How To Improve Your Life: 6 Core Principles

If you’re looking for ways to improve your life and remove the accumulated c**p that’s blocking your path, there’s no shortage of advice out there.

A quick online search will reveal hundreds of articles packed full of helpful suggestions covering all aspects of your daily existence.

Trouble is, though, the longer the list, the less likely it is you’ll be able to achieve your aim.

Even though many of the helpful tips may not even apply to you, the sheer volume can be off-putting as you trawl through countless human flaws.

You’ll get bogged down in the detail and, worst of all, end up feeling terrible about yourself.

If the mountain is going to be that hard to climb, why bother?

…that’s your good intentions down the pan before you’ve even gotten started.

We’ve kept the number of suggestions short, with the idea that less is more.

And, since external circumstances are so much harder to change or exert control over, our focus is on the inside, on your mental and emotional well-being.

These factors have a more fundamental influence over your existence and you’ll be able to see the results sooner.

Truth is, many of our problems aren’t caused by bad luck, by unfortunate events, or by other people…

They actually stem from our own poor mental habits.

Doing a bit of self-analysis and re-assessing your mental attitudes is the best way to start you on your road to self-improvement.

Coming up are 6 negative mindsets that many of us are burdened with.

If you can set them aside and free yourself of their detrimental influence, you’ll discover a lightness of being you never thought possible.

Change from within is so liberating and empowering. And, better yet, you’ll start to feel the benefit almost instantly, even where the journey takes a while longer.

You are in the driver’s seat here and you really do have the power to improve your quality of life.

So let’s get started. No time to waste!

1. Let go of perfectionism.

The truth of human existence, as we tiptoe our way through the maze, is that nothing is black and white.

If we accept (and expect!) only the best from ourselves and for our lives, the likelihood is we won’t get very far.

Even worse, we’ll feel constantly disappointed and as if we’ve let ourselves (and/or others) down.

On top of that, search as we may for the perfect job, the perfect relationship, or the perfect home, we’ll never find it.

Meanwhile, as our sights are set on the unattainable, many other possibilities that could make us happy will pass by unnoticed.

If we constantly strive to achieve and maintain perfect performance in all things at all times, we’re left feeling not just exhausted by the effort, but dissatisfied with what we perceive as failure.

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, perfectionism is, in fact, incredibly limiting because fear of failure can cause paralysis.

So, contrary to what you might have thought, perfectionism is actually the mother of procrastination rather than proactivity.

Now is the time to understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. Having flaws is an inescapable part of the human condition.

If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you won’t learn and grow as a person.

Something else you need to do is give yourself permission to put in less than 100% effort – start with 80% and see how that feels.

Accept that every aspect of your life doesn’t need to be perfect for you to be happy.

What your life looks like from the outside is unimportant; what’s going on inside is the key to contentment.

Reset your expectations. If you don’t, you’ll allow pernicious perfectionism to suck all the pleasure out of your life.

You’ll be seeking what you can never actually attain while ‘real’ life, and all the opportunities it offers, passes you by.

Related post: How To Overcome Perfectionism: 8 Ways To Accept Less Than The Best

2. Ditch the negativity, embrace the positives.

We’re all familiar with the glass half full versus the glass half empty concept and know that the former beats the latter hands down.

Yet the problems that surround us – personally, nationally, and globally – make it all too easy to see life through a distorted, grimy lens, making us feel powerless and hopeless.

That’s quite a burden to haul around 24/7.  

If you look for bad things (and let’s face it, you don’t have to look very far), you’ll always find them.

You’ll see only the gloom and doom, while failing to acknowledge any positives at all.

Pessimism is self-perpetuating and the more you complain and whine, the worse everything will appear.

Never has there been a better time to embrace optimism and keep looking for the good, positive, and downright amazing things that surround us.

They’re right there, it’s just that we’re too caught up in the cycle of negativity to see them.

If you let life grind you down, it’s 100% certain that it will.

Start looking for the positives instead and you’ll soon start to see life from an altogether more appealing perspective.

Along with that change of attitude will come a much brighter outlook.

Maybe you’ll find a spring in your step that wasn’t there before and even a song in your heart.

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3. Don’t take things so personally.

Responding negatively to things which others have said or done is ultimately connected to our own insecurities and lack of self-esteem.

This is a self-perpetuating problem: the more we allow feelings of hurt, shame, or even anger toward ourselves or another person to affect us, the lower our self-esteem will become.

We feel disempowered and inadequate. 

Those negative inner demons are never more satisfied than when they’re able to distort our perception of reality and make us feel we’re under attack.

