How do I stop wasting my life? I asked myself as I mindlessly flicked through every film available on Netflix.
Ever asked yourself that question?
On countless occasions, I have caught myself clicking that remote button only to find I’m not even looking at the screen. I’m probably not missing much though, right? In beautiful juxtaposition, I wonder how I can stop wasting my own time as I lie down for the fourth hour watching a series about ‘Fonts’.
I may be a writer but that’s a boring stretch, even for me.
We all do it. It’s human nature to avoid the important work, enjoy a few hours of doing absolutely sod all, and indulge in bad food that only encourages the slow disintegration of our brain-space.
We’re suckers for it, drawn like moths to a flame. But, occasionally we wake up in a panic as we realize that we’re growing older each and every day and have nothing to show for it.
Suddenly you find yourself asking, ‘What the hell am I doing with my life?‘ as you trek through the Amazon Forest looking for some form of enlightenment.
If you’re lucky (yes, lucky) then you reach the point where you find yourself now, asking how you can turn this around.
Well, I’ve got a few suggestions for you.
Below are 12 suggestions for how you can stop wasting your life and start making worth-while changes.
While I would always encourage that you heed the wisdom of the many lifestyle advice columnists and do the yoga, drink the smoothies and write in your journal every morning; we’re going to have to dig a little deeper than that.
Taking the steps to get yourself off of the sofa and moving toward a life of fulfillment and meaning goes beyond these external superficiality, it requires internal focus, attention and mental strength. And this is tough for many.
If it were so easy, then there would be a lot fewer people at war with themselves but alas, we’re just so good at self-loathing, aren’t we.
Do you want to stop wasting your life? Then it’s time to dig deep, take a look at a few important aspects of life that could change everything for the better, and play the long game – how quickly you turn things around it entirely up to you.
1. BE PRODUCTIVE AND RELAX
There’s a pretty big contradiction floating around that makes it easy for us to get confused with how we’re supposed to conduct ourselves. We’re driven by a culture of success and so everywhere we turn we see massive signposts telling us the ‘PRODUCTIVITY RULES ALL’ and ‘DON’T STOP, EVER!‘ or ‘YOU BETTER KEEP GOING, OR ELSE!‘
But then alongside this, we have another tone of voice that can be heard whispering in our ears.
This voice tells us to take time for ourselves; don’t live for other people, do what is best for you and remember to take a break once in a while. I imagine this voice sounding like the narrator for an M&S dessert advert – smooth and sensual.
With two conflicting ideas coming at us from both angles even the decision of our behavior becomes a difficult choice.
Both elements could be a sure path to wasting your life if you don’t balance them.
Over-productivity can lead to burnout, lack of focus, lack of energy, depression, perfectionism, and the list goes on. The overwhelm that joins hand in hand with working too hard is detrimental to your progress.
We like to believe (or are told to believe) that the harder you work, the more successful you will be. This is not wrong but if you’re working too hard on the wrong stuff, then it’s entirely unproductive.
Likewise, if all you want to do is watch TV, scroll through your phone, relax and focus on ‘downtime’ then that is where you’ll remain. We all love this the most – relaxing in a bath with bubbles, taking a day off only to stay in our slobs and eat the remains of our kitchen and watch the extended Star Wars franchise back to back.
However, if you want a different life then you’re going to have to put in the hours to make it so. Build the empire, slowly but surely, and then spend your days in whatever way you see fit.
You must balance productivity with downtime. One without the other is a sure way to waste your life away.
2. THINK ABOUT DEATH MORE OFTEN
I love this one.
Nothing makes a person consider the commodity of life greater than considering what it means to die.
Death is a component of life that most of us live in denial of.
The idea of death scares the hell out of me. I simply can’t fathom ‘the end’. Even when speaking to my partner, I asked how we could just live in total, endless darkness. Black everywhere. But, how would I even be conscious of the darkness? It’s a complete mindf*ck.
Seneca quite elegantly speaks of the shortness of life and how he explains it, a life well-lived is seemingly long compared to a life dwindled.
It is not about how many years you have but how you live them.
None of us want to enter the grave with a lifetime of regret. Thinking about the inevitable end forces you to think about the glories of life.
Time is the greatest commodity we have available to us and yet we give it away freely as if it were limitless. But, it is limited. Eighty years will fly by and the more we contemplate our death the more determination we will have to make something of the short life we have available to us.
3. DON’T LET FINANCIAL FEAR HINDER YOU
My friend was recently telling me of a gentleman she knew who lived with the stress of a high paying corporate job in accountancy and finance. You guessed it, he loathed it.
He would come home every day demoralized, stressed, and in a foul mood. Eventually, he left the soul-sucking 9-5 (or 6 am-8 pm as it often was likely to be) and down-sized to a job as a lorry driver. The money he earned was less than half of his previous salary and he constantly wondered if he had wasted the University Degree he had worked so hard for.
It’s a common misconception that the only way to stop wasting your life is by working harder, doing better, and earning more.
