I’m unabashedly one of those people that loves self-improvement books, articles and advice. But, the problem is that I don’t often incorporate the lessons into my life or change in any way.
I’m trying to change that as I look for ways to decrease my anxiety and live a less-worrisome life. Here are the 5 lessons I’m trying to (actually) follow:
1. Don’t overthink everything
I am definitely someone who, by nature, analyzes and over-analyzes every minuscule detail. If not managed properly, I can spiral into a vortex of worry and anxiety quite easily.
A couple of months ago, my boss left my company to pursue another job. Because she was my only other team member in my region, it left me with a unique opportunity to rise up and prove myself, and my worth and skills, to the rest of the team and the company. It left me feeling opportunistic–and completed frightened.
How was I going to manage the day-to-day? What if a complicated process arose and I didn’t know how to manage it?
The first week I over-thought every what-if scenario in my head and it didn’t do me any good. It just left me more stressed without solving any immediate problems. I fell into my old habits of rumination.
I briefly discussed my worries with a coworker and he gave me some much-needed advice. It’s not groundbreaking wisdom but advice we’ve all heard a million times before–advice that admittedly I don’t often heed:
2. Take it one day at a time
He told me to take on each new day, without my boss, at a time.
“Don’t think about the future right now. Just take it one day at a time.”
Those were words I seriously needed to hear. And advice I try to remember each day as I continue to take on more challenging tasks and progress in my role.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
I recently had a good friend of mine purchase a house. When she shared this news with me, it hit me hard. She’s 25 and she bought a home with her boyfriend. Wowza. That to me sounds so adult (says me who got engaged 6 months ago, yet to me buying a home sounds more impressive and adulty).
To put this milestone into perspective: I’m 25 living in LA and can’t even comprehend purchasing a home because the home value is massively high here. The total price of her entire home is slightly above a downpayment for a home here.
In complete honestly, I became envious. I hate that I did, but I did. I want a home. I want a backyard. I want to own property. And there is no way I can purchase a home in the foreseeable future.
I realized that I needed to stop comparing myself to her. She lives in a different state, in a different town, in which she can afford to buy a home.
And honestly, (no sarcasm here) good for her. She deserves it. And that’s what she wants! I sacrifice not buying a home now to being able to live in a beautiful, vibrant, happening city. And I wouldn’t change that.
We are both on different paths in life and I shouldn’t compare what she has to what I have, because its like comparing apples to oranges.
4. Stop measuring the “success” of people based on their career choice
This is a hard one for me. I think a big part of it stems from seeing self-worth through the same lens of my step-mom. She used to only be happy if she was working. Earning money, to her, meant that you were somebody. On the flip, if you didn’t work you were a sore loser with low self-confidence. While my own parents are much more lax on this idea, I think this way of thinking was unconsciously passed down to me.
However, it isn’t only my step-mom who believes this. It’s a belief that connects our culture. Success means more money, right? And more money means a good job, right? It’s the everlong rat rate. The latter of success. The insert-whatever-success-metaphor-you-like-here.
I hate that I judge others based on their professional title. And I’m trying to remind myself that a title doesn’t tell that person’s story.
In my own, albeit so far short, professional journey, I’ve lived my own story: In only 2 1/2 years, I’ve started, hated and quit 3 jobs. At my last company, I learned that if I would’ve stayed at the company I would get promoted, and quickly. But it would be at the cost of my professional happiness–I loathed that job and had to get out. So I jumped ship and started a new entry-level job.
And that meant not updating my LinkedIn profile with a potential promotion. Ha. I can live with that. It meant less money right away. It meant I didn’t get health insurance. But to me, this is what “success” looked like: Me taking a risk on a new job and finding out that I was good at it, saw a future in it, and actually liked it.
I laugh a little because in this case the ongoing pickle between “more money but work a miserable job” vs. “less money and work a job you love” was actually true. I went with the latter and I’ve never looked back.
(Michelle Obama has some great advice on this too, in case you’re interested.)
5. Be more grateful
When I moved back to LA, fresh out of college, I got a janky apartment with my boyfriend. It was beat-up, infested with cockroaches, and apparently illegal (it was a converted garage and didn’t meet several city codes).
When we finally moved out of that hell hole into our current apartment–a 1000% major upgrade if I may add–I was beyond relieved: I honestly have never felt gratitude the way I felt (and still feel) about my new apartment.
It is NOT infested with cockroaches. It is in a safe area (aka not on a sketch street corner next to a gas station with drunk homeless people watching and following you after you arrive home after a night out). Our apartment is well managed (and legal!). The list could go on.
Over a year and a half later and I still remain grateful to be living here. Grateful that I’m safe and in an apartment that I love. And I don’t think I would feel this way unless I had had that unpleasant experience in the first place.
After going through this nightmarish experience, I started thinking more about how I need to be more grateful and appreciative of the blessings I have.
I’ve noticed that we spend so much time talking about the things we want but don’t have. Or the things we want to buy.
Look at how privileged we are! Let’s spend more time practicing gratitude! It feels good and looks good on us.