“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.”Brian Tracy
Do you have young children?
Are you working for a boss who’s extremely difficult to please?
Do you feel like you’re stuck in a bad relationship?
Do you have friends and family that aren’t supportive of your dreams and criticize you for every decision you make?
Or are you an entrepreneur who can’t seem to get anything to work right in her business?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then I can definitely understand how much stress you must be experiencing in your life right now.
Many people live in a constant heightened state of stress because of the times we’re living in right now. Of course, your situation might be completely different from the scenarios I previously painted but one thing holds true when it comes to the subject of STRESS, no matter what your specific circumstances might be:
Stress in the workplace, in the family or in business are not always due to external causes.
Keep in mind that stress is your body’s natural response to whatever your mind perceives as a potential danger or a threat. Certain conditions or environments can trigger a cascade of unwanted feelings.
But here’s a truth bomb: How you feel about a situation is influenced by your mental perception of the situation which has everything to do with your Mindset.
Therefore an effective way of dealing with stress is to prevent it from surfacing in the first place — which begins in your mind.
So let’s examine the twelve behavioral patterns you might be guilty of doing right now that’s causing you stress.
1. Trying To Please Everyone
No man can serve two masters. This age-old wisdom can be traced back to the Gospel of Matthew. And I’m going to use this Biblical piece of wisdom to drive my point.
You can’t possibly aim to keep everyone happy and expect to find happiness in the process.
When you try to make everybody happy, you set aside your own needs and your own happiness. This inevitably results in you feeling mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Not to mention feelings of being disregarded and unappreciated especially when the people you’ve tried so hard to cater to begin to show no appreciation. Eventually, you end up losing your self-respect and with nothing left to give to anyone.
And let’s be honest, trying to please everyone is a wildly foolish pursuit. It’s like a greased pig chase, and yes, it’s as difficult and as ridiculous as it sounds.
Everyone has different needs, preferences, and priorities so you can’t go on thinking that you could possibly meet everyone’s expectations of you. And seriously, why should you worry about whether or not you’re “good enough” for anyone? The only person you should aim to be good enough for is YOU.
According to Mindvalley coach and author, Ajit Nawalkha, the best way to stop being a people-pleaser is to stop being affected by the outcome of your actions or inactions on others. This creates an impression in your subconscious that it doesn’t really matter whether or not someone liked what you did.
What you need to do is to focus more on yourself and become less invested in pleasing others.
“The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy. You.”Elizabeth Parker
2. Holding Onto Expectations
In a previous post, I wrote about the mindset that you need to adopt in order to experience more joy in life. There, I pointed out that most of our problems stem from unmet expectations that we have placed in ourselves and in the people we love.
We expect — to receive, to feel, to be something — because deep down in our subconscious, we believe that we are somehow “owed” something and “entitled” to have that which we expect to receive.
This sense of entitlement is a serious flaw in the mindset of many and is what’s causing serious stress and anxiety in life.
In order to overcome the tendency to hold onto expectations, you need to switch to a mindset of:
Adopting a mindset of gratitude means developing an awareness that life — and everything that comes with it — is a gift. When someone gives you a gift, you don’t complain that it wasn’t what you were hoping to receive, do you? No, of course not. But you express your appreciation to the giver for having thought of you and given you a present when he or she could’ve chosen not to.
I think Gary Vaynerchuk’s statement was right on the money when he said, “You need to understand that nobody owes you anything. This understanding and lack of expectation allow me to be comfortable providing 51% of the relationship because in having zero expectations and not assuming someone will reciprocate on the other end, I’ve got everything to gain.”
And that’s really how we should all embrace Life — realizing that Life doesn’t owe any of us anything.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”Alexander Pope
3. Not Communicating Your Needs
In my own experience as a mindset coach, I have met quite a number of people who stayed in jobs or relationships that are at best not satisfying them or making them extremely miserable, at the worst. What’s fascinating is that each of these individuals knew exactly what he or she needed and yet none of them dared to express that need.
Why is that?
Many people choose not to communicate their feelings — to their partners, their family, their friends or their employers — because of this one distorted belief…
That the change they’re hoping for is not available to them.
When you choose not to communicate your needs because you’re afraid that it might be received with indifference or resistance, and you simply want to avoid any confrontation or conflict that might result from it, what you’re really saying is that you don’t believe you deserve to have your needs met.