This is a damaging assumption and belief that society has ingrained into our skulls. Working a job that you hate, regardless of what it pays, is a waste of your life.
Financial fear is something so many of us struggle with and that’s unsurprising. We must have a certain amount to live and survive. The size of the family needs to be taken into account and there is some sort of minimum amount (whatever that might be) that a person would need to live a good life.
But, guess what? That number is almost definitely much lower than you think.
Financial fear shouldn’t hinder you because what we’re talking about here is adapting. If your priorities in life consist of spending time with your family, nurturing a new business, having time to read, practice a craft or travel the world then the money is not your number one priority.
Adopt an adaptation mindset, you can make it work for you. Scale back, live a simpler life, earn less money (perhaps) but be happier in the process.
4. DROP THE DEAD WEIGHT
If wasting your life can be re-defined as wasting your time then it’s worth considering WHO you are wasting your time WITH.
Toxic friendships and relationships are a colossal waste of your time. Kudos to you if you’ve given it everything you’ve got, tried to compromise, tried to communicate, and even had a bash at a hard-core intervention; but it’s time to cut all ties.
You want to be friends with people who will scream your name in a room full of opportunities. Develop connections with people who want to give you a leg up and who sing your praises. Value those friendships that are based on honesty and respect.
The people in your life should only ever want the best for you and this will go leaps and bounds to helping you change your life for the better.
The more time and energy you give to those who would happily demand your time and attention and give nothing in return, the slower your chances of progress.
Hanging out with negative, selfish, narcissistic, self-absorbed, greedy, judgemental, whiny, quick-to-offend people is an absolute waste of your life.
A strong support system will go a huge way to guiding you in the right direction, supporting you when you relapse, and encouraging you to push on.
Stop wasting your life with the wrong people. Drop the dead weight.
5. NO-ONE CARES ABOUT YOU
It sounds harsh, I know. Like, ‘What do you mean no-one cares about me?! What, do I just go and do whatever the hell I want then? SCREW THEM, if they don’t care about me then I don’t care about them EITHER!’
Even though we all like to believe that we’re unique, something special, the truth is we’re anything but. We all have our unique journey and we all have our own unique personality but our lives are no different from thousands of others.
Most people like this belief, that ‘I’m special, one of a kind’. And because of this belief, most people in the world are not thinking about you and what you’re doing; they’re thinking about themselves.
So, the point I’m making here is that we hold ourselves back and self-sabotage our chances for fear of judgment and criticism.
Well, here is what I have to say to that…
Judgment and criticism will be offered up to you on a silver platter whether you want it or not.
Secondly, these people do not care about you, your success, or your choices; they only really care about their own.
This means that you can build resilience toward this fear of judgment by understanding that no-one really cares about you, they care about themselves.
This relieves you of a whole lot of pressure and anxiety.
Help yourself change your life by recognizing that no matter what verbal criticism comes your way it is probably being thrown by someone who doesn’t care about you at all. Allow this to empower you and liberate you from the chains of peer pressure; no-one is really paying close attention so do whatever the hell you want.
So, stop wasting your life worrying about everyone else and get going!
6. START TREATING YOUR BODY RIGHT
This is more than just eating healthy and keeping fit.
You should do both of these things because as we’ve just mentioned, life is short and you don’t want to be wrestling with dodgy organs to stay alive because of your own lifestyle choices.
Let’s mitigate every chance we can of dying young, shall we?
These are habits that have a domino effect, generally having a positive impact on more than one aspect of your life.
Do you want to stop wasting your life? Then invest time in building upon keystone habits.
Two keystone habits that are perfect to start you off are exercise and healthy eating.
With these two aspects of life firmly under your control, you should notice a multitude of things beyond having the banging beach bod.
People who master the incorporation of exercise and healthy eating into their daily routines generally sleep better, have better concentration, are more self-motivated, are happier in themselves, make better choices, have more energy, and feel less stressed.
All of these things will go a long way to changing your life, don’t you think?
Start treating your body with the respect it deserves and you’ll reap the benefits of more than just a six-pack, you’ll start using your time more wisely.
7. INVEST IN LEARNING
I am a serial learner.
This doesn’t mean that I’m incredibly intelligent or a fountain of knowledge or the best person to have on the pub quiz team. I’m only ever likely to get about two questions right at those things.
But it does mean that in the subjects that I dedicate my time and attention to gaining knowledge, I am pretty up-to-date on all of the know-how.
Curiosity may seem like a personality trait that is not available to you. How wrong you are.
If you don’t believe yourself to be a curious soul then I would be inclined to tell you that you simply haven’t found that thing that you WANT to learn about yet.
Knowledge is power (let’s see how many centuries we can milk that little catchphrase for).
The reason this neat little slogan will stick around for millennia to come is that it is categorically and undeniably true. The more you know the more you can achieve.
How do you consider yourself an expert in your field? You learn and digest everything there is to know and then maybe add some of your nuggets of wisdom.
