The Year of the Quitter! (Part 2)
[This post is a continuation of "The Year of the Quitter (Part 1)."]
As the saying goes, nobody likes a quitter. But if you really want to experience true happiness and fulfillment this year, that’s exactly what Todd Patkin says you should strive to be in a few key areas.
Foxboro, MA (January 2012)—Overall, Americans are just plain exhausted—and it isn’t surprising. Society tells us (not very subtly, either) that we need to perform to a certain standard, look a certain way, weigh a certain number, make a certain amount of money, and much more. Too bad that “perfect” lifestyle is impossible to achieve. Nobody can do it all, all of the time. So when you inevitably take on too much and allow one of the plates you’re juggling to drop, you end up disappointed, tired, and miserable. Case in point: How are your New Year’s resolutions faring? Chances are, they’ve already fallen by the wayside, and you’re feeling like a failure.
According to author Todd Patkin, the problem is that you set yourself up for disappointment by having unrealistic and unsustainable expectations. Instead, he says, you’ll be best served by making 2012 the year you stop doing things that aren’t adding to your happiness.
Stop giving so much. If you don’t, you’ll eventually run dry! The fact is, there are a lot of people in our lives who depend on us and who want our help, our time, our advice, etc. Especially if you care for those individuals, of course you’ll want to be accommodating. (Or perhaps you just have a hard time saying no!) For whatever reason, it can be all too easy to keep giving and giving and giving to others to the point where there’s nothing left for you.
“If you are that person—if spending all of your time and energy on others is the norm and doing something for yourself is extremely rare—watch it,” Patkin warns. “Figure out what is important to you and what fulfills you, and prioritize those things more. Stop putting others and their needs first all the time! In order to be happy, you have to know what your strengths are, and you have to play to them on a regular basis. You can’t live your life primarily to please other people.”
Stop pushing your kids so hard! As parents, we really care about our kids, and we want them to have the best possible futures. But that doesn’t mean you need to turn into a so-called “Tiger Parent.” Too much pressure to perform can cause children of any age to burn out and make self-destructive decisions. In fact, some kids are experiencing symptoms ranging from stomachaches to severe depression due to the day-to-day stress they encounter at school and at home.
“I have a teenage son, and I know how easy it is to get neurotic about pushing your children to succeed,” Patkin admits. “We all want the best for our kids, and even if you don’t want to admit it, it’s easy to get addicted to that swell of pride you feel when your son or daughter wins top honors. As I’ve said before, though, it’s crucial to remember that success and happiness aren’t the same thing. Your kids will be much happier, healthier, more creative, and more motivated throughout their lives if you prioritize balance and love them for who they are, not for how many As they get on their report cards.”
Forget quality time with your kids. …And start focusing on quantity! According to Patkin, it’s easy to use the words “quality time with my kids” as a free pass to focus on other aspects of your life 95 percent of the time. In other words, we want to believe that we can make up for working 70-hour weeks by taking a trip to Disney World, or catch up on all of the week’s events while going out for ice cream. But the fact is, life is found in the everyday moments, not in the big blowout trips. And kids themselves are perceptive—they can tell if they always take second place in your life.
“Doing ‘normal’ things with your kids on a regular basis will mean more to them—and to you—long-term than the occasional extraordinary event,” Patkin promises. “So build regular ‘parent time’ into your schedule, and try to be present for as many day-to-day activities as you can. But don’t throw so-called quality time out the window, either. For example, you might set up a special night one or two times a month with each of your children—just you and them. Most of all, remember that once your kids are grown the things you’ll miss the most are activities like throwing the ball and reading bedtime stories, so make some good memories now.”
Cancel your gym membership. No, Patkin isn’t saying that you should give up on exercising, and of course, if you’re already a gym lover, continue going. But for newbies, he does recommend starting with something that’s sustainable. The truth is, many Americans purchase gym memberships, only to find that their grand plans to take classes, work out daily, and lose weight don’t pan out. Usually, sooner rather than later, real life gets in the way, and not going to the gym becomes just one more thing to beat yourself up about.
“The key to instilling any habit in your life is to make it doable,” Patkin points out. “So if exercise isn’t already a regular part of your life, start small. Take a 20-minute walk every other day around your neighborhood—that’s it! You can work up from there if you want to. Also, try not to make physical activity all about weight—it has many other benefits. Exercise will make you feel more relaxed, stronger, and more capable of handling life’s challenges—also, it will improve your sleep, and it’s a natural anti-depressant that will help your attitude and outlook.”
Stop obsessing over your health. Everywhere we look, there’s a new medical threat to worry about. Sure, you can spend a lot of your time worrying about BPA in your water bottles, drug-resistant bacteria, or the likelihood of whether swine flu will overrun your community. Likewise, you can make appointments with specialist after specialist whenever you feel sick, and try every new vitamin, supplement, and protein shake on the market. But it probably won’t help as much as you hope! At the end of the day, you’ll never have ultimate control over everything you touch, breathe, and eat.
“If you allow yourself to fret over every health threat you hear on the news or see on the Internet, you’ll be afraid to leave your house without a hazmat suit on,” Patkin says. “Just eat right, go to the doctor, and fit in as much exercise and relaxation as you can. If you don’t, all the worry and stress will be what ends up killing you!”
Trash your goals. …Except for this one: Be happier! Much like striving for perfection, being too goal-oriented can harm more than it helps. When you’re always focused on the “next big thing,” you’re perpetually anxious, you often forget to live in the present, and you’re never able to enjoy all of the blessings you already have. Plus, taking a step back from “the plan” can bring some much-needed clarity. You may find that the direction you’ve been headed isn’t what you want after all!
“My breakdown—at the time—was horrible. But it really was the best thing that ever happened to me in the long run,” Patkin states, “for it forced me to literally drop all of the things I’d been working on and to reevaluate how I was living my life. For the first time, I consciously realized that my ‘successful’ life wasn’t making me happy. I promise you, when you prioritize your own happiness and well-being, you’ll be truly amazed by how smoothly everything else falls into place!”
“Believe me, being a ‘quitter’ can be a very smart move, as long as you’re leaving behind activities, habits, people, and responsibilities that aren’t enriching your life,” Patkin concludes. “Above all else, as you move through this year, take it from me that a successful life without happiness really isn’t successful at all!”
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About the Author:
Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.
About the Book:
Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.