5 Mind Traps That Can Secretly Ruin Your Life & Limit Your Happiness
Life is a journey. That’s what we’re told. And it’s true in many ways. It has a beginning, an in-between, and an end. All lives do. Yet, most journeys will have pitfalls along the way. Difficulties we don’t foresee. Unfortunately, there are mind traps that can secretly ruin your life and limit your happiness. That said, some habits lead to unhappiness more than others do. These traps are easily avoided once you’re aware of them.
You must have seen certain people around you, who are in absolute control of their life and seem to have mastered the art of living.
Everything goes right for them and you may feel like they have a secret key that helps them sail through any crisis. Jealous? Well, you don’t need to be. There is nothing wrong in wanting a life that is free of potholes. But have you wondered if you might be making certain mistakes of your own that are making things so hard for you? One of the keys to cultivating an antidepressant brain is realizing you are not your bad thoughts or the stories they tell.
We all step into traps in life. Sometimes we can break free, other times we stay stuck.
Noble-sounding ideas can be destructive when put into action. What good is a personal code if it keeps you trapped into the wrong actions (ruining your life and emotional health?) Everyone is quick to yell “SCAM!” when they see something that could change their lives, yet passively accept the real scams. The problem with “it’s not a big deal” type thinking is that over time, it is a big deal. Real scams are woven into “the way things are supposed to be”.
One of the dangers of traps is that they’re unseen. They’re hidden. By the time you spot them, it’s too late.
But what if you could be warned about the traps along the path of your life journey? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know those you will encounter along the way ahead of time? You’re in luck. These traps are so common they’re nearly universal. They will almost certainly apply to you as well as to me. Here are some of the most common mind traps that hold you back from success — and how to overcome them.
Are you the victim of falling into these common mind traps? As the saying goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” So let’s get forearmed, shall we?
Don’t be fooled, life is full of traps and they are out to specifically get you! There are a lot of things you can do to mess your life up and a lot of those things are really hard to get out of. In order to be a faithful man, and not a foolish person, I believe there are five common life and mind traps everybody needs to avoid.
Trap #1: The Comparison Trap
First of all, we all compare constantly because social relationships matter to humans. It’s just human nature — we need to know how we are doing, comparatively speaking. As a result, we have an innate need to estimate our social positioning, and we are hard wired to fear too much difference which may lead to exclusion and isolation.
The problem is that people tend to compare themselves ‘too negatively’ or ‘too favorably’ — so our perceptions are for the most part inaccurate.
To escape this trap, recognize the resource offered through those who are farther along than you. Perhaps you may even find a mentor. Cultivate their lessons learned to fuel your growth. Share what you learn with someone who isn’t yet where you are. Look to be a better version of you, not to be someone else. Bring your focus back to who you want to be. Develop a mindset of appreciation and acceptance. Shift your thinking from evaluation to curiosity. Exchange worry for learning.
People often compare themselves to others to determine how well they are doing in life and base their personal value on that.
However, that usually doesn’t lead to feeling too good about yourself. Plus, who actually wants to judge themselves in a negative way? To put it simply, by comparing yourself to others, you are holding yourself back. Now, I know that just telling you to stop comparing yourself to others is easier said than done. In today’s world, with social media and how everything seems to be on full display for the world, it can be easy to compare yourself to others. But, you need to stop doing it in a negative way. By doing so, you’ll be able to move on with your life, reach your goals, be happy for others, and more.
Stop scrolling LinkedIn and comparing your career with others. Stop scrolling Facebook and comparing your social life with others.
In the age of social media, we are bombarded with displays of accomplishment, triumph and celebration, and comparing yourself to others is faster, easier and more prolific. But comparison kills the joy of achievement. Comparisons usually negatively impact our emotional health and wellbeing. They make us feel small, insecure, inadequate and unhappy because there is always someone better out there. Instead of focusing and working on what we can control, we see ourselves as failures and let self-pity obstruct our drive to succeed and change who we are today into something better tomorrow. Stop it NOW!
You are unique so don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy and equates to insecurities.
Each and everyone is unique in one way or the other. We have gifts and talents that makes us different from other people. He or she doesn’t look better, fitter or is living a better life than you. You will never be at peace or feel fulfilled by comparing yourself to others. We are all unique, and there no perfect human being. Stop wasting time and energy damaging your happiness by comparing yourself to others. Do not damage your happiness and self-esteem because you are looking for perfection. No one goes through life without having a hard time.
Trap #2: The Should Trap
You’ve probably met (or may be) a person several decades into their career who is still falling victim to the “shoulds.” This trap is the commitment trap, or should I say the lack of commitment. This is the trap we fall into when we give up and quit when things get tough and don’t quite live up to our expectations. Sometimes it can be something minor, but oftentimes it ends up being something serious — like giving up on a relationship, or the pursuit of our dreams.
A should statement is when you have ironclad rules for how you, or others, should and shouldn’t behave.
