Editor’s Note: I wrote this post back in college. I went ahead and cleaned it up, dropped in a few updates and made sure it’s safe to read at work. I mean as long as you keep the mouse on the minimize button you should be fine.
If you don’t like it, change it.
It’s probably the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received. You’ve probably heard it too, but chances are you were too busy whining about how awful, boring, difficult or stressful your life supposedly was to notice. Sure, I get it. The playing field isn’t level––we didn’t all drive BMWs in high school. We didn’t all go to an Ivy League school or marry the Homecoming Queen. But let’s face it. BMW drivers try too hard, college is a money pit and the Homecoming Queen got knocked up and dropped out of school anyway (Don’t worry. BMW drivers and Homecoming Queens are much too busy with their fabulous lives to be reading this blog).
Why am I wasting my time and yours telling you something you already know? Because most of you still don’t get it. You don’t take the time to realize all these so-called “awful” situations are a result of your own actions, or lack thereof. You’re too busy being victims instead of taking some responsibility.
But don’t worry. I’ve got a fix for your suck-fest-of-a-life. But it’s going to involve some changes.
Improve Your Mood
First, you need to change your mood from a whiny little brat to a confident, in-control human being. I’ve included a few tips to get you on track:
Turn Off Your Cell Phone
Few things can empower you like turning off your cell phone. It’s a message to the world and proof to yourself you have the ability to get away. You’re never truly alone when you have a cell phone, and sometimes being alone is the only way to figure out what’s really going on in your life.
Get a Haircut
Haircuts are cheaper than buying new clothes, and in most cases it has to be done anyway. It also happens to be one of the fastest ways to change your outlook on life. Confidence, self image and boredom often dictate whether or not you enjoy life. Something as simple as a haircut has the ability to shake up all those feelings in half an hour.
Clean Your Room
I can’t function when my room is messy. I don’t really care if it has to do with Feng Shui or with out-of-place objects emitting negative energy. What matters to me is having a clean room so I can focus on other things. Cleaning your room is also good to do when you are procrastinating. You’ll likely be be looking for anything else to do, so you might as well do something constructive. At least when you’re done cleaning you’ll be able to suck at life in a clean room.
Buy Healthy Food
Notice I didn’t say eat healthy food; just buy it. Eating healthy is annoying, but buying healthy food makes you feel like a champion. I like to fill my shopping cart full of organic, green, environmentally-special food just so the guy with a stack of microwavable pizzas and a six-pack of natty light feels like he’s failing life when he walks by me. What’s even better is when you get home you’ll realize all you have to eat is a bunch of disgusting health food, and you’ll be forced to be a responsible, health-conscious individual. After all, you can’t afford to go out to eat––you spent all your money on overpriced organic foods. Showoff.
Make an On-My-Mind List
The problem with to-do lists is they only cover things you have to do. They don’t typically include the issues you need to “think” about. An on-my-mind list on the other hand, includes all the things you need to get done as well as the issues you need to think about. It’s a way to get all of your thoughts on a single sheet of paper so you don’t have to think about them until you’re ready. By addressing the list on your own terms, you’ll realize all your problems are actually just a single sheet of paper, and are not nearly as dramatic or life-altering as you first thought. And if it turns out all your problems are actually much worse than you thought, at least you’ll have something to burn.
Go For a Drive
Driving, as long as you’re not prone to road rage, can be a fantastic stress reliever. It’s literally you changing your course, position and place in life. It’s the ultimate analogy of taking control of where you’re going. It’s also a time to be alone and think while still being able to see and interact with the world, even if it’s only with your middle finger.
Identify the Issues
Once you’ve improved your mood, you’ll be able to think clearly and address the true obstacles in your life.
The common denominator in each of your problems is you. This doesn’t necessarily make you the cause of the problem, but it does make you a part of it. By assuming every issue is within your control, you will be better able to do what’s best for you and avoid unnecessary whining/worrying. Sure, certain aspects of the problem are out of your hands, but you must identify and act on those aspects that are in your control. It is only by addressing what you can change that you will be able to improve your life. Let’s look at some examples:
My Job Sucks
“My boss hates me. They don’t pay me enough. They make me work ridiculous hours. They don’t give me a chance.”
These are all phrases people use to describe jobs they hate. The point is the statements make it appear the problems are the company’s and not your own. The key is to make every problem you encounter your problem, because if it’s not your problem you can’t do anything to change it. We’ll start by rephrasing the above statements.
“I hate my boss. I don’t get paid enough. I work ridiculous hours. I don’t give myself a chance.”
