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12 Things That Could be Making Your Life a Living Hell (So Stop Doing Them!)

Photo courtesy of Evil Erin

Without even being aware of it, many of us engage in negative behaviors that can make finding true happiness difficult, if not impossible. If you practice any of the following habits, put an end to them as soon as you possibly can!

  1. Looking for a scapegoat  
    I hear people playing the blame game constantly. Trust me, once you become ok with taking the blame, a weight will lift. Taking the blame means taking responsibility, and that can only lead you to good places.
  2. Caring so much about what others think of you
    Caring too much about what others think of us stems from a lack of self-love. Without self-love, we look to others for approval. Love yourself, and no one else has to!
  3. Putting yourself down
    Stop leading with your flaws. Many of us point out what is “wrong” with us because we don’t want to give others the power to talk behind our backs. Start embracing your true self, and your perceived flaws may turn into something you love.
  4. Trash talking others behind their backs
    I’m not saying that all gossip is bad, but be mindful of spreading negative rumors. First, they may or may not be true, and they can be extremely hurtful. Also, constantly spitting vitriol puts you in a negative frame of mind, and will make you look like a bad person.
  5. Worrying about things you can’t control
    This was difficult for me, and I underwent years of therapy to learn how to stop worrying unnecessarily. Designate a time each day as your ‘Worry Window’. All worrying must be done within that time frame. If worries pop up at other times, try to postpone thinking about them. Teach yourself to accept uncertainty. Practice mindfulness to keep your attention focused on the present.
  6. Yelling
    Yelling does nothing for your overall sense of peace and happiness, not to mention the effect it has on the people you are yelling at. Speaking in a soft tone has been proven to be much more effective at getting what you want, anyway.
  7. Trying to be something you’re not
    Don’t get me wrong – it’s important to always strive for small improvements in yourself, but hold on to who you are at your core. Changing into a completely different person is never the answer.
  8. Being so self-centered
    Make it a practice to put yourself in others’ shoes regularly. Expecting everything to go your way will only make you frustrated and will earn you the reputation of a self-absorbed egoist.
  9. Always needing to be right
    No one can be right all of the time. And remember, if you keep insisting that you’re right; you’re basically telling others that they’re always wrong.
  10. Complaining
    Instead of complaining, figure out what is bothering you and see what you can do to fix the situation.
  11. Unrealistic expectations
    Don’t stop pushing yourself to achieve your goals, but keep your ambitions realistic so you don’t face insurmountable obstacles that could deter you.
  12. Asking why
    Instead of asking “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why can’t anything ever go right in my life?” –  change it around, and ask “Why not?”
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Do You Have a Bad Memory? Forget it!

Photo courtesy of Glimpse of Serendipity
I was lying in bed three nights ago when I had the idea for today’s post. In addition to immediately jotting it on my to-do list, I sent myself an email and a text because I knew that within minutes I would have had absolutely no recollection of what I had wanted to write about. Truth be told, it’s kind of a miracle that this post got written at all.

Struggling to remember things is something that my friends and I started noticing in our mid thirties, and if our parents are any indication, things are only going to get worse as we get older. In order to accomplish important daily tasks, I find myself up to my eyeballs in lists and written reminders everywhere I turn. What I realized, though, is that while reminder notes are helpful, they are literally doing nothing for my actual ability to remember things, and in fact, may be acting as a bit of a brain ‘crutch.’

Knowing that the brain is an amazing and fascinating highway of neurotransmitters, I decided to begin some earnest research about how to make the most of all of those unused pathways I’ve supposedly got going on upstairs.  What I was looking for was a virtual GPS for my brain. While what I discovered isn’t quite that simple, it does look promising indeed.

I spent hours in several bookstores over the weekend and in between inhaling the intoxicating scent of new books, I poured through multiple publications – each claiming to be the “Best Memory Manual” on shelves today. Luckily, I forgot their titles, because they didn’t seem to be worth remembering anyway. There was one book that looked worthwhile, and I brought that one home with me: The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School and at Play by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas.