You, just like everyone else, have a right to express your needs. You’re denying yourself that right when you choose to muffle your own voice. And if you ignore your own needs, you’re sending a message that it’s okay for other people to ignore your needs as well.
Just like everyone else, you also deserve to have your needs met, although expressing a need doesn’t guarantee that it would be met. However, It would be unfair for you to assume that the other person has no capability or desire to listen to what you have to say.
And please don’t get me started on this annoying habit of dropping hint bombs, hoping that the other person would eventually “get the message”. This passive-aggressive behavior is a surefire way to put a strain on your relationships because you will always feel unconsidered and the other person will always feel like he keeps missing the target. No one can read minds so save yourself and the other person the unnecessary stress by just communicating your needs.
When my children were younger, I used to always remind them to express their feelings and thoughts openly but with one condition: They can say whatever they want to say for as long as they say it with respect and love. Adopt this principle and watch the communication in your relationships — and your sense of well-being — dramatically improve.
“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation, you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”Shannon L. Alder
4. Focusing On Yesterday’s Disappointments
In a previous post, I presented the ‘No Regrets’ Mindset as being essential to creating success in life and in business.
I pointed out that it will be extremely difficult to succeed and impossible to experience true and lasting happiness in life if you refuse to unshackle yourself from the chains of the past.
If your eyes are fixed on the disappointments of yesterday, you would miss out on the opportunities for joy, love, and healing that the present day brings.
So much potential value and lessons can be gathered even from our negative experiences, we just have to change the way we view them. Our experiences and the emotions we go through give insight into who we are, what we deeply desire, what we are capable of and if we are headed in the right direction.
So instead of wallowing in self-pity or self-blame, choose to use the past as a motivation to create a better future.
“Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been.”Hilary Clinton
5. Keeping Up With The Joneses
There is both a healthy and an unhealthy sense of competitiveness.
A healthy sense of competitiveness is when the idea of competing excites you because it challenges you to become a better person. So in essence, the only person you are competing against is yourself, aiming to surpass your own numbers, your own mark, your own performance.
But when your sense of competitiveness is driven by a desire to prove yourself better than everyone else, that’s unhealthy and stressful because there will always be people who are better than you in many different ways.
When you keep comparing yourself to someone else, comparing other people’s achievements with yours, you will never find satisfaction in life. In fact, that’s probably the only thing you will never be disappointed about — finding things to complain about in your life.
Other people’s lives and all their accomplishments should never be a benchmark for how you should live your life and, by the same token, you shouldn’t view other people’s success as a threat to your own success.
“Life is not a competition with others. In its truest sense, it is rivalry with ourselves. We should each day seek to break the record of our yesterday. We should seek each day to live stronger, better, truer lives; each day to master some weakness of yesterday; each day to repair past follies; each day to surpass ourselves. This is, simply, progress.”C. Smith Sumner
6. Pretending To Be Someone You’re Not
I read somewhere that to a certain degree, we all wear masks. I agree.
We all present a certain persona to other people to try to make a good impression. We say things and we act a certain way in order to conceal the truth about our circumstances and how we feel about them. I would say that most people do this with good intentions.
But good intentions or not, far too many people put so much weight into other’s opinions of them. They are willing to forget who they are, all for the approval, validation, and acceptance that they desperately seek to gain.
This is wrong and this is what’s making life so unnecessarily stressful.
Pretending to be someone you’re not is you saying that who you are is not good enough… who you are is not acceptable. And deep down inside you know that’s a LIE.
I challenge you to be authentic — to remain true to who you are. And to be willing to be vulnerable and allow people to see who you truly are. Yes, it may be a scary thought but the people who will reject you are people you don’t really need in your life anyway. And those who will choose to stay in your life after seeing you without your mask are the people who truly love and appreciate you. They’re the ones who matter, they’re the ones who deserve a space in your life, and they won’t bring in stress with them.
“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.”Rick Warren
7. Overthinking The Small Stuff
It’s often the case that the stress and anxiety we struggle with have more to do with this destructive habit of thinking too much than it is about the insufficiency of resources or lack of talents.
We read too much into situations, over-analyze every conversation and take forever to make decisions. We dwell so much on the shoulda, woulda, coulda and what if, constantly turning it over in our head.
When you navigate your way through life and relationships overthinking every little thing you should say and do — or could’ve said and done — you will wear yourself out.
