6 Things to Eliminate from Your Life so You Can Focus on What Matters

Self on 12.07.12
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: Ron Reiring / Creative Commons

As we get older and (supposedly) wiser, we also sometimes collect more baggage, both of the mental and physical varieties. Check out this list and determine for yourself if any of these 6 pieces of baggage might be holding you back.

1. Friends That Don’t Light You Up

Photo: miguelb / Creative Commons

Of course having lots of friends is great. In fact, having social support is a major predictor of health and longevity. But what if you have some friendships that don’t feel too good? Sometimes we get tossed into friendships via our partner’s friends or through our workplaces. We become friends because it’s expected or it’s convenient, but sometimes these friendships don’t nurture us; rather, they become just another time suck and distraction from what’s important to us.

Great friendships make you feel relaxed and connected, help you unload and give you more energy. If you find yourself fretting about what you said or didn’t say or what a particular friend thinks of you, it might be time to give that relationship the old ‘heave ho’ or at least cool it. That will give you more time to nurture relationships that matter more to you and to seek new friendships that light you up and feel right.

2. Unhealthy Habits

Photo: Serge Melki / Creative Commons

Yesterday, I got an email that stressed me out. I mean really, really stressed me out. The issue couldn’t be resolved right away, and so I had to sit with some extremely uncomfortable feelings for a very long day. Rather than deal with these bad feelings head on, it was easier for me to debate in my head how I could medicate myself with distractions: Cheez-it crackers with cream cheese? Yes, please. Procrastinate via watching a comedy on TV? Okay! Some wine from the bottle I bought to make osso buco for dinner? Sure, why the heck not.

I’m a work-in-progress. One of my missions in life right now is to learn how to be with uncomfortable feelings. I’ve found that when I turn to old habits that help me dodge feelings, there is usually an unhelpful, untrue belief lurking beneath the surface. Things like, “I cannot survive the withering gaze of criticism from another human being. “ Really? Can’t I? You’re darn right I can. But it can be very hard for me to recognize that when I’m swimming right in the middle of my own BS.

Just about everyone turns to bad habits from time-to-time to distract ourselves from feeling uncomfortable. However, we can recognize when it happens, and we can work on doing better next time at choosing healthier habits -- like making a cup of tea, taking deep breaths, going for a walk, journaling, or meditating  -- so we can cope with stress in a beneficial way. Hey, I’m working on it.

3. Too Much Stuff

Photo: Plastic Beauty / Creative Commons

I live in a small space with my husband and my daughter, and our living room doubles as the playroom. Fortunately for us, everyone in our lives has been respectful of that fact when buying gifts for my 2-year-old daughter by asking what sorts of things she needs, and by keeping the sizes of the gifts that they buy in line with a home that doesn’t have a garage or storage space.

Well, make that almost everyone, except for one relative who enthusiastically ignores our reality, which means we have some BIG TOYS in our petite living room. I got wind of at least one physically large gift on the way for Christmas this year. And so I’ve decided that, despite the mommy-guilt of jettisoning perfectly good toys, some of the other hulking toys gracing our living room must be ousted in order to make room for the new ones. When we start living in a space that’s over-cluttered, it’s not a clueless relative’s fault -- my house, my fault. Going forward, we are instilling a “one in, one out” policy. Feeling crammed? Think “one in, one out.” Or really, in our case, “One in, three out.”

4. Drama

Photo: Tony Fischer / Creative Commons

We could all use less drama in our lives. Take my story of the BIG TOY enthusiast for instance. I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t gotten into a tizzy over the conflict between our living space and the sheer physical bulk of the kid equipment we’ve been given. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve made my wishes clear, and have been told, and I quote: “Too bad.”) On top of my annoyance, I also feel guilty that I’m not more grateful. What a load of unnecessary drama.

When we find ourselves getting irked, the best course of action is to look at how we can solve the issue and then solve it. Rather than getting all riled up about enormous gifts, I can just say, “Thank you,” and quietly make some donations. I feel better for having vented the issue, but now it’s time to execute on the solution rather than dwelling on the problem. Enough said.

5. Things You Don’t Like Doing

Photo: Alisha Vargas / Creative Commons

We all know life is short, but we still waste time doing things that we don’t like. Obviously some tasks are unavoidable, but how many times do we put ourselves in situations that really annoy us or make us feel uncomfortable because we have a sense of obligation, or we don’t have an excuse not to? This can include something as major as a job we hate (Newsflash! There are other jobs out there!) or something as petty as a party we don’t feel like attending.

This holiday season, you might get some invitations to events that you’d really rather not attend. Practice saying “no” for once. It might feel awkward at first, but practice makes perfect. You will most likely be grateful to have the time back for things you actually enjoy doing. The only life you can live is your own. Don’t waste your time in life repeatedly gratifying someone else’s wishes at the expense of your own sanity or happiness.  

6. Limiting Beliefs

Photo: Pasaje Moda / Creative Commons

We all have them, although few realize it. In my estimation, limiting beliefs are the number one silent killer: they kill our confidence, they prevent us from realizing our purpose and following our passions, and they kill our chances for living, big, fulfilled, happy, outrageous lives. That’s why I’ve made it my mission in life to help people shed limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs might be specific in that they apply to our own abilities or lot in life, or they might be sweeping generalizations about people or the way the world works. Here are two examples of limiting beliefs. They might sound completely nuts, but these are examples of things we can internalize from past experiences:

1. “Keep yourself down so that the world doesn’t need to knock you off your pedestal. You’re better off lying prone on the floor because it’s harder to kick you while you’re down.”

2. “The world is an inherently cold and unhelpful place. People would as soon spit in your eye than do something nice for you.”

When we’re able to see that we’re held back by our limiting beliefs, there are so many ways we can dismantle them and send them on their way. One simple means of dismissing limiting beliefs is to state the opposite in order to create helpful beliefs to replace them. Here are examples of helpful beliefs that counter the above limiting beliefs:

1. Begin the process every day of elevating yourself. The world wants to help you, but dead-weight is unmanageable. When you help yourself up, the world will rise to the occasion and continue to aid in your flight.

2. We all share the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children. The world is full of people who offer help and goodwill every chance they get.

Did you recognize any of these 6 pieces of baggage lurking in your life? If so, enhance your existence with new-found energy and strength when you strip away what’s holding you back.

Top Articles on Finding Zen
Will Winning the Lottery Make You Happier? Probably Not.
10 Ways to Find Strength and Inspiration When You Feel Lost in the Daily Grind
3 Reasons Putting Yourself First Will Make Your Kids Happier