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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

Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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