Life brings with it enough challenges and worries of its own. So there is no need to further complicate your life. Learn to adopt the mental habit of keeping things simple.
This mindset, at its core, is all about not wanting more or less, and this isn’t just in the context of material possessions but also in relationships and experiences. The mental habit of simplicity trains your mind to accept what was and what is… without adding any judgment, without any need to analyze it.
It also means accepting that you don’t always have to have the entire path figured out. Sometimes, all you need is just enough light to see the next step. Find peace and solace in that.
“Overthinking can lead to worrying which leads to anxiety. Anxiety can at times be crippling, leave people frozen and unable to act.”Brien Blatt
8. Focusing On The Worst Case Scenario
Our tendency to imagine the worst case scenario is a survival mechanism. It is based on our first-hand experiences or warnings from people who had their own experiences and learned their lessons the hard way.
But our past experiences, traumas, losses, disappointments, hurts, and failures are all that they’re supposed to be — for us to gain wisdom from so we can course-correct and create a better game plan for the future.
Unfortunately, a lot of people miss this crucially important hint in the Game of Life. And instead of leveraging the past so they could carve a better path towards the future, they use the past as an excuse to limit themselves.
If every experience we go through were represented by a brick, most people use their bricks to build walls around them, thinking that they would be safe and protected behind those walls, instead of laying down each brick to create a pathway to freedom, success, and security.
At the core of this problem is FEAR.
Everyone struggles with fear so if you recognize your tendency to dwell on the worst possible scenarios, I want you to know that you’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you. But you need to overcome it or you won’t experience true joy and fulfillment in life.
Fear kills more dreams than any failure ever will. Fear is what’s causing you to choose to stand on the sidelines where it feels “safer”. When your mind dwells on the worst case scenario — where you’ll possibly end up getting rejected, criticized, ridiculed, or your character questioned — you become a procrastinator or, at the other end of the spectrum, you become a control freak. Either you avoid taking action or you micromanage everything. Either way, FEAR is still running the show.
Instead of worrying about what could possibly go wrong, why not get excited about what could go right?
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”Les Brown
9. Lack Of Gratitude
I mentioned the Gratitude Mindset earlier as opposed to the Entitlement Mentality. But even when you don’t think you have an Entitlement Mentality, you can also show a lack of gratitude when you complain a lot.
When you always complain about things in your life that you don’t have or you do have but aren’t happy about, you may not be consciously saying that you are entitled to something better, but subconsciously, that is the message you are sending out.
Whenever you complain, you are saying that God (or your Creator) does not know what He’s doing or that He’s being unfair or that He’s just simply not doing a good enough job at being God.
And again, if you go back to the principles of a Gratitude Mindset, even when it comes to the things that you are complaining about, if you keep in mind that everything you have is a gift, you will find nothing else more appropriate to say than a heartfelt “Thank you”.
“Thank you for this obstacle. I’m sure it’s supposed to point me to a different path that I might not have considered before.”
“Thank you for this difficult person in my life. Every interaction with her is an opportunity to exercise patience and to just be curious about what she must be going through.”
“Thank you for this job. It may not be where I want to stay forever but right now, it’s paying my bills and putting food on the table.”
Now, doesn’t this sound a lot more refreshing than harboring all that negative energy within you and unleashing it to the people around you by complaining? Not only will an attitude of gratitude be better for the wellbeing of those around you, but also for your own wellbeing.
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”Brian Tracy
10. Demanding Perfection
I talked about how to overcome Perfectionism in a previous post. So many people are in denial that they are perfectionists. They often claim that they just have high standards. But the truth is that perfectionism is much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing — it seeks justification under the guise of having a higher standard of excellence but it will eventually destroy you from within.
Striving for Excellence and aiming for Perfection are two different things.
Perfectionism refuses to leave room for mistakes. This way of thinking is what’s causing you to be too hard on yourself and on others every time you or they fail to meet your standards.
Perfectionism is also often an excuse for procrastination. This thinking tries to justify waiting until the time is perfect or until the work is perfectly done before you take action.
Striving for excellence, on the other hand, welcomes mistakes and failures. A person who aims for Excellence sees failures and mistakes as opportunities for improvement.
The mindset of Perfectionism says “I have to do this perfectly, and I will not settle for anything less than that”.
