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Every one of us harbors grievances, large and small, that we feel are fully justified. Whenever we are treated unfairly by a friend, colleague, or lover it creates resentment, and we want that person to realize the error of their ways and apologize so we can feel whole again. These feelings are understandable and hard to help, but what if the vindication we are expecting never comes, and we are left to stew in our own anger?

I have a 40 minute walking commute to and from my job in the city. I’d mostly use that time alone to daydream and think about my life, but sometimes my thoughts would turn darker, and inevitably I’d start to focus on certain people who had wronged me in some way. As much as I wanted to stay positive, I couldn’t help being irritated by these grudges I felt. In my mind, all the grievances I had were obvious and clear cut, and I expected (demanded!) to be fully vindicated one day.

Then it dawned on me that this was all pointless, delusional thinking. For starters, I was replaying a negative tape in my head day after day, which wasn’t doing my mood or outlook any favors. Secondly, the odds that these people I held secret grievances against were going to one day have an epiphany, see the error of their ways, and apologize was basically zero. The most likely scenario is that they weren’t even aware that they had done anything that had upset me. All this ill-feeling was created in my own head. I was never going to get the vindication I was seeking, and it was foolish to keep feeding this self-inflicted negativity.

Even if you’re convinced the grievances you’re harboring are legitimate, you have to accept the fact that your day of vindication will probably never come. In fact, you should just assume it won’t. What’s amazing is once you make that switch it your mind, your grudges start to melt away, and you won’t have to waste any more time on corrosive emotions that do damage to yourself, and your relationships. Making this switch is essential if the person you are holding a grudge against is someone you want to be part of your life. Otherwise, the secret resentment you’re holding on to will slowly erode the relationship; with them completely unaware that they’ve done something to upset you, and you awaiting an apology that will never arrive.

There’s another argument to be made about speaking your mind whenever you feel you’ve been wronged, to at least make the other person aware that you’re bothered by something they’ve done. This can and does work, but it’s best saved for when it’s something significant, or if you’re having trouble letting go of your anger. You don’t want to be the kind of person who is overly sensitive and complains about every perceived offense. You may ultimately get the apology you’re after, but at the cost of pushing that person away.

So don’t waste any more time brooding over petty grievances. If you want healthier relationships and a more positive mindset, stop waiting for vindication and move on with your life.

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Updated: Aug 12, 2021

How old is too old when it comes to changing anything significant about ourselves? If we’ve always been selfish, can we start to be less self-centered and more generous once we hit our 40s? Is there any hope for someone with a short-temper to be more patient and mellow out in old age? What about the person with a history of being a flaky friend, spouse, or parent? Is anything over 50 too old for them to clean up their act?

The answer to these hypothetical questions is never straightforward. Is change possible? Yes. Probable? No. What is clear is that making any kind of material changes to our personality or character is hard, regardless of how old you are. But it becomes exponentially harder when you’re older, set in your ways, and fighting to overcomes decades of behavior and thought patterns that have become cemented over time. As we age, our routines become more rigid, energy levels decrease, and we are more likely to seek the comfort of what we are already know; all of which works against our ability to change.

So how can you do the improbable and change a significant part of your persona as an older adult? For starters, you should first identify what it is you actually want to change about yourself. Ben Franklin was famous for the list he kept of 13 virtues that he wanted to improve upon in his life, and even gave himself a daily score so he could track his progress. You don’t have to be that extreme, but it does help to have something written out to provide motivation and hold yourself accountable. Once you’ve identified what you want to change, then the real work begins. This means reminding yourself constantly of what you’re trying to accomplish, and then putting that to use in real-world practice. Just telling yourself how much you’re going to change while enjoying some wine at home won’t be enough; you need to get out there and actually do it. Every day we are faced with situations that test our patience, honesty, capacity to be generous, etc., so there won’t be any shortage of opportunities to make improvements. This method of change may feel a bit strained and mechanical at first, and there will be plenty of setbacks, but that shouldn’t discourage you. You’re trying to overcome years and years of ingrained behavior, and there are no short cuts. It’s going to take a consistent effort, and a great deal of time, to wean those undesirable traits out of your system and form new habits.

Again, this won’t be easy, but think about what it would mean if you’re able to accomplish this type of change. The benefits are immeasurable. Not only will you become a better person, but now nothing will stand in your way of growing and experiencing new ways of being at any given age. And the more improvements and positive changes you’re able to make throughout your life, the closer you’ll get to reaching your full potential.

This issue is important to me because there are still several things I want to change about myself. I want to be more giving and less selfish, more patient and less anxious, more spontaneous and less rigid. For years (decades really) I’ve kept putting these changes off, thinking I’ll eventually get to them someday. But someday is just procrastination and wishful thinking. There is real work that needs to be done now if I have any hope of making these long-overdue improvements. And the longer I wait, the harder it’s going to be. I don’t want to be on my deathbed wallowing with regret that I never made a real effort to change and fulfill my potential as a person.

This effort to change yourself for the better could be the fight of your life. You’re up against the forces of entropy that get stronger and stronger as we age and keep us stuck in our ways. If there are things about yourself you would regret never changing in your lifetime, you have to summon the will power, energy, and discipline to put these changes into place now and see them through. It will undoubtedly be hard, but it can be done, despite your age.

