8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don’t Even Realize It

 —  — 65 Comments
108 Flares 108 Flares ×
Wasting your life

This article was written by Ivan Chan! Give him a warm welcome to Self Stairway in the comments and let him know you enjoyed his article.

Deep down, you know your life is meant to be something more.

So you can’t help but wonder:

“Is this all there is to look forward to in life?”

At first, it’s just idle curiosity. But over time, that innocent little thought starts nagging — starts making you doubt what you’re doing in life. Just a little at first, and then slowly your doubt spreads. Like a disease, it contaminates all other thoughts and makes you question them too.

No longer are you so sure about what you’re doing, or the choices you’ve made, or where your life is heading.

One moment, you thought you were doing OK in life. And then the next, you are desperately trying to shake this scary thought from your head:

“What if my whole life is a waste?”

Not wasted in the dramatic sense like committing a crime and spending the rest of your life in prison. Instead, it is the insidious wasting of a life that takes place over years with many seemingly small, harmless habits and decisions. I came to realize the process of wasting your life is slow and doesn’t happen overnight, but the results are devastating.

During college, I thought the world was my oyster. I was always pushing my limits to see where I could go next. Run for leadership positions in students’ clubs and win? Check. Get sponsored to go on international conferences for free? Yep. Study and live in Japan? Been there, done that.

Fast-forward a few years, and I had “settled down.” You know, the whole 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, office routine. On top of that, I had my chill-out-after-work-in-front-of-the-TV routine. Sure, I still went out with friends, but I couldn’t help but feel my life was reduced to nothing more than a boring rerun.

Day in and day out, it was the same thing over and over again.

And then it hit me: I’m just “putting in time” now, waiting for something better to happen in life. If that’s not wasting my life, I don’t know what is.

Could the same thing be happening to you? Are you wasting your life?

Most people don’t recognize these “harmless” routines they may have fallen into, so they go about their lives as if nothing bad is happening. But these routines are lethal in their tendency to waste lives if left unchecked. People often don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

So unless you learn to put them into reverse now, you could very well look back on your life with regret.

How to Tell If You Are Wasting Your Life:

  1. “Good enough” has become the new standard. You don’t try hard anymore. You don’t try new things anymore. You are merely content with the status quo.

    Being content with what you have is fine, but make sure you don’t confuse “being content” with “settling for less” because you are too scared/lazy/tired to go for what you want. Life is too short to play small. You don’t want to waste yours.
  1. You think work is the only thing that matters. Most adults spend the majority of their waking hours working. While that may be true, that doesn’t mean your work should consume ALL of your waking hours.

    Spend time with your friends and family. Enjoy your hobbies. Go on a new adventure. Work to live; don’t live to work.
  1. You’re always chasing the latest toy. Can’t live without that latest cell phone, luxury car, or new line of clothes that just came out? We all have weaknesses. But if you’re always chasing after material things, you should ask yourself why.

    Could chasing toys be a reflection of your unhappiness and yearning for something more in life?
  1. Television is your best friend. According to a recent study published by Nielsen, Americans on average spend over 30 hours a week watching TV. That’s over 4 hours a day.

    Maybe you should spend some of that time with friends and loved ones instead. Otherwise, you may very well die alone. Sounds extreme, I know, but it’s your life we’re trying to save from being wasted here.
  1. You often escape into a fantasy world. For a brief time, you get to leave your current existence and experience something else entirely different, but you should never replace living with mere fantasizing. Live your dreams instead.

    Do you even remember what they are? Are you following them now or are you merely living someone else’s dreams?
  1. You always have a reason not to take action. Isn’t it funny how some people say they want something, but never actually take ACTION to make it happen? Maybe it’s saying they want to travel, or get a new job, or find a new boyfriend/girlfriend. But as soon as they say they want something, they sabotage their own plans by giving an endless list of excuses why it wouldn’t work.

