Your well-being depends upon taking positive action.
If you are living a life you hate – one that exhausts your energy – one in which you feel trapped – one that creates physical pain – you must make changes. You must take action. Because if you exist in this state long enough you aren’t living, you aren’t even surviving, you are dying.
If you ever feel trapped by life, you’re a lot like me and you may find this story useful.
When I stop growing, it leads to physical and emotional pain. Let me give you an example.
Last Tuesday morning, Christine flew to Las Vegas leaving me alone with my 2 and 4-year-old sons. I was excited as I planned every detail of the upcoming week alone with my boys.
Day 1 – Tuesday
I followed my plan and our day was perfect.
Day 2 – Wednesday
At 7 AM – it all went wrong.
While getting dressed, my 4-year-old was squirming, talking non-sense, and being uncooperative. As I pulled a sweater down over his head, he fell to the ground screaming and writhing in pain. He held his neck and wailed, “Dad my neck hurts! It hurts bad! Why did you do that?” He calmed a bit and said, “You still love me even when you hurt me, right dad?” The guilt shot through my body like a venomous poison.
His sweater was one size too small and when I pulled it down instead of his head popping through the hole, his neck popped. It scared both of us, and he’s better now, but I spent the rest of the day wracked with guilt and worry. We didn’t leave the house, not even to get the mail.
Even though I didn’t do anything physical that day, by bedtime I was so exhausted I could barely move. Every joint in my body ached and I had a headache and a cough.
Day 3 – Thursday
I planned to take the boys to the zoo in the morning and Playworks in the afternoon, but a blizzard began. With a 2-year-old and an injured 4-year-old, I couldn’t get outside to remove the snow, so I watched it accumulate out the window. As the snow continued, it became apparent I wouldn’t be able to get a sitter to watch them while I dug out. I felt helpless to perform a basic snow removal task, so I watched the snowfall and did nothing.
After a while, I decided to take them out to play, but I discovered that I had left their winter clothes at school, so we couldn’t go outside. Stuck again.
Then I began to see unfinished things that needed to be completed. Our bedroom was half painted, but I couldn’t work on it. I couldn’t read or write, because as soon as I started, the boys interrupted me. I spent most of the day, playing choo choo trains.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending time with my kids, but I was wracked with guilt about the injury and now I was literally trapped inside my house unable to accomplish anything productive.
By the end of Thursday, I was emotionally dead, and my knees and hips ached. I was amazed how fast I deteriorated. I tried every personal development trick I know and nothing worked.
I knew the only way to break out of this negative pattern was positive action. I’ve battled mild depression my entire life, and the only cure I’ve found is positive action. But with the blizzard and the kids, there was no path to action. There was no escape. I can see how so many stay at home moms develop agoraphobia and depression.
Fast forward to Saturday.
- I shoveled snow for two hours in the morning
- Played outdoor ice hockey with the boys for hours
- Took the boys grocery shopping while Christine caught up on business
- Played games with the boys while Christine finished painting the bedroom
- Vacuumed the entire house
- Wrote a thousand words
- Rearranged the living room
- Rearranged the bedrooms – moving a king-sized bed
On Saturday, my energy levels were high and at bedtime, I felt no pain. I awoke on Sunday morning refreshed and free of pain although I was more active on Saturday than I was on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday combined. What was the difference? I didn’t feel trapped. Christine and I were accomplishing enjoyable tasks that created positive results.
I used to drive a truck, and it was the most depressing time of my life, because I felt trapped. I didn’t see any other options. During this time, my mental and physical health deteriorated. I didn’t feel I was accomplishing anything – I felt I was just driving around in circles all day. I didn’t see any short term or long term positive results from my actions, just constant monotony without improvement.
This even happened as an entrepreneur when we owned and operated www.music1search.com (nothing to see anymore). A year after we launched the company we were so busy repeating maintenance tasks that we couldn’t find time to automate the process. Both Christine and I felt trapped like rats on a wheel. Micheal Gerber writes about this problem in the e-myth revisited. If your business doesn’t run without you, you don’t own a business – your business owns you.
For most of my life, I didn’t understand how negative emotions drained me, how the feeling of being trapped destroys your sense of well-being, and how to counteract the problem. While there was little I could do about the weather last week, I value the experience because it reminds me of a time, to which I never wish to return. Today I see the signs when I am slipping into mental and emotional inertia, and can counteract it through positive thought and action.
If you find yourself in the position I was in last week (minus the blizzard – there isn’t much you can do about the weather), I’ll give you a simple formula you can use to escape.
- You must recognize that you’ve trapped yourself in a negative emotional state. You need to stop and listen to yourself for a minute and you’ll notice your anger, depression, shame, or guilt. I used sit around feeling miserable without even knowing I felt miserable. As strange as it sounds, sometimes we get so used to feeling miserable, we’re afraid of what life would be like if we weren’t miserable. The best indicator that you are trapped in a negative cycle is when you keep doing something you hate over and over but feel powerless to stop – like an addiction without the euphoria.
- Open your mind to the possibility that you posses the power to change your life. This means that you quit making excuses and realize that you can take action to improve yourself. The biggest obstacle to changing your circumstances is you. Look in the mirror for the answer.
- Change something you know you have the power to change. Start with something simple, like cleaning a bathroom or sweeping out the garage. You need to do something to build momentum. To start it’s best to find something you can complete quickly and easily with positive results. I like to write. Sometimes I fix something that’s broken or I begin cleaning.
- Once you’ve made one positive change in your environment – don’t stop. Take a minute and be grateful that you were able to make a positive change in your world and then think of something else you want to change and act on that. Hell, make a list of things you’d like to change and prioritize them. Don’t ever stop improving your world.