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Last Updated on June 16, 2020

21 Reasons Why We Complicate Life

21 Reasons Why We Complicate Life

These days, many people live stressful, complicated, hurried lives — going and going and going and sometimes getting nowhere. I’ve been there too, with so much to do with seemingly little time to do it. Trying to be in control and rushing from people to places to projects with good intentions to get it all done.

If you’re one of these many people, even if it’s just every now and then, you should know that there are a few ways we actually make life harder on ourselves. The reverse of this is also true. Undoing our stress can be the path to really living life right.

Perhaps the thing we need the most isn’t more things to do, but a thorough cleaning of our mental, emotional, and physical to-do lists. When you’re doing so much in a day that you can’t remember anything you did and you don’t feel any better or more fulfilled having done it, then you are simply too busy and your life is too full and complicated.

Why complicate life?

Here are 21 ways we complicate life and how we can stop.

1. We Procrastinate

Projects pile up, certain tasks are constantly at the top of our to-do list, emails and text messages go unanswered, and people want our attention.

Nothing can clutter our minds more than things that go undone. When we don’t do the things we should at the times we know we should do them, we get overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed often leads to projects never being completed because we feel like we will never catch up.

Procrastination is complication. Our life will love us forever if we start doing things now.

Learn How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators.

2. We Worry

Worry is the mother of a complicated life. The more we worry, the more problems don’t get resolved.

Many times, we aren’t even facing real problems, just issues we’ve concocted in our minds. Yet we still worry. Worrying robs us of our joy, steals our peace of mind, and ruins our lives.

A problem is no greater than the power you give it. The energy we spend on our problems can be energy well-spent on finding solutions.

Here’s How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques.

3. We Wait

The perfect time never seems to be now, so we wait for it. The dream seems unattainable now, so we wait for a better time. The work seems too hard now, so we wait for it to get lighter. We wait and wait and wait… We end up waiting all our lives for things we have the time, talent, money, and power to reach for right now.

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Waiting is fine when you are not in control, but waiting for opportunities when it is in your power to create them is not beneficial.

If you’re looking for the perfect time to do what you’ve always wanted, here’s the answer for you.

4. We Do More Than We Should

We say yes to everyone and everything. The idea of commitment means everything; overcommitment puts a smile on everyone else’s face but yours.

It’s enticing to fill every minute of every day with meeting people, working on projects, and going places. But you have to ask yourself, is it necessary?

Give yourself space — lots and lots of space. Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No. Think. Plan. Do what you should and leave the rest alone.

5. We Accept Too Many Interruptions

When we are always busy, we have very little time for interruptions. When we get unfairly interrupted, we respond negatively.

Interruptions should be kept to a minimum — if it isn’t an emergency, don’t give your time to it. You will always be crazy busy if you allow people to stick their heads in your door every ten minutes with meaningless objectives and projects they can handle themselves.

Shift your focus from dealing with interruptions and being distracted to things that really need your attention. Learn How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus.

6. We Seek Approval and Affirmation From Others

This is often done unconsciously. But let’s be honest, most of what we do, we want people to like. The more people don’t like it, the busier we are refining and revamping it. This causes stress. In fact, The Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected.

One of the hardest things you will ever do is try to please people. It’s hard because you’ll never succeed. It’s a game — a futile, empty one at that. The goal is to like what you do, love what you do, think your own thoughts, create the life you want to live, and never mind if anyone approves or affirms you in it.

Don’t be afraid to love the path you’re walking on and the life you’re living — every step, every minute.

7. We’re Not Really Productive

Busyness and productivity are on opposite ends of the spectrum — if you’re busy, more than likely you’re not as productive as you could be. If you’re productive, odds are you’re not so head-under-the-desk busy that you can’t see anything else.

Busyness will exhaust you and complicate your life. Take a breather. Allow yourself to step back, analyze what you’re doing, and select the things that are most important and that will yield the most results.

Find out the 11 Differences Between Busy People And Productive People and choose to be productive.

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8. We Aim for Control

When we try to control more than we should, we don’t enjoy the journey or the destination.

Control is not the goal in life, connection is. Connection with others and with yourself. You will quickly get tired, frustrated, and bored with life if you are intent on controlling everything in your life.

Learn to let things go. Give your heart and mind a break from making all the decisions, being involved in every detail, and trying to steer in all directions at once. It’s not worth it. Take a break. Let go of some of your high expectations.

Here’s How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control.

9. We Hold on to Birds That Need to Fly

You can’t untangle your life if you’re unwilling to let go of some things and some people. What you had five years ago may not be what you need now. The people who walked your journey with you one year ago may not be the same people who need to walk with you today.

Drop a load off of your life by not holding on too tightly. If you do, you’ll be disappointed and always wondering why? how? when? what?

Accept differences. Embrace change. Give yourself permission to let go so you can have room to grab the next opportunity that comes your way.

10. We Participate in Drama

Drama is one of the bedrocks to a complicated and unpleasant life. Indulging in the drama of other people and giving your own drama free rein will cause you to be more stressed out and depressed than you ever thought possible.

There are people who feed off drama and don’t think they’ve had a good day until they’ve been involved in some trite situation that makes someone else look bad. Quit judging, start loving. Choose to see the good in others and help them bring it out.

11. We Take One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

In other words, we hesitate. We wonder if we should, we start, and then we stop. We see possibilities, we move forward, we encounter a roadblock, and then we quit. Wouldn’t you rather take a risk and see that it didn’t work out than not take the risk at all?