    Always remember that inaction gets you nowhere in life except to a place filled with regret.
  1. You often find yourself reliving the past. Ah, the “good old days”. You may have heard your elders use such language. Your elders may not be going on new adventures as often as they did in the past, but what about you?

    Are you really content with spending your waking hours reliving the good old days while others actually go and live new adventures
  1. You let others tell you how to live. Plenty of people will enter your life – well-intentioned or not – who try to tell you how to live your life. Will you listen? Thinking it through would be a good first step for you. It’s your life and you only get one chance to live, so don’t waste it by living dependently on the commands of others.

The Choice Is Yours

What would you regret more? Would it be enjoying life fully or dragging yourself through each day and wasting your life? Reaching for your dreams, or complaining about what could have been but never was? Walking the path that you’ve chosen for yourself, or walking someone else’s path just because you were told?

A life that could have been but never was is effectively a wasted life.

You deserve more so here’s your chance.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but you have a choice today. That choice will be something you either look back on fondly, or do so with deep regret in your heart instead.

I, for one, have chosen to live life on my own terms. No more boring reruns. No more self-defeating excuses. No more wasting time.

Today is the start of a new adventure.

What are you waiting for?

Join me!

108 Flares Twitter 101 Facebook 0 Buffer 7 Email -- 108 Flares ×

Are You Struggling With Self-Confidence?

Join my community of 2,700+ members and get free access to:

  • The Compact Guide to Charisma, Confidence, and Being Well-Liked.
  • Weekly quick tips on anything ranging from how to get anything you want to turning off your inner critic.
  • New articles delivered straight to your email.
  • Exclusive content and stories not available on the site.

 

The following two tabs change content below.
Ivan Chan teaches professionals how to make smart money decisions that fit their lifestyles. Unfortunately, it looks like the website he used to run is no longer up.

Latest posts by Ivan Chan (see all)

65 responses to 8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don’t Even Realize It

  1. Thank you, Ivan, for writing such a wonderful post. Strange though. This was meant to go live three and a half hours ago but WordPress gave me an error I’ve never seen before. It gave me a “Missed Schedule” message so I had to publish this manually when I woke up.

    • Thanks, Vincent! I’m really glad you gave me a chance to write for you! LOL, that is strange (with the scheduling thing). I’m glad you caught it!

  2. Awesome post, Ivan!

    The intro really spoke to me, though I can identify with some of the 8 points (certainly not the TV one, thank goodness!)

    Sometimes I wonder what I’m really working towards, I forget about my long term visions. It’s easy to wait for things to happen, but we all know that things don’t ‘just’ happen. Putting in consistent effort, 110%, allows things to happen.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Sam! I’m glad you liked it!

      You’re absolutely right that it’s easy to get complacent sometimes and wait for things to happen. We all do it. And that’s OK. What’s important is that we reflect on what we’re doing every now and then, and correct course as necessary.

      Life changes. Long-term plans change. Our goals change. It’s OK if you aren’t sure what you’re working towards today. Keep searching and reflecting. We are have our own paths to travel. You’ll find yours someday.

    • It’s definitely not easy, Sam! I’m struggling to be consistent while I’m in Cali for my month+ long vacation.

  3. Ivan, what a great post. Until six or so years ago, I was guilty of many items on your list including making excuses not to take action and letting others dictate how I live. Now that I have starting taking action and living a life I love, I never wake up sad nor do I feel like I am wasting my life. I wish that for everyone, and I’m glad you’re spreading the message!

    • That is awesome, Tammy! Glad you and CJ are just living life with enjoyment. :)

    • Thanks, Tammy! It’s great to hear that you’re living life on your own terms. You know you must be doing something right if you don’t regret waking up each morning!

      Just like you, I know how frustrating it can be to feel like your life is a waste. It’s not a fun feeling to wake up to. Fortunately, I am now making an effort to do something with my life (which is where my business/blog comes in).

      I’m glad to hear you’re taking charge of your life as well. Keep it up!

