His cold, swollen hand gripped mine as I gently slid my fingers between his.
With hopes of delivering comfort, my other hand cradled the crown of his head — warm, soft and peppered with faint tufts of silver, baby-fine hair.
His eyes were half-open and staring off into what I imagined to be an invisible horizon that was calling to him.
My 89-year-old uncle was dying.
As I watched him gradually slip away from his body over his last days, I felt the inevitability and finality of death hit me, hard.
I was more aware than ever that my time to leave the physical world would eventually come too, and with this came a reminder that I must make every day count.
This reminder stayed with me as I scattered my uncle’s ashes into the ocean days later, and is still with me as I write this for you.
I’ve lived so many days of my life distracted, worried and angry — days wasted.
These are days that could have counted for something if only I’d learned how to make better choices and master my mind sooner.
I’ve since realized that true happiness is having peace of mind, and bringing more of it into my life means figuring out what’s taking it away in the first place.
THIEVES OF YOUR MENTAL PEACE
It’s easy to tell when your peace of mind is slipping away.
You’re anything but present.
You’re constantly reliving events of the past, worrying about a future that hasn’t happened, and letting your dissatisfaction with life as it is, eat away at you.
When you look at other people, you feel empty and jealous because they seem to have it all together.
In fact, the grass is looking very green on the other side of the fence.
You feel like you’re dying a little bit inside every single day.
There’s no one specific thing that’s causing this negative mental and emotional state you seem to be stuck in; instead, it’s a combination of things — things like these:
1. YOU’RE SPENDING MORE THAN YOU SAVE.
It can be tempting to indulge in some retail therapy now and then, but if you’re running up credit card debt or drying up your life savings because of it, it may be time to rethink your spending habits.
Considering how much easier (and fun) it is to spend than save, it’s no surprise that money is the number one source of stress among Americans.
A good place to start taking control of your finances: Figure out where your money’s going with an expense tracking app, then give your spending structure with a budget and establish a set of money habits that’ll help grow your wealth and help you feel in control of your money.
2. YOU DON’T LIKE WHO YOU ARE.
No matter how successful, good-looking or popular you are, if you don’t like the person staring back at you in the mirror, few things in life will bring you joy.
Unresolved self-loathing will leave you riddled with doubt, negativity and self-sabotaging habits that can undo all the good that you’re constantly trying to do for yourself and others.
This is why I regained all the weight that I’d once lost, and I didn’t succeed in losing and keeping it off until I started putting in the work to make peace with ‘me’, flaws and all.
3. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES.
You want to please everyone who asks you for help, but you do so at the expense of your time, money and peace of mind.
With every “yes” you offer when you really mean “no”, your discomfort and resentment builds. Eventually, they spill over, manifesting as lingering mental exhaustion and anger.
To save your sanity and relationships—and there’s no comfortable way to do this—is to decide who and what you’ll say “yes” to, and learn to set boundaries with the rest.
It’ll feel uneasy at first, especially if you’re not used to turning down your family, friends or colleagues, but once this feeling passes, you’ll be relieved that you did.
The bottom line is this: Your peace of mind matters just as much as everyone else’s.
4. YOU’RE NOT TREATING YOUR BODY RIGHT.
Just like how saving money can be a tedious and un-sexy affair, it’s just easier to not give two hoots about whether your diet is doing you good, being fit, and getting enough sleep.
Except that deep down inside, you do but don’t follow through because you don’t believe that you can.
Your perceived limitations could be one or several things, including time, self-confidence, fear, willpower or even support—none of which will disappear overnight, which is why the not-so-secret solution to treating your body better is this: Just start.
5. YOU’RE NOT BEING REAL WITH YOURSELF.
For years, I wanted to get out of a toxic situation.
But every day, I chose to stay in it. Until I was forced to leave.
I learned my lesson learned…the hard way.
Reality can often be very different from what we wish it was, so if you’re not at peace with the way your life is going, ask yourself: Is what I want congruent with the way I’m living right now?
6. YOU’RE REACTING, NOT RESPONDING.
Life will throw all kinds of curveballs your way at any moment, and if you’re not careful, you’ll react with anger, irrationality or haste.
I know because I’ve been there—I’ve lost my shit one too many times and always regretted it, no matter how right I thought I was in the heat of the moment.
You can’t be 100% prepared for life, nor can you be calm and collected all the time, but you can decide, whenever possible, to take a step back to process your emotions and let them pass before responding to a situation.
7. YOU CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK.
Sometimes, I find myself being vulnerable, silly or just stuck on an awkward footing (surprise, surprise, I’m human).
And then I realize that the person I’m with isn’t reacting the way I expected (with humor and empathy, or ideally, both).
A myriad of emotions follow: Embarrassment, humiliation, followed by annoyance, and finally, anger —anger directed at them because well, how could they? Also, anger at myself because…why do I care so much?
To help myself move on from the ordeal, I remind myself that just like everyone else, I’m flawed with scars, quirks, and traumas, which not everyone will readily accept.
And you know what? That’s perfectly OK.
8. YOU’RE WORKING AT THE WRONG JOB.
Just like being in the wrong relationship, it’s not difficult to tell when you’re in the wrong job.
You’ll constantly have this gnawing, unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach.
The worse the fit, the worse you feel.
This isn’t surprising, given that you’ll typically spend between 50% and 75% of your waking hours, five to six days a week, dedicated to it.
Stick with it long enough, and you’ll end up feeling like the living dead: A fully-functioning shell of a human being who’s devoid of drive, creativity, joy or enthusiasm for what you do.
No matter what your circumstances are, don’t be afraid to walk away from something that’s sucking your soul dry.
If leaving your job now isn’t a viable option, save as much of your income as you possibly can while drawing up your exit strategy and exploring every possible alternative.
It’s not the easiest thing to do—raising the white flag, leaving something that you started out having high hopes for, and heading back into the uncertainty of job-hunting.
But remember this: Walking away from something that’s not right for you isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s you being strong enough to say “No” to ‘just another job’, and choosing to enrich your life with work that brings you purpose and meaning.
The sooner you realize that cultivating your peace of mind will bring happiness, the sooner you’ll be able to take the steps that’ll get you there.
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Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Guide For Job Hunters And Career-Changers by Richard Bolles I’ve relying on this classic throughout my 15+ year career, and for good reason: It’s the the ultimate guide to figuring out who you are as a person, what you want to do in life and how to successfully pursue work that brings you meaning, including how to start your own business.
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