To build a good life, don’t wait for the magical elevator. Take the stairs everyday

I have two roommates. I am the leaseholder. For the second time in my adult life, I recently kicked someone out: he’s insufferably self-centered. The type of person who never sees his own part in things. He’s been busy at work lately (surprise: we all are). Someone in his family is sick. He’s trying to win back a woman he broke up with last year. In other words: he is a normal person with a normal life. His problem isn’t with this weird series of events, but his inability to handle them, and the fact that he expects everyone else around him to pick up the slack.

This self-centeredness comes through in very small, subtle ways: he claims that he doesn’t have time to take out the trash or check the mail. He says that other people should wait to use the kitchen until after he’s done making dinner, and that he can’t clean up the kitchen after he’s done cooking; between these two things, the kitchen is unusable for hours… during dinnertime. (You know, when we’re all hungry.) He frequently takes items in the common areas and hides them in his room. He leaves rotten food and empty containers in the refrigerator because he simply doesn’t have the time to clean.

G thinks that everything is okay… because he pays his rent on time. One big thing, he thinks, makes it okay. And yet: we dislike him. Very very much. All of those little things weigh on us and make us realize that he doesn’t prioritize having a good relationship with the people he lives with.

Getting lucky is like this: people think that “the one big thing” is what counts, but study after study show that personality traits and habits are what predict life outcomes. Health isn’t about skipping dessert: it’s about consistently eating well and exercising. Good relationships aren’t about flowers on Valentine’s Day: they’re about small displays of gratitude and affection towards your partner. Positive relationships with your coworkers aren’t about getting your work done on time: they’re about the small interactions in the break room, the moments you take a few minutes to help them via email.

What you do all the time is what adds up. That’s what other people notice.

A good life isn’t about waiting for the magical elevator. It’s taking the stairs to the top, everyday.

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