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 in several traps pretending like all is well when it’s not. The sooner we address our traps and stop avoiding them, the better.
Common Traps of Living
Below are 15 of the most common traps of living, based on my data set of more than 900 people around the world who have taken my Traps Test as of August 2023. As you read through them, note which ones have affected you.
- Overthinking: excessively analyzing something, dwelling on possibilities and second-guessing.
- Overwork: working too much consistently despite negative effects on other priorities; potential burnout or work addiction
- Negative Self-Talk: inner dialogue that makes you feel flawed, unacceptable, or not enough.
- Postponing: deferring plans or dreams because it’s not practical or “the right time.”
- Self-Doubt: lacking confidence or questioning your capabilities and potential.
- Comparing: measuring yourself against others and judging your worth by how you stack up.
- Perfectionism: setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or others or needing things to be flawless.
- Indecision: wavering between different courses of action and having trouble deciding and moving on.
- Fear: holding back or not trying important things due to fears about failure or threats to image.
- Avoidance: not facing up to difficult tasks, situations, or conflicts.
- Numbing: shutting out feelings by keeping yourself preoccupied with other things (e.g., work, technology, substances).
- Complacency: allowing yourself to lose urgency and motivation.
- Settling: accepting significantly less than what you want or deserve.
- Not Moving On: holding on too long to a bad situation or relationship and not advancing forward.
- Catastrophizing: assuming the worst and blowing things out of proportion.
(Take my Traps Test to see the full list of the common traps of living.)
Which traps have you fallen into? Are there any which are pressing now?
See my 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?
“It was one thing to make a mistake; it was another thing to keep making it.”
-Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care
P.S. – This always works best when you talk it through openly with others. We all fall into traps, and 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.
Tools for You
- Traps Test (Common Traps of Living) to help you identify what’s getting in the way of your happiness and quality of life
- Quality of Life Assessment to help you discover your strongest areas and the areas that need work and then act accordingly
- Personal Values Exercise to help you clarify what’s most important to you
Postscript: Inspirations on Traps of Living
- “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” -Ernest Hemingway, novelist
- “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
- “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
(Note: This article has been updated several times as I’ve learned more from my global data set of people taking my Traps Test.)
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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx 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, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!