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3 Steps To Help You Stop Wasting Your Life

in Do What You Love, People & Products

This is a guest post from Amy Clover. Amy is the author of Strong Inside Out, a blog devoted to helping her readers overcome life’s obstacles through fitness and positive action, as well as a new book, Make This Your Moment.

What would you say if I told you you’re wasting your life?

You’d probably want to do one of these things:

  • Punch me in the face
  • Yell and scream, then blame it on someone else
  • Cry and hide in a corner
  • Shut down completely

But what would say if I told you…

If that’s what it takes to get you to realize that you are capable of so much more, so be it.

When I talked to Adam and the team of Crank Tank Studios for the “I’m Fine, Thanks” documentary, I was hard at work on my book based on the same theme. I couldn’t wait to talk more about this radical idea of creating your own happiness!

Yep, happiness is a pretty radical concept compared to the semi-miserable social norm that most of the world is stuck in nowadays. I’m not just saying this from my high-and-mighty-pedestal; I’ve been there, too.

You see, I used to live my life making excuses for why I couldn’t do things.

  • I can’t get out of debt because there’s just so much of it!
  • I can’t lose weight because I can’t stick with the program.
  • I can’t be happy because I was diagnosed with clinical depression and that’s a life sentence!
  • I can’t write a blog – let alone a book – because no one wants to hear what I have to say.

When I realized that the responsibility to change my life solely resided in me, everything changed.

The choice to be happy was mine to make.

When I had this epiphany, I turned my life around completely:

  • I devoted myself to fitness because it made me feel good inside and out, and changed my career path from miserable actress/waitress to personal trainer and wellness coach. Now I look forward to going to work every day! I’ve since left the corporate gym to work for myself and now make more money than I did working almost half as many hours.
  • I slowly crawled my way out of debt by putting myself on a payment plan and finding more ways to increase revenue for my business. I am now completely debt-free and even have (gasp!) rainy-day savings! My fiancé and I are planning to pay for our wedding without going into any debt at all.
  • I lost about 30 lbs of fat and gained about 10 of muscle after developing mindful eating habits and finding workouts that I enjoyed.
  • I finally created happiness in my life by taking actions to reframe my perspective and clear the clutter that made me unhappy. When my depression comes up now (which at one point led me to almost take my own life), I cope with it and take actions to feel better, rather than wallowing in it and letting it rule me.

You must make the decision to change and take responsibility for your life because – as far as we know – you only get one.

You might be thinking: “That’s all fine and dandy, Ms. I’ve-done-it-all Guest Poster, but it’s a lot harder than you say.”

Sure it is! I’m right there with you! Having been through it and having hit rock bottom, I’ll be the first to admit that change is freaking HARD – but it’s worth it!

The choice to be happy is YOURS to make.

I’m here to push you over the edge. I’m here to show you that change is possible.
This is why I chose to write Make This Your Moment: A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing Your Life … for Good.

Most of the people I talk to who are “stuck” in complacent or semi-miserable lives run into problems when it comes to making the decision to change and sticking to it, rather than the goal-setting aspect commonly covered in blogs and books.

It’s fun to dream and think of all the things you could possibly do with your life, setting goals to reach and not worrying about when you’ll get there.

Deciding to go after them, and sticking to your guns even when it gets hard, is the tricky part.

So I wrote my book about making the decision to change.

Today, I want to share with you some of the principles behind Make This Your Moment, and why I think it’s necessary for you to change NOW… before it’s too late. These steps will kick-start change and get you on your way to the life you deserve!

1. Realize what you’re giving up.

Every day that you refuse to face what’s making you unhappy is a wasted day – because you could have been free of that already!

Are you semi-miserable today?

If you haven’t done anything productive to get out of that state, you are committing to wasting one more day of your life.

You have all the power to change your life! Here and now, all you have to do is say: “How I am feeling is not OK and I am going to change it right now.”

Passively or actively, your life is what you make it. If you’re sitting, waiting for something great to come to you, I have some nasty news for you: You’ll probably waste your entire life waiting for it to come while other people take action to go get it.

Let’s take getting out of debt as an example. No one really likes being in debt. It’s just that some people think they don’t have a choice.

If you have seen other people like you achieve the changes you want to make, start asking this: Why not you?

