I’ve spent a good part of my adult life, like many others, in a constant pursuit of self-improvement.
Yet, as someone who has devoted countless hours to personal development—reading self-help books, attending seminars, and practicing mindfulness—I often find myself falling into the same old harmful habits.
These habits come in the form of negative thinking patterns, procrastination or simply failing to prioritize my well-being. They come from the pressures of societal expectations and a deep-seated fear of failure. They come from a misguided notion that self-improvement means constantly striving for perfection.
In the midst of all these struggles, a few questions arise:
Why do we continue to engage in behaviors that we know are harmful?
Why is it that despite our best intentions, our actions often do not align with our goals?
And most importantly, how can we break free from these self-destructive habits?
I believe there’s too much emphasis on constantly doing more and not enough on doing less—less worrying, less overthinking, less self-criticism. The result of this imbalance is that many of us are caught in a cycle of negative behavior that impedes our growth.
By the time you finish reading this article, I hope to have convinced you that making your life better does not always mean adding more to your plate.
Sometimes it means letting go—letting go of harmful habits and thought patterns that are holding you back.
The key point is to understand that improvement comes from conscious choices made every day, not just from grand resolutions made once a year. And remember, positive change should be driven by self-love and acceptance, not fear and pressure.
1) Stop forgoing self-care
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked.
Consider this: You’re always on the go, chasing deadlines, managing responsibilities. You tell yourself that once this project is done or that deadline is met, you’ll finally take a break. But before you know it, another task pops up and you’re back on the treadmill.
If you’re going to navigate through life efficiently, it’s paramount to accept that taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. You’re not being selfish. It’s akin to the airline safety instruction to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.
Break the illusion that you can keep going indefinitely without giving yourself a break. That’s not how human bodies or minds work.
Start creating conditions in your life that prioritize self-care: regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating. Once these become a part of your routine, you’ll see improvements in your overall well-being and productivity. You won’t have to push so hard.
By doing this, you give up the need to constantly prove your worth through ceaseless work.
You will be able to prioritize self-care without guilt.
2) Stop avoiding discomfort
This piece of advice may seem counter to common sense. After all, isn’t the pursuit of comfort a natural human instinct?
Let’s dig deeper.
Life is full of uncomfortable situations. Whether it’s a difficult conversation with a coworker, exercising after a long period of inactivity, or facing financial realities, discomfort is an inherent part of life. The instinctual response is to avoid these situations, to seek the path of least resistance.
But here’s the catch. True growth comes from stepping out of your comfort zone. It comes from facing these uncomfortable situations head-on.
As renowned psychologist Carl Jung once said:
“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.”
So instead of avoiding discomfort, embrace it. Don’t resist it; don’t run away from it. Just observe it, feel it. The more you confront discomfort, the more resilient you become.
When you attempt to remain comfortable all the time, you give too much power to your fears. You relinquish your potential for growth.
Now, I give less power to my fears. Sometimes I find myself dodging difficult situations. Other times I’m wrestling with insecurities. But I don’t let these stop me anymore.
By accepting and confronting discomfort, you not only grow as a person but also become better equipped to handle life’s inevitable challenges.
3) Stop trying to please everyone
This is a difficult one for many of us to wrap our heads around.
The desire to be liked and accepted is embedded in our human nature. But the truth is that our obsession with pleasing everyone around us often leads to us neglecting our own needs and wants.
Let’s break this down.
Consider your relationships. You may find yourself agreeing to plans you’re not excited about or holding back your opinions to avoid conflict. This might make others happy temporarily, but at what cost?
When it comes to living a fulfilling life, it’s key to acknowledge that you cannot please everyone all the time. You’re operating within your own framework of values and beliefs.
It’s crucial to shed the mistaken belief that your worth is tied to how much people like you. It’s not. Your worth stems from who you are, not from what you do for others.
If you can stop trying to satisfy everyone else and start making choices that align with your values, true happiness will follow naturally. You won’t need to seek validation.
You will be able to let go of the need for external approval.
4) Stop neglecting the present moment
This is a common pitfall that far too many of us fall into.
Living in the past or future, we often overlook the beauty of the present. We become consumed with past regrets or future anxieties, which robs us of our ability to fully experience and appreciate the here and now.