The reality is that most people, even friends and co-workers, aren’t thinking about you, talking about you, or concerned in any way with you for 99% of the time.

You may be laboring under hurt and resentment about something which you took as an insult.

You may believe that someone doesn’t like you because they didn’t say hello.

The truth is that you are the only one damaged by the real or imagined slight, while the ‘offender’ is likely blissfully unaware of their ‘crime.’

For the most part, whether people treat you kindly or ill, or whether they’re cold or warm toward you, really isn’t a personal matter at all.

It’s more likely connected with things going on in their own complicated lives.

Don’t make yourself miserable by believing that it is.

For example, the person who doesn’t smile or greet you may just be shy, or distracted, or maybe they didn’t even see you.

Resetting your response to stimuli which may have caused you hurt in the past will boost your self-esteem, and you won’t take things so much to heart in the future.

Related post: How To Not Take Things So Personally All The Time: 7 No Nonsense Tips!

4. Avoid jumping to conclusions.

The problem with this mindset is that it allows you to think you’re all-seeing and all-knowing because you make massive assumptions.

These assumptions are usually based on minimal evidence.

It’s the timeless problem of adding 2 and 2 and making 5.

This habit causes problems in two ways…

Firstly, the person who jumps to conclusions on the tiniest piece of information is full of such confidence in their knowledge that they stop paying attention to what’s actually going on.

They put their blinders on and plow on based on their own assumption instead.

The truth is that humans are generally pretty poor fortune-tellers and most of our assumptions are way adrift from reality.

And a wrong assumption often leads to wrong actions being taken.

The second problem with this habit is the tendency to play mind-reader, making massive assumptions about why people do what they do or what they’re thinking.

Since it’s impossible to get inside someone else’s head, the conclusion is bound to be wrong, with potentially damaging results.

So many relationships, both professional and personal, are ruined by people drawing the wrong conclusions based on erroneous assumptions.

5. Don’t compare yourself with others.

This time-honored, alluring, yet potentially damaging activity has been taken to the next level by the explosion of social media.

We can feast on the fantastically exciting, privileged lives led by today’s ‘Joneses,’ giving the green-eyed monster plenty of opportunities to raise its head.

It’s especially important at this moment, then, to consider the reasons why comparing yourself to others is damaging and doesn’t give you an accurate benchmark of your own self-worth.

First of all, it turns out that Mark Twain’s statement that “comparison is the death of joy” is backed by scientific research.

A study showed that unfavorable comparisons create feelings of envy, low self-confidence, and depression [1].

Conversely, comparisons with people who are worse off result in mean-spirited pleasure.

Whichever way it goes, comparison leads you down a dangerous path.

Secondly, you’re not comparing against reality but an edited version where negatives have been re-worked into positives for the benefit of others.

Interestingly a recent study confirms our tendency to overestimate the positives in the lives of others, while failing to see the negatives or misinterpreting them [2].

So what we end up with is an incomplete picture and a distorted interpretation of those limited facts which muddies the waters still further.

Making comparisons when you don’t have all the information is clearly pointless, especially since you’re comparing your reality with another’s edited highlights.

Why not use your energy on being the very best version of yourself instead of trying to be as good as or better than others?

Related post: How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

6. Don’t look back – let the past go.

The Disney studio were onto something with Elsa’s passionate anthem: Let It Go.

It’s a sentiment that taps deeply into our emotions, our desire to move on and leave past injuries and injustices behind.

And yet most of us don’t, won’t, or can’t.

We find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of resentment, frustration, misery, and despair caused by past hurts and problems we cling onto, no matter how much pain it causes.  

This is probably the hardest of all the ‘fixes’ that will improve your life.

It’s not easy to let go of accumulated pain. The longer we’ve held onto it, the harder it is to put it to rest and move forward.

Toxic though it is, it seems like an old friend that we’re reluctant to cut out of our lives completely.

But there are steps you can take to help you kiss past hurts goodbye and you’ll find some tips on how to achieve this radical reboot here: How To Let Go Of The Past: 16 No Bullsh*t Tips!

The bottom line is that past pain shouldn’t define your life.

Carrying such baggage around isn’t healthy and just adds to your stress. It gets in the way of your ability to focus on work, study, and your relationships.

That’s why you need to let it go and allow a real capacity for joy and happiness back into your life.

Don’t you think it’s about time?

References:

1. Swallow, S. R., & Kuiper, N. A. (1988). Social comparison and negative self-evaluations: An application to depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 55–76.

2. Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., Dweck, C. S., Lovett, B. J., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2011). Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 120–135.

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About Author

Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.