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As much as we want to plan for our future, we aren’t guaranteed anything beyond today. It’s the here and now that’s the most important time of our life, and the one we have most control over. With that in mind, if you just focus on making each day as fulfilling as possible, then you are giving yourself the best chance of living a great life when all is said and done.

So what makes a great life? Incorporate the following eight routines* into your day, then repeat every day after that for as long as you live.


1. Challenge yourself

Many people erroneously think the goal of life is to reach a stage where you’re completely comfortable, without any more mountains to climb or fears to overcome. Picturing yourself on some beach drinking piña coladas in retirement sounds nice, but it’s bullshit. That would be fun for a day or two, and then you’d be bored. The truth is we will always need some form of challenge in our lives. Whenever we work hard and overcome fear to achieve something difficult, the rewards are plentiful. Our free time feels a lot more enjoyable, happiness levels increase, hell even food tastes better, because we feel like we’ve earned it. I experience a low-level feeling of anxiety and self-doubt any time I sit down to write. I get the same feeling whenever I go to jiujitsu practice. This anxiety occurs because I know these activities are going to be hard and challenging. There are so many other things that are easier and more pleasurable that I could do instead. But I still choose to challenge myself every day, because I know that once the hard work is done the rewards are going to be wonderful.

2. Move your body

Putting in time each day for physical exercise is an essential part of a healthy life. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer walking, running, dancing, biking, or whatever, as long as you engage in some type of consistent physical effort. You don’t have do any crazy workouts or spend a bunch of money on a gym membership either, just do the bare minimum and go for a brisk walk if that’s all you can manage (even better if you can break a sweat). The human body is so adaptable and self-sufficient that even just a half hour or so of movement each day can help you maintain good health throughout life. Not only that, if you push yourself hard enough, you’ll be rewarded with a wave of endorphins that lower stress and increase happiness. This post-workout bliss is one of the best natural highs you can ever experience.

3. Learn something new

Exercising your body helps you stay in shape, but your brain needs a workout too. And just like the dopamine hit you receive from a hard workout, learning is one of the best natural highs out there. Anytime I learn something new and interesting, I’m rewarded with that same pleasant rush of pleasure chemicals. So not only are you getting smarter, but you feel great as well.

Education is a lifelong process that shouldn’t end when you finish school, especially when you consider what an incredible time we are living in for learning. We have easy access to an unlimited amount of information that we can consume in a variety of ways. If you’re interested in learning about a certain topic but reading books isn’t your thing, there’s certain to be a documentary or YouTube video you can watch, or even a podcast or audiobook to listen to. It’s never been this easy to learn something new and expand your mind.

4. Get a full night of sleep

No matter how busy your life is, getting sufficient sleep should always be a top priority. I used to take pride in sleeping as little as possible, and brag that I would just sleep when I’m dead. How stupid I was! There are few things in life that are as restorative, and that have as positive of an effect on our outlook, mood, and health, as a full night of sleep. When I get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep I feel like a completely different person; more optimistic, focused, and energized. It’s amazing that you can get all of these benefits from something that comes naturally and doesn’t cost you anything.

5. Be social

Spending time with friends and family is what makes life fun and meaningful. We are all social animals, and companionship is vitally important to our well-being. Even if you’re a full-blown introvert, all of us could benefit from spending some time socializing each day, if just to get out of our own heads. Life just isn’t as colorful if we have no one to share our hopes, laughter, and triumphs with.

Being social is even more necessary when we aren’t feeling our best. Many of us, myself included, tend to isolate ourselves when we are feeling down and want to be left alone. This is a mistake. Despite how we’re feeling in that moment, being around others is exactly the remedy we need. Every time I make the effort to get out of my head and be social, I feel better. Without exception. There are few things in life that can raise our spirits more than the comradery of being around people we love.

6. Relax

Not everything you do needs to serve a productive purpose. As stress builds up throughout the day, your mind and body need time to decompress and recuperate. When and how you choose to relax is up to you. I personally love to relax after a meal so I can digest properly, as well as leading up to bedtime so I can ease into sleep. My relaxation method of choice usually involves a good book, a funny sitcom, or a glass of wine, but it can be anything. Even if it’s completely unproductive and mindless that’s ok, as long as it helps restore your energy levels.

Aside from its restorative effects, relaxation also helps you tap into your subconscious. When we are busy with life, we are usually so preoccupied with the tasks in front of us that we have trouble seeing the bigger picture. When we are fully relaxed and our minds unburdened, it’s much easier to discover new insights about ourselves, and our lives, that were previously not so obvious.

7. Give back

All the knowledge and wealth we accumulate is pointless if we just keep it to ourselves; giving back completes the circle. Giving back can mean a wide range of things, whether it’s volunteering your time, giving money to someone in need, or just checking in with friends and loved ones to see if you could help with anything. It doesn’t have to involve a huge commitment either. Just make it a point to do at least one thing over the course of your day that helps someone else. Not only will that person be grateful for your help, but giving back makes you feel good too, so everyone wins.

8. Silence

We all need a brief sanctuary from the constant stimuli of our everyday lives. Making time for a few quiet minutes each day to clear our thinking, reflect on our lives, and count our blessings, provides an enormous boost to our well-being. I’ve found this usually works best first thing in the morning, or right before bed. I’ll close my door, put my phone on silent, and jot down a few reflections in my journal. Just these few minutes of daily silence can help provide a lifetime of clarity and appreciation.

*Notice that most of these activities require little or no money. Think about that when considering how much wealth you actually need to live a great life.

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