Do you know which habits make you miserable? | Sunday Observer
‘If misery loves company, misery has enough company’

Do you know which habits make you miserable?

25 April, 2021

I was spoiled growing up. There’s no sense denying it. My Dad was an administrative law judge and my mother a devoted homemaker. We weren’t millionaires but quite comfortable. We lived in the hills of Los Gatos, California, with an amazing view of Silicon Valley. Every Christmas there were tons of presents under the tree. After opening my gifts, I used to phone my neighborhood buddy to compare notes on our loot. Then we’d meet up later to play with our new toys. My mother made all my meals, cleaned and folded my laundry, and chauffeured me to friend’s homes and tennis matches. When I became old enough to drive, I was given regular access to one of the family cars.

What saved me from becoming a self-absorbed, entitled jerk were two things. First, the fatherly life lessons my Dad taught me. Second, the example of love and kindness my mother exemplified.

Thankfully, I grew up to appreciate how fortunate I was. I was also taught to avoid certain habits that are sure to make you miserable.


We’ve all met people who are focused on themselves. They’re the ones who look for their reflection in storefront windows, interrupt others in meetings, turn conversations back to themselves, and post endless selfies on social media. They also tend to be demanding and selfish.

We all have egos. We want to look good and be interesting to others. But the more we focus on these things, the less happy we seem to be. The antidote to self-absorption is to start focusing on others.

People who help others and contribute to a better world tend to be far more interesting than people who constantly talk about themselves.


I put off writing this article for two days. I kept finding distractions, like a book I’m reading and emails to catch up on. The more I put off doing the creative work that matters to me, the more miserable I become.

“Waiting is a trap. There will always be reasons to wait — The truth is, there are only two things in life, reasons, and results, and reasons simply don’t count.”— Robert Anthony

The author Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War of Art,” defines our endless creative procrastination as “the resistance.” That seemingly immovable thing that keeps us from our work. People who procrastinate and put off important work end up miserable. To combat this, set up a reliable schedule and routines to make your important work a priority. Doing so will make you a happier person.


There’s a difference between healthy habits, obsessions, and addictions. When you become addicted to something at the expense of everything else in your life, that’s a problem.

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” — Carl Jung

I’ve known people who were miserable because their addictions came first. For example, the workaholic focused on success ends up overlooking the needs of her spouse. Or the gym rat addicted to fitness may neglect his intellectual growth. My Dad used to say, “All things in moderation.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that, and it will spare you a lot of misery.


Throughout my professional career, I witnessed many promising people derail their success due to blame. Rather than owning up to their mistakes and taking personal responsibility, they blamed others.

Miserable people are always pointing fingers at others. The irony is that most of the time, everyone knows who’s to blame. What’s refreshing is when someone takes responsibility and fixes the problem. Even better is the person who’s not to blame, but quietly fixes the problem anyway.


When I was a boy, I used to visit a friend who lived up the hill from us. Our homes were surrounded by woods, and one day I found a short cut. It was off the well-tread deer path, and I had to crawl through some dense foliage.

What I didn’t know is that the dense foliage was poison oak. The next day, my body was covered in an itchy rash. So much for shortcuts. I can’t think of many shortcuts that enriched or greatly improved my life. There may have been a few here and there, but most of the stuff I’m most proud of in life is the result of hard work.

If you want to be the best at something, you’ve got to put in the work. Everyday. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.


I was in a Starbucks once, enjoying a latte and drawing in my sketchbook. Across from me were two women gossiping. They were talking about a mutual friend, and the words were not kind.

“Can you believe she did that? Oh my God, I could have screamed,” one of the women said. “Well I heard that Joe is cheating on her, and maybe that’s what she deserves,” the other said. The two women delighted in their gossip-filled drama. “And to what end?” I thought to myself. Neither seemed interested in helping their mutual friend. They were too ensconced in the drama.

Gossip can be entertaining, so long as the gossip is not about us. And getting sucked into the emotional drama of others seems to be a national past time. Look no further than TV shows like 90 Day Fiancé and Catfish, which thrive on emotional pain and drama. If you want to be miserable, make drama a part of your life.

I used to let things clutter my living space. Books piled on the floor and art supplies around my desk. It was a bad habit. Then one day I started reading about minimalism, the idea that less is more.

Studying about minimalism taught me about the value of simplicity. I culled through my clothing, living space, digital files, and lifestyle. I learned how to travel with less. I sold, donated, and threw away things I didn’t need.

The result of this dance with minimalism has been like a weight lifted. Removing all the extraneous stuff from my life made more room for the things that matter most. The clutter in your life, both physical and mental, will make you miserable. The more you can let it go, the more you’ll be able to focus on the good stuff.


Some of the most famous people in the world wrestle with moments of self-doubt. There are celebrity singers and actors who still experience butterflies before they perform. Your secret weapon against self-doubt is ACTION. 

When we take action, we refuse to let self-doubt immobilise us. Remember that most people just aren’t that focused on us. They’re too busy thinking about their own lives and pursuits.

Misery loves company. To that end, be wary of hanging out regularly with people who engage in the above habits.

(Originally published at