Why can’t you be the success story you read about in magazines? Why can’t you be that triumphant person that has gotten out of all their debt and now has savings?

There is nothing special about the people that achieve great success except for the fact that they have the balls to go after it, fear and all.

Make the commitment right now. Choose change.

2. Identify what’s holding you back.

After you’ve decided to commit to change (and have sufficiently patted yourself on the back), it’s time to start identifying what you need to address.

Ask yourself this: What is adding to my unhappiness?

Is it a person, job, void in your life, or the way you look at the world?

Take out a pen and paper, open a blank document in Google Docs or Word or even Pages (for you stubborn Mac people out there), and start jotting down some notes.

Think about how you feel after you come away from someone or something.

Which people or situations drain your energy, leaving you exhausted afterward?

Is it debt constantly looming over your head that drags you down? Is it a person that sucks the life out of you every time you talk to him/her? Is it a job situation that makes you spend the entire weekend dreading Monday?

These are the things you need to start addressing. These are your roadblocks on your path to happiness.

3. Do something about it!

Now that you know what’s standing in your way, the path gets a lot clearer.

All you have to do now is act.

You know what’s bothering you.

What can you do about it?

There are many answers to your problems. Brainstorm a few and write them down. Though there should be a few options to deal with every issue, often the solution is the most obvious one.

If it’s debt, there are so many tools on this site (and You Vs. Debt) to explore to help you overcome it. Explore a few here.

If it’s a person, ask yourself what you can do to limit your time with him/her or even cut them out of your life completely.

If it’s a job, brainstorming other options, possible switches within the company, or exploring a new hobby to offset the everyday can lead you to action.

The people who achieve happiness and success (however you define that word) are the ones who choose to face what makes them unhappy and refuse to settle for less than what they’re worth.

This is the fun part.

We are all – every single one of us – worthy of a happy life.

If you come away from reading this post knowing only this, I’m happy.

I’m happy.

You’re happy.

What could be better than that?

What’s making YOU unhappy right now? And what one tangible step will you take to make a change?

Leave us a comment and let us know!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Marla June 26, 2012 at 9:29 AM

I love the idea of looking at getting happy as an active process! I have found that Step 2 is especially important… I have found that if I have too many energy-vampire situations going on in my life, that it makes it harder to do the “do something about it” step. Thank you so much for reminding me today that happiness is my own choice, and that it’s about the things that I eliminate just as much as the things that I add.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM

So happy you liked it, Marla!

I love your term: “energy vampires.” I’m stealing that one. ;)

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Dan June 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Yoga has changed my life. When you meditate and practice mindfulness you have to confront everything about yourself. I’ve learned to let go of negativity, it doesn’t help. That happiness is within, so seeking it without is misguided and whats more… that I’m not a victim of destiny, I’m the master of my life.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Hey Dan!

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, too! I just recently rediscovered yoga and it has changed the way I train as well.

I believe a lot of it has to do with getting in touch with the body and the breath. Becoming aware of your movements and the emotions that arise is the first step to dealing with them.

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Deane Alban June 26, 2012 at 11:29 AM

This came at a perfect time. My adult son is going through a particularly bad patch and I’ve been trying to find the right words to tell him he can change his life. He is in despair over his finances and job loss. His “uncool” mom is the last person he listens to (LOL), so I’m hoping he’ll pay more attention when a cool guy like Adam speak.
The important take away is that we always have choices. Just as we create a life that doesn’t make us happy through our choices, we can create a different life by making different choices.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:36 PM

I really hope this post helps your son, Deane. You’re right: we always have a choice.

One of my favorite quotes is this:
“We either make ourselves miserable, or make ourselves strong. The work is the same.”

-Carlos Castaneda

I believe “strong” can be replaced with “happy” and be just as true.

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Kevin Boyd June 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM

As its not always possible to get away from difficult people in your life, and I believe you can’t change other people or even the world, you can only change your reactions, your thoughts and your feelings towards what is happening in your life. So if you find someone in your life creates unhappiness in you then ultimately you can’t change them but you can change your reaction to them. Now it’s not quite that simple of course. You first need to gain awareness as to why you are reacting that way? Do they talk to you jut like that critical parent used too and so it brings up deep wounds from childhood. “Where ever there is hysteria there is history!” Once you get clear on what the trigger is you can start to transform that feeling into a new reaction. Tools like CBT and NLP can really help this process.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Thank you for bringing up this interesting point, Kevin. I say that all the time, too: You can not control other people, just your own reactions to them.”

