His cold, swollen hand gripped mine as I gently slid my fingers between his.
With hopes of delivering comfort, my other hand cradled the crown of his head — warm, soft and peppered with faint tufts of silver, baby-fine hair.
His eyes were half-open and staring off into what I imagined to be an invisible horizon that was calling to him. I wondered what he saw.
My 89-year-old uncle was dying.
As I watched him gradually slip away from his body over his last days, I felt the inevitability and finality of death hit me…..hard.
I was more aware than ever that my time to leave the physical world would eventually come too, and with this awareness came a voice that whispered: “Make every day count.”
This voice stayed with me as I scattered my uncle’s ashes into the ocean days later, and is still with me as I write this for you.
I’ve lived so many days of my life in turmoil and doubt, and just being unhappy. Days wasted. Days that could have counted for something if only I’d learned how to make better choices and master my habits sooner.
What have I done?
THIEVES OF PEACE
It’s easy to tell when you’re not at peace.
You’re anything but present. It’s so hard to be present when your mind is always somewhere else.
You have everything you need, but you’re not content with what you have. The grass is looking very green on the other side of the fence.
Your heart is racing even though you’re sitting completely still.
It’s 3am, but you’re tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep.
You look fine on the outside, but inside, you feel like you’re dying a little bit every single day.
Guilt is eating away at you day by day.
1. YOU SPEND MORE THAN YOU SAVE.
It can be tempting to indulge in some retail therapy now and then, but if you’re running up credit card debt or drying up your life savings because of it, it may be time to rethink your spending habits.
Considering how much easier (and fun) it is to spend than save, it’s no surprise that money is the number one source of stress among Americans.
A good place to start taking control of your finances: Figure out where your money’s going with an expense tracking up, and then put a strong wealth-building foundation in place with Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps.
2. YOU DON’T LIKE WHO YOU ARE.
No matter how successful, good-looking or popular you are, if you don’t like the person starting back at you in the mirror, few things in life will bring you joy.
Unresolved self-loathing will leave you riddled with doubt, negativity and self-sabotaging habits that can undo all the good that you’re constantly trying to do for yourself and others.
This is why I regained all the weight that I’d once lost. I didn’t succeed in losing and keeping it off until I started putting in the work to make peace with ‘me’, flaws and all.
3. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES.
You want to please everyone who asks you for help, but you do so at the expense of your time, money and peace of mind.With every “yes” you offer when you really mean “no”, your discomfort and resentment builds. Eventually, they spill over, manifesting as lingering mental exhaustion and anger.
To save your sanity and relationships—and there’s no comfortable way to do this—is to decide who and what you’ll say “yes” to, and learn to set tactful boundaries with the rest.
It’ll feel uneasy at first, especially if you’re not used to turning down your family, friends or colleagues, but once this feeling passes, you’ll be relieved that you did.
4. YOU’RE NOT TREATING YOUR BODY RIGHT.
Just like how saving money can be a tedious and un-sexy affair, it’s just easier to not give two hoots about whether your diet is doing you good, being fit, and getting enough sleep.
Except that deep down inside, you do, but don’t follow through because you don’t believe that you can.
Your perceived limitations could be one or several things, including time, self-confidence, fear, willpower or even support—none of which will disappear overnight, which is why the not-so-secret solution to treating your body better is this: Just start.
5. YOU’RE NOT BEING REAL WITH YOURSELF.
For years, I wanted to get out of a toxic situation.
But every day, I chose to stay in it. Until I was forced to leave. Lesson learned…the hard way.
Reality can often be very different from what we wish it was, so it you’re not at peace with the way your life is going, ask yourself: Is what I want congruent with the way I’m living right now?
6. YOU’RE REACTING, NOT RESPONDING.
Life will throw all kinds of curveballs your way at any moment, and if you’re not careful, you’ll react with anger, irrationality or haste.
I know because I’ve been there—I’ve lost my shit one too many times and always regretted it, no matter how right I thought I was in the heat of the moment.
You can’t be 100% prepared for life, nor can you be calm and collected all the time, but you can decide, whenever possible, to take a step back and distance yourself from your emotions before responding to a situation.
7. YOU CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK.
Sometimes, I find myself being vulnerable, silly or just stuck on awkward footing (big surprise, I’m human).
And then I realise that the person I’m with isn’t reacting the way I expected (with humour and empathy, or ideally, both). Myriad emotions follow—embarrassment, humiliation, followed by annoyance and finally, anger.
Anger directed at them because…how could they? And at myself because…why do I care so much?
To help myself move on from the ordeal, I remind myself that just like everyone else, I’m flawed with scars, quirks and all, which not everyone will readily accept.
And you know what? That’s perfectly OK.
8. YOU’RE WORKING AT THE WRONG JOB.
Just like being in the wrong relationship, it’s not difficult to tell when you’re in the wrong job.
You’ll constantly have this gnawing, unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach.
The worse the fit, the worse you feel.
This isn’t surprising, given that you’ll typically spend between 50% and 75% of your waking hours, 5–6 days a week, dedicated to it.
Stick with it long enough, and you’ll end up feeling like the living dead—a fully-functioning shell of a human being who’s devoid of drive, creativity, joy or enthusiasm for what you do.
No matter what your circumstances are, don’t be afraid to walk away from something that’s sucking your soul dry.
If leaving your job now isn’t a viable option, save as much of your income as you possibly can while drawing up your exit strategy and exploring every possible alternative.
It’s not the easiest thing to do—raising the white flag, leaving something that you started out having high hopes for, and heading back into the uncertainty of job-hunting.
But remember this: Walking away from something that’s not right for you isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s you being strong enough to say “No” to ‘just another job’, and choosing to enrich your life with work that brings you purpose and meaning.
TAKE THE 7-DAY CALM MIND CHALLENGE.
Trying to win at life from day to day is hard. It gets even harder when you’re struggling with thoughts that leave you feeling reactive to the world and heavy with painful emotions that hold you back from living your best life. Start re-framing your thoughts to calm your mind, feel good about life and create the mental space that’s a must to reach your highest potential with my FREE, 7-Day Calm Mind Challenge. You’ll also receive my best calm-living tips & trainings delivered to your inbox every week.
Feature photo: Hector Gomez / Unsplash