Although I’ve just embarked on this journey, here are some of the first things I’m implementing:

  1. I learned that I need to keep my brain on its ‘toes’. I think I’ll do that by reading one news article a day that I would normally skip.
  2. I’m already working on limiting distractions when I’m performing a task with details that I will need to remember later, and I’ve noticed a slight improvement in my recall.
  3. Memory problems can be worsened by eating a less-than-ideal diet, and although I admit to eating much less brain food than I actually should, I’m making better choices every day.
  4. Making sure I get physical every day is always a priority for me, in that it helps manage my chronic health condition. But it also helps increase blood flow to the brain! Win/win!

I hope you’ll join me on my Better Memory Mission. If you have any memory-improving tips to add to my burgeoning list, please share in the comments or drop me an email. I think this can be a great way for us to work as a DailyPath community, and it has potential to grow into a weekly feature that would include your ideas and stories too!

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The #1 Way to Completely Ruin Your Weekend

Photo courtesy of Crock TeesIf your ultimate goal is to have the worst weekend of your life, keep reading. If you want to spend days repeatedly fixing your own mistakes, you totally wish you were me right now. Don’t worry – I will tell you exactly how you can totally ruin your weekend BUT, in the interest of self-improvement, I’m also going to be forced to tell you how to enjoy your weekend instead. Just in case you change your mind.

It all started out innocently enough. I wanted a swimming pool in my backyard, but I couldn’t afford the kind that is installed by pool professionals. If I had that much extra money, believe me, that is what I would have done. BELIEVE. ME. However, when I pulled up my bank account balance on the internet, instead of numbers it simply said, “Do it yourself.” Hmmm.

Buying the pool and supplies was easy and kind of fun! I loaded a shopping cart with all kinds of pool rafts, tester kits, and chlorine tablets. I brought everything home (including the pool) and Operation Pool Fail began! I was given the title of Director and Chemical Engineer, due to my physical limitations, and I quickly led the rest of the family…into a weekend of pure torture.

  • Day 1 

    We built that pool so fast I think we broke a record somewhere. There was much back patting.

  • Two Hours Later 

    Directions? We were supposed to follow those? The pool began to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and we decided to start all over using the directions. We crafted an ingenious DIY tarp trench to allow for speedy pool drainage, and still waited all night for the pool to empty. (We did go to sleep, though.)

  • Day 2 

    We dismantled the entire pool we had assembled the day before so we could level out the ground underneath. This is emphasized in the directions.  We discovered an additional 87 other errors due to our poor planning and we had to work all day to fix them.

  • Day 3 

    We built the pool for a second time in sweltering heat and nearly dehydrated ourselves (ironic since we were building a pool). We became covered from head to toe in bug bites because no one thought ahead and bought some OFF!  After much sweat, some tears and a whole lot of kicking ourselves, we collapsed to ground and swore that we would do better next time.

Do yourselves a favor and learn from my mistakes. If I learned anything this weekend, other than which bug bite cream works best and that I do NOT look good with hat hair, it’s this: the nitty gritty particulars of proper planning are much more preferable to witlessly winging it. By investing time in formulating a solid plan before starting a project, you’ll not only save time in the end, but you’ll also save your sanity, and possibly, your weekend.

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Do You Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness?

Photo courtesy of Zanatox
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
-Oscar Wilde

As I continue to forge ahead through my 30s, edging closer and closer to the big 4-0, I have become increasingly aware of the significance of my sense of self-awareness and self appreciation. Truly accepting myself as I am, both physically and intellectually, has been a slow process that began 17 years ago when I first realized that I could make a big impact on my own happiness. Over the past decade and a half, I have slowly familiarized myself with the concept of unconditional self-love. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been enlightening.