Now that you’ve made the problems your own, you can identify the issues you can change. Let’s look at the first statement. If you think your boss hates you, have you ever considered you might hate your boss? After all, who could like someone when they think that person hates them? If this does turn out to be the case, maybe you should reconsider your feelings for this person or consider working for someone else.
Let’s look at the next statement. If the company doesn’t pay you enough, there’s really nothing you can do about it. But if it turns out you aren’t getting paid enough, we have some options. You could reevaluate how much your time is worth and ask for a raise or decide your time and effort could be better spent doing something else. If those options fail, your problem might not be with money, but with your priorities. People will often confuse not getting paid enough with not having enough time. If you value time more than money, you should adjust your priorities to emphasize a need for more time, even if it means less money.
The next statement is similar to the money issue. If you feel you are working ridiculous hours, then you need to do something to change them, even if it means adjusting your priorities. Start by looking at how you spend your time at work. Is your workload really forcing you to work late, or is your Facebook time forcing you to work late? If it’s your workload, is everything you’re doing being directly asked of you from the company? Or are you creating more work for yourself in an effort to stand out or “protect” your job? Whatever the case, you are in control of when you decide to stop working each day.
And finally, before you accuse the company of not giving you a chance––whether it be a chance for a promotion, more pay or better hours—ask yourself if it’s really the company holding you back. In the end, I would much rather have my own set of problems than deal with someone else’s problems.
My Girlfriend/Boyfriend Sucks
“My girlfriend always does this or never does that.”
Being with someone is a choice, not a necessity. If your girlfriend or boyfriend does something you don’t like or fails to do something you do like, it’s because you put up with it. Since you’re the one with the problem, you should be the one to bring the issue to their attention. If they refuse to make the change, the problem once again becomes your problem. You can either change the way you feel about it, or change your relationship with the person. There’s no way around it and no reason to whine about it to your friends. They can’t do anything about it.
The key in every situation is to make the problem your own. By doing this, you can be the one who makes the changes necessary to alleviate the problem. If you fail to make the problem your own, you will never be able to do anything about it and will live a sad, pathetic life.
Make the Changes
By this point, you’ve improved your attitude, identified your issues and come to realize you need to make some changes. But none of it matters if you can’t make it past this next step. Making changes means accepting that your life will be altered in some way. Whether it’s quitting your job, breaking up with a significant other or just choosing to move your life in a different direction, it all comes down to action.
Decide What To Do
You know the problems; now come up with the answers. My favorite way to do this is to list all my options no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Next, you could narrow the list down to the options that are most feasible. DON’T DO THIS. This is where people get into trouble. You’ll think to yourself, “There’s no way I could do that.” Suddenly one of your preferred choices is gone. Instead, you should narrow the list to the options you’d like to see happen, no matter how far-fetched they seem. From here you can arrange your list from best-case scenario to the worst. Start with the best scenario and figure out how to make it happen.
If it turns out you aren’t willing to make the changes necessary to achieve your ideal scenario, you can do one of three things:
1. Do it anyway.
2. Move to the next-best option.
3. Do something so crazy it completely changes the problem altogether.
An example of the last option would be trying to break up with a crazy girlfriend or boyfriend. The best-case scenario might be to ignore them and start dating someone else. The problem is he or she won’t quit stalking you. So your crazy scenario might involve you moving to another country and changing your sexual preference, effectively rendering the issue irrelevant.
Set a Date
And by set a date I mean do it now. Taking action doesn’t mean saying you’ll do something soon. It means actually doing it. Set a date and stick to it. The sooner the better. Changes come about for a reason. If you’ve already made the decision, don’t waste your time worrying about it. Just do it.
Do Something Permanent
If you don’t fully commit to your decision you will fail miserably and end up unhappy with your choice. If you plan on quitting your job, turn in your two-week notice. If you want to break up with your significant other, tell him/her you want to see other people and then do it. If you want to move somewhere else, put your house up for sale. Do something that signifies to yourself there is no turning back.
Don’t Look Back
At this point, you’ve already identified your issues, gone over your options and made your decision. There’s no need to play the “what if” game. Concentrate on moving forward. After all, the past will always be there; your future will not.
The problem with a guide like this is exactly that—it’s just a guide. It can’t make you do anything. It can’t call your boss and tell him to “shove it.” It can’t make you take a much-needed road trip or exercise more. All it can do is attempt to catch your attention for a brief moment and hope by some strand of luck you will make sense of its meaning and incorporate it into your own thoughts and actions. Like anything in life, it’s only as serious as you take it.