Some things in life are pretty benign; they don’t necessarily make you happy or unhappy, but the way you approach them determines their effect. For example, a shirt is usually a pretty benign item. You might like it, you might dislike it, you might not have any opinion at all about it, and how you decide to feel about it is up to you. But there are things that aren’t so benign, and although they tend to be less material, they’re still distinct and identifiable. Certain things are pretty much guaranteed to make you miserable every time. Here are some of them.
Comparing yourself to others
Do yourself a favor and just don’t do this. There is almost no quicker route to feeling badly about yourself than comparison to others. You can look at others to inspire yourself, but there’s a fine line between using others’ accomplishments to set goals and to define yourself. The moment you start comparing someone else’s body, or job, or grades, or anything else to your own, you’ll run the risk of feeling like a failure, getting jealous, or getting stuck up. The first two make you miserable. Becoming prideful, which happens when you compare yourself to others and feel superior, makes everyone else miserable.
It’s just not worth your time. Admire others and don’t pressure yourself to be in the same place as them. Excel at your own accomplishments and don’t judge people who haven’t achieved the same thing. Live free from comparison.
Sometimes this goes hand in hand with comparisons. However, sometimes people impose stringent standards on themselves for no apparent reason. It’s great to have goals and standards. But expecting perfection from yourself in everything 100% of the time is a setup for misery. When you don’t attain success on the first try, the perfectionist urge becomes discouraging. Aim high, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on the mark every single time.
People can procrastinate because they’re afraid of failure (see above: perfectionism). Other times they procrastinate because they’re too tired, or because of stress, or they’re feeling lazy, or they get distracted. There are a million reasons to procrastinate and countless methods. It doesn’t really matter what you procrastinate on. What does matter is that procrastination pretty much always makes the task harder. What makes writing a tough research paper tougher? Writing it four hours before it’s due. Procrastination is not only miserable because the job gets harder, but because the thing you’re not doing tends to eat away at the edges of your mind, adding stress to everything else you’re doing.
Not the kind of letting go (more on that in a minute) but the kind where you know you can do something and you just don’t want to put in the effort. How can you tell the difference? If you already know you’re a hard worker and have a hard time giving things up because you feel like you should book every minute, you might have to let something on your to-do list go.
But if you want to give up just because something is temporarily hard and there’s no other reason, quitting probably won’t make you happy. There’s just something about starting something difficult and sticking it out to the end. The satisfaction of doing something hard, like finishing a run, graduating or completing a piece of art, is hard to beat. Perseverance is how people grow. Pushing yourself a little is good for you.
On the other hand, sometimes people hold onto things that aren’t doing them any good. Whether it’s a bunch of old stuff in your closet, a toxic relationship or a grudge, there are some things you’re just better off without.