3 Things That Can Derail Your Life Without You Even Realizing It

Be careful.

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People assume that they will never run out of time.

“Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow.”
“We can’t go on vacation until I get that promotion next year.”
“I’ll ask her out… next week.”

In some ways this is understandable.

Experience tells us that there will be another day tomorrow, a day after that and then a day after that. We assume that we will have the ability to do everything tomorrow that we have managed to put off today. And this is our problem.

We perceive our life as having so much time that there is no urgency to really throw ourselves into true meaningful

And so, our lives become… ruined. Not necessarily because one traumatic event will occur (hopefully), but because we become lazy, unproductive and do everything half-assed.

Here are the 3 most common scenarios that I see happen.

I. They Can’t Get Off the Consumption Treadmill

The “Keeping Up with the Joneses” idiom refers to when an individual constantly upgrades their lifestyle because they see others doing the same and feel they will be perceived as having a lower socioeconomic status. For example, you buy a new Mercedes Benz because you noticed a new BMW sitting in your neighbour’s driveway. Or — on a smaller scale — you upgrade your iPhone because you see your friend has the latest version.

This is dangerous for three reasons.

  1. You will always lose. New products come out every minute with brilliant marketers working day and night to sell them to you. Once you become susceptible to their tactics, it’s game over.

2. You will start to develop the mindset that happiness can be obtained through the pursuit of possessions. You will also start attracting people who, like you, receive fulfillment through material possessions.

3. This is a sure-fire way to never accumulate wealth. The only way to achieve financial freedom is to live below your means. No more mindless spending.

The problem is that most people spend money on anything that makes them happy, even if one purchase only makes them 10% happier, while another increases their happiness by 60%.

No two things ever mean the same to us, and we need to start discerning what is the best bang for our buck. We can’t have everything all at the same time.

II. They Lack Discipline

You need habits.

You need routine.

You need values.

Without these things, you will be directionless and unproductive.

I would not be able to write 20 hours every week while working as a full-time lawyer without a rigid daily routine.

During Monday to Friday, I wake up at 5:30 AM, make coffee, sit down at my desk and write for an hour and a half. I then shower, eat breakfast and get ready for work. On my half an hour commute to and from work, I read either on my iPad or a physical book. When I return home in the evening I write for at least another hour. An hour before I sleep, I stop scrolling social media and leave my phone on my nightstand. I then read, again, until I head to bed. Rinse. Repeat.

We have been given enough hours to accomplish all of our goals. We just don’t have the DISCIPLINE to get anything done.

III. They Don’t Chase What Makes Them Truly Happy

For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger

I believe, more than anything, that you need to figure out two things: your interests and what you’re good at. And then, how those two things intersect so you can profit off what you love.

This relates to my first point — stop looking for happiness in things that will end up in a landfill in 5–10 years. Instead, spend that money on exploring what you enjoy and what you’re good at.

Instead of upgrading your cellphone, enroll in a writing course.

Instead of upgrading your house, travel somewhere new.

Instead of upgrading your car, buy the luxury materials that will triple the price of your handmade products.

It’s such a simple formula but one that few rarely follow.

Determine what makes you happy.

Determine how you can keep doing that for as long as possible.

Focus on what matters. Stop allocating your time and money on the rest.

People ruin their lives because they lack focus, discipline and self-awareness. Although these are interconnected, I believe that each are distinct. You need to focus only on things that align with your values, ambitions and aspirations. You need the discipline to put in the actual work to achieve the goals that you set. And, most importantly, you need the self-awareness to know what actually makes you truly happy.

When we hold ourselves up to a higher standard, it is incredible how much we can achieve. Don’t fall into these traps. Live with intention.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this story, you should check out www.jenonmoney.com where I write about the intersection of money, work and happiness. — Jen

Written by

Productivity, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of excellence at work. Writing now at jennifertchan.substack.com.

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