I wrote a post called “Fire Your Friends” about this idea. I believe it was one of the most crucial steps I took to recover and make way for happiness. Though you can’t control those people, you can indeed change the way you react to them, limit your time with them, or cut them out of your life completely. I used CBT, so I’m a big fan of that method, though I know others who have found different techniques helpful as well.

Great comment, Kevin!

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marti boyle June 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Thank you for inspiring me today!!!

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:40 PM

More than happy to, Marti!

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Leah E-H June 26, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Fantastic! I love your post! And I agree, we’ve got to take action, even when it’s scary and hard. That’s exactly where I am right now. I know what I need to do, but I’m nervous about it! And I’m not sure where to step next. But I know I’ve got be proactive, I can’t sit and wait for it anymore. Thanks for sharing your words and reminding me to keep moving forward!

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Glad you dig the post, Leah!

That feeling you’re having right now is exactly why I wrote Make This Your Moment. That one step is often the hardest to take.

But that’s the beauty of it: once you take that first step, the rest doesn’t seem so bad.

It’s that commitment, that feeling of all-in that people really fear most of the time.

If you commit to taking one step at a time, however, I think you’ll take a lot of fear out of the equation.

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Leah E-H June 28, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Thanks Amy! You are totally right! After the first step, I know it will be easier to take the second step, and then the third. :)

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Paul June 26, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Love the report and you are so right. It’s all choise!

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Thanks, Paul!

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager June 26, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Biggest hurdle “Do Something About It” it’s easy to identify what is holding you back, it’s WAY harder to do something about it. Thanks for the inspiration. This cold is currently holding me back, but I know a little bit of rest and some tea will make it go away soon enough.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Funny you say that, Jenna, because I just wrote a book on that one subject: Doing it.

The first step is definitely the hardest, and different people do better with different methods here, too. You can either go all in or (as I suggest most of the time) take one step at a time.

Either way, I urge you to do something. Anything. Just go! :)

Glad you found it inspirational, Jenna! Thanks for commenting!

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Brian June 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Thanks for the great post! I linked to you because I couldn’t have said it better myself! Cheers

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Thanks, Brian!

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Mary Ann June 26, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Very good post! I am in a constant state of re-evaluating my job. I have a love hate relationship with it and though other parts of my life are doing well, I believe my job (10 years) is dragging me down, along with debt (which is why I need the job, ha). But I am working at it, and hope to get to the point of being debt free, where I can make better choices of what I’d like to do. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Hey Mary Ann!

Funny story…

I was working at a corporate gym job for a few years that started to weigh on me. I was scared to leave, but I just didn’t feel right in that setting.

I started my own personal training business with much fear that I would have to “start all over again.” Much to my delight, the clients came, I started making my own hours, and I didn’t have any numbers to hit except the ones I laid out for myself. A year and a half later, I work almost half as many hours and make almost twice as much.

I got out of debt because I LEFT my job. I know it’s not the typical story, but anything and everything is possible!

Glad you liked the post!

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Charlotte @ Richly Reasonable June 26, 2012 at 7:48 PM

You are so right! Life is too short to waist a day being unhappy. I have found that when I become over stressed, I have to have a talk with myself and get out of it. Life is too short! Happy is too easy.

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Amy June 26, 2012 at 9:03 PM

You have a good point there, Charlotte: “Happy is too easy.”

The thing for many people is that they think happy is difficult… because they haven’t tried. You can’t knock something til you’ve tried, right?

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Thepdcafe June 27, 2012 at 5:30 AM

Really great post Amy.

I think Leah E-H hit the nail on the head when she said “I know what I need to do, but I’m nervous about it! And I’m not sure where to step next. But I know I’ve got be proactive, I can’t sit and wait for it anymore.”

The thing is if you want to change your life it does not have to be daunting. Taking the first step can be so enlightening. By creating a personal development plan or action plan you can actually begin the process and identify your own goals.

Again great post.