So many times in life, we willingly criticize ourselves and publicly announce our faults and flaws in front of others. “Look how fat I’ve gotten!” or “I am such an idiot!” are exclamations heard all too often among our family, friends and coworkers. Why are we so hard on ourselves? One theory is that our feelings of self-worth are a reflection of our relationships with our parents during our formative years. Another possibility is a need for forgiveness or feelings of guilt that have yet to be addressed properly. When I began my self-reflection journey, I noted that my relationship with my parents was pretty decent when I was a child. I began earnestly digging to find the source of my feelings of unworthiness, ultimately improving my overall feelings of self-appreciation and allowing me to finally be truly happy.

Many of us spend a lot of time expecting someone else to take the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives. We tend to shift the responsibility of our satisfaction onto others, unconsciously always looking for the perfect scapegoat. However, the realization of true happiness has nothing to do with anyone but ourselves. The process begins with forgiving ourselves and acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can. Letting go of unrealistic, self-imposed ideals is the first step on the road to increased self-confidence and the ability to love deeply. Expending some of our misdirected energy toward nurturing our own self-image means we don’t have to wait around for validation from others! By relying on ourselves for a sense of happiness and love, we can create an inner security that is far more fulfilling than anything external.

Start taking steps to make yourself a priority today. Don’t put off any longer the small changes that could bring about a significantly positive improvement in your sense of well-being and your ability to love unconditionally. Your own happiness depends on it.

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Does Taking the Road Less Traveled Really Make a Difference?

Photo courtesy of Bill Ward’s Brickpile
I’m a planner.  I feel better when there’s a plan in place for just about everything.  I lay out clothes for my entire family each night before bed. I make To Do lists. I know how I’m going to spend my money before I even have it. I planned what age I wanted to be married by and when my children would be born and succeeded at achieving both. Planning makes me feel in control of things and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I don’t handle surprises well at all and my loved ones have all been forbidden from throwing me a surprise party, like, EVER.

I had planned to live happily ever after with my first husband, but, after ten years of marriage, we found ourselves separated and filing for divorce. This was definitely not in my plans, and all of the life changes that occurred afterward were enough to really throw me off balance. However, despite it not being part of the blueprint I had created for my life, I slowly adapted to the idea and life after a divorce.  Now, 2 years later, I am happily remarried to an amazing man and good friends with my first husband. It seems The Universe knew what it was doing.

What I learned from this situation is that, while it’s good to be organized and have life goals, you can’t expect the unexpected. That’s kind of the whole definition of the word, right? Whether something takes you by surprise personally, professionally, or medically, it’s how you react that counts. You can spend your whole life making and executing plans, and bravo if you accomplish everything you set out to do. However, the real life lessons come from navigating the bumps in the road along the way.

Avoiding the bumpy roads keeps us in our comfort zone but doesn’t allow for the personal growth and self-awareness gained by facing a challenging situation. What we learn about ourselves as we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be quite an eye-opening experience and can lead us to re-think our original plans.  The next time your life goes off the grid, don’t panic.  Sometimes, the road less traveled can take you where you should have been going all along.

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How Full Catastrophe Living Can Change Your Life

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A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III, a painful connective tissue disorder that makes many everyday activities impossible, including working outside of the home. I had to resign from my well-paying office job and I began to feel that my life as I knew it was over. I didn’t know what I was going to do, if I could pay my bills, or if I could still manage to be a good enough parent. I was also in quite a great deal of physical pain which just kept getting worse. I spiraled downward into a pit of self loathing and despair until I hit a hard rock bottom and realized there was nowhere left to go but up.

I clawed my way out of my depression long enough to crawl into the lap of my new therapist, who recommended that I read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I began reading it as soon as it arrived at my front door in that familiar brown packaging I have come to love. In the book, Zinn describes the experiences of his patients during his ten years of teaching an eight-week course called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Over 4,000 people ultimately took the course, which teaches mindfulness as an effective way to develop control over our own lives, despite all of the catastrophes we may be presented with on a regular basis.

