We all want a good life. To be healthy and happy. We want to love and be loved. To have experiences, enjoy comforts, and do certain things before we die.
All well and good. But too often we focus on what to do to get the things we want in life—and not enough on what not to do.
That’s where the common traps of living come in—the things that inhibit us from leading the life we want.
We all fall into traps in life. All of us. Moms. Dads. Leaders. Professionals. Interns. Students. Retirees. Geniuses. Dopes.
We all fall into traps in life.
The point is not to beat ourselves up for not living perfectly. Nobody does.
Rather, the point is to recognize the traps we’re in—and get busy climbing out. Too often, we go through long stretches of our lives caught in several of these traps, yet pretending like all is well when it’s not. The sooner we address them, the better.
Common Traps of Living
Below are 22 common traps of living, based on my research and work with people in the U.S. and many different countries. As you read through them, note which ones have affected you.
- Clarity (lacking): being uncertain about your purpose, values, vision, aspirations, goals, or priorities.
- Climbing Mode: focusing so much on moving up the success ladder that you lose touch with other important things (like health or relationships).
- Comparing: measuring yourself against others and judging your worth by how you stack up.
- Conforming: following the crowd and fitting in with social conventions instead of blazing your own path.
- Disease of More: focusing on accumulating ever-more things, money, or accomplishments to try to be happy.
- Drifting: getting carried along by the current of outside influences instead of steering to where you want to go.
- Fear: holding back or not trying important things due to fears about failure or threats to image.
- Feeling Behind: feeling that others are racing ahead of you with more clarity or success.
- Golden Handcuffs: feeling chained to a job you don’t like due to the money, security, or prestige.
- Identity: having your sense of self wrapped up too much in work or how you’re perceived by others.
- Limiting Beliefs: mindsets about yourself that hold you back (e.g., that you’re not smart or good enough).
- Losing Yourself: feeling consumed by events or others’ priorities, surrendering your agency, initiative, or sense of self.
- Margin: always being “on” and running from task to task without downtime.
- Negative Self-Talk: inner dialogue that makes you feel flawed, unacceptable, or not enough.
- Perfectionism: setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or others or needing things to be flawless.
- Postponing: deferring plans or dreams because it’s not practical or “the right time.”
- Pretending: wearing a mask for others and impersonating someone you think is more appealing.
- Responsibility: not being fully accountable for your choices, behaviors, and results.
- Self-Deception: hiding the truth from yourself about your true feelings, motives, or circumstances.
- Self-Doubt: lacking confidence or questioning your capabilities and potential.
- Settling: accepting significantly less than what you want or deserve.
- Short Game: failing to invest in the future and deciding important things without considering the long term.
Which traps have you fallen into? Are there any which are particularly pressing now?
While this is a long list of common traps, there are many more. I’ve identified about sixty traps that inhibit us from leading the life we want.
See my new Traps Test to find out your top traps—and then get to work on climbing out of them.
Take the Traps Test
We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.
- What are your top traps?
- And what will you do about them, starting today?
P.S. – This always works best when you talk it through openly with others. We all fall into traps in life. We all have work to do. So get busy with the important work of intentional personal development. Reach out if you think I may be able to help.
Postscript: Inspirations on Traps of Living
- “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” -Ernest Hemingway
- “In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.” –Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad
- “There is more to learn from mistakes than from successes.” –Richard Branson, entrepreneur
- “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” -Mahatma Gandhi
- “It was one thing to make a mistake; it was another thing to keep making it.” –Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care
- “Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.” –Brandon Mull, Fablehaven
- “Being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing.” –Bryan Stevenson, social justice activist
Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Take Gregg’s Traps Test (Common Traps of Living), do his Personal Values Exercise, check out his Best Articles, get his newsletter, or watch his TEDx talk. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!