You’re living a “successful” modern life, which means that you spend most of your time at work. If you’re lucky, you’re able to fulfill your responsibilities without hooking up a caffeine IV, and if you’re really fortunate, you genuinely enjoy what you do. You love the feeling of accomplishment you get when you complete a project, sign a new client, or are recognized for a job well done, but you wish you weren’t so tired all the time, and you hate the feeling of anxiety that’s always lurking in the corners of your mind. You also regret not having more time to relax and spend with your family. You haven’t been home in time to tuck your son into bed all week, and you can’t remember the last time you and your spouse had a date night. Still, you tell yourself that everything’s okay. After all, you’re working to build a better future for you and everyone you love, right?
Maybe not. According to Todd Patkin, you may not be working toward successful new heights…you may be driving yourself over the brink.
If you’re ready to change the way you approach life before you drive yourself over the edge, read on for five of the fifteen life lessons that Patkin has learned:
1) You have to choose and prioritize happiness—it doesn’t just happen. If you subscribe to the belief that your happiness is wholly dependent on what happens to you, you’ll always be dissatisfied. The truth is, your fulfillment largely depends on the choices you make: how you see the world, what you allow to influence you, what you focus on, and how you react to circumstances, regardless of whether they’re good or bad. In other words, it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you look at what happens to you.
2) Striving for work/life balance is worth its weight in gold. Times are tough, and some of us are finding it necessary to work long hours to keep our jobs and livelihoods. Others have fallen into the trap of the work-ego addiction: over time, you become hooked on the “high” you feel when you accomplish something, get a promotion, etc., and you begin to spend more and more time at the office. Whatever the reason, if extremely long hours are becoming a habit for you, break it. No matter how good your intentions are, overloading on work will cause your relationships, mindset, and even health to suffer.
3) We are our own worst critics. If you’re like most people, you probably tend to focus a lot of your mental energy on the things you mess up rather than on the things you do well—even though most of us do a hundred things right for every one thing we do wrong. And although you may not realize it, focusing on that one wrong thing is very dangerous, because our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Until you give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation, you’ll never have a chance to be a truly relaxed, content, and happy person.
4) It’s never too late to start living in the present. How often do your thoughts “live” in the present? More to the point, how often are they instead fixated on your “disappointing” or “disturbing” past or spent worrying about your future? If you are like most people, your percentage of time not spent in the present is way, way too high, and thus you’re missing out on life itself. If you’re letting what’s already happened eat away at you or fretting about what might come to pass, you’re not enjoying the blessings all around you. You’re exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t change or control.
5) Focusing on what you’re good at is best for everyone. If you aren’t good at something—especially if it’s work-related—chances are you’ll feel compelled to spend a lot of time and effort getting your skills up to par. It’s natural to want to shore up your weaknesses, but the fact is, this strategy tends to cause you a lot of stress for (most likely) mediocre results. Instead of trying to be good at everything, stay in your strengths as much as possible. When you’re doing what you’re good at, you’ll be happier and higher performing.
Come back tomorrow for numbers 6-10
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About the Author:
Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.