“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau
How did I get here?
Is this what I wanted for my life? Is this what I chose?
Life can be messy. Many of us go long stretches of our lives on autopilot. We sleepwalk through our days.
“It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten-track for ourselves.” -Henry David Thoreau
One of the common traps of living is drifting: getting carried along by the current of outside influences, without traction on our deeper aims.
At some point, we stop and take stock, only to find that we’ve been wandering aimlessly.
Even while busy and pressed, we’ve been passive. Or reacting. Or settling.
Given these tendencies, we need to pause and take stock. Begin with questions:
Are you clear and intentional about a deeper purpose, about upholding your core values, and moving toward a compelling vision of what a good life would be for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues, and your community?
Are you demonstrating agency? Initiative? Ownership? Responsibility? Action?
Are you proactive?
If you don’t like the answers to these questions, don’t beat yourself up. The good news is that you’ve now regained your awareness. Go easy on yourself, but commit to taking your life back.
Next, as you think through what to do, avoid the trap of analysis paralysis. You don’t need a perfect plan for how to fix everything.
What you need most of all is to start.
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.
More Articles in this Series on the Common Traps of Living
- Breaking the “Trance of Unworthiness”
- Getting Good at Overcoming Fear
- Burnout and the Great Resignation
- Beware the Disease of More
- Golden Handcuffs—Stuck in a Job You Don’t Like?
- Are You Trapped by Success?
- The Conformity Trap
- Is Your Identity Wrapped Up Too Much in Your Work
- The Mental Prisons We Build for Ourselves
- Do You Have Margin in Your Life?
- The Trap of Deferring Dreams and Postponing Happiness
- The Trap of Caring Too Much about What Other People Think
- Tired of Settling? How to Light Your Life and Work on Fire
- The Problem of Going It Alone
- Feeling Behind? It May Be a Trap
- Choice Overload and Career Transitions
- The Comparison Trap
- Guard Your Heart
- Are You Playing the Long Game?
Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, speaker, and coach on personal and leadership 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 (called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great“). Take Gregg’s Traps Test (Common Traps of Living), 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!