During my reading of the book, I began to put some of his suggestions into practice in my own life and I started to see a change in the way I faced difficulties. Mindfulness involves using our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness and insight, and becomes a form of ‘walking meditation’ as you move throughout your daily activities. Your focus moves from “doing” to “being” as you learn how to concentrate on the foundations of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. This transformation is reached through a combination of breathing, various forms of meditation, body scans and yoga.

Throughout my experience with practicing full catastrophe living, I have learned how to watch my thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. By allowing my body and mind to rest in the moment I have become more adept at tuning into life’s basic experiences. I am now able to be in the moment with everything exactly as it is, without wanting to change a thing. Daily, I have been practicing mindfulness by concentrating on what is happening now rather than things in the past or future, and I have gained a deep appreciation for the present. I have realized that I have a limited time on this earth and in this body, so I’m taking it all in. Every. Single. Moment.

If you’re anything like me, and have been dealing with an increased amount of stressors in your life, give the concept of mindfulness a try.  You’ll be surprised at how much of life you’ve been missing.

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Why Asking for Help Will Leave You Feeling Empowered

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All my life I’ve had trouble asking for help. My mother says I have been like this since my childhood years and that I always wanted to do things for myself with little or no assistance from anyone. It’s easy to devise why I developed into a strong woman – my mother was and is an extremely capable, self-reliant and intelligent woman herself. With her as a role model, I flourished into quite an aggressive person, which gave me an overwhelming amount of determination and will to overcome obstacles. This has been very helpful in my life and has helped me through many difficult situations, including postpartum depression, divorce, single parenting, undiagnosed chronic pain, and creating a blended family with my children and my new husband.

However, I have discovered a fatal flaw in my seemingly endless ability to be self-reliant and independent. Until very recently, I simply did not know how to ask for help. I found the concept uncomfortable and 98% of the time I was adamantly opposed to it. I suppose some people would call me stubborn, and I guess they would be right. I am, after all, a Taurus. However, the inability to ask for help can lead to a great deal of problems when hmmmmmm…I don’t know – YOU ACTUALLY REALLY NEED HELP! Last year, I was presented with my biggest challenge yet, and I found myself fighting an inner battle, needing help at work, at home, and at life, but mentally incapable of asking for it.

Not only did I have a problem asking for help, but I also never even suggested to many of my close friends and family that I was anything less than perfect. This complicated matters even more when my need for help arose, because it was unexpected and surprising to those around me. They were under the impression that I had everything under control. My personal situation involved a diagnosis of a chronic medical condition that forced me to change my ways and begin telling people about my limits and asking for some slack. I learned how to let my friends in on the secret that I wasn’t Superwoman after all, with a PS that if they wouldn’t mind, could they please come to my rescue?

As you can imagine, my loved ones were quite surprised at first, but what may surprise you is what happened next. The more comfortable I became with admitting my limitations and declaring what I could and could not do, the more empowered I felt. The impenetrable walls I had spent a lifetime building up around me quickly crumbled and I felt free for the first time ever. Free from the pressure to perform, free from unreasonably high self imposed expectations, free to be the real me. I learned that it’s okay to be a person with problems. I don’t have to be perfect to be loved, and most of all, I have developed a deep appreciation for my amazing friends and family who have stepped up with the help I needed without even batting an eye.

Sometimes, asking for what we need in life can be a very difficult challenge for many people. The most ironic thing is, by admitting your weaknesses and vocalizing the things that you need help with, you’ll find yourself feeling stronger than ever.

Adrienne McGuire is a writer, educator, and wellness enthusiast. Her desire to balance family with career led her to abandon the corporate ladder to create the life she really wanted. Her journey down the road less traveled eventually led her to the doors of DailyPath, where she has become an integral part of the writing team.

