Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “the purpose of life is not to be happy; it is to be useful”— words that ring true to date. Sadly, many people still spend their lives pursuing happiness at all costs, not knowing that it is, in fact, a by-product of living a productive life
A wasted life is only realized at the end of the road, and what usually follows is a myriad of hat ifs’ and should haves’. So how can you tell if you’re not living up to your full potential? The answer to that is simple: introspection. Look at your lifestyle, your attitude towards things, and how you interact with people and your environment. If you notice any of the following signs, chances are you are wasting your life, and it is about time you did something about it.
1. You’re settling for less
There is nothing wrong with being content with what you have, but don’t mistake contentment with fear to achieve more. One of the telltale signs that you’re living below your potential is when “good enough” becomes your standard. When you realize that you no longer care about bettering your status or making the most out of every day, when you are no longer interested in achieving your biggest dreams and becoming who you have always envisioned yourself as, and when you begin to enjoy the status quo, that’s when you’ll know that you have given up trying to live your life the way you want to, and are instead going where the tide will take you.
2. You’re Mortified to leave your Comfort Zone
Human beings are creatures of habit, and once we settle into a routine, it takes so much willpower to break out of it. But the laws of evolution dictate that only those capable of adapting to new environments are able to survive. We’re not talking about survival here, but the same principle applies when it comes to progressing in life. If you’re stuck in your comfort zone, you don’t explore new opportunities, and you don’t take any risks. You cap your progress in life by resisting change and clinging on to what is familiar because familiar is comfortable—nobody wants to live in unfamiliarity. If you are scared to do things that may improve your life simply because you’re not used to doing them, then you will never move forward.
3. You Live to Work
Society has gotten to a point where the only way to measure a person’s success or achievement is by how much work they can get done, a notion that has become such a part of our constitution that we work ourselves to death and call it a life well lived. While there is nothing wrong with earning your keep, living a life that revolves around your job denies you the chance to experience the other joys of life—family, friendship, new experiences, and more importantly, new opportunities.
There is no right way to live life, and there’s no wrong way either. When you look back at your life in your sunset years, the things that seem so important right now may pale in comparison to the things you’ll wish you would have dedicated more of your time to.
4. You spend too Much on Material Things
Even though we may forget the ambitions we had as kids, our subconscious mind doesn’t, and it has very strange ways of expressing this yearning. You find yourself spending too much on unnecessary items of luxury like new watches, the latest smartphones, clothes you did not need but bought anyway because they were on sale, and anything else that satisfies that yearning within us. If your main source of happiness comes from buying or receiving material gifts, this is what your subconscious mind is trying to tell you: you are not doing anything worthwhile with your life; find as many other ways to validate your self-worth as possible.
5. You Prefer to Live in Your Head
If you find it easier to drown in endless thoughts and fantasies instead of interacting with people and appreciating the environment around you, you’re on a path to self-annihilation. Ask any of the great minds of today—the Elon Musks and Richard Bransons—and they will tell you without hesitation the importance of staying grounded in reality. Being a thoughtful person is great, but don’t mistake it with incessantly spending time envisioning things in your mind without ever hoping or planning to put anything into action. You don’t need any experts to tell you that you’re wasting your life building castles in the air.
6. You’re Always Seeking Distractions
Anyone who spends too much time on their phone or watching TV is living life on the sidelines. You are not meant to consume endlessly, and your brain is designed to accept information, to analyze it, and to act in response to new stimuli. Forcing it to relentlessly feed off of the endless sources of information at our disposal today merely turns it into a garbage compactor of useless information, and you lose your ability to form original thoughts, which form the basis of self-awareness. It is impossible to be anything in life if you don’t fully understand who you are.
7. You subconsciously undermine yourself
If you constantly let excuses undermine your ambitions, then you’ll never get to where you want to be. Take a moment to think about this: life is going on all around us right now. Even as you read this sentence, someone somewhere is dying, and another just sucked in their first breath. Someone else has just bought their dream car, while a couple somewhere has finally been blessed with their firstborn child. Life is happening right now.
It doesn’t wait for tomorrow, and it doesn’t care whether you’re ready to live it; it just goes on. So don’t trick yourself into believing clichés like “it’s not the right time” and “I’m not yet where I want to be.” Life will pass you by as you make excuses that stop you from living to your full potential. The time for action isn’t today, or in a few hours’ time, it’s now.
8. You’re stuck in the Past
The importance of living in the moment cannot be overstated. A mind that lives in the past is never present, and to create the future you desire, you need to focus on making the most of your waking moments.
9. You Go Where the Crowd takes you
You’re wasting your life if you constantly seek validation and direction from others, even on matters that only impact your life. Not everyone that you’ll allow into your life will have good intentions, and even those who will won’t always be aligned with your life’s dreams and ambitions. Being a social person is vital to wholesome living, but making decisions based entirely on what other people want you to do will not only get you nowhere fast, it will also cause you to lose your identity.