When our expectations fall short, we feel disappointed, frustrated, anxious, even angry with ourselves. You might think that these shoulds and shouldn’ts rules are helping to motivate you but in reality they end up preventing you from taking meaningful steps towards improving your life, similar to black and white thinking earlier. When you should yourself, you’re creating a ton of pressure in yourself to do or be something based on what you think you’re supposed to do or be. Rather than doing something because you truly want to be doing it. That’s not setting yourself up for long term motivation or compliance.
Should essentially means we’re using an external marker, an outside expectation, versus being present to our own authentic desires.
If it’s not a true want, I invite you to drop it. Why waste your life energy wishing for or working towards something you don’t actually want in the first place? Resisting your actual reality can cause a whole lot of emotional pain. There can actually be a lot of relief simply in acknowledging and accepting that we don’t like where we’re at. From there, we free ourselves us to get curious about what we’d like instead, to clarify our authentic dreams and desires, and then to be curious about how we can make that happen.
If you put your everything in something, winning or losing, you will get the reward you were looking for, no matter what the outcome is.
So, stop shoulding yourself and own it; because “later in life” and turning around and looking at you right now. It is what you do now, not what you “should have done“. When you stop using “should” you are instantly in control. When you start using “I will” or “I am” — you run the day, the day is not running you. Your mental peace and clarity will put you in the state of next level holistic well-being and give you the motivation and energy to go for it, with no stress and doubtfulness.
Sometimes, we can get so caught up in what we think we should do that we don’t stop to check in to see if it’s what we want to do.
Recognize that you are at choice at the moment. It can help turn “I should” into “I get to.” It may take a perspective shift to recognize that the activity you are planning to engage in is a small step in the process of a more significant desired outcome. Each step then becomes an opportunity to move toward the identity you’re seeking, instead of a task to be completed, allowing you to harness your personal power. Conversely , once you stop shoulding, you’ll realize how easy it is to move forward, to do what ought to be done, and to create positive momentum in your life that allows you to experience better health, relationships, income, success, and more. Stop shoulding, and start succeeding!
Trap #3: The Victim Trap
We all have things happen to us that we wish didn’t. Sometimes we are the victim of violence, injury, mistreatment, or abuse. It’s okay to call it for what it is. But we also have a tendency to see ourselves as a victim when the blame really lay with us. Personalization involves taking everything personally or assigning blame to yourself, without any logical reason.
Psychologists have found that personalization can lead to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
To work through this cognitive distortion, take a step back and think about what part you played in the situation. Then consider how you might not be entirely to blame. By looking at things from an outsider’s perspective, you may discover that there were a variety of factors at play, and that the outcome is not a direct reflection of you. Remember, you are worthy of the life you have envisioned for yourself and the world will be a better place once you’re the hero.
Do you often find yourself saying: “Everyone else is to blame, not me“?
People who think like that are usually over-simplifying. On the one hand it’s easy to cede responsibility; on the other hand — and this is the big disadvantage of this thinking trap — you end up losing sight of your own potential to influence a situation, as well as opportunities to develop yourself. Remember to say to yourself “There’s always something I can do” or to ask yourself “How can I do something to change this?” before you start pointing fingers.
One of the most common thinking traps we fall into is emotional reasoning: taking our emotions as evidence for the truth.
When you use emotional reasoning, whatever you’re feeling at the time is believed to be true automatically and unconditionally, regardless of the evidence. This can be really harmful because it creates a loop: you think something negative, it makes you feel bad, so you think something negative, which makes you feel even worse — it’s dangerous, circular logic.
Do you find yourself resisting suggestions or resisting the options you have to improve your life?
If you hold onto the idea that there is nothing you can do to change your life, you may be caught up in the victim mentality. The good news is, there are ways to get out of the victim mentality. Make yourself the hero of your life. When you’re the hero of your life, you acknowledge the challenges in life and the impact of trauma without focusing on blaming other people or institutions for your pain. Do not allow these experiences to take away your innate power or agency.
Trap #4: The Expectations Trap
As with other things on this list, expectations can be a positive or negative. It can be great too raise our standards and expect more from ourselves. But if we use expectations as a ruler with which to measure our worth, we are in trouble. Don’t beat yourself up for not having succeeded overnight. EASY does not imply BETTER. Seek the RIGHT way.
A common mindset pitfall is being too hard on oneself. This mindset goes hand in had with perfectionism and being habitually tough on yourself.
You may think your high expectations are helping you or others do/be better, but in reality they are probably hurting you and making life more difficult. Relax and let go of the reigns a little. It’s great to have positive belief or clear intentions for the outcome, but keep your expectations realistic. If you find your expectations are stopping you from taking action, then you might be pushing too hard. Find a smaller goal. Breathe and focus on excellence, not perfection. A great shift in mindset here is to aim for imperfect action – that’s where you choose to action even though you know it’s nowhere near perfect. You get things rolling, and you improve as you go.
Salvador Dali once said: “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.“
Perfectionists expect themselves and others to be perfect and end up failing massively. It’s unrealistic and unattainable. However, perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with striving to improve. It’s useful to strive to better oneself so you can develop, progress, and be successful. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not. The goal should be to see the positive in mistakes and to accept one’s own mistakes, as well as those of others. Mistakes are a learning experience and help you to progress. They teach you how to do things differently and how to get closer to your goals.