  4. Great post Ivan! I think the true danger in these points is that they enter your life very innocuously. For most people, myself inlcuded, the transition from passionate youth to adult robot is slow and subtle. In the end you’re so convinced that there really is no other way to live, that this is not just normal but a fine way to pass your limited time on Earth. The good news is that we can wake up to this, anks for spreading the good word!

    • Thanks, Jeff! You’ve hit the nail right on the head.

      When we’re in school, a lot of us (me included) probably thought we would NEVER become one of those middle-aged robots you’ve mentioned. Fast-forward 10 years, and here we are among their ranks!

      The saddest part is that some people, after doing this for years, simply resign themselves to such boring and meaningless lives because they think there’s no other way.

      But there IS another way. All it takes is for us to continually reflect and ask ourselves if this is really what we should be doing with our lives. After all, simply “passing time” is a terrible waste of a life!

  5. Perspective often gives us unexpected feelings about our actions. Perhaps we should be less harsh on ourselves, as you point out.

  6. But Friend how to get rid from the past? and living in the fantasy world about what could have happened? :'(
    These two are the biggest problems for me to be honest. I hope you write some inspiring post about it as well.

    • For your first question, it is about a change of mindset that is vital. You don’t want to get rid of the past no matter how tragic. There’s no point in it because in all honesty, things will always resurface. What you learn to do over time is accept the past and look at it from another angle.

      Figure out if these events in your past shaped you today. For example, just last night a friend of mine made a comment “Thank God you did not get with ____.” You know what? My friend is right. It would have ended very poorly for me if I continued down that road, but I do not ever wish that what little that did occur be erased forever.

      Why? It is because these events shaped me and taught me what to avoid in the future. It also taught me resilience. I used to look back on those days with angry eyes, but now all I see is growth.

      As for your second question, these fantasy scenarios we run through our head can be devastating. There’s no magic formula to removing them all from your head.

      What works for me is to remember that fantasizing about things is always nice, but what is even better is to get out there and take action. Take steps to get yourself closer to what you want whether it is what you want now or perhaps something that may come along in the future.

      • Thank you mate..
        Surely, Things are the way you wrote but still i ill want you to write something like this ” How to get rid of XZY ” etc
        Believe you me there are millions out there who dont get to read what you wrote and maybe title may attract them

    • With your first question, it really helps to think of your past as a learning experience (as Vincent has suggested), and not something that you should get rid of.

      Now I admit: that’s a lot easier said than done. Try what Vincent has suggested. If that’s too hard, then just let things be for a while. Sometimes we just need time to let our emotions settle down before we are ready to deal with it. That’s OK.

      As for your second question, I agree with Vincent that there’s no easy shortcut. It sounds like you’re dreaming about what COULD have been (but never was) – is that right? If that’s the case, then honestly ask yourself this: knowing what you knew back then, did you choose the BEST decision/action you could have chosen?

      If the answer is no, then see how you can learn from the experience so you can choose better next time. If the answer is yes, then you’ve already done the best you can do. Take comfort in your best effort, and try to move on.

  7. Great post, Ivan. I have felt this way before, but even with the routine I must keep to do what’s best for my daughter, I’m able to break out. We can live with a balance of routine and adventure. Your list is good. I rarely watch TV. I do escape into fantasies, but do it when I write song or fiction. It’s a productive part of my overall balance. Taking walks, short trips, and vacations does wonders.

    • Thanks, Dan! Keeping a balance is indeed the key, and it is possible for everyone. It’s just not necessarily easy, and there isn’t a universal formula that works for everyone. It’s up to each of us to find it ourselves.

      Great point on how and when to use fantasies to enrich your life!

  8. Nice. This reminds me of the quote I saw recently that really made me think: If you want to be interesting, be interestED. It’s easy to stop looking for new things – get out there and discover!

    • That’s true, Amy. People love others who know how to listen because who doesn’t like talking about themselves? Active listening is a skill that is so important yet many people lack such an essential tool. The ability to listen in itself is a valuable and interesting trait.

