1. Be with people you can be honest around, or don’t be around them at all.
If you trace the beginnings of the ends of any relationships you’ve been in, I guarantee it probably had something to do with someone cutting off honesty and/or communication. (The two go hand-in-hand.)
The second you cannot say to someone “I think what you’re doing is wrong,” “I’m upset with how you’re treating me,” “I’m scared and here’s why,” “I’m having doubts and these are what they are,” or “I love you but I don’t love this thing you do,” is the second it’s going to fail.
You end up expending all of your energy pretending to be someone you’re not, and it’s not helping anybody. Only ever telling people what they want to hear verbally placates them into their same old habits, their same old ways, and nothing changes. This doesn’t mean you have to be rude. This doesn’t mean to throw effective, healthy communication out the window; there’s a difference.
If you cannot be honest with someone and have your thoughts and opinions heard, be around other people who you can. They’re out there.
If you pretend for long enough, you only end up losing yourself.
2. Stop keeping things in your life because you just don’t want to go through the stress or discomfort of letting them go.
Up to and including: friends you don’t genuinely want to spend time with, on-again-off-again flings that won’t amount to anything other than your own pain, exchanges that leave you exhausted and frustrated, resentment over things you can’t change, subscriptions to magazines that make you hate yourself, social media connections that do not add anything to your day, the phone numbers of the people you always have to text first (if at all) and love for the people who will never love you back.
3. Stop ruminating on the old and start building the new.
The second a negative thought or crippling memory crops up, don’t entertain it and allow yourself to sink further down the rabbit hole of all things could-have-been and should-have-been. Analyze what about the situation makes you uncomfortable, and figure out how you can apply what you wish you would have done to your life now. Don’t just “vow” to be different, figure out how you can actively, consciously do so. If you apply it correctly, it’s the healthiest, most effective coping mechanism around.
4. Play by the “if you’re going to forget about it in a year from now, don’t waste your energy worrying about it now” rule.
If you look back on your life, you will probably realize that you have mentally divided it into segments during which you worried compulsively about the outcome of something that either worked itself out or wouldn’t matter in a relatively short period of time.
Simply: if you look back, you’ll realize that no feeling was ever final, and you wasted your time concerning yourself with issues that weren’t either.
It’ll give you the perspective to work cultivating that mindset now, before you’re looking back on these years and thinking the same things.
5. Don’t allow your “no” to be the beginning of a negotiation.
You get as much respect as you demand. You teach people how to treat you. If you don’t feel that your wants or needs are being understood or respected, find a way to communicate them better, and then learn what it means for you to draw lines — even if that’s as serious as completely walking away. It’s not a matter of giving up easily, it’s a matter of knowing what you’re not going to permit.
6. There’s not one person on this planet that’s like, “yeah, this is exactly how I thought it would go.” Stop projecting a future based on what you believe in now.
The unknown is scary. So scary, in fact, that we decide things about our futures based on what we can conceive of being possible now, and the fault in this is that we get attached to an outcome that isn’t necessarily most right for us.
We tend to be surprised by what we get in place of what we thought we wanted. Even the concept of relinquishing future control just comes across as another elusive platitude, but it’s really, really important. It’s the only way to free yourself from impending suffering.
7. Learn what it means to view everything objectively, in light of what it will ultimately amount to in the bigger picture.
This whole world isn’t indebted to you, but nor is it out to get you. People aren’t usually “against” things, they’re just for themselves. People think of you far less than you worry about them doing so. Your perspective is just one of them. You are a speck in the span of infinity. Remember how small you are.
8. Don’t expect to receive that which you don’t communicate you want.
You get what you have the courage to ask for.
9. Don’t let one thing define you.
There is not one decision or day or instance that makes you who you are. You are what you repeatedly do. The only thing that isn’t normal is to pretend that you never struggle, have never suffered, never feel anything but happiness, etc. You’re supposed to ebb and flow, you shouldn’t want it any other way. It means you’re alive, you’re invested in things that matter, you made mistakes but you made an effort regardless, and you’re not emotionally or otherwise stunted, as would be the case if you didn’t feel remorse or sadness or grief.
10. Realize that the problem is always you.
Now that sounds harsh, and I imagine a slew of you will want to rise and disagree, and I get that, but to be really honest with you, that’s the problem.
Here’s the thing: you are the only thing you can control. If you are upset with a situation, you cannot force people into changing to suit your wants and needs, so you have to change what you can control: whether or not you’re removing yourself from it, asserting yourself, or changing your mindset about how you’re going to approach it.
If you aren’t doing so — the problem is you.