The more information you have at your fingertips the more OPTIONS you have. Read as many books as you are able, listen to as many podcasts and watch as many docu-series as you deem fit.
A thirst for knowledge is a skill that anyone can acquire once you have found what you are interested in learning about.
An investment in learning is an investment in your future and could be the best use of your time.
If you avoid learning, you deny yourself the possibility of growth and development.
Stop wasting your time doom-scrolling through your phone and pick up a book.
8. GET SUPER-FOCUSED ON A FEW THINGS
The truth is, most of us will only ever be pretty mediocre at most things.
Mark Manson discusses the bell-curve of people on a scale of incredibly unskilled to incredibly skilled with the incredibly average sitting in the middle. Take comfort from this.
To be among the elite incredibly skilled masters of their craft you must choose that craft and work your ass off. This is where most of us go wrong.
We want to try and do everything. Or worse, we want to be great at everything! Unfortunately, amazing though these human brains of ours may be, most of us do not have the capacity to master every little skill that takes our fancy.
Instead of allowing that to make you feel sub-par, take a skill or craft that you LOVE and hone in on it.
Get super focused on that one thing and master it because this is achievable and this is what will have you joining the Micheal Jordans’ of the world at the far end of the bell curve.
Don’t try and do everything as that will be a gigantic waste of your time. Pick one (or maybe two) things to specialize in and become the expert.
9. DROP THE EXCUSES AND BLAME
Let me know if any of these ring a bell…
‘I’ll do it tomorrow’
‘I can’t because I don’t have the time’
‘I would but I don’t have the money’
‘No-one is helping me’
‘I’m not good enough’
It’s time to stop wasting time making excuses and blaming yourself and everyone else under the sun for why you are wasting your life.
No matter how you feel about yourself you must simply START. Even if you feel you lack motivation or self-confidence, you must simply TAKE ACTION; no matter what anyone else says or does, it’s your life to LIVE.
We love to start the diet tomorrow or call the investor next Monday, finding all of the reasons that make sense for why we should wait.
The chances are, you’re scared. Scared of failure, perhaps? Or maybe, scared of success? Yeah, that’s a thing.
Whatever it is, there are no good excuses to not get going and there is no-one to blame for the way your life is going. The responsibility lies solely on your shoulders but you shouldn’t allow this to burden you.
Use it to empower yourself to take action. Think, ‘I can change my life if I want to.‘
Don’t let excuses and blame be the reason you waste your life away, it’s criminal. Take ownership of every single thing that you do and suddenly taking action becomes a whole lot easier.
10. FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE OUTCOME
With a culture focused on productivity, working hard, keeping busy, and aiming for bigger and better; we’re constantly being force-fed this rhetoric of ‘SET GOALS. FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS. ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS!’
Goal setting is a fabulous technique for giving focus and reminding us where we are heading.
But more important than this are the tiny steps we need to take in-between to get there.
Putting so much emphasis on the final outcome can overwhelm us and lead us to give up way too early.
Keep the end goal in mind but focus your energy on that one next step. Conquer it before moving on.
Look up occasionally to make sure you’re going in the right direction (adjust if necessary) but then forget about the final target and seek to achieve the next small milestone.
11. FIND YOUR PURPOSE
What are you willing to bleed for?
A life without purpose often looks very similar to a person who has lived alone in the mountains for six months with only his nose to be seen among the overgrown hair on his face and a thirtieth round of wearing his pants inside out. This man is trying to find himself.
Finding our purpose in life is notoriously hard because it’s a long game.
It requires the determination and grit to try and test a variety of different avenues to see what calls to you. Your purpose is something that you’re willing to tolerate pain and struggle to achieve. You spill blood, sweat, and tears for it but you don’t care because you couldn’t live without it.
Without a sense of purpose, you can feel as though you’re wasting your life even if you appear to have all your sh*t together.
Don’t feel pressured by this. Many of us will spend a lifetime seeking that thing that brings our life meaning.
With each decision and experience, we have, what we thought was our purpose may well change.
So you must try everything that takes your fancy, embarrass yourself more often, and keep searching. This should be a joy, not a chore.
To help you get started, download the free ‘Finding Your Purpose’ e-book. There are no guaranteed answers I (or anyone else) can give, but it might help you get going.
12. DISCOVER WHO YOU REALLY ARE
All of the above along with any other internal improvements you might make to change your life for the better stem from the ability to know yourself better. Piece of cake.
The trick is being open to the pain.
Taking a good hard look at ourselves in all of our emotionally-naked glory is pretty uncomfortable for most of us but, if you want to stop wasting your life, then surely first you need to understand a few things.
Like, why do you behave the way you do? What stops you from taking action, what are your motivating factors for change, what does your perfect life look like, what needs to happen for things to be different and, what bad habits do you need to break?
Asking yourself these questions might sting a bit so feel free to do so in a dark, soundproof room so you can cry your eyes out to your heart’s content.
With each and every tear you might find some enlightenment. And, with each moment of enlightenment, you will discover exactly what you need to do to stop wasting your life and get living.