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8 Reasons Why Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

8 Reasons Why Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

We all experience those moments of self-loathing, unrelenting frustration that stems from our own hands. We also seem to hit a wall every now and then, question the road that we’re on and maybe have a quarter and/or middle life crisis. It’s not entirely inexplicable.

Indecision, self-doubt, lack of confidence or motivation are all byproducts of our inner villain. We don’t need to demonstrate a Dexter-complex to know that we can be the number one cause of our own failures and downfalls. Fortunately, there’s a solution: we just have to be aware of this monster inside of us, understand its gameplan and overpower its demoralizing voice.

So, what do you need to know? Listed below are 8 reasons why you, of all people, are your number one worst enemy, along with how you can overcome, well, yourself.

1. You Don’t Manage Your Expectations

There’s an ambitious, starry-eyed voice that guides you. Even louder may be a voice of complete impracticality and unrealistic hope. Don’t get them confused.

It’s good to expect a lot of yourself, great to forecast good things coming your way. However, if you walk into every situation with an expectation to gain the most out of it, you’re going to almost always come out of it feeling unfulfilled. If you set ridiculous goals for yourself – say, you’re going to sign up for that gym membership and commit to a workout every second day after work – you’ll either burn yourself out and crash or let go of the commitment and experience some measure of having failed yourself.

This becomes especially dangerous when you mismanage expectations that are outside the sphere of your control. Expecting others to act a certain way, expecting your boss to reward you in the near future or your favorite sports team to win the championship – you have little to no control over these matters and will experience devastation if things don’t work out your way – all due to the mismanagement of your expectations.

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Make sure that you set realistic goals for yourself – don’t bite off more than you can chew. Understand that you don’t control things outside of your own sphere. Look towards, but don’t expect, that next raise or promotion. Be realistic. If we expect to get everything, we’ll be left feeling unfulfilled; if we don’t expect much, we’ll be left feeling content with what we’ve gained.

2. You Fail to Appreciate the Small Things

We don’t have much time on this little blue rock that’s hurdling through the universe, but that’s no excuse to rush through life and only focus on the big things that seem to matter. You want a car, a house, a good job, a loving husband or wife, two kids and a dog. Or cat. That’s all fine, but in the pursuit of these goals we fail to take a second and appreciate the smaller things around us. The aroma rising from a cup of coffee in the morning, the cool breeze that follows a rainfall on the hottest day of the summer, the peculiarity of a cloud. Even the small things you do and achieve on a daily basis matter.

One of the fundamental goals in everyone’s life is to have a pleasurable time here. When you begin to appreciate every little thing before your eyes, on a day to day basis, you’ll undoubtedly feel enriched. The trick is to keep up with it, as concerns or problems will always bog down our mind and distract your attention.

This becomes especially important in the context of our own success. If we fail to appreciate the small things that we accomplish, we’ll begin to lose a sense of self-respect. If you’re constantly worried about landing that new job, not realizing that you’ve learned to become a master of living on a tight budget in the meantime, then you’re overlooking something that can provide you with a feeling of self-respect. If you find yourself having to bike to work because you need a new car, appreciate the benefits towards your health. It requires a degree of optimism, but taking into account all the good things you do on a small scale helps build your confidence, motivation, and self-respect.

3. You Take Too Much For Granted

Similar to the point made above, this quality of your inner enemy is by far the most pervasive. Every now and again we’ll donate to a charity and count our own blessings, or witness someone close to us experience a tragedy that will result in our own feeling of gratitude for not having to go through what they’re going through. Why aren’t we doing this every day?

If you’re reading this then you’re somewhere with an internet connection, likely with a roof over your head and some time to spare. When was the last time you stopped to truly appreciate your circumstances? And why should we even bother?

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When you don’t take things for granted, you simply squeeze more out of life. We always hear, ‘kids in Africa…’ but do we really take time to stop and think of how privileged we may be in the midst of all our complaining? Whether it’s our health, our abilities, the love from friends and family, our hobbies, our freedom from outright tyranny or war-like conditions – we all have something that we can be truly grateful for.

