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14 Things You Should Give Up Chasing No Matter What Others Say

14 Things You Should Give Up Chasing No Matter What Others Say

Whenever we chase after something, we take ourselves out of the present moment where life actually happens. The future doesn’t exist yet and the past is gone. The only really meaningful place to live is in the now and that’s generally where you’ll find what you’re looking for. Others may say you should be chasing these 14 things to be happy and successful, but take a deeper look and decide for yourself. You may think differently after you read this.

1. Chasing The Dream

“Let the world know why you’re here, and do it with passion.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Before you start chasing THE dream, make sure that it’s YOUR dream you’re chasing! I’ve found that most people don’t get what they want in life because they’re playing out someone else’s idea of who they should be.

Take “Anne,” for example, a small quiet woman who used to drag herself into my weekly Reinventing Yourself workshop after spending all day at a job she hated. She became a dental hygienist because her mother wanted her to be like her older sister, who became one because on career day in high school the girl sitting next to her said, “Hey, why don’t you become a dental hygienist?” A few months later her sister married a wealthy dentist and never had to work again. Anne, on the other hand, had been doing it for 30 years.

Anne never invented herself in the first place. She’s not the only one. Many of us aren’t leading authentic lives. The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live THEIR dreams. Don’t let that be you. If you find yourself leading a life full of shoulds and obligations—someone else’s dream for you—take heart. Doing something you love for just a couple of hours a week can significantly improve your life. Like steering a ship slightly to the right, over time you’ll arrive at the destination YOU desire.

2. Chasing Security

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” ~  Benjamin Franklin

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, security is “the state of being protected or safe from harm.” The problem with chasing security is that there is no such thing, and if you trade your soul for it, you pay a big price. I have a friend who’s buying a house with a woman he doesn’t love, who treats him badly, for “security’s sake.” Another friend is applying for work way beneath her potential to collect a steady paycheck, even though the last time she did so her job made her sick and it took her out of the job market for several months.

The truth is that fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

3. Chasing Money

“Chase your passions and money will come. Chase money and you may never find your passions.” ~ Colin Wright

We all need to make ends meet, but beyond that, chasing after the green stuff doesn’t make us happier.

“Rachel” took my creativity workshop after she’d made a bundle working at Apple and felt absolutely empty. A buddhist priest friend of mine told me he gets most of his donations to build orphanages in third world countries from wealthy people who feel like their lives are meaningless otherwise.

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Research by the Nobel laureate psychologist/economist Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Angus Deaton found that happiness maxes out around $75,000 in the United States. Additional studies reveal that people are happier when they spend their money on other people rather than only themselves.

Of course we all need money to live, but chasing money for money’s sake can take you off track from your true passions and leave you feeling hollow. Simplify your life, do what you love, and the money will follow.

4. Chasing Material Things

“Stop chasing what your mind wants and you’ll get what your soul needs.” ~ KushandWizdom

Many of us think we’ll be happy if we live in a big house, wear brand-named clothes, drive a new car, and stuff our closets full of shoes. But that’s simply chasing things to fill the hole in your sole (forgive the pun).

Research shows that we’re happier when we spend money on positive experiences—like vacations—rather than material things. So the next time you feel like redecorating your living room or upgrading your car, think about flying to France or taking a road trip instead.

5. Chasing Work

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world, including Japan. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s no wonder we try to stuff everything we can’t do at work into our off hours.

But the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Even though it’s countercultural, research shows that taking breaks leads to greater productivity than putting in long hours. You come back refreshed and able to do more in less time when you give yourself a chance to recharge.

So instead of cramming more activities into an already too busy life to make up for lost time, try slowing down, meditating, doing yoga, taking walks, having deep talks with friends, keeping a journal, and being out in nature.  It will make you happier and healthier too.

6. Chasing Outer Beauty

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others. For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

Many women and men feel pressure to look good. We hit the gym, dye our hair, and even get corrective surgery. In 2012, 14.6 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States. Isabella Rossellini calls it “the new foot binding.” The problem is that outer attractiveness naturally fades with time. What we should be chasing after is the beauty that resides within.

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My gym workout partner is in her mid-60s and the most beautiful woman I know. She eats well and takes good care of herself but she also focuses on championing people in need and making the world a better place. She absolutely glows.

Cindy Joseph created a cosmetics line that celebrates aging rather than fighting against it. Her opinion?  “When a woman feels good in her skin, when she’s happy and joyful and finds her true purpose and passions, she shines from the inside out.” That goes for men, too.

7. Chasing Youth

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” ~ C.S. Lewis

We live in a youth-obsessed society, so many of us panic when we look in the mirror and see droopy eyelids, crows-feet and gray hair staring back at us. Nothing is permanent and that’s okay. When we chase youth on the outside we often lose sight of the wisdom that comes with age. We learn from our mistakes, make better choices, and are more likely to be true to ourselves.

Rather than trying to discover the fountain of youth, channel your energy into following your heart. It’s never too late. Martin P. Levin reached his dream to go to law school at age 61, and still practices law in his 90’s. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, crippled with arthritis, continued to paint with a brush strapped to his hand. What would you do if you had the courage to find out what you’re capable of accomplishing, no matter your age?  That’s where your true vitality lies.