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Amy June 27, 2012 at 4:00 PM

You’re right, Thepdcafe. Just like I wrote to Leah, taking one step at a time is all you have to commit to. If you concentrate on accomplishing everything at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and quit altogether.

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Michelle June 27, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Hi Amy, I loved this post because I can completely relate. So, 2 years ago, I identified that my job was making me miserable. However, I’ve been aggressively job searching for the past 2 years – networking on LinkedIn, perfecting my resume, practicing for interviews with friends, etc. I’ve also taken on many new hobbies in the past 2 years. But, I’m still miserable at my job and depressed by the fact that I’ve been job searching for so long. I feel like I waste my life coming to this job. What else can I do?

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Amy June 27, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Hey Michelle!

First off, congrats on taking the steps to create what you want in life! That’s an amazing first step.

So I’ve been hearing that the job search is hard right now. Besides being patient, can you start considering ways to create revenue on your own, without finding a new job? I know Adam’s written about that here (affiliate sites, etc.). Is there a way to harness your hobbies to start making money from them (teaching your hobby to others, creating a program, or making crafts to sell)?

If not, maybe start reframing the way you look at your job. If it’s necessary for the time being, look at all the things it provides for you: a roof over your head, food for you to eat, friends you might have there. When you re-focus on the positive, it might not seem so bad. But don’t give up with the aggressive job search! Keep putting yourself out there, go to job fairs, and brainstorm other options you may be able to create yourself!

Hope this helps!

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IMJ June 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Wow! Powerful stuff! It is posts like these from you and others that made me take the leap about two years ago. Although I am the type of person that always wants more and is hard to satisfy. I look back on what I accomplished to this point every now and then just to let myself know that I am making progress. It’s not an easy road all the time but it is a fulfilling one. Keep up the great work!

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Amy June 27, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Thank you, IMJ! So glad you’ve made such amazing progress and are finding the journey fulfilling!

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Dana Leavy-Detrick June 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM

This resonates so much with me. I felt this way almost every day in the months leading up to quitting my job and starting my business. I would look around at other people who had made the leap, started something really interesting, or maybe just decided to concentrate on their art full time and constantly ask myself, “Why isn’t that me?” And I eventually got really tired and burned out by that mindset, and started asking myself “Why shouldn’t that be me?” We really do have to put it into perspective, and Amy I really love point #1 – look at what you’re missing. I think that speaks volumes! I see this every day in folks who are struggling to get out of a job they hate when their heart and their minds are really focused on wanting to start a business. Great post!

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Amy June 27, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Thanks, Dana!

Great point: “Why shouldn’t that be me?”

In my book, I bring up the same idea. Instead of thinking “I could never do that,” start replacing that thought with “Why not me?”

There is nothing different about you that would keep you from the kind of success we see other people achieve: it’s all about the belief that we can and the will to go make it happen. :)

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Kris June 29, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I love the comment “The choice to be happy is YOURS to make.” It took me a lot of years to really understand what this meant (and to be honest there are times when I still struggle with comprehending just how powerful a statement it is). You may not be able to change your circumstances overnight, but you can smile, you can exercise, you can call a friend – there are many things you can do right now to take action and increase your happiness, if only for a short time. So thanks for the reminder!

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Amy July 2, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Yes, Kris! If we concentrate on what we can do right now, our focus can transcend our own hardships and and reset onto something helpful rather than harmful. By taking action, you tell yourself you’re worth fighting for. And remember: all you have to concentrate on is one step at a time, so don’t worry about anything more than the “short” while. Just one foot in front of the other. :)

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Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon July 1, 2012 at 3:05 AM

Very motivational post! We all make everyday decisions that add up to what our life ends up being. We all have the ability to change – it’s just how bad we want to. If you really want something, you will find a way to make it happen – period.

Thomas

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Amy July 2, 2012 at 10:33 AM

That’s a great way to look at it, Thomas. Life is a series of choices, for sure. Another great thing? If we end up making one wrong choice, we can choose to make the right one the next time around.

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David July 5, 2012 at 4:48 PM

“What would you say if I told you you’re wasting your life?”

It would be nice if you could read an article where the writer simply says: “you know what, you’re fine the way you are. You are enough.”

Instead, the danger is that this self-development industry makes people feel more vulnerable, and then it foists the proposed solution onto people who may not need a new book or CD programme. Because they’re fine the way they are.

