Do you remember the video game Mortal Kombat II from the early 1990s? One of the “fatalities” performed by the powerful sorcerer and villain Shang Tsung (above) was that he would “steal” the soul of his victims. It was kind of his signature move (aside from his shape-shifting capability). The thing is that sometimes I feel like I’m doing this to myself, draining my life energy as a result of my own actions. That needs to stop. I need to quit these soul-sucking habits right now.

1. Always Get in the Last Word

I didn’t really realize that I did this until, well, I realized that I did this. While I find that I don’t really partake in this kind of behavior with face-to-face interactions, I have this unwavering desire to get in the last word on social media and with other online conversations.

Part of this has to do with the desire to prove that I am right (because I have a hard time letting things go), perhaps, but I also do it just as much when I participate in a comment thread of dad jokes or when offering restaurant recommendations. It probably has to do with compulsion that I want to feel like I’m heard and that I matter.

2. Quantify Everything

It’s funny how things work out, to be honest. In my younger years, I thought I wanted to be an accountant and I took a couple of economics courses, only to learn that I didn’t think it was for me. I eventually landed in this more “creative” field as a freelance writer and yet I have developed the habit of wanting to attach a number to everything. If it can be counted, it will be.

Like so many other people on social media, I have come to assess my level of importance or influence based on the number of likes, comments and page views that I get. I yearn for this kind of acknowledgement. But we all know that not everything can (or should) be quantified. Stop it.

3. Obsess Over “What If”

Far and away one of the worst feelings in the world is regret. Regret for the things that we did and for the things that we didn’t do. Or that we could have done differently. I can’t help but to look back and theorize how my life would have turned out if I had made some different choices along the way.

Would I have been better off if I pursued a different educational or professional path? What if I had proposed (and gotten married) earlier? I’ll never know, of course, so I need to let it go and focus on the path ahead of me.

4. Play the Self Destructive Meta Game

As far as soul-sucking habits go, this is probably one of the most profound and likely one of the most damaging. I wrote about the self destructive meta game earlier this year and a lot of it really stems from this habit of overthinking everything.

I stress about being stress. I’m anxious about my anxiety and I worry about being worried. It’s not that we should avoid negative thoughts and feelings altogether. They’re all a part of the human experience. It’s that we (meaning I) should approach them differently. If I’m feeling stressed out about my stress levels, what can I do to acknowledge that experience and to move past it?

5. Inflict the Guilt Trip

A big part of the appeal of going into business for yourself, as is the case with my freelance writing, is that you are your own boss. No one is there to hold you accountable but you. This is also one of the biggest downsides to going into business for yourself.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, then you’ve surely heard (or read) this before. Because I can work at any time, I feel like I should work all the time. And when you throw in the complexities of my life as a stay-at-home dad, I can’t help but to feel guilty no matter what I do.

When I’m in full-on dad mode, I feel guilty for not working. When I’m working, I feel guilty for not focusing more on family life. I feel like I can win, but the truth is I’m the only one who is making me feel bad about it.

6. Measure Self Worth in Dollars and Cents

To some extent, you could say this is a combination of points #2 and #5. On an intellectual level, I know that money — past a certain minimum threshold — cannot buy happiness. On an intellectual level, I fully recognize and appreciate that my income is not reflective of my worth as a human being. And yet I do it.

We are comfortably middle class and we don’t really have to worry about money in the conventional sense. And yet I obsess over the numbers, not only in terms of how much I earn over the course of a year, but even how much I make each week or each day… or even how that breaks down to my effectively hourly rate.

Some people may say this makes good business sense, but I need to learn how to disconnect my business from me as a person. I am not my work and I am not defined by numbers on a spreadsheet.

7. Desire All the Things

This year is probably one of the best examples of how I want to do everything. I want to be a great father and a successful business owner. I want to read (at least) one book every month, post (at least) one photo on Instagram every day, and shoot, edit and publish a new vlog every week. This is all in addition to blogging four times a week and taking care of all my other responsibilities.

But there are only 24 hours in a day and I only have so much energy (and mind share) to go around. The opportunity cost of doing one thing necessarily means that something else has to suffer. I need more time for myself and I need more time to recover. It’s okay that I can’t do everything, perfectly, now. I just need to be better at deciding what is most important to me right now.

This list of soul-sucking habits is probably not exhaustive. I think we all have bad habits that detract from our happiness and our ability to better engage with the people we care about. The first step is identifying what needs to change. Figuring how to change these habits is an entirely different proposition.