Unfortunately, we live in world where there are some pretty prevalent diseases out there right now, some of these physical and some mental.
And yet there's another disease which also exists, so pervasive that many of us don't even realize that we have it.
Les Brown, one of my favourite motivational speakers, famously spoke these words:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
Read them out loud. And perhaps even once more. Unfulfilled potential in abundance. A frightening thought which can inspire one to get their @ss in gear - as can this death clock. Literally watch the clicking counting down on your life…
You see that every day, millions upon millions of us wake up, and go through each day in the same manner as the day before, arrive home to go to sleep and then re-live this pattern the next day.
So many of us are the central characters in our very own version of Groundhog Day, and we don't even realise it. I was one of those, re-living Groundhog Day myself but without knowing what to do about it... and the scariness of what making a change would bring.
Though discontent, we are somewhat safe and secure in our unhappiness, not knowing any different to the routines and patterns we are living in.
Wow, hold up, that's a big insight right there.
Not knowing what making a change would lead to. The overwhelming feeling of being a rabbit, timid and week and frozen, just sat there in the headlights and staring out without making a move.
That's what my life has felt like a times.
We sit there and go through the motions and do nothing to change the sh*tty reality we are living through.
There are a number of reasons why human beings are especially good at remaining at a constant, and bad at effective change - especially for themselves.
As Gwen Stefani urges us, What are you waiting for?
There are a number of reasons why human beings, rational and sensitive and too-human-for-our-own-good beings are especially good at cosying up inside our familiar yet unhappy current realities:
1. We don't know where to start.
We want to get healthier, but don't know where to start. We are no longer enjoying the work that we are doing, but we don't know where to start.
Confession: I was exhausted and unhappy in my recruitment job for a good while, and then *really unhappy* for several months, before I took any action. An an action which forced it’s way through after a week away in Barbados caused clarity to emerge & bubble up from beneath the surface. It was… strange. I knew something had to change. It had all just gotten too much. There’s only so long one can spend in silent despair, as it turned out for me.
2. We give ourselves all manner of excuses.
There's not enough time in the day to jot down all of the excuses I've ever fee myself. I wonder how many days it would take for me to scribble them all down? “Too many'“ is the answer.
We doubt ourselves, our abilities, our worth, our potential. Everywhere around us we see examples of "more worthy" and "more important" people doing all the things that we want to be - except that they look more able and capable and way further down the line. than we are. Important note: chances are that this is probably the furthest from the truth.
In fact, there isn't a soul on this earth who possesses some great God-given talent. Angela Duckworth can tell you all about that.
We are really, really frickin’ hard on ourselves and we just love to doubt ourselves in spadefuls.
4. We feel safe and comfortable.
You've probably heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Many of us in the western world have the great privilege have our basic needs met. Another fundamental core human need is that of safety, which can often be overlooked. Such core needs are immersed inside the fabric of our minds and the depths of our souls.
As f*cked up as this may sound, we have become accustomed to whichever reality we now find ourselves in. We know what it's like, how it feels, there's familiarity and certainty around our current situation… no matter how sh*tty this current situation might actually be. It’s because we can cope with it and get through day and into the next one. We know what's what, what to expect.
“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.”
- Robin S. Sharma
Making any form of change is unfamiliar, unknown and hella scary. So we stay in our safe little cosy spaces, even if those thorns are getting sharper and the walls around us are closer in, tighter and tighter.
5. We are scared of failing
From childhood, we have been conditioned to view failure - our failures - as a terrible, terrible thing to be avoided at all costs. Getting something wrong, receiving a bad grade, making a mistake - not good, not good at all.
Many of us go through our early lives mollycoddled and protected from failure and the harsh realities of life. And then when we do experience it, it hits us hard. Real hard. And we never, ever want to go through it it ever again. We take it very personally. It feels like it's the end of the world.
Really, it's nothing like that.
And worse yet...
6. We care too much about how we look to others - and being seen to fall in front of their eyes.
When I quit my job to study a Masters, I attended a career changers' course with Escape the City and got started on my first business. Not only did I put terrible pressure on myself to make it work (I knew I just couldn't go back to my old sales job), but I was also extremely paranoid about what everyone else thought of me.
That they are watching me and my every movement (especially now we have these online lives), whether they were friends or family or mere acquaintances who somehow knew me. They were spying on me to see how I was getting on. And so if I happened to fall flat on my face, it would be right there for the world to see and I would look like a stupid idiot for having left my job and thinking that I could make something else work. That I wasn't good enough. All of these sh*tty, sh*try thoughts which I could really do without.
Though I've since gotten a lot better, I still have to be really careful on social media and attaching myself to others' perceived thoughts of me, for my own wellbeing and sanity.
7. Too many options and information
Ever heard of the phrase "paralysis by analysis"? I bet you have. This was me to a T. Like every point on this darned list.
I was so desperately seeking some golden ticket and the Magic answer that I stayed more and more in my head, isolating myself, taking in more books and blogs and trying to make sense of it all to feet some sort of inspiration, or to somehow have this eureka moment.
(It was ironic that I felt eureka would happen under such stressful conditions - there's a reason why our greatest insights tend to happen to us in the shower or on a walk or during otherwise idle time).
Barry Schwartz's TED Talk is very relevant here. And more so now than ever before. We have so much choice, too much choice. Information available at our fingertips which can be to our detriment and make us go real crazy. System overload makes those choices we make much more difficult.
And that's why we get so stuck in our heads and fail to take action. Our brains are the most wonderful things in the world, and yet can also - if allowed to - be the cause of our downfall. Fine, fine margins.
Now, it’s over to you…
Which ones of the above can you relate to? Any 1 or 2 in particular? Any others that I’ve missed out. Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your personal experiences - if you’re up for sharing them with me in this safe space. Thank you.
LATER THIS MONTH: an article that shares how I broke out of these mindset patterns and started to move forward. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it.
Sunday, 10th March 2019
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