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How to Turn Your Failures Into Little Victories

Photo courtesy of Jes

Whenever we set out to better ourselves – whether it’s in starting a new business or beginning a new personal fitness regime – there are various ways to increase the likelihood of success. I’ve already discussed some of these techniques in past articles so I won’t go into them now, but one thing that hasn’t really been touched on is how to deal with failure. Unless you’re superhuman, failure is going to occur at some point in your life, and unless you know how to learn from it, you run the risk of making the same mistakes over and over again.

As a person who likes to start a lot of projects, I’m no stranger to failure. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve failed almost as many things as I’ve succeeded at in my life. But in each of these cases, I came out of my experience far better off than when I began, simply because I had learned something about myself in the process and why I had failed. In turn, this helped me to prevent the same problems from occurring the next time I tried something new, and so I’m thankful for these mistakes.

The best way to deal with any kind of failure is to accept it as a learning experience so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again in your future endeavors. Treating each new venture as an experiment, where the outcome could be what you originally intended but could also be something else entirely, is a good way to prepare yourself for failure without expecting it.

The next time you encounter failure, try to understand the reasons behind why things didn’t go exactly to plan. If you can recognize the decisions that were made that caused you to fail, you’ll be far more prepared to deal with problems in the future and increase your ability to succeed.

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Why Now Could Be the Perfect Time to Renew Your Resolutions

Photo courtesy of Ewan MacNeilage

March is not the most typical time of year to make life-improving resolutions, but really, who decided that we can only better ourselves on New Year’s Day? According to a survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. of Princeton, only 8% of the people who make resolutions at the start of the year will succeed in seeing them through, and by the time March rolls around, most of these resolutions are all but forgotten.

We like to use the New Year as a symbol of new beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. But when we tell ourselves that January 1 is the only date we can make these big goals, we’re effectively limiting the amount of success we can achieve over the course of the next year. As absurd as it sounds, I’ve actually met people who live by the outlook that if things aren’t going well in August, they’ll have to wait until January of the following year to do something about it.

If you find yourself setting resolutions on New Year’s Day, only to then forget about them several weeks later, right now could be the perfect time to revisit your personal goals, perhaps by revising your plan and outlining clearer objectives. In the end, January 1 is an arbitrary date. If you have a goal you really want to succeed in, you can renew your commitment to it at anytime. It’s either that or waiting until next year comes around.

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How to Take Criticism Without Becoming a Doormat

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One thing I’ve learned from watching a lot of reality TV is that when people say things like “you should learn to take criticism, get a thicker skin,” what they really mean is they want to continue to walk all over you and they don’t want you to say anything back. I’ve come across this sort of behavior a lot recently – people speaking very bluntly about their opinion of you, only to accuse you of being uptight when you decide to bite back. So where is the balance? Isn’t there a way to still take criticism without becoming a doormat?

For me, a big part of taking criticism is about the other person’s motivations. What are they trying to gain by criticizing you, and how do they react when you contest that criticism? There are some people who simply enjoy conflict, or can’t help but give their “honest” opinion when it isn’t asked for. I’ve also come across people whose second nature is to try to dominate a conversation, regardless of the topic. They’ll rant about their views at length, only to shoot you down when you try to add your own opinion into the mix. This kind of conversational pressuring typically comes from the same people who tell you to “get a thicker skin” or, my personal favorite, “learn to take a joke” when their telling you how it is rubs you the wrong way.

On the other hand, criticism can be an excellent tool for self-improvement. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t received a whirlwind of criticism from my closest friends and family. As long as it remains constructive, getting the odd piece of criticism from somebody who knows your faults and habits well can be invaluable to personal growth. It can help you to pay attention to the finer details you’d previously overlooked, or learn to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over.

There is definitely a fine line between taking criticism and letting others walk all over you. Whether you agree with the points being made against you or not, it makes sense to listen to what the other person has to say before flat out disagreeing with them (as is in our nature). Don’t be a doormat, sure, but learn to take criticism for what it is: a useful tool for bettering yourself.

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