
6. Not making time for the things and people that matter.
THE FIX: Learn to prioritize and schedule everything!!!
Relationships are central to our happiness. Social bonding makes us feel connected, energized and inspired and produce the chemical Oxytocin (the love hormone), which makes us feel energized and give us a sense of belonging. Block time to call home and put it on the calendar so you don’t forget. Set up a weekly lunch date with a co-worker, meet friends for bowling after work, and if taking a group class means you’re more likely to learn whatever you’re into, pay for the class. Save money somewhere else.
7. Dwelling on “If only…”
If only your parents did this or that. If only you had more help. If only you had gone to college or finished. If only you were taller, prettier, younger, or a different race. “If only” fantasies that involve things we can’t do anything about keeps us idling in neutral and is another spiritual and emotional downer.
THE FIX: Accept your situation, that no one is coming to save you, and that the world is what it is now. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, be inspired by great minds, books and people around you who are finding a way and working with what they have… and being thankful that they’re even in a position to have dreams. Some 20-something in Senegal, in Greece, or right in your backyard is so preoccupied with keeping a roof over her head that she can’t even entertain the thought of starting a blog or whatever it is you think your circumstance is keeping you from doing.
8. Not exercising
File this one under “most overlooked productivity habit!” I say that every time I talk about exercise, btw. Exercise is a cognitive enhancer and the best natural “smart drug”out there. It’s a mood booster and it naturally makes us more productive. We don’t place enough emphasis on keeping our physiology at its optimal, but its the most basic thing we can do to feel productive, happy and alive. Not getting enough sleep, exercise or drinking enough water is like not watering your plants, exposing them to sunlight if they need it or depriving them of their basic means of survival.
THE FIX: Carve out 30 minutes – if that’s all you have – and exercise DAILY. Why daily? If you hate exercising, doing it daily means you don’t have an “out” and cements the habit for real. Think of exercise as one of your daily “supplements” and take your medicine.
9. Spending too much time on social media
Unless your life is perfect or your job requires you to monitor social media, spending more than an hour a day on it is a drainer and distraction you can do without.
THE FIX: Make healthier uses of your phone and your time.
Take control of your phone
- Check out Freedom, the app and social media blocker.
- Leave your phone when you go for a walk or do select activities.
- Keep your phone out of sight when you’re at work.
- Put your phone away most of the time when you’re out with friends. Let one person be the designated photographer or take that food snap, post it on IF and put it away.
- Limit your activity to one app. IG, Snapchat or Facebook, but not all 3.
And the most take-charge move would be to schedule your social media time. I recommend a one-hour limit a day and to take a day off on weekends or at least once a month. These approaches are called discipline–or what I like to refer to as blissiplines. When “things” control us, we’re going to feel lost eventually because “things” lack purpose and have little real value.
Jason Zook did a 30-day social media detox, which he recapped on his blog and made this entry on Day 30:
It’s amazing how much clearer I’m thinking. Along with a bunch of writing and emails, I outlined an entirely new business idea and sent it off to a developer friend for feedback…. Whenever I sit down to write, I can do it without the feeling of distraction or procrastination. Whenever I answer emails I can tear through them without breaks.
10. Avoiding your problems
- Do you live paycheck to paycheck, but rarely pay attention to what you’re spending money on or how much things cost?
- Do you passionately hate your job and is doing nothing to change it?
- Are you in an abusive relationship, dating someone who isn’t there for you or who brings drama to your life instead of making it better?
- Have been struggling with your weight for years and feel some shame when you think about how you look?
THE FIX: Pay attention to these problems and work to change them. Yes, it’s going to take effort, but that’s the lovely thing about life. Life is meant to require work.
It’s not all about fun, love, fulfillment, and all the feel-good stuff. The things that require work and our attention almost always make us stronger, more confident and help us grow. Avoiding them is one of the paths to stucksville.
To paraphrase one of my heroes, Bruce Lee:
Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to make a difficult one great.
Don’t wait for life to take you by the hand and guide you to your career, life partner, or clean up your habits for them. Life is a do it yourself thing. To get what you’re missing, you may need to put other things in place first and to change some of your habits.
Yes, friends and connections matter and you may need them to help you get ideas off the ground, but first, you may have to go out and attract those friends and make those connections.
If one of these toxic habits are working you, know and believe that you can change them. You can change anything that’s not working in your best interest. Anything.