The mindset of Excellence says “Today, I shall give it my best, whatever my best might look like today”.
I want you to realize this… Your best will be different each day because every day will present itself with a different set of blessings, resources, strengths, ideas, challenges and opportunities. And although no single day will be perfect, every day will be an excellent opportunity to be your BEST SELF.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life… Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?'”Brené Brown
11. Lack (or Absence) Of Boundaries
Boundaries are necessary. They are the limits you decide on what behaviors or conditions you will or will not put up with.
Boundaries create a necessary space between individuals so that each person can have his own separate identity, values, beliefs, priorities, and preferences that deserve to be honored and respected by others.
So your boundaries, in essence, are contingent upon your own sense of self-worth. It is the standard you set for how others should treat you, which will hinge squarely on how you treat yourself.
If you don’t regard yourself as someone worthy of love and respect, you’ll put up with people who will take you for granted, take advantage of you or abuse you. This lack or absence of boundaries is a message you are sending out to people that it’s okay for them to treat you that way because it is the same standard you’ve set for how you treat yourself.
But the problem is that most people often cry foul when others mistreat them and then they demand an immediate change in the other person’s behavior, which of course is often met with resistance or hostility.
The harsh truth is that you create your own monster by not setting and enforcing healthy boundaries for yourself… for not communicating clearly what is NOT ACCEPTABLE to you… for being too afraid to say “No”.
However, I must point out that what you say “Yes” to is just as important as what you say “No” to, and that saying “Yes” to something means that you’re saying “No” to something else. So ultimately, when it comes to the subject of boundaries, it all boils down to what matters most to you.
Author Benjamin Hardy once said, “If you’re not completely clear on what matters to you, then you don’t have direction in your life. “
Get clear on your values and set your priorities straight. You can’t establish healthy and strong boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”Henry Cloud
Now, with this final point, I must confess that I intentionally “saved the best for last” here because frankly, this should be the first thing we need to be searching our hearts for if we find ourselves constantly stressed out.
Refusing to forgive is the same as holding onto the negative, unpleasant, toxic emotions caused by a past offense. For many people, forgiveness is nothing more than a religious concept that is “easier said than done”. I get it. If the transgression caused way too much damage, it’s not going to be easy to just write it off.
But I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s necessary.
Forgiveness is often misconstrued as a sign of weakness. But the surprising truth is that you actually reclaim your power by choosing to take control of your emotions and thoughts. You’re no longer allowing someone else’s actions control how you feel, or allowing yourself to be controlled by your circumstances. Rather, you’re taking control of who you want to be despite the circumstance.
Forgiveness does not mean letting the offender back into your life again unless that is still a possibility you are willing to consider. However, know that you can forgive and at the same time make the decision to sever all ties with that person forever. In this case, forgiveness simply means letting go of this festering hatred in your heart so that joy and peace can take up residence there again.
Lastly, Forgiveness is an act of LOVE… It’s about choosing to see the good in people, even if you don’t see the good in what they did. And that is the way of Love. One thing I know for sure is that you’re never on the losing end when you consciously draw on The Most Powerful Force in the Universe.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Stress is rooted in Fear, no matter what form it might manifest itself in. And the only antidote to Fear is Love.
In everything you do, make Love your primary motivation — your love for God, for yourself and for others.
If you must do something for others, do it out of a sincere desire to do good and to make a difference, without seeking any praise or expecting anything at all in return.
If you must express your needs, express it with respect and without assuming the worst about the other person.
Learn to forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made in the past, and forgive others for the wrongs they’ve done to you as well. Love yourself enough to let go of bitterness and resentment. Refuse to nurse any grievance in your heart.
If you should seek to improve yourself, do so because you value YOU… because you believe in YOU… and because you know YOU ARE WORTH IT.
Finally, live life one day at a time but live it with faith, forbearance, and courage. Make intelligent plans but at the same time, be willing to make room for God to work out His plans and see what miracle unfolds before you.
My hope is that you find true and lasting freedom from this Fear that has been holding you prisoner and has been stealing your joy and peace of mind.
I just presented to you the twelve habits that are causing you a great deal of stress. Now that you know what they are, I challenge you to start doing a thorough assessment of your life, checking to see which of these habits you may be guilty of cultivating.
And eliminate it immediately.
This is the only way you can start living life more peacefully and joyfully.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”William James
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