It was the height of the real estate and stock market bubble. We were living the high life in Costa Rica, renting a $2 million mansion, driving a new bling-bling SUV, staying at all-inclusive resorts on the weekends, and eating at new restaurants every week.
Life was wonderful. Except that it was filled with stress.
I was worried about paying the bills. I was worried about making more money. I was worried about what our friends thought, what the neighbors would think, and about having the right ‘image’. I was happy, except for when I was stressing. And that seemed to be often.
Fast forward five years later, and I rent a simple house in Guatemala, own few things, have few bills, enjoy the company of great friends, a wonderful family, and have lots of opportunity for adventure and service -- and very little stress.
While circumstances can certainly contribute to the level of stress in our life, the majority of it comes from within. We are the creators, and controllers, of the amount of stress in our life.
As I analyzed what caused me stress ‘before’, and why I felt less of it ‘after’, although there were a change of circumstances that contributed, I also recognized some habits that are common of ‘highly stressful people.’
1. Waiting Until You Get ‘There’ to Be Happy
If you’re always looking forward to reaching that goal -- making so much money per month or year; getting that job promotion; buying that bigger house or nicer car -- than you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to be happy now.
Instead your mind and heart are focused on ‘getting there’ -- you’re stressing about working hard to reach that goal, so then you can relax and enjoy life. You’ll never get ‘there’, because there will always be something else. And even if you do ‘arrive’, you’ll discover that the stress doesn’t go away, because it comes from within.
2. Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses
Similar to ‘waiting until you get there’, if your sense of peace is based on how well you keep up with your neighbors, you setting yourself up for major inner discord.
When we moved to Costa Rica, we first planned on renting a quite little cottage in the shadow of Volcano Arenal for only $400 a month.
But after a visit to San Jose, the capitol city, we saw the luxurious lifestyle of the expats there and got sucked into it. First we rented a $1500 a month home on the hill, then moved even higher into our $3000 a month mansion on the hill. We shopped for $7000 couches and other audacity’s, to try and ‘keep up’ with our neighbors.
While we had a lot of fun, and made some great friends, eventually we realized that it wasn’t what made us happy, and that we were chasing after the wrong things. I often wonder what our life would have been like if we’d rented the $400 cottage.
We are each unique individuals, and we won’t all share the same interests or abilities. Focus on fulfilling your special mission in life, instead of trying to keep up with your neighbors.
3. Thinking About Money All the Time
The challenge with living a luxurious lifestyle is that it can often result in lots of bills. And lots of bills means spending lots of money. Spending lots of money means you need to earn lots of money. The result is you end up thinking about money a lot of the time.
But people with lots of money are the only ones who think about it. It was Oscar Wilde who said, “The only people who think more about money than the rich, are the poor. They can think of nothing else.”
Rich or poor, money plays a major part of our life. It’s the fuel of our economy. But it isn’t the most important aspect of life. A lot of the time we forget that. We have to allow ourselves to think about more than just making money. Allow yourself to think about living.
4. Not Living in the Present Moment
Speaking of living, stressful people usually spend their time worrying about the future, or brooding over the past, rather than being in and enjoying the present moments.
Life is lived now. We can’t know what will happen in the future, no matter how much we may create in our minds. We can’t change what has happened in the past, no matter the ‘alter’ scenarios we might concoct. Living happens. Here. Now. Be there.
5. Comparing Your Life to How It Could Be
Along with living in the here and now is appreciating what you have -- here and now. If your life is filled with stress, it often comes from wishing your life was different from what it is.
Yes, maybe your life used to be better. Maybe you hope it will improve in the future. But your life is what it is now, and no matter how ‘bad’ it might be, there are things you can be grateful for. Even if it’s just breathing. Or sitting. Or having eyes to see. There is something to appreciate about your life right now, if only you look for it.
Quit waiting to find peace until life is how it could be. Appreciate it now.
6. Focusing on the Negative
When you are filled with stress, it’s because your mind and thoughts are focusing on the negative. How could it be otherwise? Stress is a negative emotion, and comes only from having negative thoughts.
If your thoughts were positive, then you wouldn’t feel stress, but peace and joy. Living in the moment and finding things to appreciate are both ways of focusing on the positive, instead of the negative in your life. That simple change of habit can create immense amounts of peace.
7. Overcomplicating Life
Life doesn’t have to be a complex web of activity and things. Having too much, doing too much, being committed to too much all result in high levels of stress. Simplifying reduces it.
Focus on what is important to you, and spending time doing those things every day, will bring far more fulfillment than chasing a hundred different activities, or surrounding yourself with lots of ‘stuff’.
Stress is something that comes from within, not without, and is usually a result of following one of these seven habits
A major shift in the quality of my life came when I finally learned to accept that my life wasn’t going to get better once I reached a certain goal, or achieved a certain income. It improved when I decided to practice new habits of peaceful living. That can happen at anytime.Tags: Busyness, featured, life lessons, Lifeonaire