8. Chasing Approval

“Always remember that you do not need to explain yourself or prove anything to anyone.  If they cannot accept you for you – then it is time to move on.” ~ Cath B Akesson

Chasing people’s approval is a waste of time and effort; what we should be chasing is our own approval. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

There’s NOTHING wrong with you. Some folks love you just the way you are; some don’t. You don’t need to change a thing. The wonderful side effect of self-acceptance is that those little things you want to improve about yourself tend to right themselves effortlessly. Self-hate keeps you stuck. Self-acceptance heals.

9. Chasing Love

“I love my husband very much. I knew it was real true love because I felt like I could be myself around that person.”  ~ Idina Menzel

When you chase love it often attracts people who don’t value you. Otherwise why would they make you work so hard? Worse, you may wind up with a narcissist who requires constant admiration but can’t return it. It’s exhausting to constantly fight for someone’s attention. You just end up getting hurt.

True love comes knocking at your door when you stop looking for it outside of yourself and focus on accepting yourself for who you are—warts and all—instead. What can you do to be more genuine and self-accepting? Maybe you could sign up for an improv class, or take up drawing, or join a hiking group. Following your heart increases your chances of meeting like-minded people. When you reveal rather than conceal who you really are, you give true love the opportunity to find you.

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10. Chasing People

“Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your own thing and work hard. The right people – the ones who really belong in your life – will come to you. And stay.” ~ Will Smith

If you have to work hard to keep an acquaintance or friend in your life, it’s probably best to let that person go. Not all relationships are healthy. Learn to tell the difference.

According to George Simon, author of In Sheep’s Clothing, beware of people who try to control you, stroke your ego to get what they want, tell lies, ignore you, make you feel guilty, put you down, play the victim, or cause you to doubt yourself. These energy vampires leave you feeling drained. If you take an honest assessment of your current friendships and family members, chances are you’ll find one or two there. Rather than chasing them to make the relationship work, distance yourself.

And bring your true friends closer. The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to make time to see their friends much. A real friend is someone you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around. You don’t need to chase them because they’re already there. Make it a priority to stay in touch.

11. Chasing The Latest Trend

“Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

Consumer-based societies depend on us to buy stuff, so we’re forever lured into getting the latest gadget and wearing trendy fashions. Trouble is, if we’re always chasing the new rage, we can lose track of who we really are and what truly turns us on.

“Dan” took my creativity workshop because he was tired of being an attorney. He came to realize he really wanted to be a photographer. He took pictures at lunch and after work and eventually sold a piece at a show. Taking photos brought meaning and joy back into his life.

Be a free thinker and go for what really lights your fire. It can be listening to 60’s music, watching old Star Trek movies, writing, painting, taking photographs…  If you do end up buying that new camera, just remember that it’s the experience of shooting photographs that enlivens you, not the camera itself.

12. Chasing Happiness

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” ~ Brene Brown

According to Tal Ben-Shahar PhD, author of Happier, chasing happiness by working hard today for the rewards that come tomorrow does not make people happy. Nor does engaging in momentary hedonistic pleasures without thought of the consequences. Happiness is a choice. To find it, do what brings you pleasure in the moment AND helps you reach meaningful goals in the future.

The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t. Be honest with yourself and strategize a happy life by doing things you love every day that lead to a life that fits who you truly are. Count your blessings and follow your bliss.

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13. Chasing What’s Possible

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn

Many of us chase after what seems possible instead of what we’re really capable of doing because our aspirations are too limited.

“Maria” took my creativity workshop because she wanted to retire from the police and travel the world. She figured she’d write travel manuals to support herself, but was unenthusiastic about it. I got her to stick to her guns and investigate opportunities that used her true skills. She ended up getting a job with the UN training local police in Bosnia to adopt human rights procedures.

Don’t be too quick to mentally figure out how to follow your dreams. If the answer falls outside the range of what seems possible (in Maria’s case, working for the UN), the route you choose may actually hold you back from getting the best life you can have. Slow down. Every step you take provides another piece of the puzzle, until the big picture eventually snaps into focus.

14. Chasing The Path to Success

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” ~ John D. Rockefeller

Years ago when I was a psychology professor, I felt deeply empty despite my success. I’d published in the best journals in my field and received teaching awards, but it wasn’t the right path for ME.

The truth was, I wanted to be a rock star. “Ridiculous,” a voice that sounded a lot like my mother’s screamed inside my head. For one, it would mean I had wasted four years at Princeton getting my PhD in psychology. For another, I was too old. How could I change now, wasn’t it too late?

I kept thinking about how happy my students were whenever I gave them permission to be their true selves. Within a year I left my solid teaching position to follow my dream. My songs have been on the charts, and I’ve led creativity workshops for 19 years and helped thousands of participants realize their dreams, too. But I had to make my own path. So do you.

Following someone else’s road to success is not going to get you anywhere. What trail would you blaze if you set your soul free?

In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy had it right when she declared, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Just like Dorothy always had the power to go home, you’ve always had a unique gift to share with the world. Reawaken your buried dreams, honor what makes you different, and embrace the people who have your back, and you will create a life you love.

Featured photo credit: Suzanne Tucker via shutterstock.com

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Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

I'm a psychology professor-turned rock star who has helped thousands of people create happy meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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