Life is full of opportunities and possibilities if we simply open our minds, eyes, and hearts to them. Persevere and believe that whatever you want, you will get. Keep your head up and don’t succumb to the voice of failure.

12. We Complain

We stress ourselves out when we find things to grumble about and nothing to be grateful for.

Complaining almost always changes nothing. When we focus on the next thing — the next pay raise, the next promotion, the next degree, the bigger house, the better car, another spouse, another friend — we neglect all the things that are before us and the people that are around us.

Stopping to breathe is part of the wonderful process of simplifying your life. We should be happy and thankful for who we are and for what we have right now.

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Always thinking of times in the past and in the future robs us of the joy of living in the present. Don’t waste your mental energy with ungrateful thoughts.

13. We Don’t Set Boundaries

No, everything is not a priority. No, everyone does not need your attention.

Yes, the world will roll right on if you go on a vacation, take a nap, or watch the sun set.

Boundaries influence who you are, what you believe, and where you stand in the grand scheme of everything else. Set, embrace, and respect boundaries. It’s not a sign of weakness if you can’t handle something; it’s an opportunity for your boundaries to show strength.

When we set boundaries, we show respect to our health, our time, our energy, and our life. When we decide when to say yes and when to say no, we take control of our lives. If you respect your own boundaries, other people will respect them as well.

Here’s How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries.

14. We Compare Ourselves to Others

Don’t compare your movie to someone else’s script.

Or don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. You are entitled to embrace your life just the way it is, make the changes you know you can make, and walk your own path to success.

Nobody is obligated to write your life for you. Comparing yourself to someone else will set you up for failure. You wonder why so many people don’t succeed? Because they are way too busy trying to be like someone else, get what someone else has, look like someone else, and act like someone else.

Don’t worry about them; focus on you.

15. We Aren’t Honest

Dishonesty is a fast-track route to depression and heartbreak. You have to tell the truth to yourself and to others. You have to assess your life and your priorities openly and straightforwardly.

Choose to believe the truth and reject lies. Lies complicate life. If we truly love ourselves, we will tell ourselves the truth. If we love others, we will tell them the truth. Not only do we speak the truth, but we must be truthful in our actions and our attitudes.

16. We Don’t Forgive

Holding on to hurt feelings, bitterness, pent-up frustration, and emotions of hate and anger only makes situations worse. You are actively hurting your own wellbeing and mindset.

The freedom is when you release these emotions from your life and intentionally forgive yourself and those who’ve hurt you — even if they don’t ask for it, appreciate it, or deserve it. These feelings are as real to you throughout your life as you allow them to be. So let them go for your own sake.

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This guide can help you: How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

17. We Focus on Ourselves Instead of Others

We live in a very self-centered world. So many of us are only concerned about ourselves — what we want, what we like, what we can buy, how we can get ahead, how much money we can make, where we can go, what we can eat, and so on.

However, when we focus on ourselves only, we miss out on greater joys and blessings. Involvement with yourself all of the time can only confuse your life. Learn to reach out. Give. Serve. Love.

18. We Don’t Nurture Our Relationships

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a lone wolf or a people person, you can’t survive without relationships. We were created at our cores to be social beings (or social animals, if you prefer).

The happiest people in the world have meaningful, honest, and deep relationships. I didn’t say you have to be close friends with everybody you meet. However, there are people in your life who know you, you know them, and you have a deep sense of connection and camaraderie — these are the relationships you need to spend time on, love, and nurture.

When we’re around those we really care about and who really care about us, we experience an emotional high that involves honesty, interdependence, sacrifice, and commitment that is strong and abiding.

19. We Live in the Past

What use is the past to you if not only to learn from it? We do things we shouldn’t, we don’t do things we should, and we do things we wish we hadn’t — it’s an unfortunate part of the process of growing up.

We’ve got the growing up part, but we don’t have the moving on part. This is what we need to get a hold of — the past is the past, learn from it, leave it, and move on. Sure, some of the things we did, the decisions we made, and the attitudes we had, we wish we could go back and do over. But we can’t — that’s the reality.

If we could change anything about the past, we wouldn’t be who we are today. So embrace your failures and mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and keep moving forward.

20. We Try to Cheat.

Skating through life and cutting corners has never helped anything or anybody. Doing what is right at all times should be your primary goal.

When we seek to do right and make appropriate decisions that are supported by knowledge, wisdom, and accurate information, we may make mistakes, but we never have to look over our shoulders or bog down our minds with why we didn’t do something a certain way.

Do the right thing at all times. Be honest. Be straightforward. If it’s bad, just say it. If it’s right, just do it. Nobody may ever know that you did the right thing, but you will know. You have a conscience and you are responsible for making sure that your conscience is free enough to speak to you.

21. We Avoid the Tough Stuff

So many people don’t like conflict. Any time an unfavorable situation arises, they immediately eject themselves from the conversation. Doing this is like the proverbial ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. The problem being avoided only gets bigger and bigger until it is confronted.

Are you willing to have uncomfortable conversations? Are you willing to deal with the tough stuff so the rest of your life can be better? Conflict that goes unaddressed in the present will only cause bigger problems in the future.

Your ability to successfully and sanely manage your life will depend on the number of things (and people) you are willing to confront and how much tough stuff you’re willing to deal with.

More Tips for Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Wes Hicks via unsplash.com

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Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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