If life is a series of ups and downs, I lived in the downs for a solid six years straight. That’s not to say there weren’t good moments in there. And that’s also not to say I didn’t have things to be grateful for. Or that I wasn’t actively building towards a better future.
However, during that time a cloud hovered over me.
Not in an undiagnosed depression sort of way. It was more like a perpetual state of fall. There was sunlight here and there, but it was mostly dark. And I knew winter would need to come and go before spring was even an option.
So I lived like a plant underneath a layer of frost. Doing the best I could, biding my time until I could finally sprout and reach my potential.
Today my life is radically better. By a multiple I can’t even calculate. That said, in looking back, I can clearly see factors that contributed to my misery for all those years. Here are a few. If they resonate, do something about it. Take action and climb your way out of the ice.
I graduated from college with a small handful of people I called friends. I had recently distanced myself from many others I had once been close to. Part of it had to do with my own personal growth. Part of it had to do with my desire to move on. Yet one major part of it was that I was struggling with OCD and anxiety.
Two diseases that were running rampant through my life, completely unbeknownst to me.
I didn’t know what was going on. So I put space between myself and everyone else. I became closed off. I was afraid to talk about what I was experiencing. Further, I didn’t yet have the words to describe what was going on inside my mind. So I just didn’t talk about it. Except for those absolutely closest to me, I stayed quiet about the obsessions and compulsions driving me insane.
I isolated myself. And that only made my symptoms worse.
I may not have had the words to describe my situation to those around me, but I could have at least tried. I didn’t. Instead, I simply walked away. Today I am vigilant about my social life. When I feel myself getting lonely or feeling distant, I throw myself back into the mix.
Like a raindrop returning to the ocean.
Most of the things that caused my misery could be attributed to youth. Not to necessarily being young, but rather, to not having an understanding of myself. To not having experiences in different scenarios. To not having my philosophies yet tested.
I did my first session of goal setting around age 20.
I set them primarily out of interest. Not really for any other reason. Mostly because they sounded good to me in the moment. I set goals to learn Python and to surf. To do public speaking and lose weight. All fine aims, but they missed the point.
It wasn’t until many years later when I started my blog that I began to dig deeper.
I realized goal setting had tremendous power, yet it often goes untapped. That I could use goal setting to create a fulfilling life for myself. Not just to pursue my interests, but to bring about real positive change. I wrote out every category of my life (husband, father, career, finance, etc.) and what a meaningful life looked like in each.
Then I set goals to address them.
In doing so, I began to take deliberate steps towards a purpose-filled existence. Before that, I was oblivious. I was moving through life in the dark. Unsure of what I wanted, I pursued whatever seemed interesting. Now? I am intentional with my time and have cultivated a fulfilling life because of it.
Note: If you’re curious, I have 18 different goals as of this writing.
I screamed as loud as I could. Louder, even. As I pulled up to the house, my voice was hoarse.
It’s a funny thing, expectations. The bigger they are, the more pain they cause. I expected my first business to succeed. I had grand plans for how I would spend my buckets of cash. None of which came to pass. And so I found myself yelling in the car. Yelling to myself, by myself, for as long as I could stand. My business was failing. All my hopes and dreams were crashing down.
I screamed to myself again when my next business failed. And the one after that. And the one after that.
I screamed when my blog wasn’t moving the way I wanted at first too. But, at some point, I stopped screaming. And I haven’t screamed since. There are certainly a lot of reasons why that would be. But one reason for sure is because I lowered my expectations.
My current goal is to publish a new article each day, five days a week. So long as I do that, I trust everything else will work out. I don’t panic about my monthly earnings. I don’t worry about how a sales email will perform. Instead, I simply acknowledge that as long as I keep showing up, things will keep getting better.
The only expectation I have is that I write each day. And everything has been a lot more enjoyable because of it.
You have everything you need to make yourself miserable. You also possess the inverse.
With a little intention, you can rid yourself of misery. Your circumstances may not change overnight, but at least you can start to thaw the ice that has been keeping you underground. With consistent, deliberate effort it is possible.
For your reference once again, three ways you can make yourself miserable are:
- Isolate from others.
- Be oblivious to what you want.
- Set really high expectations.
If you see yourself in any of the above, take action against it. My solutions may not work for you, but they could be a good place to start.