Everyone dreams of a happy and successful life, but not everyone knows how to achieve it.
Oftentimes, the key isn’t about adding more to our lives (as much as we try to do more, own more, be more) but rather, letting go of the things that hold us back.
You may be surprised to discover that it’s not the outside world holding you back (as much as you’d like to blame everyone and everything else), but unfortunately your own behaviors that are blocking your path to happiness and success.
And sometimes, we cling to these behaviors as toxic as they are, because they feel familiar or give us a false sense of security.
So, ready to learn the habits you need to shed to live a happier life?
Because, if you want a better life, sometimes the first step is saying goodbye.
1) Living in the past
The past. A place many of us like to linger.
If you find yourself constantly reliving past mistakes or dwelling on what could have been, you’re not alone.
It’s a common behavior, and certainly one that keeps me up at night, but also one that can keep you stuck in a cycle of regret and self-recrimination.
The past can be a teacher, offering valuable lessons and insights. Many gurus and coaches force upon us this mantra of shedding our past like a snake sheds its skin, and being born afresh.
But really, your past makes up what makes you…you. You don’t need to let go of it.
What you do need to do is however prevent it from becoming a prison, preventing you from moving forward and embracing the present.
You can’t change what has happened, but you can most definitely control how you react to it.
And learning from the past means valuable lessons on emotional regulation and worldly experience.
By letting go of the past and focusing on the here and now, you open up a world of possibilities for growth and achievement.
So, if you want a happy and successful life, it’s time to say goodbye to living in the past.
2) Chasing perfection
You must be perfect, shouts our world. We so often equate success with flawlessness, it grows easy to fall into the trap of chasing perfection.
Whether it’s in your appearance, your career and financial status, how happy you feel in relationships, or your personal growth, the pursuit of perfection can lead to endless stress and dissatisfaction.
Because if you’re not already in on the secret, I’ll tell you now: perfection doesn’t exist.
While striving for excellence and improvement is a positive trait, and definitely one to stick in the suitcase, the relentless pursuit of perfection can set you up for disappointment and self-criticism.
Because you quite literally never attain ‘perfection’.
And on this quest, you can easily lose sight of your achievements and overlook the beauty of progress.
Remember, perfection is an illusion.
It’s okay to make mistakes, and you should never be too hard on yourself for misstepping or ‘failing’. These setbacks are if anything stepping stones on your journey towards growth and improvement.
Embrace those imperfections; they are what make you unique and human.
3) Comparing yourself with others
Comparison is a trap that many of us fall into and trust me, I am no exception.
I used to love Instagram. I still do, in moderation. However, the more I scrolled, the more I felt shameful when I looked in the mirror; at my own blemished skin and chubby cheeks and split ends.
Comparing yourself to others is a self-sabotaging behavior that can rob you of your joy and motivation.
In all honesty, the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
Other people are starting out in different places and have different goals, so you’ll never be on the same path, nor will it ever be worth comparing your own journey to theirs.
So, if you want a happy and successful life, say adieu to comparing yourself with others.
Know that perfection on a screen is rarely an accurate depiction of what is truly going on, anyway.
Replace any comparing tendencies with self-compassion and appreciation for your unique journey.
4) Fearing change
As much as we change and grow, we still seem to be terrified of it.
Yet change is a constant in life.
However, it’s human nature to resist it and cling to what we know.
This fear of change can hold us back, keeping us stuck in our comfort zones and preventing us from exploring new opportunities.
We seem to be far more inclined to stagnate in our comfort zones and safe spaces, where we feel warm and fuzzy.
I know, embracing change can be daunting, but it’s also exciting and is key to allowing room for that personal growth.
It presents us with new challenges and experiences that can lead to personal growth and open doors to success.
If you’re on the hunt for happiness, say goodbye to fearing change and start reframing it as an opportunity for growth and transformation.
5) Ignoring self-care
There was a point (or there have been many a point) where the busier I am, the more inclined I am to throw self-care out the window.
No time for drinking water, wearing SPF, or meditating – we have work to do!
But quickly, I burned myself out. Far faster than normal, too. I became exhausted and grouchy and my skin displayed quite the toll of not bothering to wash or moisturize as normal.
In addition, I declined all fun invitations to wine and dine with pals, choosing instead to stay up until 3am staring at my screen.
The more I accomplished, the better I was doing, right?
Unfortunately, no. Life is all about balance – even in busy periods.
And side-lining self-care altogether is not only detrimental to your health but also to your overall success.
Because quickly, I began to lose focus working those late nights. Nod off at my computer screen, etc.
When I started prioritizing self-care again and allocating time each day to look after my body and my relationships, I found that I was more productive, happier, and more efficient in all areas of my life.