    • So true, Amy! Indeed, the best way to have something interesting happen in our lives is to put ourselves out there. You may just experience something new and unforgettable if you dare to try!

  9. Great post Ivan Chan! Living a significant and fulfilled life is about living intentionally. Finding and making daily steps toward our purpose and dreams. While avoiding some of the roadblocks you mentioned.

  10. A great article to remind me to be alert to the routines that bind. Life gets busy and I can find myself back into practices that are wasting time.

    • Be mindful of your routines and distinguish between what’s good and bad. There are many routines that were actually beneficial to me that I seem to have lost somewhere along the way. For example, I used to have a morning routine that would energize me for the rest of the day. I haven’t been as faithful to them these days and I can definitely feel the draining.

      • Thanks Vincent, I am going to renew those good practices. As you say you do feel the difference. Enjoy your holidays.

      • I hear you, Vincent. I used to wake up early each morning before going to work to exercise and plan out the day ahead.

        Unfortunately, I’ve been lazy lately which means I end up getting out of bed at the last possible moment. As a result, I definitely feel my days are now more rushed, chaotic, and stressful.

    • Thanks, Karen! I’m happy to hear my article is able to help you at the right time!

      Life does get busy sometimes and before we know it, we can find ourselves taking a step back towards bad habits. It can take 3 – 4 weeks to establish a good habit, but only 3 – 4 days of being off-track before we’re back at square one.

      Personally, I find the best thing to do is to devote some time each week to reflect on what is and is not working in my life. That always seems to be a good reality check for me.

  11. Thats about right. I used to have a huge problem with living in the past and thinking about the good old days. Once I realized it was holding me back I started looking forward to future things.

    • That’s the attitude, Ralph! Living in the past does nothing but hold us back from being in the here and now. I’m happy to hear you’re now looking forward to what’s ahead of you. Good for you!

  12. Ivan, I have to say I love your writing. The way you express your ideas really spoke to me. I always find that our words have a certain power and the apathy was tangible when you described the feeling “what if my whole life is a waste?”

    One of my most detested phrases is “settle down”, as though everything that went before finding a partner or having children was an adventure and it inevitably ended when a family was had. This article reminded me of what I’m striving to achieve in my life (and made me proud that I’m a striver at all!) Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Kris!

      The phrase “settle down” gives me the willies too. It’s like someone has lived a good life and they are now ready to stop living. Well, we stop living only because we choose to do so.

      I’m excited to hear from people like you who are still striving, still living life to the fullest. I’m proud of you for being a “striver”! Keep it up!

    • Ah, settle down. I never quite understood that. Why do people look at life as a large adventure that halts the moment you find someone you love? Strange.

      I’m sure it does take a lot more work to make life fun when you make a family of your own, but it certainly isn’t the end of your life. But what do I know? I’m just a kid. :)

  13. I can’t believe I forgot to mention this when you first wrote this, Ivan. A great way to measure your life and aspire to make it greater is to think if everything you’ve done up until this point is worth writing an autobiography on. Can your life up to this point last 30 chapters of an autobiography?

  14. Hey, Ivan, that was a really good post. I particularly liked this line: “I came to realize the process of wasting your life is slow and doesn’t happen overnight, but the results are devastating.”

    I’ve experienced this myself. It took me many years to finally focus and take action on work that brings me joy. No money (yet) but certainly joy and that’s worth a brick of solid gold.

    Ree ~ I blog at EscapingDodge.com

    • Thanks, Ree! I’m excited to hear you’re finally taking steps towards doing what you’re meant to do!

      This process does take time and it’s not easy, so you should give yourself a pat on the back for that. As for the no-money-yet part, I’m sure it will come soon.

      In the mean time, remember to savor the journey of doing what brings you joy.

