I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we humans do the things we do. It got me thinking, “How much of what we do is unnecessary, or even worse, detrimental to our well-being?” After speaking to a few friends, we came up with a list of over 50 items, which I quickly narrowed down to 8 as I found many that fit into similar categories.
I’d also like to add that these things appear to stem from fear. In fact, my guess is that 98 percent of the negative/apathetic action or inaction we take is fear-based. I’ll go even further to say that these items stem from one very specific and very universal fear: the fear of death. Not physical death, but death of the ego or perceived self.
You see, the mind can be very tricky. It latches onto ideas, events, images, feelings, everything really. In this way, it attempts to create a sense of self. The mind especially loves patterns or habits. It follows that the more habitual action in which we engage, the more the mind identifies, and says, “OK, this is who I am.”
If our habits tend to be mostly negative, then how does that make us feel about who we are? As if that weren’t enough, we become attached to that sense of self, and develop aversion to anything that threatens it. Just some food for thought as you look over the list.
This is one of the most natural of human tendencies. It is one of the largest tell-tale signs of an unconscious mind and resistance to what is. Next time you find yourself complaining, ask yourself why. Can you accept the situation?
Another common human trait. What is it really doing for you? Remember that the person you’re speaking about is a complex being with dreams and fears just like you. Chances are you probably don’t know their whole life story or circumstances. Cultivate compassion.
In my experience, procrastination involves some pretty intense anxiety. You know what you need to do, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it NOW. Why put yourself through that? Take a breath and do what you gotta do.
4. Incessant business
Whether you have the most important job in the world or not, we all feel the need to do something or many things often. That is fine and natural. But we all must take a breather. Find the Taoist in you, and think, “At the end of my life, will I regret that I didn’t do more work, or will I regret that I didn’t spend more time really enjoying myself and others?”
5. Spending money on things you don’t need
Not sure this needs too much explanation. Most of the time we buy things to increase our sense of self. Remember that your self, your true self, needs no add-ons. You are already whole. You just need to realize that. On a practical note, this will also save you a good deal of money!
6. Worrying about what everyone thinks about you
This may surprise you to hear, but most of the time no one is thinking about you. Don’t take this the wrong way. All I mean to say is that worrying about what others think is ultimately worrying about yourself in a negative light. And guess what? Everyone else is doing the same thing. Most humans are self-involved. Take comfort in this and stop concerning yourself with the thoughts of others. It’ll free up a lot of mental space!
7. Perfectionism and self-doubt
Recently, someone said to me, “Perfectionism is actually Failurism.” Why? Because when you are a perfectionist, you constantly doubt yourself. You look for the failure in your life and attempt to fix it. Then you have to deal with all the failures that crop up from your attempt to fix the last failure. It is a destructive and unnecessary cycle. If you’re always focusing on the negative, your mind begins to identify with that. Why not try focusing mostly on the positive?
8. Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future
Ah, yes. This is the most insidious of habits. Fear loves this habit, because it keeps you in a perpetual state of terror. You are afraid to repeat past mistakes or let go of past hurts. You spend your time fantasizing about how you will fail. Guess what? It’s not real. The past is gone forever. You will never actually be in the future. All we have is this moment. How will you choose to spend it?
You may be saying, “OK, but how do I do that?” Well, I wrote a post for that very reason. Check out 7 Great Ways to Kick Bad Habits.
By Terence Stone
Featured Art: The Scream, by Edvard Munch
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.