Top 10 Things People Do To Get in Their Own Way

1. Have Kids Without Thinking. Too many people have kids because it’s the thing to do, it’s what they feel they should do, or because their spouse/partner wants them to. Very few have kids because they want to, because they have thought it out carefully and it’s not a sacrifice to take this on. Most people should wait before having kids, because this is the only way to do other things which kids might get in the way of later — such as starting a career, or pursuing any kind of opportunity that takes time, energy and money.

2. Wait for things to happen automatically. We live in a time and place where a lot of things get done. Technology and capitalism have brought us a lot, and still bring us a lot. This creates a sense that competence and achievement — your own, or anyone’s — is to be expected. This is a positive and healthy attitude. However, it must be matched with a corresponding determination to create your own achievements. Achievements and good things don’t simply happen; they’re always brought about by somebody. If you want even minimal achievement in your life, you have to keep working at it … all the time!

3. Expect to please others. It’s not enough to say that it’s impossible to please everyone (although it is). It also doesn’t matter. You don’t have to please anybody else. Everybody wants to be happy, but they’re too busy caring about their own happiness to worry about what you’re doing. The need to please others often starts in childhood. Most children aim to please, and some parents, through their irrationality or general detachment, are hard to please. It’s understandable that a child would try to please his elders, but once you’re an adult this makes no sense at all. Of course if you’re doing a job or running a business there are standards to meet and people to please. But it’s not your job to make people happy — simply to do what a customer or a boss asks you (and pays you) to do. It’s not necessary that anyone like you. If you like what you’re doing in life, then you’ll like yourself. And people who genuinely like themselves tend to be relaxed, calm, inspiring and happy. It’s not difficult to make friends or find romance under those circumstances.

4. Act as if you can change others. No matter how much you say, “I know I can’t change others,” it’s still possible for you to act or feel as if you do. This is particularly true with significant others, or maybe co-workers. You cannot change others’ actions. You can only motivate or persuade. You will only persuade another if you have his or her attention and respect. If you want to persuade someone to change behavior, earn his attention and respect first. You can motivate others if you have power over them, but there are very few people who have power. Policemen have power, and bosses have power — not absolute power, but power. Not many other people have power, and even these people have limitations. Use or abuse of power doesn’t necessarily get you what you want, either. Unless you persuade someone’s mind, you’ll never see lasting and authentic behavioral change.

5. Act on Impulse. To act on impulse means to act without thought. If the decision turns out badly, you’ll only have yourself to blame for not thinking first. If the decision turns out well, you’ll know that you got lucky — but don’t deserve the credit for the good outcome, since you never put any thought into it.

6. Overestimate what thought can do. Some people who aren’t impulsive, and who do think, expect thinking to give them certainty that it cannot always provide. Yes, you can be certain that one plus one equals two without taking any action. But there are many things that require experimentation. You might think you’ll enjoy a certain activity, but you won’t know for sure until you try. People who overestimate what thought can do will assume, “I have to keep thinking about this until I’m sure.” No, what you actually have to DO is take action and experiment.

7. Expect things to stay the same. Whether or not a circumstance changes depends in part on other people, and in part on various factors. Just because something works well for you doesn’t mean it will continue to work well for others. One man’s reassurance and comfort is another’s impediment. Failing to take this into account means you will lack back-up plans when something changes. Bad idea!

8. Expect things to change. This is the reverse of the above. It’s kind of like having ONLY a back-up plan and waiting for something to happen so you can use it. But waiting for something to happen is passivity, and passivity alone is never a good idea. Sometimes waiting makes sense and is worth it. But you need a back-up plan for your waiting, in case the waiting goes on too long!

9. Thinking that being kind, nice and reasonable should lead to the same behavior from others. Right or wrong, rational or not, people do what they choose. Your being nice and reasonable will bring out the best in people who are already like that. But if somebody doesn’t want to be reasonable, or doesn’t care to put the effort into doing so, then your own behavior in that respect will make little or no difference. This false expectation leads people to become resentful, hurt and angry, and to withdraw into their caves or shells. Eventually most people come out, but without correcting this erroneous thinking the pattern will repeat itself. All that time in your cave or shell is wasted time, time that could have been better spent if you stopped having this unrealistic and false expectation.

10. The false theory of intrinsic value. In plain language, this means that there’s nothing wrong with you that corrected thinking cannot change. It’s your thinking that might be messed up: Not you. Likewise, you’re only as good as the quality of your thinking, and your willingness to act on that thinking. You are what you think and what you do. This means there’s nothing so wrong with you that you’re beyond repair; nor can you never falter, because as a fallible human being you’re subject to error. The good thing about errors is you can learn from them, and they’re always correctable.