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How to give yourself the best chance of a good life (Part 2)

How to give yourself the best chance of a good life (Part 2)

Last week, I posted Part 1 of this article . Here are some more straightforward and practical ways to give yourself the best possible chance of living a good life, focusing on what is most likely to produce lasting changes for the better.

  • Broaden your horizons. Take an interest in something new. Try to meet different people. Explore something that you think isn’t interesting. Read challenging and stimulating books; that’s one of the very best (and cheapest) ways to spread your mental horizons wider. Travel as much as you to experience other cultures. Spend time with people who think very differently than you do. Dull, narrow-minded, parochial types are some of the most boring people that you can meet. Mostly they have boring, narrow lives and boring, conventional jobs too. Don’t join them.
  • Deliberately keep shifting your perspective. Play around with different ways of looking at the same thing. Try taking the opposite point of view. Play devil’s advocate. Try out unconventional and contrarian types of thought. Play is often the best way to learn. When do humans (and most other higher mammals) most need to learn? When they’re young. How do they spend most of their time when they’re young? Playing. Tiny babies start learning the moment they’re born. We all enter this world capable of amazing amounts of learning. Sadly, many people allow this ability to drift away as they get older.
  • Try out some unfamiliar options. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always had—or worse, since circumstances change and yesterday’s sure thing is tomorrow’s disaster. Consider fresh possibilities. Let go of your prejudices. Try something unfamiliar. If you don’t like it, stop. At least you’ve learned something. If you do like it, do it some more. If you habitually focus on mostly short-term, practical things, try focusing on something long-term and visionary. Dream a little. If you’re the strategic type, always looking years ahead, try limiting your focus to today—or, better still, to this very moment. Live in the now for a while. See what you discover.
  • Whatever the problem or topic is, never assume that you already know all the answers. Nothing shuts down your mental faculties faster. Once of the very worst aspects of today’s macho styles of management is the way that they continually put pressure on people to be right first time, every time, and as quickly as possible. All that leads to is playing safe and sticking with what is already commonest and most well-known.

    In place of every human being’s natural curiosity and love of exploration, we are left with timid, risk-averse people who choose the most obvious answer, even if it’s wrong. I’ve seen it described as “management by in-flight magazine,” which describes it very well. Nobody knows all the answers; nobody gets everything right first time. Anyone who claims to is either a fool or a liar—mostly likely both.

  • Life is full of opportunities to learn, so take every single one that you can. We need to learn. If we don’t, our brains shrivel. It’s “use it or lose it” with a vengeance. Doctors have found that exercising our brains is the best way to prevent degenerative illnesses like Altzheimer’s Disease. Find work that stretches your mind. If what you do doesn’t stretch you mentally, it won’t hold your interest for long. Human beings get bored easily. They’re not good at doing the same thing again and again, without variation; only machines are good at that. Take every chance you can to learn more and develop your intellect. What have you got to lose? You may find that some new piece of learning is the key to an area of work, or a new interest, that will make your heart sing.
  • If your work and your deepest values don’t match well, you’ll never be happy or make much of a success of your life. Why? Because you need sustained determination, long-term effort, and high levels of energy to succeed, and work that’s out of line with your core values won’t supply any of those. Nor will it engage your enthusiasm to learn. You won’t do well where you feel no passion for what you do nor have some natural strength to draw on.

    My own experience suggests that trying to do work that’s at odds with your most important values is likely to produce nothing but misery, stress, frustration, and a long list of health problems.

    What do you feel drawn to? What kinds of activities have been most successful for you in the past? What do other people tell you you’re good at? Feeling excited is a good indicator that what you’re doing is a natural strength. People spend hours and hours on hobbies and pastimes. Do they feel bored as a result? Of course not. Do they complain about the time they spend, the effort and money it takes? Nope! Why not? Because they’re so excited and energized by what they’re doing. The best way to balance life and work is to find work that you would choose to do, even if no one paid you. You may not be able to manage it every time—too few of us can—but the closer you get to that ideal, the happier and more successful you’re likely to be.

Last week’s article drew some abusive and nasty-minded comments because I suggested that practicing emotional restraint is useful. It’s hardly a new idea; you’ll find it on the web site of the Mayo Clinic under recommendations to lower stress. I thought of responding directly to those who decided that an emotional and expletive-filled response was appropriate. Then I encountered a posting by a fellow blogger who had suffered the same kind of reaction to an article on a related topic. I decided, therefore, to tackle the whole issue via a piece on my own blog. You can find it here, if you’re interested. It’s called Should you learn not to care—or just not to care so much?

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent posts there on similar topics include Why slowing down is the best way to get there faster and Why changing your self-talk could lower your stress. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

    13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

    Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

    Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

    Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

    1. Stress Eating

    I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

    While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

    I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

    If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

    How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

    2. Nail Biting

    Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

    People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

    Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

    For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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    3. Hanging out with Naysayers

    We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

    Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

    Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

    4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

    Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

    While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

    Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

    Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

    5. Smoking

    Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

    In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

    Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

    Smoking risks

      6. Excessive Drinking

      All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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      According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

      • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
      • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
      • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
      • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
      • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

      If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

      If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

      7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

      Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

      If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

      A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

      “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

      And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

      While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

      Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

      Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

      8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

      There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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      In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

      Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

      Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

      9. Watching Too Much TV

      I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

      Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

      Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

      It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

      10. Being Late

      Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

      Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

      Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

      11. Being in Bad Relationships

      Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

      I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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      Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

      12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

      Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

      Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

      Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

      By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

      Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

      13. Focusing on the Negatives

      In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

      Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

      Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

      And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

      The Bottom Line

      So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

      Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

      Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

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