10 Things You’re Clinging To That Are Ruining Your Future

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Most of us hold onto certain things far longer than we should.

While holding onto positive values and beliefs can bring us comfort and support, other things can cause more harm than good—rather like clinging to hot coals that burn us over time.

If you’re clinging to any of the 10 things mentioned below, there’s a good chance they are working against you, or even worse, they could be ruining your future.

1. Failed (or outdated) dreams and preconceptions about life.

One of the most detrimental things a person can cling to is the idea that life can be “perfect”.

This can cause them to turn down opportunities that aren’t 100% on par with what they’re looking for, or discard people for not embodying every trait they dream of having in a friend or partner.

They cultivate ideals about others rather than being realistic about them.

Furthermore, they’ll daydream about how everything in their life will unfold based on the make-believe ideas they have of others, expecting their daydreams to become a reality.

They might meet someone, put them on a pedestal, and then envision exactly how their dream lives will be together. Alternatively, they might get a job they’ve really wanted and assume it’ll be full of glamor and excitement, rather than, well, “work”.

When those daydreams don’t pan out, they can be devastated because all their hopes and dreams have come crashing down on them.

So don’t build your world upon any external factor, especially daydreams. They aren’t real and are no sturdier than castles built on sand.

2. The illusion of stability.

One thing that many cling to is the idea that once something happens, it’s never going to change.

They might believe in the “happily ever after” that will unfold once they get married, that the fitness level they’ve achieved will plateau there forever, or that their finances will remain steady for the rest of their lives.

Holding on to this preconception instead of learning how to adapt to unexpected changes and challenges can—and often will—damage their future.

Change is inevitable and life is going to throw spanners into everyone’s life at some point.

The body you worked hard to get to peak performance may get injured, setting you back significantly in your health pursuits. Your marriage might hit rough spots or end entirely, and those finances you thought would keep you going forever may be yanked away by unforeseen circumstances.

As such, you need to learn how to be firm in the present moment, but fluid when life changes unfold—even if they’re changes you don’t particularly like.

Furthermore, learn how to adapt to changing circumstances while also maintaining personal integrity. The inevitability of change isn’t an excuse to be a jerk.

3. Fear.

Many people hold themselves back from enriching life experiences because of fear.

This fear is often unfounded but is cultivated as a means of talking themselves out of things that may involve risk or potential discomfort. Fear of failure holds a lot of people back from realizing their full potential.

Let’s say you’re offered a job opportunity in another city that could set you on a path toward immense success and happiness. But your friends and family live in the city you’re in now, and you’re afraid of being away from them. If it’s in another country, you might worry that you won’t be able to adapt to the culture or learn the language properly.

Eventually, you talk yourself out of this adventure and resign yourself to the mediocre job you despise, in a comfort zone that’s smothering you.

Everything worth doing involves some risk, which can cause fear in just about anyone.

Although fear is great for warning us about potential threats, it shouldn’t rule us. If you look at what fear is showing you and rationalize that the imaginary threats aren’t intense enough to hold you back, then “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

4. Old wounds.

We all have scars from past experiences, whether they’ve been challenging or downright traumatic.

None of us are going to get through life unscathed by pain or heartbreak, but it’s up to us to decide whether to hold onto these hurts or learn and heal from them accordingly.

Many people choose to keep their wounds open by constantly ruminating on details about them. This causes them to remain in a place of pain instead of moving forward and allowing those wounds to close.

For a lot of people, focusing on the hurt they’ve been through allows them to seek pity and comfort from others. They may even choose to fully embody their victimhood and revolve their entire lives around the difficulties and pain they’ve experienced.

Doing this is rather like choosing to live in a cesspit when there are verdant fields and gorgeous mountain paths all around that could be explored instead.

If you’re constantly focused on pain that happened in the past, then you have no real future to speak of. You’ll simply waste whatever time you have left wallowing in that miserable pit of self-chosen despair.

5. Grudges.

This goes along with the old wounds mentioned above.

The hurts and difficulties we’ve been through aren’t always random happenstance but are often due to people’s mistreatment or negligence of us. As such, a lot of folks end up holding grudges against those whom they feel have trespassed against them.

Holding onto this kind of negativity can have detrimental impacts on your mental health. It can cause anxiety, stress, and depression, and it can also alienate your social circle.

For example, suppose you’re holding onto anger or resentment about someone who’s still in touch with people you regularly associate with. You might end up pushing mutual friends or family members away with your bitterness. This can leave you feeling isolated and lonely because nobody wants to spend time with you anymore.

Depending on the grudge you’re holding, you might also sabotage your own personal progress. You may turn down job opportunities that might put you in contact with a person (or people) you feel bitter towards.

Additionally, spending so much time on resentment and anger means that you’re not putting any time towards your own interests or personal growth.

6. Unrealistic expectations of others.

Everyone has their own personal challenges and limitations, and these are often invisible rather than overtly obvious to those around them.

When dealing with other people, it’s important to have expectations of them that are realistic and based on what they’re actually capable of, rather than what you think they should be capable of based on your own biases and opinions.