Excellence is a worthwhile pursuit. Perfection is not.
With few exceptions, perfection cannot be achieved. You can come close. But perfection itself is almost always elusive. There’s little sense in pursuing what cannot be reached. But even if perfection WAS achievable, the cost is usually too high. The pursuit of perfection is extremely time consuming. It also consumes enormous amounts of energy. It’s exhausting. In very few cases is perfection worth the cost even if it could be achieved. Perfection is so seldom required. We may think it is. But it’s not. So opt for excellence. Don’t fall into the perfection-seeking trap.
Expectations cause us to set the bar too high or too low.
Our preconceived ideas can tell us something will be perfectly wonderful and then when in reality it doesn’t hit the mark we’re let down, disappointed, or angry. Or conversely low expectations can convince us that we won’t enjoy or like something before we even try it. We taint our taste buds with bitterness and fail to allow ourselves the potential joy we could have experienced with the new opportunity. Ask yourself if you are biasing your opinion. Are you establishing self-fulfilling prophecies or are you being realistic? With realistic expectations you can avoid unnecessary disappointment and lows on the roller coaster of life.
Trap #5: The Ignorance Trap
You’ve probably met some self-appointed “know-it-alls” in your lifetime. People who present themselves as experts on every subject. They can get pretty annoying. Don’t become one yourself. So when you think you know something, do everyone a favor and confirm your knowledge. Do some personal fact checking. Try to separate true knowledge from things you picked up as a kid. Instead of assuming something about someone or a situation, ask questions and get the facts first. Assumptions can often lead to incomplete conclusions.
Ignorance on the surface is not really a bad thing, but there’s a difference between not knowing and not knowing what you don’t know.
I call this “unconscious incompetence.” You can avoid this trap by asking questions and not pretending you know something when you don’t know, especially when you think you should know. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask; because if you don’t ask, you’re still dumb because you still don’t know. Whereas with ignorance, we don’t know or pretend to know, with laziness, we refuse to do what we know because “I just don’t feel like it.” It’s a refusal to get up and get going. Someone who waits to do something only when he “feels like it” will never accomplish anything great.
Besides, sometimes we forget to step out of our own viewpoint. We are one-sided in our thinking.
We get convinced that our reality is the ONLY reality, and we all too often assume that people should know what we are thinking or feeling (because it’s so clear to us)!! Our brain tends to oversimplify the world, and we tend to believe we have a clear view of the world. Be curious, engage deliberately with new viewpoints — this is sometimes called an inclusive mindset. Welcome differences of opinion whilst knowing that you can choose to maintain your position, or let it go and form a new position if you hear something convincing from the other side. Resist the temptation to go into your usual defense or argument. Stop deluding yourself that you know what others are thinking.
Always being right comes down to follow the wrong path.
When someone falls into this trap, they tend to put other people on trial to prove that their own opinions and actions are the absolute correct ones. If you use this distortion, being wrong is unthinkable and you’ll go to any length to prove your right. Often being right can be more important than the feelings of other people, even close family and friends. If an oncoming car is in the wrong lane and about to hit you, do you stick to your guns and stay in your lane because you’re right and they’re wrong?
Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much happiness is under your control—the product of your habits and your outlook on life. Keep in mind that unhappiness can catch you by surprise. So much of your happiness is determined by your habits (in thought and deed) that you have to monitor them closely to make certain that bad habits don’t drag you down into the abyss.
As we go about our daily lives, there are some common mindset traps we all fall into on a regular basis.
Getting stuck in these traps can have a big impact on many areas of our life: our confidence, relationships, health, energy, fulfillment and success. But if you can learn to understand more about these common pitfalls and get some strategies for how to avoid them, you can radically change your mindset and change the results you are getting in almost every area of YOUR life.
Know what? When there’s a space empty of doing, restless voices rise up.
And these voices keep us stuck in the depression loop. These days our brains are being trained to be noisier, busier, and more distracted. You’re sitting alone waiting for a drink. Your eye catches your phone: “I wonder if I received any new messages. Nope, not one since a minute ago.” We feel compelled to fill the spaces, but we don’t realize that in these empty spaces, we have a choice between doing and being; it’s where possibility and opportunity emerge, and where there is a chance to make changes for the better.
Changing your habits in the name of greater happiness is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.
All of these traps, if not avoided, can jeopardize any relationship that’s important to you. You can’t always avoid them, but you should always be aware of them. Because a great person isn’t one who doesn’t make mistakes; a great person is one who learns from them and doesn’t repeat them. Don’t forget that taking control of your happiness makes everyone around you happier too.
At the end of the day, everything revolves around good feelings, rationalizations, and linear thinking. Your form is as fluid as you allow it to be.
After reading this article, you hopefully have a better understanding of your own default or automatic mindset, including patterns of negative thoughts, opinions, judgments and beliefs. You are now able to recognize the most common types of negative mindsets in yourself and others. So, which of the above traps do you fall into? And what changes would you like to make to your mindset and why? Please leave a comment below and join this conversation.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.