Sometimes I feel like life always ends up here: exhausted, weary, and burned out.
To be fair, I am an endlessly-relapsing perfectionist. I hold myself to unachievable standards. I strive, I push, I accomplish. It’s who I am—for better or worse.
Anybody else built like that?
Lately, my obsessive brain has been freaking out about turning 30. You see…
30 feels… old. (Sorry everyone older than 30). 30 feels like I should be doing things with my life. 30 feels like I should have my life together. 30 feels like I should have a clear picture of my future. 30 feels like I should know who I am and what I stand for. 30 feels like I should be done fighting the hardest fights. 30 feels like I should be married with 2.5 children and a white picket fence. 30 feels like I should be accomplishing things…
I actually keep a list of my accomplishments for days like this, to remind myself just how far I’ve come, but if we were sitting around a campfire I’d tell you most days it all feels utterly unimpressive.
My counselor once told me, “You’re the kind of person who terrifies me the most. Nobody would ever look at your schedule and your accomplishments and have any clue of the battles you face.”
We forget that struggle is universal, that everyone is battling something behind a chain and three dead-bolts.
One of my battles has always been to feel happy in the here and now and I’m not alone.
According to this report in Time Magazine, only 33% of Americans are happy with their life. WHAT? 1 out of 3? Boy does that scream about the culture we’re living in where gratitude and self-acceptance are as rare as an uplifting news story.
This year I set out to have the best year of my life—to be crazy happy by my 30th birthday in August. And so far, it’s helping. I certainly haven’t achieved a prolonged ecstatic state of euphoria, but I am taking actions every day to feel fully alive.
One of the biggest revelations of these past few months was just how much I was ruining my own life. So I’m focusing on… not doing that.
The truth is, life is too short to be anything but ridiculously happy.
So this year I’m saying to Hardees with that garbage. This year I’m fighting back. So here are 16 ways to stop ruining your life.
1. Fight All of the Lies in Your Head
Enough people. Enough. How many years are you going to believe the relentless lies in your brain?!
…that you are ugly, disgusting, unworthy of love and belonging. …that you don’t deserve the reckless and never-ending love of God. …that you are alone. …that you are too damaged to run to the arms of the perfect father in heaven. …that your past IS your future, that who you’ve been is who will always be.
The word Satan literally can be translated as “accuser.” The enemy will use everything he can to keep you numb and lifeless, to keep you stuck where you are. Punch that guy in the face and never look back.
Stop ruining your life by believing anything about yourself that isn’t from God. He knows you best.
Action Step: Write down every negative thing you believe about yourself and light that sucker on fire. Enough.
Let Jesus’ final words on the cross be your battle cry: “It is Finished.” —John 19:30
2. Stop Surrounding Yourself with Toxic People
Science has proven you are becoming like the 5 people you spend the most time with—whether you want to or not.
I know it’s hard to let people go, especially people who feel safe and never challenge you. Meeting new people is super difficult and exhausting.
This year I finally embraced this quote: “You can’t do epic shit with basic people.”
While perhaps more crass than necessary, this couldn’t be more true. If you want to be in great shape, you need to surround yourself with people who encourage you to eat well and exercise. If you want to change the world, you need to find people who give a damn.
Stop ruining your life by wasting your precious time with people who aren’t helping you become the best version of yourself.
Action Step: Look at your five and honestly answer whether they are helping you become the person you want to be. If they are not helping you on your journey, maybe it’s time to let them go and make space for new people.
A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses. Proverbs 27:19
3. STOP Complaining and Making Excuses
YOU. You are responsible for changing you.
No one is coming to do the handwork for you. No one is riding in on a white horse to cancel your massive student loans or teach you how to eat healthier. No one is coming to magically cure your addiction or to force you to meet new people.
It’s time you take ownership for how you got here.
Yes, the cards might be stacked against you. Yes, impossible things might have happened. Yes, there might be a defeat in your heart you think no one understands.
Except I do. I know that defeat. I know the impossibles and the excuses.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take hard work and grit. It’s going to take crazy amounts of vulnerability and humility. It’s going to take asking for help.
Stop ruining your life with excuses and complaints. Make a plan and go for it.
Action Step: Ask yourself, have you really given life everything you’ve got? Write down areas of your life that feel hopeless and make small, measurable goals towards your big dreams.
If you only ever did the things you don’t want to do, you’d have everything you’ve ever wanted. ― Mel Robbins, Stop Saying You’re Fine: Discover a More Powerful You
4. STOP With the Obsessive Busyness
A few years ago, I entered into a weekend retreat seeking the answer to this question: Which ministries should I let go of?
In that season, I was volunteering 5-7 days a week in about 12 different areas and I knew I had to let something go. By the end of the weekend, God had answered my question with a question (like he does):
What if your greatest ministry is being available to those you love?
You can’t love people well if you are never available.
Stop ruining your life by filling every second with things that don’t matter to your bigger purpose.
Action Step: Do an audit of your calendar. What is essential to your life purpose? What could go? What are you missing out on because of your busyness? Ask God to show you ways to free up time for Him, for rest and better relationships.
Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
5. Make Rest & Sleep a Priority
I have a weakness. Okay 47 of them. (48 if you count Flammin’ Hot Cheetos).
I am horrible at resting. My typical M.O. is to push incessantly until my body gives out and I am forced to rest against my will.
This year has been totally different. I realized I need one day a week off from work and forward progress.
The result? I haven’t been sick this whole school year (and I teach germy 6 year-olds). Focusing on sleep and rest has rippled out into every other area of my life.
Stop ruining your life by thinking sleep isn’t a priority. The best version of yourself requires rest. Even God freaking rested on the seventh day.
Action Step: Read 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep Book Recommendation: