Do you sometimes feel like life is slipping by you?
Here’s the problem you’re facing. You’re so caught up in the daily grind of existing, you’ve forgotten how to live. Your days a packed full of responsibilities and you’re always looking for a way to be more efficient and productive. Yet you don’t feel like you’re surviving more than living.
And the scary part is, you probably won’t change.
Life is short. But even some people who face their mortality head-on don’t make changes to create a better life. For example, 90 percent of heart disease patients don’t make big lifestyle changes. Once a habit becomes part of your identity it becomes more and more difficult to change.
Pretty soon you’ll wake up and most of your life will be behind you. You’ll wonder where it went, and if you aren’t careful you’ll regret not taking more time to enjoy it. It doesn’t happen all at once, you don’t just decide to check out and give up. It starts with subtle decisions and concessions you make.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 5 subtle signs you may be wasting your life. If you learn to recognize them, you can turn your life around.
You spend more time planning than doing
If you only get one chance at life, it makes sense that you’d want to cram as much as humanly possible into it. As the American novelist Jack London said:
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” — Jack London
The problem is, most of us spend more time fantasizing about life than living it. You buy books, take online courses, scroll through social media, and read articles until you trick your brain into thinking you’re actually doing something.
All that time you spend “getting ready” to live, life is passing by you.
Clinical Psychologist Jacqueline Bullis says uncertainty drives us to seek out information. It gives you a sense of control. She’s talking about the negative effects of watching too much news, but it’s also true of why we crave information before starting something new.
For example, when I first started writing, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to be successful. But knowing my tendency to plan and not execute, I took a different approach. I wrote multiple articles a week for ten months before I bought an online writing course. My strategy was ready, fire, aim.
How much different might your life look today if you’d taken action a year ago?
You live through others on social media
Repeat after me: what I see on social media is not real.
Every time you open Twitter to “check on things” and end up doomscrolling for hours harms your mental health.
You can live anyone else’s life by scrolling through your social media feed. It’s addictive for a reason.
Years ago, when social media was still young, a former data scientist at Facebook revealed a startling secret. Social media companies run experiments on groups of users to see how they respond. What makes you think anything has changed?
This isn’t a “social media is evil” rant. It’s to make you aware they aren’t benign. These platforms want you to spend more time on them. That means they want you to spend more of your only life scrolling through content that’s curated to toy with your emotions.
Do you use social media to make your life better, or is it a mindless waste of your life?
You can’t remember the last time you saw a sunrise
I’m not going to tell you about how some successful person gets up at 5 am for their optimized morning routine. You might not be a morning person. If you are, great, but if not that’s okay.
The point I’m making isn’t what time you get up–it’s that you find the time to put in the work.
Many people want to make substantial changes to their life, but they don’t have the time to do the necessary work. I can sympathize with this because I work full-time and have two little kids. But I still make time to write. For me, it means getting up early, even on the weekends. For you, it might mean staying up late, it depends on when you work best.
People spend their lives in a zombie-like coma so they can avoid the reality that their life isn’t what they want it to be. Never mind taking bold risks to make things better for yourself. It’s too scary to put yourself out there and risk failure. That’s why it’s easier to numb yourself and ignore the gnawing dissatisfaction.
If you live for the weekend, your next vacation, or some future you imagine, I have bad news for you.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” — Marcus Aurelius
It seems cliche to suggest you never know what day may be your last. But very few people live as if it were true.
What might you do differently today if you believed today could be your last day? Probably a lot. The only thing stopping you from doing most of it right now is your excuses.
If you think you don’t have time, you can always get up earlier or stay up later.
You complain more than you create
The future of online business is community. Building an audience that engages with your content and wants what you have to offer is how thousands of people make money now.
But instead, you complain about how nothing you try ever works for you. It’s easier to complain about how the system is rigged than it is to put in the work. Psychotherapist Richard B. Joelson says complaining can get you the attention, which makes you feel validated. It’s a poor substitute for the validation you seek through achievement, but it will do.
But complaining is a waste of time.
What if instead of complaining, you did the work and learned how to improve as you go? Complaining hasn’t ever solved anyone’s problems. It puts you in a victim mindset and makes you dependent on someone else to fix things for you.
The time you spend complaining, even if only to yourself, is time you could use to build the life you want. Of course, everybody needs to vent now and then and that’s healthy. But don’t get stuck in a complaining loop and never leave.
You’re waiting on an email
I’ll admit it, there have been days I’ve opened my inbox and prayed it would contain a life-changing email. Not like a “you’ve just won a million dollars” email. More like a “we want to talk to you about a job opportunity” email.
Have you ever been there?
Here’s a hard truth I’ve had to learn how to swallow. If you’re waiting for someone to drop a life-changing offer in your lap, you’re making yourself miserable.
It’s much more practical to take things into your own hands and do what you can to improve your situation. But you already know that, don’t you? It’s easier and more romantic to wait for the right thing to find you.
We’re conditioned to an extent, to take a passive approach to life. If it’s meant to be, It’ll happen.
While that’s true in some cases, it’s also true that it’s up to you to do everything you can to put yourself in a position for success.
The hard truth you have to face
There’s a quote I love that’s attributed to Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
Life goes on whether you’re an active participant or a passive bystander. It goes on when you have success, and it keeps going when you experience failure. Until you realize your life is happening all around you no matter your circumstances, it will pass you by before you can blink.
If you want to make the most out of your life, the best way to do it is to take action. Your level of participation in life determines your level of satisfaction in life.
I’m not making some outlandish promises that if you hustle hard you can live your dream life. I have no idea what you can accomplish, and neither do you. But don’t let that scare you let it set you free.
Life is yours for the taking, this is your permission slip to go after it.