The Trap of Living Someone Else’s Life
As if life weren’t hard enough sometimes, we all have to navigate the challenge of reconciling our own preferences for living with the influences and expectations of those around us. We have a powerful desire to be free and unencumbered but also a deep-seated desire to be connected and appreciated. When these desires conflict, we can end up living someone else’s life—chasing the goals and dreams of others instead of our own. Many people are deeply influenced by the expectations of their parents—or of teachers, coaches, mentors, or peers: Be a lawyer. Or consultant. Run the family business. Choose the
People-Pleasing: Why We Do It and How to Stop It
We all do it sometimes. We put others’ needs ahead of our own. It’s called people-pleasing: having an excessive focus on making others happy at the expense of our own wants and needs. It’s been called “the disease to please.” We use it to avoid risking the disapproval of others or the discomfort of standing up for what we want. It’s a form of self-neglect as we seek validation from others. People-pleasing is related to what social psychologists call “sociotropy,” the tendency to place an inordinate value on relationships over personal independence. It often comes with a strong need for
What Keeps Us from Moving On?
We can get set in our ways in our life and work, falling into the trap of not moving on from something when we should. It may be a job or career that’s no longer a good fit. Or a relationship that’s not working anymore. It could be a chapter in our life that needs to make way for a new one. Or a social group that we’ve outgrown. It’s common to fall into the trap of not moving on—of holding on too long to a bad or suboptimal situation, relationship, job, or path and not advancing forward. What
What to Do About Overthinking, Rumination, and Worrying
One of the common traps of living affecting so many of us these days is overthinking—excessively analyzing something or dwelling on possibilities and second-guessing ourselves. We think about some things—mostly bad things—too much and for too long. It can be mentally replaying awkward conversations or embarrassing moments repeatedly. That time we got dumped by our childhood crush. Or worrying about an upcoming presentation or interview. Putting off asking for a promotion or raise because we’re overthinking. Our thoughts spiral out of control when our boss mentions out of the blue that we need to talk. I’ve fallen into this trap
Are We Numbing Our Lives Away?
One of the most insidious traps that we can fall into these days is numbing—escaping from our thoughts and feelings by doing other things. When we do this, we’re taking the edge off feelings that cause us pain or discomfort. We’re anesthetizing difficult emotions. The problem is compounded by the fact that many families and cultures teach people, either explicitly or implicitly, to suppress their feelings. We can numb not only with things like alcohol, drugs, or smoking but also with binge-watching shows or doom-scrolling social media. Our numbing might be excessive work and busyness or constant emailing and texting.
Are You Focusing Too Much on Others’ Needs?
Our daily demands can be intense. We may have pressures and obligations at work. Household chores. Bills, taxes, mortgage payments. On top of that, we want to help others: our spouse and children, our colleagues on a tough project, our friends and neighbors. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming—especially if we fall into the trap of focusing too much on others’ needs, draining our own reserves. Such excessive other-focus can get us into real trouble. It’s a common challenge among people who work in the caring professions, including doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, social workers, and veterinarians. Anyone who frequently cares for
The Hidden Trap Catching Many High-Achievers
We all have wants and needs, but most of us don’t think of ourselves as needy. That may be true, but in many cases we’re more needy than we think. For many people these days, and especially high-achievers, neediness shows up as excessive attachment to recognition, praise, or success–or to saving others–for self-acceptance. It comes with an excessive desire for reassurance or affirmation from others. This is easy to miss because we’re probably reluctant to admit it when we feel it. Such achievement-based approval is baked into Western culture and our society’s views about what’s expected in life—and what comprises
Taking Stock of Your Quality of Life
When it comes to our health, we don’t think twice about going to the doctor for a check-up or for an annual physical. In school, we take exams. At work, we have performance reviews. In business, we have audits. In stores, we take inventory. In sports, we do a post-game review. In the military, an after-action review. In medicine, a post-mortem. So what do we do when it comes to the quality of our lives? For most of us, nothing at all. Huh? What could matter more than the quality of our lives? And yet we leave it unaddressed and
Why Monkey Mind Is Worse Than You Think— And What to Do About It
Many of us are going through much of our lives with a “monkey mind” that’s restless and easily distracted, with thoughts swinging wildly in different directions. (1) The problem is that chaos in our minds will bring chaos in our life, work, and leadership. It will make us anxious and make it harder for us to accomplish our goals. Unfortunately, this monkey mind phenomenon is as common as it is old (the term having been coined by the Buddha), and it’s aggravated by the way we tend to work in our modern world. “I am burdened with what the Buddhists
How Inertia Keeps Us from Making Needed Changes
Inertia can keep us from making needed changes in our life or work. Because of inertia, we can stick with a sub-optimal path, often because it feels safer and easier. According to Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, something at rest will remain at rest, and something in motion will remain in motion, unless it’s acted upon by an external force. It’s often called “the law of inertia.” Think of the amount of fuel and energy it takes for a rocket to blast off. Next, think of a loaded freight train barreling down the tracks and how much energy it
How to Overcome Feelings of Helplessness
As much as we may hate to admit it, we all feel helpless sometimes. Unable to do anything to help ourselves. Powerless in the face of negative events. Failure appears inevitable. Our efforts seem pointless. We’re like Sisyphus rolling the giant boulder up the hill, over and over again. There are of course degrees of helplessness, ranging from the occasional feeling of overwhelm or uncertainty about what to do to something more deep and lasting. Though it may seem foreign and rare, a feeling of helplessness can show up in many instances of our life and work. Maybe our board
Are We More Materialistic Than We’d Like to Admit?
Article Summary: These days, it’s easy to fall into the trap of materialism, which actually makes us less happy. Why that’s the case and what to do about it. +++ These days, it’s easy to get caught up in consumption, possessions, and comfort while neglecting matters of the heart or spirit. Are you caught in the trap of materialism—the belief that having money and possessions is the most important thing in life? Even if you don’t believe that, are you living that way by default? Consider the following: According to a 2019 estimate, the average American adult spends about $18,000
Have Feelings of Entitlement Crept into Your Mindset?
Article Summary: Though it’s hard to admit, we’re more prone to feeling a sense of entitlement than we think. Here’s why and what to do about it. +++ While most of us would agree that we have to work for things we want in life, it may be that certain surreptitious feelings of entitlement have crept into our mindset. In other words, we’re more prone to entitlement than we think. Entitlement is a feeling that we deserve special treatment or privileges—or that something should rightfully be ours. This narcissistic personality trait can come from many sources. It’s influenced by our
Are You Feeling Empty Inside?
Article Summary: Many people feel empty inside, even if it’s hard to admit for some. This article contains the signs and causes of feeling empty—and what to do about it. +++ The feeling may be virtually undetectable, but if we’d pause to notice we may discover an inner emptiness sometimes. A silent question about whether all we’re doing is really worth it. We may be feeling hollow or numb, or living without passion or joy. Are we racing quickly but getting nowhere in a hurry. “Part of the problem… is that everyone is in such a hurry…. People haven’t found
Escaping the Trap of Our Ego
Article Summary: Ego is a problem for all of us. It comes with many related problems, including selfishness, arrogance, self-importance, and mental suffering. How to escape the trap of our ego. +++ There’s a long list of people who have famously been captured by their ego, from celebrities and CEOs to politicians and professional athletes. It’s a well known problem, and one that keeps causing mayhem. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” -Proverbs 16:18 But this is a problem for all of us, not just the rich and famous. There’s a long list of related