  15. Now you really have to read my book, Ivan ;) it’s not directly related, but it DEFINITELY touches on this!!!

  16. My name is Claudia and I recently came across this site and it caught my eye. I was able to relate to a lot of your readers issues. I on the other hand have a few issues I would love to get opinions on. Brief history, I’m 31 yrs old and have been working , networking, going out, school , marathons, and been active all my life. I recently got into a relationship about a year ago and fell head over heels. He’s my ideal man and I feel very blessed to have him, but things between us have been very bumpy and have gotten worst. He got me out of work a month into our relationship because he wanted to take care of me. I jumped into it no questions asked because it felt like a fairy tale being taken care of not realizing that I was slowly going to loose myself and my identity in my relationship. I no longer socialize outside my relationship , I don’t see my friends, my family , I’m home alone most of the time with no motivation to do anything anymore. I don’t even run my 5 miles daily like I used to. One of our issues has been about my ” eye wandering” he tells me I have this vibe and look towards men that’s inviting and has caused problems. I know a lot of it has to deal with his insecurities and we keep going in circle about it to the point that I have caught myself a few times daydreaming or even looking around unconsciously . I will never cheat on him , but I know looking is just as hurtful. I’ve realized that I’m bored with my life and I’m depressed a lot. I allowed him to take control of my life and I feel lost. I love him and he loves me but I really feel I’ve lost my identity and I’m trying to regain it without hurting him or losing him. He fears me cheating because of the eye wondering and the trust. Which I can’t blame him but I realized I can’t force his trust and respect unless, I have it for myself. I lost my passion for life and I don’t make myself happy anymore. How can I make him happy when I’m not?

    • Hi Claudia,

      Keep in mind this is my own personal opinion but I believe you’ve got to do what’s best for you, not just him in this situation. It sounds like you’re in a miserable position caused by him somehow. Why is it that your motivation is gone and you no longer socialize? Does he not allow you to? Did you move away somewhere isolated?

  17. AJ – I liked what you wrote, that is until you wrote “Work to live, don’t live to work.’ It seems like a contradiction, because it means just settling (which you said not to do) for any old just so you can earn enough to live. If you live to work, it can mean doing great things that also happen to earn you a living. It means not being lazy and striving to do what you really want to do (a career).

  18. I’m a 47 year old man who went to college but has no career or even a family. Is it too late for me?

  19. Wow it just hit me today that I am wasting my life. Found this page through google and I have to say it’s spot on. It’s so weird that I haven’t noticed it before. The point you mention are recognizable. I definitly hide away in television and fantasy worlds and the what if past reliving stuff. Especially the first one “good enough has become the new standard” hit me. I always used to strive for the best and be the best at anything I’d do and find new things to do and now I just don’t care anymore, good is good enough. Thanks for writing this. It really helped me realise I need to change some things.

  20. Thank you for this encouraging article. I am in a slump at this point in my life and feel I don’t know where to go. I have what appears on the outside to be a good life but somehow on the inside things don’t match up. I want more out of life than this “Re-run” like you called it. But, the nagging question remains “what do I do?” I do appreciate your perspective. You have helped me to see I am not the only one out there that wants more and I don’t have to feel selfish, insecure, down on myself for it.

  21. It’s because of people saying to stop watching TV that I’m worrying in the first place! I’ve wasted years of my life on the internet reading people telling me what to do. Very seldom have I watched a TV show if I don’t like it. Piss off. This is typical of the so-called advice on the internet. Fuck interactivity. Bring back the simple pages that only gave you the useful information. At least that’s alright for kids to look at.

