Do you feel stuck… like you’re not moving forward in life?
The first place to look for clues as to why you’re stuck, is your everyday habits. We all have bad habits, but some qualify as habits because of the amount of damage they cause to our lives. You know you have a problem if you silently want to be more active or to get more done, but can’t seem to because one of your habits is messing with your motivation.
To feel motivated to work on our dreams, pursue our interests and fix problems in our lives, we need energy.
The energy I’m talking about has a physical, emotional and spiritual component to it. Without enough of this energy, we find it hard to stick to goals or even start them. Well, as it turns out, many toxic habits are huge energy-drainers. You’ll never sustain motivation for anything (even goals you really want and could absolutely crush!), if you’re dealing with an energy-draining habit. And here’s the thing, some of them are not so obvious! I mean, who knew that sitting around doing NOTHING could zap the same amount of energy as a hard day’s work?
Check out this list to see if you’re doing or struggling with any of these toxic habits.
1. Having little/no discipline
People reach stucksville when they have no direction in their lives. If that describes you, you may have gotten used to being comfortable. If you didn’t have structure growing up (rules, chores, responsibilities), you are less likely to have it in your 20s and older. Having structure/discipline is a requirement for a productive life. Like a muscle, you have to work to build it.
THE FIX: Build structure for your life with practices like these:
- Create routines and structure around even the simplest tasks: eat at regular times, always make your bed, create a morning routine, etc.
- Start a group or something that you will lead. Some examples are a Facebook or Meetup group, volleyball team, and kids choir.
- Find a mentor or someone you admire to be your life inspiration.
- Hire a productivity coach.
- Research a subject you like in-depth to the point where you might be able to teach a course on it.
- Start a physical fitness program.
- Put everything you have to do on the calendar.
- Add productive or interesting activities to your schedule.
2. Watching too much TV
How much is too much? I’d say more than 90 minutes a day is too much if you have goals you’re not pursuing. This is one of those toxic habits that may be obvious, but people rarely realize how much of a psychic energy-drainer it is.
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 doing them will raise your energy.
If you find it hard to cut down your TV time right away, start by watching more YouTube tutorials and Talks. That way, you get your TV-fix while learning something you’re interested in.
3. Not doing stimulating or interesting things
Your days just seem to run into each other with a sameness from day to day. And let’s face it, you’re dull and uninteresting because of it. This can affect your self-esteem and lead to social problems.
THE FIX: Find stimulating things (hobbies and interests) you want to pursue.
Learning a new language is not only interesting but it can be a way to attract new people and opportunities. Another route is to find interesting people and offer to help them. Helping an art dealer or aspiring musician can be a win-win for you both. Start exploring your city and consider being a local Airbnb guide. If you enjoy live music, start an annual concert tradition where you might save up all year to see big-name artists like Beyonce.
4. Not figuring out what you want
Without context and direction, we feel lost. When we don’t take the time to figure out who we are and what we want, we don’t have anything tangible to shoot for. As toxic habits go, this can feel like something outside your control, but it’s not. It’s your responsibility to figure this stuff out.
- Read these two 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 and inspires you now. If it’s music, drill down to a genre and really get into that genre.
- Figure out what the things you’re interested in have in common. For example, what do the artists you love all have in common?
- Look at how you can leverage a skill you’re now using. If you love video games, think of how you can apply your strategy (or other) skills to something else that either makes you money, help others, or somehow moves your life forward. You may even want to take a course in video game design.
5. 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 confident.
- Root for others… yes, even that “annoying” friend on Facebook who keeps saying how blessed she is for her kids, friends, and 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.
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. We are energized when our innate need to belong is satisfied. Block time to call home and put it on the calendar so you don’t forget. Start a bowling team with co-workers.
7. Dwelling on “If only…”
If only your parents did this or that. If only you had more help. Had you gone to college or finished, you would be… 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. This is another spiritual and emotional downer and one of those toxic habits we grow to regret.
THE FIX: Accept your situation. Accept 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 who are finding a way and working with what they have. Be 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 his/her head that she can’t even entertain the thought of starting a blog or whatever it is you’re avoiding.
8. Not exercising
File this one under “most overlooked productivity habit!” 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.
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 an energy-drainer and distraction you can do without. This is one of those toxic habits that’s becoming a health hazard so you’re not alone.
THE FIX: Make healthier uses of your phone and your time. Check out these ideas to 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, once you’ve taken that food snap and posted it, 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 a day off every month. This goes back to creating discipline. 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 on Day 30 he shared this:
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 you been struggling with your weight for years and feel some shame about your body?
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. By paying attention to the things that require work, we get stronger and more confident. We don’t constant problems and drama, but a fair amount of them help us grow. Avoiding them is one of the ways we get lost and find ourselves in stucksville.
Do the work
Don’t wait for life or someone to take you by the hand and guide you to your career, life partner, or clean up your toxic habits. Life is a do-it-yourself thing. Yes, friends and connections may help you get ideas off the ground, but for most people to take you seriously, they want to see you putting in the effort first.
If one of these habits are working you, know and believe that you can change them. You can change anything that’s not working in your best interest.