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10 Enemies You May Have That Could Ruin Your Life

10 Enemies You May Have That Could Ruin Your Life

Enemies don’t always come in human form. But we pick them up, nurture them, and sometimes they stay with us forever, slowly draining away our happiness, sense of worth, and even our professional success. The good news is that, once we do identify them, we can take steps to embrace them and lovingly send them on their way. Take this little “test” and see if any of these 10 creatures are lurking about!

1. Ignoring Important Things

If there is a leak in your roof, you can choose to ignore it. But every time it rains, the leak will get worse and damage more plywood and support beams. And so it is with life’s important problems/issues. They are not going away, and the earlier you deal with them, the less you will have to deal with. Suppose, for example, you have a colleague at work or a family member who continually takes advantage of you – perhaps borrowing money or eating up your time with incessant complaining and/or drama. Ignoring these behaviors in the hopes that they will soon end is a “pipe dream.” As difficult as it may be, you need to be calm but firm. Each time there is a request for money or your time, you simply do not have it to loan or to give. Eventually, they will “move on.” When you continue to ignore issues that should be dealt with, you become resentful, irritable and angry – not good emotions and feelings to have! But when you deal with them and resolve them, you get a sense of relief, comfort, and peace – how about those feelings?

2. Envy

We can all find others who have more – more money, better relationships, more career success, and we can choose to spend our energy being envious of all that others have. And we can spend time being envious of them. There is the family in the neighborhood that always have new cars, goes on great vacations, and is just living in a “style” we covet. There is the colleague who got a promotion that we felt we deserved; there is the friend who inherited a great deal and is now living a much “larger” life. Envy, while we often don’t realize it, leads to resentment and dis-satisfaction that masks all of the great things about our own lives. This is a difficult enemy to transform, but you can do it. Begin with making a list of all that you have to be grateful for. You will find that it is quite long. How many others would envy your life? Quite a few, actually! Place signs with the word “gratitude” in easily seen places around your home – on the mirror in your bedroom, on your refrigerator – you need to remind yourself on a daily basis that you have many things that inspire gratitude. The more you focus on these, the less you will focus on what others have.

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3. Insecurity

Do you need to be in control? Do you bully others? Do you deflect compliments? Are you a people pleaser, always saying “yes” when you really want to say “no?” Do you get defensive when others provide constructive criticism or suggest that you could do something differently? These are all signs of insecurity. Insecurity is a deep-seated enemy, and “he” is hard to transform. You begin by embracing and accepting it. By holding this enemy very close, you can get to know him intimately; you can see the behaviors that are resulting from it, and you can the reverse those behaviors as they “rear up,” one by one. Those are how the habits of insecurity get changed. You are a unique person with wonderful qualities – start living those!

4. Indecisiveness

You only move forward when you make decisions. Not making decisions is paralyzing, whether it is which car to buy, which job to take, or something as simple as what color to paint a wall. This “enemy” is easy to identify, because you are simply stalled, and then you do the following:

  • You play “what if” games, as you ponder each option, and you never stop
  • You continue to ask others for their advice, and you never stop.

Here’s the thing: You are never going to make the right decision every time, and you don’t always have to be right. So ask yourself this. What is the worst that could happen if I make a wrong decision? You will have made a mistake, you will learn from it, and you will fix it as best you can. But you will survive! And start learning to trust your “gut” rather than the advice of others. Set a time limit for the decision and stick to it!

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5. Intolerance

This is an “enemy” that most people with it fail to identify. We consider ourselves to have strong opinions about things, and most often we tell ourselves that these are based upon our basic principles and values. But when we use those “strong opinions” to be judgmental of others in negative ways, we become intolerant, and intolerance can then make us rigid, unforgiving, and unwilling to accept change. When we become these things, others do not want to be around us, we stall in our careers, and we miss out on so much rich diversity that exists in this world. So, start with something small. When you next stand in a line and there is an individual ahead of or behind you who, because of his/her dress, hair color, etc., you have always judged negatively, start a simple conversation. You may be quite amazed that the young man with his pants low and underwear showing is actually personable and able to carry on a conversation! You may find that the young lady with the tattoos and piercings that you have always condemned, is quite friendly and nice. Tolerance must be practiced on a daily basis, and it makes us so much easier for others to be around!

