A note to self that you too may benefit from

I’m about to celebrate my 41st birthday. Without a doubt, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last year is that the key to happiness is found in restraining yourself from doing stupid sh*t.

That being said what lies below is a collection of behaviors I need to stop doing immediately. They aren’t doing me an ounce of good. They’re robbing me of the meaningful relationships I have with others. Even worse, they’re robbing me of the most important relationship of all: the one I have with myself.

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1. Ramming your opinion down other people’s throats:

The ultimate “life hack” is having strong relationships. You put those relationships at risk every time you ram your opinions down other people’s throats instead of truly listening to the folks around you.

So stop telling people what you think, and start asking others what they think.

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt

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2. Pointing your finger at others:

Blaming others is a loser’s strategy. It not only makes other people feel bad — but it also makes you look bad. Never forget that the world is run by people who own themselves and this includes owing up to their mistakes.

So stop waving your little finger, and start being a person who looks for solutions.

“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”– Abraham Lincoln

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3. Arguing about meaningless stuff:

How many times have you changed your mind because someone said you were wrong? Most people aren’t much different, so stop treating them like they are. The next time you sense the words “I am right and you are wrong” arising within you, ask yourself if they’re really worth saying. If they’re not, do both yourself and the person you’re speaking with a favor and concede.

After all, the fastest way to devalue your words is by insisting on getting the last word in.

“Stubbornness is the strength of the weak.” — Johann Kaspar Lavater

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4. Defining people by what they do without considering who they are:

How would you feel if someone labeled you only by the mistakes you’ve made? Not great, right? So why do the same to others? We’re all ugly and beautiful at the same time. It’s up to each of us to decide which version we want to see.

I don’t know about you but focusing on the good in others sounds much more enjoyable than getting hung up on the bad.

“I am not the worst of what I’ve done.” — Jay-Z

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5. Ignoring the needs and wants of the people around you:

If your partner had a bad day, do them a favor by not rubbing your great one in their face. Instead, sit down and shut up. And when I say “shut up,” this includes saying any variation of: “I know how you feel” or “It’ll be better tomorrow.

More often than not, when people say they need to talk, this means they are looking for a supportive ear — and your running mouth isn’t going to do anybody any good.

“Entonces cállate la f*cking boca.” ― Junot Díaz

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6. Holding grudges:

Most people don’t wake up and plot and scheme about how to wreck your day. Shit happens. And not forgiving someone who did something you may not agree with robs you of one of the beauties in life: enjoying people as they come in and out of our lives.

So when it comes to holding grudges, just let go. You’ll never be able to move forward if you don’t learn how to move on.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” — Paul Boese

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7. Complaining about things you’re doing nothing about:

Nobody likes complainers — especially those who never do anything to improve their situation. So instead of talking about how bad your first world life is, open your ears, identify the needs of the people around you, and do what you can to leave each person you come across better than you found them.

You may just learn that by focusing on helping people fix their problems your problems don’t look so big anymore.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” — Maya Angelou

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8. Talking over other people:

The second you interrupt someone is the moment you lose them. The world would be a much kinder place if people just learned how to shut up — not just to wait their turn but to actually listen until it’s their turn.

So the next time you feel the urge to jump in on someone, slow your roll and breathe. Then go home and take notes about all the cool things you learned while you had your mouth closed.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Stephen R. Covey

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9. Comparing yourself to others:

When “anything is possible” actually becomes possible we stop worrying about what other people are doing and we start focusing on what we can do. In short, if you’re running someone else’s race, you’ll never win.

So remove yourself from their race and start running your own.

“You don’t want to be like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.” — Austin Kleon

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10. Building castles in the sky:

Nobody cares about your plans. Nobody cares about your projections. Nobody cares about your tomorrow. This may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the reality. The strongest words are worthless if they aren’t backed by action.

Stop telling people about your future and instead start treating the present with the respect it deserves.

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” — Jim Rohn

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11. Allowing the actions of others to dictate your day:

Being a successful entrepreneur demands focus. Being a valued friend demands presence. Being an effective parent demands love. And you’ll fail at all of these pursuits if you don’t develop the restraint to simply breathe and move on when someone tries to ruin your day.

So stop allowing other people’s minor complaints turn into your big distractions. Positivity is a choice.

“I love those who can smile in trouble.” — Leonardo da Vinci

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12. Taking criticism personally:

You can’t grow into the person you want to become without being realistic about who that person can actually be.

So stop shying away from criticism and be the type of person who actively seeks it out. It may sting; but never forget that what hurts holds truth.

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” — Tim Ferriss

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13. Thinking the world owes you something:

Having a career and a life you love is a privilege, not a right. And it is up to you, and only you, to make it happen. No one is going to save you. No one is going to throw you a line. What we get out of life is a direct reflection of what we put into it.

So stop thinking you deserve better and get to work.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” — Mark Twain

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14. Keeping your gratitude to yourself:

Writing what you are grateful for is a sound way to start the day; but it isn’t nearly as effective as actually showing it. If you wake up feeling grateful for a particular friendship you have with somebody, let that person know. If, during the day, you find yourself thinking about how incredible your partner is, tell them how much they mean to you.

Gratitude on its own is good; but it’s better when shared. So stop keeping it for yourself. Your life will be better for it and so will someone else’s.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

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15. Relying solely on your first impression:

You have something to learn from absolutely everyone and rarely will that happen on the first go of things. People need room to show themselves. People need time to get things right.

So stop passing immediate judgment and start withholding it.

“I don’t know if you have ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” — Lemony Snicket

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16. Ignoring the good that is right in front of you:

The moments that stop the world, only happen when you take the time to appreciate the world.

So stop thinking about what you could have — and start being thankful for what you do have. Not only will your relationships thank you for it, but so will your sanity.

“There isn’t a lack of beauty in the world — simply a lack of people looking for it.” — My Wife

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I was once told that people spend the first half of their lives collecting and the second half determining what to keep.

The older I get the more I realize the only thing worth collecting is relationships — and the collection of destructive behaviors above are holding me back from maximizing the time I’m fortunate to have with the people I care about.

And this needs to change.

The quality of our lives is indeed measured by the quality of our relationships.

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This article first appeared in PS I Love You (Medium.com)

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