Don’t Continue Down the Wrong Road

Many times I have been tempted to continue down the wrong path just because I had been on it so long and already committed to it so deeply that even the thought of leaving it was painful. Whenever I have given into this feeling, I have only ended up worse off than before. I did this with a masters program that I didn’t end up finishing. I now have massive amounts of federal student loans and will probably end up starting all over again in a new program. I did this with gym memberships. I had a year-long gym membership to one gym which I never used. I wrongly thought if I signed up and toured the gym, it would motivate me to actually use it. That wasn’t realistic, of course, and I ended up wasting a lot of money. Then a few years later, I made the exact same mistake and signed up at another gym. One year and hundreds of dollars later proved to be an exact repeat of the first time.

The lesson to be learned here is not to continue doing the same things you’ve always done if they don’t work for you — even if it means starting over or quitting something you’ve been working at a long time. Better to be a quitter at something that isn’t right for you so you can succeed at what is right for you. I’m not a gym person. I find them dirty and gross. I find them too loud, too bright, and intimidating. I don’t like working out in front of other people. These characteristics are not likely to change. Instead of continuing to try the gym route, I should find other ways of working on my physical fitness. And there are other ways — many of them.

Not everything is meant for you, and there is often more than one right way to achieve your desired outcome, whether it’s a career, weight loss, or any other goal you’ve set for yourself. Instead of making yourself miserable trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, be true to and gentle with yourself and find a strategy that works well for you. Don’t allow your ego to get in the way of admitting you were wrong and need to change something. And don’t allow other people’s opinions that you are “confused”, “don’t know what you want”, “flaky”, etc. to scare you away from starting something new. Fight the urge to give in to inertia. Realize that you’re worth the time and effort it will take to strike out in a new direction.

First Change Yourself

I’m trying to learn to take more responsibility for my life by changing myself before trying to change my environment. It is easier to change things under your control, such as restructuring your priorities or taking a different perspective on your situation, than to change other people or circumstances that arise outside your control.

In general, I am currently a pretty unhappy, dissatisfied person. There are a lot of things I feel are wrong or unbalanced about my life. But there are several small steps I could take to improve my life. For example, I currently live with my mother. Although we get along well, I feel uncomfortable with living at home at my age. I plan to get my own place. I also want to travel more often, get healthy, exercise regularly, look at screens (phone, laptop) less often, have more hobbies, and become more social. These are all relatively small changes I could make that I know would have a huge positive impact on the quality of my life. Making small changes or focusing on one goal at a time can be less overwhelming and less of a shock to the system than changing everything overnight or making radical changes.

I’ve often heard the expression that “no matter where you go, you bring your problems with you.” This I have found to be true throughout my life. Many of the issues that make us unhappy in life will not be changed just by moving geographic locations except for weather/climate issues; however, even these location-dependent issues are more likely to make us miserable depending upon our attitudes, reactions, and coping skills.

Are you planning on moving to alleviate your woes? Be honest about your motivations for wanting to move. Is your quality of life really going to be improved by your new surroundings? Are the deep issues that plague you going to resolve themselves? Or can you do the important work that needs to be done first, before moving? An unwell mind is not one which should be depended upon to make big decisions like a move.

It is sometimes easier to flee when we feel frozen than to start making less-dramatic, smaller changes. It is tempting to do something big and dramatic in order to force yourself out of your misery, but reacting this way is reacting like a caged animal.

Something I struggle with a good deal is impulsivity. It is a well-researched fact that impulsivity is a common trait of people with mental illness and can be found in the diagnostic criteria of several mental disorders. I find, personally, that while being rash often feels great in the moment and delivers instant gratification, it almost always screws me over in the end. And it’s when I’m feeling my least emotionally-stable that I act impulsively. When I’m feeling depressed and anxious, I don’t have the energy to plan and strategize the best course of action.

It is also a well-researched fact that mental illness and trauma negatively affect the executive functioning of the brain, making thinking and planning harder. However, planning an action before executing it usually ends with more desirable results.

I think we have a lot more control over how happy we are than we imagine. We have the power to enact many of the changes needed to improve our own lives.

Positively Influencing Others Without Formal Authority

Have you ever wondered how to influence and inspire those around you even without being in a position of power? It’s easy to influence others from a position of power, because coercion is often inherent in that dynamic. Formal positions of authority naturally entice others to acquiesce due to the prestige of the position and implied superiority of the person sitting in it. Others will follow that person due to fear of reprisal in the form of job loss, arrest, public shame, etc. But what entices people to follow someone without that authority, title, or eminence?

It’s first necessary to have knowledge. People will only listen to you if they think you know what you’re talking about. This means you need to exude confidence. And you should know what steps are necessary to achieve your goal and clearly communicate those steps to others.

Know what motivates other people. Know what they fear and what they want. Allay their fears and motivate them using what they want, whether that be money, power, flexibility, etc.

It’s also necessary to be likable. This includes being friendly, empathetic, proving you’re trustworthy, and listening more than you speak. It doesn’t matter what hard skills or qualifications you have backing your position if people don’t like you. People tend to listen to others who they like, not necessarily those with the best qualifications.

Practice what you preach. Set a good example and people will be inspired to follow you. Let them see your way is realistic and that you are willing to follow it, yourself.

Whether in a work, school, or personal setting, it’s possible to influence and inspire even those over whom you do not wield official power. When people follow you of their own volition instead of by force, positive change comes easier, is longer-lasting, and is more stable.