I’m sitting here today January 20th, 2012, at my kitchen table, chillin’ with my brother (he’s the dude below) editing this blog and in this moment, I am the happiest and heathiest (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) I have ever been.
I can say that with the upmost confidence because about 3-4 years ago, I was horribly miserable. Without going into too much detail (and perhaps more appropriate for a personal conversation face to face), I was going through a reaaaaaaaaaally shitty time.
I had just ended a serious relationship (I was engaged to get married, if you could believe that), I was confused about nearly every aspect of my life, my career, and my future. Pretty much…
…I hated my life.
I dreaded waking up in the morning because I had nothing to look forward to. I felt so alone in the world as I had stepped away from some major relationships and friendships; saying good-bye to people who played significant roles in my life at the time.
Sleep was my reprieve, as it was the only time I was able to shut my mind off from negative thinking and destructive emotions. Thankfully, my outlook on my life and my future has made a drastic improvement since 2009, my “sabbatical from life” as I’ve come to nickname that period.
And so when I asked my Facebook friends what I should write about, I immediately jumped at the suggestion offered by Paul (an old high school friend) to write about the things that have improved my life. I wanted to paint the picture for you first to help explain where I was in my life over 3 years ago, and where I am now. I even talk a little about how this time affected my health in this post.
The following are the thoughts, books, actions, realizations, and habits that I’ve developed and fine-tuned that I practice everyday, and which have drastically improved my life over the last several years. I hope that through writing this, you can find some inspiration for your own life and personal development.
“Sleep is the cousin of death” is a line in a song by the rapper Nas, and although I love his music, I couldn’t agree LESS with this statement.
Sleeping is so important to me that one of my “rules” is to never make a decision without a good night’s sleep or on an empty stomach.
Sleep is nature’s repair crew for our body, and without proper sleep, our body can not repair physically, nor our brain repair psychologically and emotionally. Ever notice that when kids get tired, they start throwing tantrums? Well, as adults…we are not much different.
Deprive us of sleep, and like children, we are emotional wrecks.
I value my sleep highly, and work very hard to establish bed time before 11 pm.
2. Reading positive material.
The bookworm bug hit me later in life. Outside of mandatory reading in college (which I barely even did), I never picked up a book to read for growth or leisure.
It wasn’t until my mid-20′s that I started reading business and personal development books as a way to become a better sales person for my personal training career. And like a domino effect, one book lead to 2, which lead to 3, and before I knew it, I had accumulated stacks of books throughout my room.
I recently wrote a post about my top 5 spiritual books that I recommend to friends and client. These books still have significant meaning in my life now, as I re-visit them on a regular basis. Check out my top 5 spiritual reads here.
I am currently re-reading, Pyscho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. An awesome book about your self-image and how you can change the way you think about yourself and break free of negative thought patterns.
3. Journaling and art therapy
Writing down my thoughts came out of the need to express how I was feeling, since I was too ashamed to actually talk to close friends and family about what was going on. I found that through journaling, I was able to articulate my emotions without the fear of judgement since I was the only one reading it.
I figured that if I was to live an honest life with other people, I needed to first be honest with myself, and journaling was a means for me to do that.
Art therapy was another form of self-expression I found that helped me tremendously in visualizing my feelings. And when I mean art therapy, I’m not referring to expensive oil painting, (but which would work), I literally started with scrap paper and old crayons. Using colors, pictures and symbols are a great way to tap into your sub-conscious to manifest thoughts and feelings that you may have a difficult time forming into words.
4. Living within my means.
During my sabatical (in which I was unemployed with absolutely ZERO income), I not only wiped through my entire savings, but I also accumulated a hefty amount of debt. Don’t get me wrong, that year taught me a lot about myself and life and I enjoyed the free time and traveling, but I was completely living outside of means.
One of the biggest stressors I had was money. Or, the lack there of. It took digging myself into a deep hole, for me to finally understand the value of money, and what it truly means to live within your means.
Don’t spend more than you make.
It’s that simple, and I’ve heard my Dad say it thousands of times, but like most lessons, this one had to be learned the hard way.
I also have to give a lot of credit to the book “Your Money or Your Life” which was instrumental in changing the way I viewed money and the value I placed on my time at work. I highly highly HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who wants to have financial independence. With the help of the “Your Money”, I have a set budget that I track every month with an Excel spreadsheet, with goals to pay off debt and save money.
5. Establishing a few (3-4) core values and making all my decisions based on these values.
I find that the times when I’m struggling the most is when I am faced with making an important or difficult decision.
Should I take Job A or Job B?
Should I move or stay?
Do I stay in this relationship and be miserable, or do I leave?
Often we find ourselves going back and forth, swinging like a pendulum between several options. We look for advice from other people, obsess over it, lose sleep over it, and become stressed and aggravated over making a decision. (Which usually ends up being not as a big of a deal as we make it out to be)
I know, I used to be exactly like that. Then I realized how much easier it is to make your decisions based on a few “core values”. And for me, those are:
1. My health
2. My happiness
3. My family
4. Promoting goodness in the world
**I have them written on a white board in my room where I can see it everyday as a reminder**
I found that I am most productive and happy when I focus on these 4 things. Now, whenever I need to make a decision, I ask myself:
Does this decision help or hurt my health? Will this move me closer or further away from my family? Will saying this remark promote goodness or hurt in the world?
By falling back on the things you find important, you will start to live more congruently with yourself, and soon you will no longer feel conflicted.
After writing down a list of about 30 ideas, thoughts, habits and actions that have helped drastically improve my life, I narrowed it down to my top 10, and hopefully after reading the first 5, you’ll come back when I post the second half.