You probably don't need me to tell you that life is inherently hard. It's hard to forge real, deep, lasting relationships with others. It's hard to find work that gives your life meaning and that you're good at. It's hard not killing your toddler when she throws the 87th tantrum of the day. And it's hard finding the money to put a couple of kids through college.
So with the baseline level of life set at 'expert,' you really don't want to add any extra obstacles to your path. But yet that's what a lot of us unwittingly do, according to a fascinating Thought Catalog post by Tim Hoch.
In it, he argues that many make things unintentionally harder for ourselves with unhelpful habits, burdensome mindset mistakes, and out-of-whack expectations. Shedding these errors will make your burden just a little bit lighter.
The wise post inspired me to scour my own past columns, other internet sources, and interesting recent research for more examples of common mistakes that make life harder than it really has to be. Here's what I came up with.
1. You think everything is about you.
Was the cashier at the convenience store grumpy to you? Is your friend not instantly texting you back? Is your partner looking a little distant? Chances are excellent none of this behavior is about you. Maybe the cashier's kid was up all night with the flu. Maybe your husband is struggling with a big work presentation. Maybe your friend is stuck in traffic.
If you go around thinking everyone else's behavior is about you, you are guaranteed to be making your life way harder than it has to be. Instead, assume that others' actions could just as easily be about their own private struggles, biases, or pain. You'll be happier, less discouraged, and less frequently angry.
2. You have an all or nothing mentality.
When I was young my father delivered this bit of tough love: "You're never going to be the best at anything." He was right. The chances of being number one in the world at something -- of being Usain Bolt, or Elon Musk, or Oprah Winfrey -- is vanishingly small. If you're always seeking more -- more success, more perfection, more than the guy next door has -- you will never be satisfied. If you're always waiting to arrive at the pinnacle to be happy, you're always going to be miserable.
Or as blog Mark & Angel Hack Life has put it, don't have an all or nothing mentality. "There's no such thing as perfect success, just as there's no such thing as perfect failure. This is why labeling things in extremes - all or nothing - success or failure - is an exercise in futility. What does exist, however, is a continuous series of imperfect moments filled with infinite possibilities and opportunities. Appreciate the grey area between the extremes - the journey," they instruct.
3. You aim for constant happiness.
What could possibly be wrong with Americans' recent obsession with happiness? According to a ton of research, constantly striving to feel good, actually often backfires. By unrealistically raising our expectations and teaching us to believe that constant, unending bliss is possible, this focus on happiness just makes people feel bad about themselves when they inevitably face struggles and low moods.
Living a good life involves doing hard things, and doing hard things will not always be fun. If you're expecting to be happy all the time, you're just making your life more difficult than it needs to be.
4. You allow negative people into your life.
Surrounding yourself with negativity won't just kill your joy and drive you crazy, the stress from all their drama can even seriously harm your health. The solution is pretty straightforward: don't engage with the drama queens and moaners and you're life will get instantly easier.
5. You ignore the health basics.
Sure, chocolate bars are tasty and everyone enjoys a late night out once in awhile, but if you regularly ignore the basic health advice you've doubtlessly heard a thousand times by eating junk, sleeping a crazy schedule, or skipping exercise entirely, you are going to feel like crap.
And then, yes, life will feel harder than it has to be. People don't endlessly nag you about this sort of health advice just to annoy you. Following a few sensible recommendations really can make every other aspect of your life feel just a little bit easier.