Life is hard. In many respects, it is easier to ruin one’s life than it is to stay on the straight and narrow. Getting the most out of life is an intentional act. You have to want to live well.
I have ruined my life before. I was terribly addicted to drugs. I had piles of legal problems. No one wanted to be around me. No one even liked me. Luckily for me, I was able to turn my life around and now I am living a life full of abundance and love and possibility.
So what changed? How am I now getting the most out of life?
There are many habits and skills that people can learn if they want to live well, but these are the 4 that stick out the most to me.
Get Out of Bed
Since I got sober, I have learned to love and appreciate the mornings. It is truly the magic hour. The rest of your day will be predicated by how you treat your mornings.
Be honest with yourself. What time do you wake up? Do you take advantage of the time when you can focus and be quiet and reflect on yesterday and plan for today?
If not, you really should.
If you want to live a great life, I think one of the best things you can do is learn to appreciate and respect your mornings.
Wake up early. Get out of bed at the first alarm. Gain control over the impulses inside of you that are screaming at you to go back to bed or to sleep a little bit longer. If you can control yourself in the first few minutes of your day, you can control yourself throughout the entire day.
Then, what are you doing in the morning? How are you spending your time?
I suggest you meditate, you make your bed, you hydrate and you count your gratitudes before you do anything else.
I’ve seen plenty of examples of people selling themselves short in life by not respecting the mornings. I can get a pretty accurate determination on how well your life is going by how well you act in the morning. The snooze button is so tempting because it is so comforting. But it’s a trap. It’s a Siren of The Odyssey of life.
Sure, some mornings it feels nice to sleep in or enjoy leisure time. But for the most part, sleeping in is a sign of laziness and lack of discipline and lack of self-control.
When you set the tone for your day, you will win that day. A successful life is earned a day at a time.
I understand that I have a unique perspective on this, because of my sobriety. There are some realities about alcohol that I have come to terms with since I got sober.
I can’t think of a single time I have seen anyone drinking or getting wasted and thought to myself that it was helping them.
Sure, people like to think that alcohol is a social lubricant or that it is a part of life and that is here for us to enjoy. I think there is probably some truth to that. I have had many experiences with alcohol that were lots of fun. There’s no denying that.
But the final cost-benefit analysis tells me that alcohol does very little to improve people’s lives. More often than not, I see the negative effects of alcohol.
Alcohol is poison. If you drop alcohol on a plant every day, the plant will die. Also, alcohol is expensive. How many people work their asses off all week and then spend a third of their paycheck on Friday happy hour?
For what? What have you gained from that experience? Sure, you had a few laughs and maybe some bonding, but is your time that invaluable to you? You left the bar with a $90 bar tab. It doesn’t make any sense. Imagine all the things you could have done with that money.
I see financial experts talking about why it’s bad to buy $4 cups of coffee but no one ever talks about the $9 margarita and the $13 cocktail you bought for your co-worker. What did you get out of it?
Alcohol ruins lives. It destroys families. It kills people. It bankrupts families. It ruins childhoods and the only upside to it is that you had a good time.
Is there anything wrong with drinking alcohol? No. But where I’m going, I don’t ask myself what’s wrong with something. I ask myself what’s right with it.
Listen to Your Parents
It’s a hysterical joke that the universe played on us to give young people the energy to take over the world while they are still stupid.
If you’re 22 years old, you’re stupid. I’m not trying to be insulting. It’s just a fact. 22-year-olds don’t know anything. How could they? They will never know the lessons that only come with failure and heartache, and death and more failure.
The worst part about it is that our parents are always telling us things like “when you get older, you will understand.”
Then one day, we get older and we look back at all the pain our parents tried to help us avoid and we cringe at the idea of our children doing the same. All the while, knowing full well that our kids will never listen to us.
Why would they? They’re young and stupid.
If I would have just listened to my Dad more often, I would have saved myself so much pain. I would have avoided being arrested so many times, I would have been more confident and not been so susceptible to bullying, I would have been less afraid to talk to girls. It would have been better.
But I didn’t listen. I thought I knew better. I paid the price.
Finally – Be Kind to Yourself
This is important, and it’s not talked about enough.
Our survival mechanisms in our brain force ourselves to be overly self-critical. But I have seen this play out in very destructive ways.
Addiction. Depression. Eating disorders. Suicide. Family problems. Toxic relationships.
So many problems that cause pain in our lives are the result of the things we say to ourselves within our own minds.
Look, I’m not trying to say that depression and anxiety and mental health issues are always the results of lack of discipline or self-control. But I am saying that we have more utility over our emotions than we give ourselves credit for.
What matters most is how we feel inside. If you’re rich and miserable, then what does that say about the quality of your life? Being overly negative or self-critical of yourself is a great way to ruin your life or at least cause yourself unnecessary misery.
It takes practice to be kind to yourself. The default of most people is to stay safe. Self-criticism and self-doubt are defense mechanisms that keep us from shining bright. Remember, shining bright makes us vulnerable, it pulls us away from the tribe.
That’s not what our lizard brains want. Your lizard brain wants you to blend in and it wants you to be quiet and irrelevant. So negative self-talk is a form of protection.
But that is a path to suffering. You don’t need to live like that.