4. You are Your Own Worst Critic

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good be a strict judge of your own character. The problem arises when you take it too far. When you constantly criticize and find faults with what you do and who you are, you’ll never reach a necessary level of satisfaction to be truly content with yourself.

If you tend to judge yourself too much, you effectively hold yourself back; if you sell yourself short, you’ll never experience the full value of your potential. Get to know this voice that criticizes you, try to understand where it comes from and why it is that you listen to it. Don’t beat yourself up over every mistake – after all, experience through mistakes is a perfectly sound method of learning. Constantly over-criticizing yourself will hold you back, hamper your confidence, and make you dwell on things that may not even matter.

5. You Over-Analyze

Another characteristic of human nature – we over-think absolutely everything. We can go around in circles, contemplating solutions that aren’t necessary, relying on assumptions that are ultimately false. There’s a struggle between our mind and our instinct, our brain and our heart. We come up with an initial answer to a problem, then over-complicate the matter and do a complete 180. But, it’s good to think things through, is it not?

While it is important to think carefully about certain matters, over-thinking them can prove detrimental. For instance, if your next job interview leaves you with a bad feeling (say, you know that your boss would be a real pain to work under), and you instinctively say no, your rationality may eventually override the decision and lead you to take the position because of the other benefits that surround its acquisition. Before you know it, you’re stuck in a miserable circumstance for eight hours a day, later realizing that it’s not worth those benefits.

To avoid unnecesary over-thinking? Trust in your instincts, break problems down and don’t put too much emphasis on idealizing all the potential implications of every decision when a simple pro/con list may suffice. Ensure that you’re not basing decisions upon misled or faulty assumptions – our mind will mistakenly fill in certain blanks to ascertain a desirable answer.

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6. You Prefer the Easy Way

When life gives us lemons, why should we bother to make lemonade when we can just go out and buy it? Short cuts are a way of life, and though they may be a necessary time saver, they detract from our sense of working towards something – earning it.

Working towards something affixes a certain meaning to it, develops your sense of appreciation and contributes to the great sense of accomplishment at the end of the road. Your inner enemy holds you back; if you never go the extra mile, you’ll never experience the extra rewards that may come as a result. You can’t expect full results while using only half the effort. It’s in our nature to avoid inconveniences, but oftentimes they’re called for.

Next time you have to go well out of your way to complete a task or help someone, just do it. Ignore the lazy voice in your head and agree to take the hard way once in a while. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.

7. You Assume

Projecting certain assumptions onto certain situations can be disastrous. Our brain works to fill in the gaps however it can, forming answers on faulty presumptions if necessary. If you assume your spouse is mad at you for something you may have done, it’ll lead you towards developing a defensive stance or counter-attacking when no concern may even be warranted. Don’t assume that someone may be mad because XYZ happened when you’re unaware of ABC. We make this mistake countless times, all because we subconsciously fill in the blanks with answers that are incorrect.

To prevent this, you have to understand your train of thought. Don’t place your own standards on others, moral or otherwise, as everyone is different and thinks a different way. Rely on valid facts, not just assumptions, before deciding on a particular course of action. Understand that you may not know the full story behind everything you’re involved in. Many times, we must rely on nothing but an assumption – just don’t invest too much into the outcome when you’re dealing with unknown circumstances.

8. You Doubt Yourself

The cliche piece of advice that every parent gives you. And for good reason. Self-doubt is, in itself, unwarranted. If you’ve failed at something and ultimately doubt that you can do it, it’ll only prevent you from progressing. Oftentimes, self-doubt may just be an unwillingness to do something.

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There’s a difference between self-doubt and low expectations. Low expectations may lead to a sense of pragmatism, whereas self-doubt may force you to neglect your potential; the former doesn’t hamper your effort whilst the latter certainly does.

Under no circumstances should you ever doubt yourself. When it comes to your potential, realize that the sky is the limit. Use your sense of realism to evaluate the consequences of your action – don’t just pessimistically assume that your action will have unfavourable consequences. Take this time-tested piece of cliche advice into consideration.

All in all, just be aware of your inner enemy. Understand the ways that it tries to hold you back and lead you the wrong way. Constant awareness will shine a light on everything.

“The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.”  – George R. R. Martin

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Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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