Ignoring self-care is a behavior many of us are guilty of.
But remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it’s an absolute necessity if you want to find happiness and maintain it.
A mind that constantly races, analyzing every decision and imagining every possible outcome, can be exhausting.
Yes, sure, it can be great to analyze every possible outcome to try to figure out the best one.
But by the time you’re done thinking (if you’re ever done), you’ve likely missed the opportunity. Plus you’re paralyzed with anxiety, fear, and generally overwrought.
By focusing on the worst-case scenarios, you may miss out on opportunities and inhibit your ability to move forward.
And as therapizing as this is to say, try not to dwell on things that are 1. Beyond your control, and 2. That you can do nothing to change or alter right in this moment.
As a chronic overthinker, I know this is a hard one to let go of. But try to use that immense mental capacity you assign to overthinking over areas of your life.
You’ll be surprised how much happier you are, living in the moment!.
7) Constantly seeking approval
In continuation from my old Instagram addiction, I know also the validation that thousands of likes can bring.
You blush and feel all sparkly and adored.
But really, who are these strangers double-tapping images of you online? And what satisfaction can that truly bring a person?
If any, it’s very temporary.
Plus, seeking real-life validation and constantly needing to be reassured by partners or friends can hinder your growth.
Yes, it might quieten your anxiety in the short run, but long term, you become dependent on asking things like “do you still like me?”
When you base your worth on others’ opinions, you give them control over your self-esteem and happiness.
And your worth is not determined by anyone else but yourself.
Learn to validate yourself and make decisions that align with your values and ambitions – trusting yourself and avoiding that reliance on approval is a sure route to far more fulfillment.
Procrastination. So fun, yet so detrimental!
Unfortunately, procrastination is also often a sign of fear; fear of failure, fear of success, or even fear of making a decision.
By not starting that task that’s been sitting in your inbox for a week and playing Minecraft instead or folding your socks, you might be subconsciously avoiding the fear that you might not be able to complete it well.
Or at all. Hence why sock folding suddenly becomes so interesting.
Instead of avoiding tasks, break them down into manageable parts and tackle them one at a time.
You’ll find that progress, no matter how small, can be incredibly motivating and will give your mood an instant boost – even if it’s something as small as answering an email or paying your bills.
9) Avoiding responsibility
The easy route is always to deny, deny, deny.
(Or so they say in court…)
Avoiding responsibility can feel comfortable in the short term but it can prevent growth in the long run.
Now, taking responsibility for your actions allows you to learn from mistakes and build resilience.
That means owning up to mistakes and avoiding paltry excuses like blaming the weather for lateness, when really you just hit the snooze button.
The more you own up and take accountability for yourself, the less likely you are to slip into those bad habits too – so all round win for the authenticity and happiness you’ll experience.
10) Being negative
You might not think yourself negative, but are you a laugh-and-dance in the rain type of person, or a frown-and-run-home-glaring type of person?
Negativity can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you’re constantly expecting the worst and seeing the worst in people and situations, your actions and mindset may inadvertently lead to negative outcomes.
Positivity, on the other hand, can open doors to opportunities and success.
(Not unrealistically so, mind you.)
Aim for a middle ground where you view things as realistically positive as possible, yet still allow the negative emotions to flow through you as opposed to repressing them.
Reflect on where you see yourself on the positive-negative scale, and start aiming for a little more glowiness and vibrancy in your life attitude.
You might be surprised what doors are opened up when you start reframing negative situations (even a bit of rain) as positive opportunities!
11) Not setting boundaries
Without clear boundaries, it’s easy to lose yourself in the needs and expectations of others.
You start accommodating everyone else’s needs and thinking it totally fair that they ask the world of you, yet give you so little…
Setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining your mental health and ensuring that your needs are met.
It’s a tricky one for those who verge on the people-pleasing side of life, but this one is important.
Firm boundaries can help you prioritize your time and energy effectively, contributing to a happier and more successful life and attracting people who will not take advantage of you but only contribute to your happiness.
Learn to prioritize yourself and your needs – it’ll do wonders for you in the long run.
The pursuit of happiness…
Hopefully, the above habits give you something to work with when it comes to acknowledging what is holding you back from being as happy as possible.
But in that quest, I want to remind you that happiness is also not something you need to make your ultimate focus, day-in and day-out.
But, as usual, work for balance and try to find a middle ground whereby you gradually incorporate fewer of the above behaviors, yet still allow life to flow around you without ever beating yourself up for having an ‘off’ day.
Every emotion is intricate and beautiful, and success often involves a journey which might not see you smiling every moment.
But you certainly will see yourself smiling a lot more if you move in the right direction and in ways that benefit your journey, by dabbling less in the unhelpful behaviors we’ve covered above.