Last year I listed 12 things I knew at age 50 that I wish I had known at 25. Now I'm a year older. And if I'm not wiser, at least I'm a bit more experienced. So here are 12 really stupid things I've done that I never want to do again. Maybe you've done some of them, too. But I'll bet we'd both be happier if we didn't...
1. Compare. Ever heard the saying "Compare and despair"? Comparing yourself to someone else usually means that you imagine the other person is better off, more satisfied -- in a word, happier. But here's the problem: We end up comparing what we know about our life, which is a mixed bag of good and bad, with a fantasy of someone else's supposedly "perfect" life. Why do we do this? Because we know all about our own problems, but other people's problems are harder to see. As a result, our real life always loses out. That leads to despair. Besides, there's probably someone comparing his or her life to your supposedly perfect one -- which shows you how ridiculous it all is.
2. "Should" on Yourself. It's devilishly easy to imagine yourself making a choice that would have taken you to a different place in your life. I should have married this person; I should have taken that job; I should have moved; I should have blah, blah, blah. This is called "shoulding all over yourself." (Say it aloud and the negative meaning becomes clearer.) Reflecting on our choices is an important way to grow, but you can't live your real life if you're busy living in your "should have" life. You'll end up torturing yourself. Jesus of Nazareth once said you can't serve two masters. You can't live two lives either.
3. Get People to Like You. I spent all of my teens, most of my 20s, a great deal of my 30s and too much of my 40s trying to get people to like me. But forcing people's affection rarely works. Plus, it takes too much energy to tailor yourself to what you think people will like (which is impossible to figure out anyway). Your true friends like you already. Be open to change and growth by all means; but treasure friends who love you for who you are. St. Francis de Sales, a lighthearted 17th-century saint, once said: "Be who you are and be that perfectly well." Read the other 9 stupid things here.