That said, I’m sure that some people who feel in a rut will enjoy the kick this article gives them.

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Amy July 23, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Hey David!

Thanks for your honesty. I agree: this article isn’t for everybody. I think a lot of people are doing amazing things out there and don’t need that extra kick in the butt to get out there and live the life they deserve.

I wrote this in hopes that it would help those people who are not quite there yet. It was not my intention to make you feel like you’re not doing enough, especially if you are happy the way that you are.

I do believe, however, that vulnerability is something to be sought after, not a negative to be avoided. In vulnerability, we are able to view our lives without blinders or rose-colored glasses, and see the things we wish to change. Vulnerability can be a catalyst as long as we don’t let it destroy us.

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Christine July 22, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Thank you for such an inspirational post. I think, for many people, changing is almost worse than remaining in miserable. But change we must if we want to be happy. Besides, change is inevitable. It’s our reactions to change that either makes it smooth or traumatic.

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Amy July 23, 2012 at 10:32 PM

That’s the thing, Christine: so many people are so afraid of the unknown that it keeps them from achieving that beautiful, fulfilled life that every single one of us deserves!

You’re right about change being inevitable. It comes down to choosing change or letting it happen to us by default.

Thank YOU for your awesome comment! :)

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Chrissy November 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM

I emailed my college advisor a 5 paragraph email asking questions about grad school. I’m making a 3 year plan to get my masters and teach abroad. I put my stupid credit card in a frozen block of ice and I am going to pay off my stupid credit card debt in the next 5 months. I need to learn how to set attainable exercise and life goals for myself. I also need to learn how to sleep at night and stop worrying about my future.

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Amy November 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM

That all sounds great, Chrissy!

When it comes to sleeping, I know that problem very well. I find that yoga and making lists the night before works quite well for me. :)

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Melody November 30, 2013 at 2:12 AM

i dont know if anyone will ever read this. and im not sure if it will even matter, i’m only 18. but i’m watching all my friends around me as they developed their talents through middle and high school, particularly drawing, and i spent so much time with one person who i cant help but care about. i pretty much didn’t do anything for 10th and 11th grade and just about failed a grade. and i keep looking around me and i can only focus on 9th grade which i LOVED. minus english. but it’s just eating up my life and my mind. i feel like i’ve wasted something that so many kids get and develop social skills and talents with and basically all i can remember is 9th grade in my old school before i moved here to NC. i can’t help but feel like i’ve just failed as a person and it’s making it really difficult to get through high school with how my self image goes up and down so much. i will just give up then realize maybe i can do it and try but i cant since i fucked up earlier. and i just keep falling farther and farther behind. like i always did. and i don’t have a single real friend and i just miss when i didn’t care about shit and could do ok in school and it didnt get me down if i annoyed someone and when i didnt think about life too much. going back to that mentality just wont work and isnt appropriate anyway. i just hope somebody somewhere reads this and can help me somehow. like half hte time i just want to fucking kill myself because it somehow seems that hopeless. i just want to be a freshman again and just start over so like what do you even do then.
if you want my email ask.

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Amy November 30, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Melody, I hear you and I’m here.

If you feel like you are in danger of hurting yourself or others, please immediately call your local emergency number, or the suicide lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

What you’re going through right now really sucks, but I have to tell you that it is a process that you must go through in order to realize how strong you are. That doesn’t ease any of the pain, I know, but this time is your turning point. It sounds like you are actually getting MORE intelligent and aware, which is why all of these emotions are coming into play now.

If you recognize this time for what it is–the fire from which you have the opportunity to rise–it may help you to be more at ease with it. Focus on what you will become from getting through this.

You will discover more of who you are at your core. You will become stronger for having felt this depth of emotion, and from refusing to let it drag you down with it.

I know it hurts. I know. I’ve been there.

I cannot stress enough the importance of just breathing through it AND NOT GIVING UP. This is your chance to become who you really are!

I am not a mental health professional; this is just my take on the situation from my own experience with it. If you need some resources for groups, counselors or just want to know that you are not alone, try the websites for To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha) or oktotalk (just google either of them because I can’t include the links here).

You will get through this, Melody. Hang in there, talk to someone who can help more than I can (like a counselor) and know that this is making you stronger.

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