These Blunders Cost Me an Entire Year of My Life
You ever looked at a 50 year-old cashier or bagger at the grocery store and wondered what the heck happened that someone so old could have progressed so little in life?
Well, last year I looked at one of those sallow, wrinkled faces, and I saw my very own face staring back at me. I was only 27.
It was one of those moments of sheer clarity -- I guess you could call it a satori. I knew beyond doubt that if I continued the road I had been on for the last year, then, despite my accomplishments in the writing and coaching world, I would be just another walking void, bagging your groceries and faking a smile only for as long as it took to get back home and drown out my memories with another six pack.
I had lost an entire year of my life. And if I didn’t make a drastic change in how I lived now, I’d lose the rest of it in the blink of an eye.
It starts with an excuse.
My declension was rooted in a pretty monumental excuse. After finding success in the coaching industry, I had bet tens of thousands of dollars on a new business venture in hopes of reaching the next level. I worked on the new project for a quarter of a year, and to the exclusion of my coaching business.
Then, a month before the business was to become profitable, my partner bailed.
I had to face the reality that I had no money, no clients and, seemingly, no way to get it back. That’s when insomnia set in. I could deal with little to no sleep the first month; I’m healthy. But when the problem only grew worse, and I felt more and more like a zombie, I started in with the excuses.
Ahh, another sleepless night...there’s no way I can write this morning.
Ahh, I only got two hours...I’m going to sink back into my pillow instead of knocking out my morning routine.
Ahh, it’s 3:00 in the morning...I’m going to waste three hours on social media and pointless internet surfing when I know of a hundred other things I could be doing to make life better.
These excuses conditioned me to feel helpless instead of empowered. That’s when the days blended into weeks, and weeks into months. Life was slipping by but, according to my new mindset of excuse-making, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
First blunder: Not talking to anybody about your problems.
I had created a coaching business predicated on the success I achieved through my own self coaching -- journaling, meditating, planning, etc. That’s how I achieved independence after years of being the prodigal millennial son, so I took pride in my ability to get through even the toughest challenges “all-a by my self-a”, as my three-year-old niece says.
But that strength ended up crippling me when circumstances dictated that I seek help. Like now, when I’d only gotten twenty hours of sleep in a month...when I’d spontaneously sprouted ten gray hairs because of the stress...and when I started going back on my most important promises to myself.
I got so wrapped up in my own problems and the helpless feeling that I lost objectivity and the ability to keep myself accountable --this after years of operating a successful coaching business.
I could have gotten help: hired a coach, talked to a therapist, or even opened up to one of my close friends. I really only needed someone to tell me to stop making so many freaking excuses and just get stuff done, but I didn't want to be vulnerable. I ended up letting an entire year to pass until my future became so frighteningly bleak that I got real with myself and made the necessary changes so I wouldn’t become another 50-year-old bagger.
I don’t recommend that.
The longer I waited to get help, the more promises I went back on, the more my confidence and self respect disappeared, and the more of my life slipped away with nothing to show for it.
Blunder next: Lapsing on healthy routines like meditation and reflecting
People meditate to create a sense of flow in their lives. The quiet moments alone are where we can construct a brighter future in our minds and generate the positive feelings we need to act on our dreams and shift our direction. I attribute the success of my writing and coaching careers to this beneficial habit.
But then I let it go.
In all the stress of scrambling to save my business, meditation turned into an afterthought. My worried and stressful thoughts were left to multiply unchecked. Instead of pausing for mini timeouts throughout my day to appreciate the good I had, and to project the future I wanted, I unconsciously fed an increasing stream of anxious and angry thoughts that swept me into another fruitless tomorrow, and another fruitless tomorrow, and another fruitless tomorrow. Then I stopped seeking out the beautiful reflective experiences that brought me joy—like my evening sunset hiking ritual. Lacking any real happiness, I reverted to time-wasting activities that brought me no fulfillment, like zoning out to yet another Netflix series.
All of my habits were bad. I knew it, and I was unhappy. Those unhappy days blended into weeks, the weeks into months. And then I was 27: an entire year had passed with hardly anything to show for it. I had reverted to an unconscious lifestyle of pleasure-seeking and distraction...because I had fallen out of my habits of meditating and journaling.
Turning it around
I ended up coming out of my yearlong desolation stronger than I had ever been. I became even more dedicated to my routines and my writing. My coaching clients benefited from a mentor who now issues a red alert everytime I so much as sniff an excuse. I feel like I’ve gotten back five years with how much ass I’ve kicked in my twenty-eighth year, with how much I’ve learned.
But what if I hadn’t experienced that vision of my bleak future? What if I hadn’t seen myself in a random fifty-something bagger at Smith’s? I guess God has bigger plans for me. I hear He looks after fools and widows.
If you don’t want to waste any time at all, let alone an entire year, please get real about any excuses you’re making. Write down a list of each one, big and small, then dedicate yourself to eliminating them over the next month. Get someone to keep you accountable. Let someone in on your struggles and challenges -- whether that’s a friend, mentor, therapist or coach. And do your absolute best to stick with the routines that give you an edge in life and business: meditating, journaling, exercising, etc.
These steps can be hard -- especially being vulnerable and opening up to someone about your problems. But nothing is quite so hard as regretting the life you’ve wasted.