You might find yourself ruminating over past mistakes or worrying about future challenges. This might feel productive, giving you a sense of control over your life, but does it really?
To truly make your life better, it’s pivotal to understand that the only moment you truly have control over is the present. You’re operating in the now.
It’s essential to break away from the misconception that your past defines you or that your future can be perfectly planned. They don’t and it can’t. Your life unfolds in the present.
If you can stop living in yesterday or tomorrow and start embracing today, you’ll find an ease and clarity that’s often masked by unnecessary worries. You won’t need to stress about the uncontrollable.
You will be able to let go of the illusion that life can be lived anywhere but in the present.
5) Stop overcomplicating things
This was a trap I fell into for the longest time.
I used to believe that the more complex my plans and goals were, the more sophisticated and accomplished I was. I would create elaborate strategies for personal growth and career advancement, believing that the more detailed and intricate they were, the better.
Let me share a personal scenario.
A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon. Instead of simply increasing my running distance each week, I created an intricate training plan with cross-training, specific diets, sleep schedules, and so forth. I spent so much time planning and adjusting my plan that it left me overwhelmed and exhausted before I even started my training runs.
If you’re going to simplify your life, it’s crucial to understand that complexity doesn’t equal success. You’re operating within your own capacity.
It’s vital to break free from the illusion that complexity brings about success. It doesn’t. Your actions and consistency do.
If you can stop complicating your life with unnecessary details and start focusing on what truly matters, achieving your goals will become much more manageable. You won’t need to stress over every minor detail.
You will be able to appreciate the beauty of simplicity.
6) Stop ignoring your gut feelings
The human gut is often referred to as the “second brain.”
This isn’t just a catchy phrase. Our gut, or more specifically, the gut microbiome, communicates with our brain through the gut-brain axis. This connection influences our emotions, decision-making ability, and even our overall mental health.
Now consider this:
Have you ever had a gut feeling about something but dismissed it, only to regret it later? Maybe you took a job that looked great on paper despite an uneasy feeling, or perhaps you ignored a hunch about someone who later proved untrustworthy.
If you’re going to improve your life, it’s crucial to recognize the power of your gut instincts. You’re operating with more than just logical reasoning.
It’s essential to move away from the notion that decisions should be based solely on rational thought. They shouldn’t. Your intuition plays a critical role.
If you can stop ignoring your gut feelings and start trusting them, you’ll find yourself making choices that feel more aligned with your true self. You won’t need to second-guess yourself as much.
You will be able to trust in your inherent wisdom.
7) Stop chasing happiness
This might sound counterproductive at first. Isn’t the pursuit of happiness the end goal of life?
The constant chase after happiness often results in us missing out on the joy of the journey. We attach our happiness to specific outcomes or milestones, mistakenly believing that we’ll only be happy when we achieve them.
But here’s the surprising truth: Happiness isn’t a destination, but a by-product of a life well-lived. It’s not something to be chased, but to be experienced along the way.
Instead of chasing after happiness, try embracing the present moment, with all its imperfections and challenges. Find joy in the everyday and cultivate gratitude for what you already have.
When you stop chasing happiness as a final goal, you open yourself up to experiencing it in unexpected ways. You won’t need to attach your joy to external achievements.
You will be able to find happiness in the journey itself.
In conclusion: It’s a matter of choice
The complexities of life and the pursuit of self-improvement are deeply intertwined with our power of choice.
Each choice we make, from the seemingly insignificant to the life-changing, impacts our journey towards a better life.
One such decision that holds immense power is the choice to let go. As we have explored, it’s often the things we stop doing that create space for positive change and growth.
This brings to mind a quote by renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle:
“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
Whether it’s letting go of the need to control everything, surrendering the obsession to please everyone, or releasing the endless chase for happiness, the underlying power lies in your choices.
As you navigate through life, remember that making your life better isn’t just about adding more – more goals, more achievements, more possessions. Sometimes, it’s about embracing less – less stress, less complexity, less pleasing.
Your journey towards a better life isn’t defined by what you accumulate but by what you allow yourself to let go. So reflect on these points and ask yourself: What do I need to stop doing today to make my life better?