A person who looks perfectly healthy might suffer from a variety of physical or mental limitations that prevent them from being effective at a particular task.

If you have a spouse who struggles with executive function, you may not be able to rely on them to get bills paid on time, which can lead to financial issues for you down the road.

Similarly, if you create unrealistic expectations of friends or partners that they can never attain, you may express your frustration with them cruelly, thus pushing them away.

You may end up in accidental, self-imposed exile if you expect others to exist according to your ideals, rather than accepting and loving them as they are.

7. Relationships that no longer serve you.

This is one that a lot of people suffer needlessly, and often cling to out of fear or obligation.

People evolve and change over time, and this often results in growing apart.

When people hold onto relationships that no longer serve them, they end up either stagnating or getting increasingly resentful.

Intimate relationships and friendships that no longer “fit” drain our energy. We have to pretend we still care to continue the bond when we don’t and we waste an extraordinary amount of time trying to pump new life into something that’s already disintegrating.

Think of this like watering a plant that’s already dead instead of nurturing one that’s just starting to grow.

Every minute you spend tending a dead relationship that no longer serves you is a minute you aren’t spending on new opportunities.

There’s an extraordinary amount of potential out there, but you aren’t going to discover it if you keep yourself chained to those who are simply stealing your light.

Your dream best friend or soulmate may be waiting for the opportunity to meet you, if only you cut yourself free from the dead weight you’re dragging along.

8. Unrealistic or old expectations of yourself.

The person you are now isn’t the same person you were 20 years ago. So it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll still have the capabilities you did then, and detrimental to your future to beat yourself up about the expectations you had of your former self.

It’s even more detrimental if you find that you’re comparing your current self to people half your age and trying to keep up with them or compete with them. You may sabotage your future by even trying.

For example, trying to adhere to routines you did in your teens may damage your body beyond repair.

Similarly, behaving like you did in the past—namely in a manner that’s incongruous with your current age—might alienate potential prospects.

Teenagers can get away with cutesy or roguish behavior at times, but middle-aged adults who engage in those actions are considered juvenile or creepy.

Embrace who and where you are now, create goals that suit your current interests and capabilities, and behave with the type of dignity and grace that’s appropriate to your age and abilities.

9. Unhealthy lifestyle choices.

It’s all well and good to (briefly) live on pot noodles and coffee when you’re in college because your body is still functioning well and is more able to bounce back from temporary health challenges.

These challenges get considerably more serious as you get older, and the lifestyle you enjoyed at 20 is going to be damaging at 40, and possibly devastating at 60, should you reach that milestone.

We’re given these bodies as temporary vehicles to use as we meander through life, but it’s our responsibility to take care of them. As such, we need to be realistic about what we can and cannot handle healthily, and adapt our lifestyles accordingly.

You may be accustomed to the cultural conditioning you’re surrounded by (e.g. a traditional Scottish diet), but we have an inherent duty to ourselves to provide and sustain our bodies.

You may think it’s “uncool” to eat vegetables and joke about your all-carb diet, but by not eating well or by drinking yourself into a coma every weekend you’re only going to hurt yourself.

Sleep deprivation and poor nutrition may have been fun or funny in your youth, but lack of sufficient nourishment will damage every system in your body.

Lack of proper vitamins, exercise, and sleep can result in numerous ailments ranging from tooth decay to osteoporosis, diabetes, mental/brain health, and autoimmune issues.

Quite simply, if you want to have a future, you need to start taking proper care of yourself right now with a proper diet, physical activity, and replenishing rest.

Two commonalities among all young people are the carelessness of intake and the illusion of immortality.

If you want to try a challenge, get more sleep than you think you need, and hydrate as often as possible. See how you look and feel after a month.

10. Regrets.

Most of us regret at least a couple of things that have happened in our lives.

Depending on the individual, these may encompass mistakes, embarrassing faux pas, or even opportunities that we’ve missed for a variety of reasons.

We tend to be most haunted by self-blame about these regrets, repeatedly beating ourselves up for them instead of taking these experiences in our stride as part of our personal growth.

When we hold onto self-blame, we often develop both abysmal self-esteem and a lack of confidence in our personal capabilities.

We might assume that since we made mistakes in the past, we can’t be trusted with similar circumstances in the future. This can lead us to not take opportunities that arise just in case we end up embarrassing ourselves yet again.

Remember that all we ever have is the present moment, and although we are influenced by our past experiences and mindsets, we don’t need to be limited or defined by them.


Decide on the type of future you want to have, determine what may be holding you back from attaining, and choose to discard whatever no longer serves you.

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About The Author

Finn Robinson has spent the past few decades travelling the globe and honing his skills in bodywork, holistic health, and environmental stewardship. In his role as a personal trainer and fitness coach, he’s acted as an informal counselor to clients and friends alike, drawing upon his own life experience as well as his studies in both Eastern and Western philosophies. For him, every day is an opportunity to be of service to others in the hope of sowing seeds for a better world.