It's easy to fall into habits that don't serve us, especially if they seem normal given that most people around us do them too. It can require strength to focus on what's best for you, so you ensure your energy is continually lifted.
Knowing what those pernicious habits are is the first step.
1. Relying on others for approval
Some of us go through childhood developing a strong sense that making our parents or teachers happy creates good emotions. We are rewarded with a gold star, kind words, or sweet treats because we are well-behaved. And this instills in us the idea that other people are the source of our personal happiness and worth. We think our satisfaction and joy are tied to things outside of ourselves. But this is a source of a fixed mindset and subsequent suffering because we rule ourselves out of the source of our power. If we depend on other people for our sense of strength and accomplishment, if we need others to be nice to us to feel good, it's game over.
Instead, we must cultivate the understanding that no one besides us can control how we feel. The moment we get it and internalize this new way of thinking, we will feel good.
2. Negative thought attachment
One way or another, negative thoughts will arise in our minds. No amount of positive encouragement will erase this fact. However, this doesn't mean we're doomed to a life of self-sabotage, sadness, or negativity. We must first accept that our minds are never-ending conveyor belts of beautiful and occasionally unpleasant thoughts. The problem arises when a negative thought floats up and we latch onto it like it's the last ride to Kansas on a dark night. We take the thought seriously and believe it holds valid truths that must be analyzed and cycled through in our heads. They do not. They are simply thoughts.
When we ruminate on negative thoughts, we don't gain control, as is often the belief. We lose control. We become more stressed. With more stress, we perform poorly and block ourselves off from our authenticity and creative insight. Develop the habit of easing off the gas when a negative thought appears. Be self-aware, present, or take action instead.
3. Doing things half-heartedly
I get it. You have a task you know you need to do, but it doesn't seem particularly exciting, so it seems valid that you wouldn't put your all into it. The problem with not trying your best, no matter the task, is that this influences your behavior and approach to life in general. It may seem like a waste to dedicate your full attention and energy to the most mundane of tasks, but this will change your life. Your engaged actions will paint a refreshed image in your mind's eye of the kind of person you are and who you are becoming.
Aristotle said we are what we repeatedly do. The man wasn't lying. The self-image you're building is immensely powerful. As you do more with your full attention, your confidence will lift and your effectiveness will improve in all areas of your life, with little forcing. Get into the habit of being an all-in kind of person. This will propel you further than most who are blind to the power of full engagement.
4. Confusing your feelings for your gut instinct
Are you controlled by fear? I was for many decades and can still be held back by my fears. Today, I have a firmer understanding of how emotions work, which has opened up more opportunities and created more joy in my life. How?
I understand now that our feelings are direct reflections of our thoughts, moment by moment. This means that if we hold a frightening thought or vision in our minds, we will instantly feel that thought––we will feel scared. This is how emotions work. We feel our thoughts. So if we interpret something as annoying, boring, or scary, we will feel that emotion. The issue is that many of us buy into the importance of these feelings, using them as guides to show us what to do and avoid. This is rarely a good move because our feelings––and thus our thoughts––don't know the truth. What lies beneath our thoughts, well… that's getting closer to the truth.
Our gut instinct differs entirely from the feelings that spring from our thoughts. This is where the juicy stuff is. When we get out of the way of our thinking and connect with our inner intelligence, we know what to do without knowing why. This is tapping into the same energy that spins the planet. The same force that takes an apple seed and grows it into an apple tree. This is Universal energy, and it's incredibly powerful. I don't need to tell you that this is true. You need only go for a walk and come back home filled with ideas and solutions that appeared effortlessly.
This is your inner wisdom at play.
This is your gut speaking directly to you.
This goes deeper than surface-level feelings. Your feelings are helpful indicators in the moment of the state of your mind, and that can be helpful. But they aren't always to be trusted, especially if you're in the throes of anger, sadness, or intense emotion. If we follow our feelings as guides, we can end up doing what most do: we miss out on life. We were too busy being triggered.
We escape when we feel bored. We hide when we're anxious.
Instead, for the real rewards, follow your instinct.