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The Top Five Ways People Make Life Unnecessarily Harder

Getting what you want in life is lot easier when you stop doing the little things that complicate matters in a big way.

Blindly Complicating LifeEvery day we see people doing things that just make you wonder if common sense is a super power. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re just as guilty as those people when it comes to doing things that have the potential for making life a lot more complicated. So based on an honest self-assessment and my observations of others, here is my list of the top 5 ways people consistently make life unnecessarily harder and some tips for eliminating them.

Doing High Risk Activities Using a Blind to the Risk Mentality

America’s Got Talent and shows like it are filled with people who do dangerous and spine-tingling stunts. Everyday life has its fair share of crazy acts too. Sometimes we’re the audience, and sometimes we’re the act doing things like standing on the edge of a railroad platform or curb at an intersection or driving with noise cancelling headphones on. Why do seemingly normal people do high risk stuff? One word answer – convenience. We’ve become so enamored with doing things that we perceive to be convenient that we stop seeing the potential risks we’re taking. In August, my wife and I were walking in Washington DC, and she was texting as we walked because she had to get that text sent right then. You guessed it – she tripped as she walked off a curb and broke her foot. That was the beginning of a painful, time consuming, and expensive lesson because she is still recovering five months later. So what can we do to stop ourselves from being blind to the unnecessary high risks we’re taking?

Potential Solution(s): Conduct an honest self-assessment and look for things you and your family members are doing that have the potential to cause a loss of something – time, money, health, etc. Make a list of those things, and then get an agreement to work on eliminating each undesirable behavior. Some will be habits and therefore will take time. Also agree on how you will handle holding each other accountable because change is hard and it doesn’t happen over-night. Be prepared and be realistic in your expectations in changing behaviors.

Having A Bad Attitude and Still Expecting a Wide Latitude

When I was a child, I was taught to not cut a line. Apparently those rules no longer exist. In our always connected,  gotta get mine now world, people have become conditioned to be short on patience. That impatience is accompanied by an attitude that (if sound effects were added) would sound as if a Bruce Lee fight scene was underway. The interesting thing about these SNAttitudes (snappy attitudes) as I call them, when people have a snattitude, they still expect others to give them a wide amount of latitude afterwards. In my work coaching an executive management team, I witnessed an executive go on a venom spewing tirade and once done, expected everyone to agree to go to lunch at her choice of restaurant. Sure it was dysfunctional. Unfortunately, many of us put the U in dysfunction, and this is making our lives a lot harder than necessary.

Potential Solution(s): Take note of your personal preferences for communicating, getting things done, and dealing with conflict. Chances are, you may not be aware how you’re coming across to others and potentially ticking people off. The DiSC Behavioral Assessment is an excellent tool for identifying and reviewing behavioral preferences. Also read my article on Blind spots. We all have them. Being aware of them can help keep you from derailing because of them.

Hoping and Wishing Instead of Addressing and Solving

What have you said you’ll do or hope to do and haven’t gotten around to it yet? We are all guilty of this and for various reasons which include fear, lack of know-how, lack of priority, etc. The impact of leaving some things unaddressed can be significantly more painful than others. I once kept putting off paying a $15 parking ticket only to have the deadline pass and my driver’s license suspended. Have you been to a department of motor vehicle in recent memory? While there, I’m pretty sure people thought I was crazy because I kept mumbling out loud how I wanted to kick myself in the rear for having to get my license reinstated over something so trivial and completely avoidable.

Potential Solution(s): In full disclosure, this is one of my not so strong areas. Where I am not as strong as I need to be, I develop ways to compensate for the weakness. My wife is particularly strong at managing details and getting lots of things done, so I’ve asked her to take over things that I am prone to overlook. This is an effective strategy when you have the right person and / or process that can help you compensate in this manner.

Criticizing, Complaining, and Condemning without Contributing

My cousin, who is a flight attendant, recently shared a conversation between a gate agent and a passenger. The passenger said, “If I can see the plane, see the crew, and the sky is blue here, why can’t we go to Philly?” Never mind the overly publicized fact that there was about 6 inches of snow, low visibility, and extremely high winds in Philadelphia that led to the flight delay. Nowadays people are quick to identify problems without contributing any potential solutions, and this makes life much harder than it has to be for them and those who are in their immediate circles of influence.

Potential Solution(s): A favorite prescription of mine for helping people keep their focus on solutions is to hold people accountable to this practice: for every problem you want to discuss, be prepared to propose three solutions and at least one of them must include you. It works. Try it!

Staying Stuck on Sameness On Purpose

Recently I was at a gas station and observed a gentleman asking for directions. What made the interaction most remarkable was the fact that the man asking for assistance was using a printed map. A rare site indeed. Some people refuse to adapt and change, and it makes life a lot harder when people refuse to use tools, processes, and approaches that provide a dramatic improvement over outdated ways of doing things.

Potential Solution(s): Change is hard, and in certain situations, people simply are not going to change. A great resource for helping people who are willing to change is one I’ve written about in several blog articles. The book “Change Anything” from the authors at Vital Smarts is a fantastic resource and guide for those who want or need to change resistant and persistent behaviors.

The Floor is Yours

Those are my top 5 things people do to make their lives unnecessarily harder. What would you add to the list? Please share them in the comments below.

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