The 5 ways people screw up their lives

Life itself is a fairly neutral process. It does not pre-select some people for success and others for failure.

Life comes to us one day at a time … and to a large extent is shaped by the decisions we make.

That’s right … to a large extent. I realize there are outside influences and unfair circumstances that come into our lives that are beyond our control. And I realize some people have more than their fair share of hard times and bad luck. But even in those situations, life is often what we make it.

That’s why I ask my audiences two questions.  1) “Why is it that life seems to be a joyful adventure for some people … no matter how much bad happens? And 2) Why is it for others that life seems to be a painful struggle … no matter how much good happens?”

I answer those questions … of how to make your life, work, and relationships more joyful and productive … in my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.

As Marnie Tornai, a Contract Specialist wrote, “Dr. Zimmerman, I wanted to personally thank you for being such an inspiration when you delivered your Journey program for the U.S. Army.  I have worked for the government for 30 years and have heard many speakers during that time … and most of what they say is forgotten in a couple of days. Not you. Your presentation and your enthusiasm have made a lasting impression, and I am making some much needed changes in my life.”

For today’s Tuesday Tip, however, I’ll answer that second question: Why is it that some people live a life of painful struggle … no matter how much good happens? I think there are five ways people screw up their lives.

=> 1. Ignorance

They misunderstand how life works. Somehow or other, they think life should be simple, easy, and fair, and when it’s not, they sink into depression.

By contrast, the Welsh got it right when they said, “There is no prosperity without adversity.”  In other words, struggle is an inevitable part of life, and if you handle it well, you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll be very okay.

In other words, if you take the time to learn from your difficulties (rather than avoid them), your new-found knowledge will inevitably lead to better results.

=> 2. Irresponsibility

Other people have more than their share of pain in life because they refuse to take responsibility. When something goes wrong or doesn’t work out the way they would like, they blame someone else or something else for their situation in life. After all, it’s a lot easier to kick someone else’s butt than kick their own butt into gear.

Unfortunately, the blame game never brings anyone any measure of joy in life. All it ever does is encourage someone to quit. And so we find millions of people bailing out of jobs, relationships and life in general. When things get a little tough or uncomfortable, when the results seem to be very slow in coming, the irresponsible ones say, “I’m outta here.”

And that’s too bad. The real joy in life comes from responsibility … from sticking to a cause … from getting up one more time than you fall down. Stick-to-ativity is one of the key pre-requisites for joy.

But please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting you stick with an abusive relationship, or stick with a boss that constantly degrades you, or stick with a business that should have been buried a long time ago.

But I am suggesting this. If your automatic, knee-jerk reaction to a difficult time in the economy, a failed attempt at a new job, or a stressful time in a relationship is to bail out, you’re being irresponsible. You’re not doing all you could to change things for the better. And your chances of ever experiencing life as a joyful adventure are very slim.

=> 3. Worry

About 85 to 90% of people worry about something on an almost constant basis. They worry about their health, their career, their finances, their future, their kids, their relatives, what other people think of them, and life in general.

And that’s a problem.  It’s almost impossible to experience joy if you’re focused on worry.

The good news is you DON’T HAVE to live that way. That’s what Brenda Simmons, an Information Technology Specialist from the Rock Island Arsenal, learned.

She wrote, “My son had recently died, leaving me with three other children. Worry took control of me. Every time the telephone rang, I panicked and wondered if I had lost another child. I know what the Word of God says about worry and how it tends to immobilize a person, but I could not stop. You need to know that your Journey program has been a tremendous help to me. I am not completely worry free, but I have new ways of dealing with it. I no longer panic when my telephone rings and when something does happen with my children, I react with concern rather than worry. Instead of being immobilized, I am motivated into action. Thanks so much for your super-empowering Journey.”

=> 4. Disappointment

Still, other people live a life of painful struggle because they don’t know how to handle disappointment or not getting what they want.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting certain things in life … a particular accomplishment … a special relationship … or a new start. It’s normal, healthy, and motivating.

It is not natural, however, to get EVERYTHING you want in life. As I tell my audiences, “You can have almost anything you want — if you are willing to pay the price for it. But you can’t have everything you want! It’s just not that kind of world.”

The quicker you realize that, the less pain you’ll experience and the more joy you’ll have.

=> 5. Ego

Call it ego, pride, or arrogance. But the fact is … if you’ve got too much of it, your life is filled with pain. After all, ego is nothing more than a camouflage for insecurity.

Oh sure, people with big egos LOOK like they’ve got it all together. They LOOK like they know it all. And they LOOK like they know what is best. But it’s all an act … an act to convince them … and hopefully others, that they’re not as bad off as they really are.

Quite simply, ego and joy cannot co-exist … because ego stifles communication and blocks relationships. And that’s easy enough to understand when you realize ego comes out in the following behaviors:

  • the unwillingness to see another’s point of view,
  • the inability to listen well,
  • the need to be number one,
  • the need to be right, and
  • the unwillingness to admit wrong.

That’s why author and speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Egomania is a very strange disease. It makes everyone sick except the person who’s got it.”

If you want more joy, you’ll need less ego. You’ll need more honesty, more openness, and more vulnerability, and more transparency.

Final Thought:  Life is a neutral process. If you experience it as a painful struggle, it’s probably due to some or all of the five factors above. But if you want to experience it as a joyful adventure, you must avoid those five factors. The choice is up to you.