I used to think life was about chasing girls.
Then I thought it was about landing a dream job.
Now, I’m not so sure. As a freshly minted 27 year old, I don’t have all the answers on how to make the most of your life.
I’m not even going to pretend to be that writer.
However, based off of my experiences over the past 8 years from getting married, to becoming a father, to writing a book, to leaving my job (twice), and to reinventing my career, it’s safe to say I’m aware of the common pitfalls that hold us back from making the most of our life.
Here are 7 I’ve experienced recently:
1. You check your phone every 5–10 minutes for notifications
“I attribute much of my success in New York to my ability to understand and avoid unnecessary distractions.” — Derek Jeter
That little red circle, that ding, that buzz — be honest, how excited do you feel when your phone reminds you you are wanted? Phones have become IVs, slowly dripping dopamine into our system. Enough to keep us alive, but not enough to crave more.
Although phones have become a cultural standard for distraction (just look around next time you are on a crowded subway), constant checking of one’s phone is a sure tell something is not aligned.
If you happen to subconsciously reach for your phone, stop yourself and ask yourself these questions:
- Did I actually receive a notification or am I checking my phone hoping I will find one?
- What is going on around me that is coaxing a desire to distract myself?
- What is going on internally that is coaxing a desire to distract myself?
- Do I really need to check my phone, is it going to add any lasting value to my life?
If you happen to find yourself mindlessly browsing, open up your messaging app and text someone you love or rekindle an old friendship. If you can’t break away from your phone try to turn the experience into a productive one.
2. You spend your day waiting for ‘breaks’ but wonder where the time went at the end of the day
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” — Jack London
People treat time like they treat money: they want more but never feel like they have enough.
The people who are content with the time (or money) they have and are careful not to waste it live fulfilling lives. However, if you wake up and can’t wait to go back to bed later or arrive at work and immediately start counting down the hours until lunch, then you know something is not right.
It’s okay to live life with a sense of expectation, but to only live hoping for the next break is no life at all.
3. You haven’t taken on a new challenge in the past 6 months
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Have you asked a special someone out?
- Did you apply for a challenging job?
- Have you started on your own projects?
- Did you work out at all?
There are thousands of ways you can challenge yourself in a 6 month time frame. However, if you are still the same person as you were half a year ago, it’s time to bring the stagnation to an end.
Instead, try forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. Do something simple like publishing a blog post every day for a month or joining a networking group.
If keeping things status quo is your status quo, it’s time to shake things up a bit.
4. You come home exhausted from doing nothing all day
“It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.” — George MacDonald
Let me tell you a story about a young corporate office worker.
After a few months of working at his exciting new job, he was bored. There wasn’t enough work to keep him occupied for 8 hours a day. He asked for more work, looked for projects, nothing. Eventually he succumbed to sitting at his desk with nothing meaningful to do.
After hours of nothingness, he would come home exhausted and plop on the couch to watch Netflix for the remainder of the evening. He’d wake up the next day and do it all over again.
This person was me. Emphasis on the was.
If you find yourself in a situation where the majority of the day is spent doing mindless, soul-sucking activities, you need to change your situation.
I changed mine by finding a new job, the same thing happened there to a lesser degree. Now I’m leaving the corporate world to venture out on my own.
Whatever is holding you back from finding work or spending time with people who cultivate purpose and meaning in your life, get rid of it.
If you feel exhausted by the end of the day, it’s probably not for the right reasons.
5. You use consumption as a distraction
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw
A healthy dose of consumption is fine if it’s turned into an output later (i.e. listening to a podcast to generate blog post ideas).
However, if you are consuming for consumption sake — shopping, browsing online, watching Netflix — you might be using it as a distraction.
Taking time to audit how much you consume and how often versus how much you create is important in order to establish some balance.
I don’t remember where I saw this equation, but I think it holds true:
Ideas In = Ideas Out
Even if you aren’t a blogger or content creator, simply using what you consume to create stimulating conversation with others can be thought of as an output.
Restore your balance.
6. You are indecisive about every decision you face
“It is very important to know who you are. To make decisions. To show who you are.” — Malala Yousafzai
If you aren't living to your fullest potential, you most certainly don’t know what you want in life. If you don’t know what you want in life then you hate making decisions.
And if you don’t make decisions, other people will make decisions for you.
How has that played out?
7. You constantly worry about what other people think of you
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E.E. Cummings
Your worry of other people’s opinion/approval is negatively impacting your life.
Every one has a few people in their life whose opinion matters. But when we chase anonymous likes or shares we jeopardize our chances of living life to the fullest, on our own terms.
Maybe it comes with age, but confidence in yourself is the only anecdote. I personally believe confidence is cultivated through our experiences of learning how to fail and get back up again.
However, there are a few methods to prime yourself to be more confident:
- Dress nice (related: groom yourself)
- Smile more
- Think positive
- Mind your posture, stand up straight
- Achieve one small goal every morning
- Be grateful
Want to go deeper?
If there is one thing I’ve learned to make the most out of life, it’s this: Setting and achieving goals is a must.
However, sometimes we struggle to understand what’s holding us back from achieving our goals. That’s why I created the Goal-Getter’s Self-Audit Workbook.