6. Fear of Failure

This enemy is a cousin to indecisiveness, and it causes us not to take risks. Without taking risks, we may never know our full potential, and how sad is that? Without risk-taking, we stay in our rut while the rest of the world pushes forward into the unknown and the exciting. Do people fail when they take risks? Absolutely! But they learn, and they get back up much wiser for the next risk they take. So, again, start with something small. Change your hair color or style; grow a beard; accept that blind date you friend has offered. When you get used to taking risks in small ways, an amazing thing happens. You find that it can be exciting and fun (even if the blind date was a disaster, you’ll have a good laugh). You may decide that you will turn that great idea into a business. And if you fail, so what?

7. Workaholism

It’s so easy to justify 16 hour work days and working weekends. All of these tasks and projects – no one else can get them completed, and it just has to be up to you! Here’s what psychologists say about workaholics – they are compensating for lacks in other parts of their lives. So, if you are a workaholic, you have to identify that first, and then you have to identify what you lack in other parts of your life. Maybe you are avoiding relationships because you have been badly “burned.” Maybe you are afraid of “getting out there” and meeting new people or working on a social life. You must begin with an activity or hobby of some sort, if you are to slay this dragon. Force yourself to take a class; force yourself to join the “Y;” force yourself to say “yes” to the next happy hour invite; even if you cannot force social interactions yet, at least get outside, walk through a park trail and get around nature. The goal? To learn that life outside of work is not an unpleasant or scary place!

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Interesting: 11 Differences Between Busy People And Productive People

8. Impatience

Many are able to identify this enemy and its consequences, but embracing it and then changing it – well – that is quite another matter. We all have a tendency to want what we want right now. And when we don’t get that, we become frustrated, angry, and often unhappy. When people are impatient about the “things” they want, they go into debt to get them; when they want more rapid career advancement, they become more aggressive and perhaps make enemies along the way. Impatience is contagious in that it tends to carry over into all aspects of one’s life, so that the individual has a difficult waiting for even the smallest things – the coffee pot to finish percolating before getting that cup filled, the cars ahead to move faster when the light turns green, or the people in line at the checkout. Impatience creates impulsivity, frustration and even anger. Getting rid of this enemy depends upon how it manifests. If, for example, you are deep in debt because of it, you cut up those credit cards and vow to stay off of shopping sites and out of stores. If it manifests itself in your being rushed all of the time, deliberately drive 3-5 miles under the speed limit as often as possible. Patience is a habit that is built over time, so be patient about it!

9. Insensitivity

This enemy is insidious because so often we have no idea that we exhibit insensitivity to others. We are simply used to “telling it like it is,” to verbalizing every thought that comes into our heads, and we rarely stop to consider whether what we do or say injures others. Sometimes, another person will tell you that you have been insensitive. Rather than get all defensive, make a note of it. It is probably not the first time you have heard this. And when you have offended or upset enough people in your environments, you reap the consequences. You won’t be invited to social gatherings; you won’t be asked to join co-workers for lunch. The first step in the homicide of insensitivity is to admit that you are brash, brazen, and too outspoken. The second step is to practice compliment-giving. Find something nice to say to everyone you encounter in the course of your day. Bit your tongue when you are about to spout off with some opinion. Try it for a week and the ways in which others respond to you will begin to transform. You will like what you see, so keep it up!

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10. Rumination

You can’t sleep because an incident from the day is still bothering you. You are running scenarios of it in your head, going over all of the conversation that occurred, thinking of things you could have said instead. Or you can’t sleep because you are worried about next week, or next year, of 10 years from now. You are definitely a ruminator and this enemy is stealing your time, your energy, and your happiness. So, why let him stay in your life? Can you have a “do-over” of what happened today? No. Are you psychic enough that you know what next week or next year will bring? No. The only time you can control is right now, and if you choose to spend the “now” in the past or future, you will never find contentment. So when the ruminating begins, stop yourself and say, “What should I be doing right now?” Or get your thought on something pleasant in the “now.” Is there a bird at your feeder or a child having fun outside your window? Is there that leftover pie in the fridge? Give it a try – you’ll actually be far more productive too!

Real enemies do not surrender without a fight, but you have a lot more fight and power than they do – remember that!

Featured photo credit: Michael Carian via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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