  22. OMG. This article hits the Bulls Eye….right on spot….Thankyou so much….

    • Hi Ivan, thank you for your article. I enjoyed reading it and found it whilst I was lost in cyberspace. Unfortunately, I don’t want to be a ‘woe is me’ type, because I’ve found from experience that people who don’t complain and just get on with it, are the people that most of us aspire to be. I probably have become a cynic over the years and have also developed a strong skepticism towards most ‘self-help’ books and articles out there. Finding the right ingredients and recipe differs hugely from person to person. Some of us may never get it right and some of us may have very few flops throughout our lives, if any. One chap here (Ron) asked a very good question: “What do I do?” ….. Well, I think this is a brilliant question that many take for granted. It seems like a simple question with a simple answer, but in reality, this is an extremely complex question and there are no absolute right or wrong answers to it. I don’t even think that many people out there would be in a position to answer it effectively without truly knowing this person. Even then, knowing the person still doesn’t provide one with a magic wand that can make it all better. In 2012, my brother took his life and this was cataclysmic for me and for my family. What I have learnt from this ghastly experience is that life has no special and magic recipes guaranteed to make things right or to miraculously give one happiness. I’m now in my forties and have come across some people who appear to have very little, yet are happy. On the other hand, I’ve also come across some people who appear to have so much, yet are miserable. So, what is it that truly creates happiness? Well, even when we have the answer to this question, putting it into practice is a very different story. This leads me to another question, can we realistically achieve whatever it is that will truly make us happy? A person that is waiting for a heart transplant might yearn for the day that this can happen, but in reality this day may never come. Another person may dream of being financially wealthy and this day may never happen for them however hard they try to bring this about. Does working hard and striving to achieve a dream always equal happiness and success? I’m not suggesting that one should not try or give up on your dreams, but rather get to know realistically what you can and definitely can’t change. We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a world that revolves around survival and that we have basic human needs that have to be met. Sometimes, we have to do things that we do not like, because we will die or suffer even more if we don’t. This postmodernist society has created the ideology that we can achieve anything that we set our minds to and that we create our world. This can be a very dangerous ideology, because we are ignoring the fact that we have to interact with others on this planet and that our environment always impacts on us too. It is not just about YOU, it is about WE. How do we create some sort of balance between the two? I’m married and cannot just think about what makes ME happy, I have to also consider my spouse and my family too. Immediately, one might assume that I’m heterosexual with children from such a statement?? No, I’m gay with no children. My spouse is someone of the same sex and my family includes my siblings, parents, husband, in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc… I do agree with your article, Ivan. I’ve tried many different and adventurous things in my life and have also pursued dreams. However, there does come a time when all that you seek is inner peace. Sometimes you realize that certain things are just dreams and certain things can never be. This does not have to be a bad thing at all and can actually be embraced. How can we make the most of what we’ve got?

  23. I could tell you a real story of a wasted life. I grew up in a conflict zone which in itself was never a good start but damn I wasted so much time. I only wish I had read this 20 years ago.

  24. the following was very annoying: ‘or you might die alone’. Uh, we all die alone. All of us. You die, you die alone, only you die, and then your body is gone and done with. The soul moves on without the body. we ALL die alone. Also, ‘family and friends’ are also ‘material’. Anything worldly is material and EVERYONE is temporary and comes to an end. How depressing.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. 8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don't Even Realize It – Self Stairway – ONE STOP PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT - May 29, 2013

    [...] via 8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don’t Even Realize It – Self Stairway. [...]

  2. How To Act Self Confident When You Are Not - Dawn of Change - June 4, 2013

    [...] Nguyen wrote a great article about wasting your life and in particular, mentions how we tend to focus on the wrong things in life, which causes us to [...]

  3. 8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And D... - June 19, 2013

    [...] Are you wasting your life without even realizing it? Here are 8 warning signs that point to the fact that you may not be living life to its fullest.  [...]

  4. Improve Your Mental Health with the Internet | A Rich Interior Life - October 7, 2013

    […] to you. Well, it might not if you internet clickbaiters didn’t lay on the guilt so hard. “8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don’t Even Realize It.” Ahhh, time to enjoy a cup of tea and watch the sun set. […]

  5. 8 Warning Signs You Are Wasting Your Life And Don’t Even Realize It | - December 22, 2013

    […] SOURCE: http://www.selfstairway.com/wasting-your-life/‎ […]

  6. http://www.selfstairway.com/wasting-your-life/ | - December 22, 2013

    […] May 27, 2013 by graciouswordsmith | Leave a comment […]

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>