For a few years running I could’ve been nominated for Miserable Person of the Year.
Really, I had a stellar campaign going. I was bitter. Frustrated. Angry at God, man and myself. My life wasn’t turning out to be the success-fest like I’d planned and somebody, everybody was to blame. But it didn’t take long to realize that being miserable all the time, funnily enough, is a miserable way to live.
Now after years of studying, writing and researching, here are what I believe are the seven habits of highly miserable people and how we cure each one:
1. Living as a Lone Ranger
Too many of us are trying to Lone Ranger our lives—forging our own path, biting the bullet, picking ourselves up by the bootstraps whenever we get bucked off and every other Western cliché we can grab by the horns.
Do you know what I hear the most from people who I help that are struggling? “I feel so alone.”
Making and keeping friends can feel harder than G.I. Joe’s abs. But that doesn’t mean we should ride off into the sunset without them.
God can feel like He’s miles ahead and leading you down the wrong trail, but maybe we’re just not looking at the right map. Maybe we were so confident that we knew where we were going that we stopped listening to the one trying to show us the right way.
The Cure? Vulnerability and community. You can’t really talk about what’s going wrong if you keep pretending everything is going right.
It seems that complaining, with a heavy dose of cynicism, has become our national pastime. It only takes three minutes on Facebook, Twitter, talk radio or the news stations to know that if you’re not complaining about something, you’re a bit of an outsider.
We complain about our lousy jobs, the slow Wi-Fi, our leaders in the office and around the world, the waiter who brought only one basket of bread.
Complain-ism has become signature to our society. But I learned that the road to miserable is paved with complainers and cynics.
The Cure? For me it was one question: What if I replaced moments where I had the right to complain and I created something instead?
I realized complaining was giving the problem power over me. Complaining is passive and powerless. Creating is proactive and powerful.
3. Having a Crazy Timeline
Our plans and big dreams aren’t the problem. Our timeline is.
God has His timeline for your life. You have your timeline for your life. Sometimes those match—like on that one Tuesday in February, three years ago. But most of the time they won’t.
Trying to control the timing of your plans coming to fruition is like a 5-year-old trying to walk a rhinoceros—impossible with a high chance of being trampled.
The Cure? Give your dreams the time and space to do their thing. Drop them deep into the ground and water them with creativity, consistency, prayer and patience.
Then when it’s the right time, we’ll watch our plans and dreams grow bigger, better and more beautiful than we ever could’ve planned.
4. Obsessive Comparison Disorder
Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the new OCD I’ve coined to describe an epidemic that’s plaguing our generation. It’s our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us into depression, consumption, anxiety and all-around joyous discontent. It’s a habit from Hades itself.
This newfound OCD encourages us to stay up late on Facebook pouring through all 348 pictures of our frenemies’ “My Life is Better Than Yours” album. Like having to run outside to light up a cigarette, our comparison-addiction is uncontrollable and killing us.
The Cure? Begin to recognize the signs leading up to an OCD attack.
Late at night when you’re tired, do you feel your OCD begin to take over if you jump on Facebook? Do you notice that every time you watch your “favorite” show you feel bummed out about your own life because it’s not sitcom worthy? Maybe it’s time cut the things that consistently lead to Obsessive Comparison Disorder.
5. Waiting for Someone to Show You How
In the working world, very rarely is someone waiting there to teach you. Unlike in school, we’re not paying them any longer. No, they’re paying us.
For too many years in my I kept waiting for someone to show me how. I didn’t realize they expected me to show myself.
The Cure? When you’re new to an office or career you have an amazing super power: you can see problems and solutions that those who have been there for an extended period are blinded to.
Obviously, it takes some finesse and common sense to begin tackling problems no one thinks exists. But instead of pointing out the problem, begin experimenting with creative ways to find a solution. Don’t wait for them to show you how, go ahead and show them without them even realizing it.
6. Failing at Failure
Too many of us are miserable because we’ve confused setbacks for settling. We think that just because we moved back in with our parents or took that job answering phones, we’re failures.
Failing does not make you a failure.
The Cure? Realizing that the only real failure of our lives would be if we never had any. Failure is simply finding a more profound way to be successful, if we’re willing to learn from it and then have the courage to possibly fail again—and possibly more profoundly than before.
The biggest risk we can take in our lives is not taking any at all. We can’t let failure be our death sentence, instead of just one more sentence on the page before we turn it to the next.
My value can’t come from the ebb and flow of success. God created me with the utmost intentionality. Who I am needs to be anchored in who God is. No matter what.
Accomplishing less or more will never be able to sustain us. If you’re not secure with less, you will be crushed by more.
7. Becoming Comfortable with Crappy
This is the scariest habit of them all. Yes, for many of us, crappy jobs, relationships and setbacks can feel like a rite of passage. Yet, too many people become comfortable with crappy. The job you used to hate becomes the job you love to hate, then the job you would hate to leave.
The Cure? Do not become content with living crappily ever after. You have a purpose inside you worth pursuing. Don’t let comfortable become your quicksand.
Learn, grow, and then go.
This article is adapted from Paul Angone’s book 101 Secrets for your Twenties.