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Day 12: Stop making misery out of everything

October 26, 2023

I got some good advice today. Like quite a lot of good advice these days, it came from a YouTube video and the advice was the title of this blog: Stop making misery out of everything.

Yet, trying to figure out what it means in practice is making me miserable! 

There’s a funny thing with advice. Even when it’s good, it can be hard to figure out how to use it, and that’s especially true when it’s advice about what NOT to do.

Don’t shout at your kids… Don’t be impatient…. Don’t sweat the small stuff…

Advice about what NOT to do is always logical but it also usually translates into some version of “don’t do the thing that comes naturally to you,”. In this case, don’t give in to your emotions.”

The thing is, emotions have momentum of their own, so, “don’t let your emotions run the show”, is like saying, “don’t let a skateboard roll downhill.” 

That’s what it does naturally, all by itself – and if you’re on it at the time, you could get hurt! 

In fact, I remember getting hurt this way as a kid. My cousins and I used to sit on our skateboards and roll down hills but often the boards would gather such momentum that I’d be petrified, holding on for dear life and hoping something would happen to bring me to a stop safely. 

In those moments, the danger made the task of stopping feel impossible, but there were kids who could do it. They had a skill I didn’t possess and no clue how to learn. I’d sometimes ask them, “How do you stop when you’re going too fast?”, and they’d reply something like, “I don’t know, you just stop. Just put your foot down or turn the board.”

I found these answers deeply annoying because they were obvious but I didn’t know how to do what they were telling me to do. I still had a million questions. How hard should I put my foot down? What angle? How do I keep from falling off if the board stops too quickly? How should I turn the board so I don’t graze my knuckles?…

For me, ‘Stop making misery out of everything’ feels the same. It’s gloriously obvious but it requires some skills if I’m to put it into practice.

The Practical Implications

These days, I’m better at breaking things down so I can figure them out. These are the steps I reckon I need to follow in order to start making use of this advice.

  1. Identify the specific ways in which I make misery

So far, I have the following list: 

  • Creating alternative realities in my mind – about what should be happening, what I should be feeling, what could have happened if… all driven by my expectations of myself, my family and the world around me.
  • I focus on the reasons I DON’T want to do things – like get out of bed on a cold morning.
  • I have lost clarity about what I’m committed to so I’m constantly questioning myself.
  • I over-host my emotions – constantly checking in to see how I feel.
  • I try to stay comfortable all the time.

2. Figure out what to do instead

Funnily enough, this leads me back to the work I do with my clients because these very misery-makers are also the common sticking points in making changes to behaviour or habits related to achieving other goals in life.

I have a few ideas already about what I’m going to need to change. In truth, I don’t want to – as many of the changes I need to make are things that are currently making me comfortable and allowing me to hide from things I’m a bit more scared of doing but I suspect that’s why I’ve struggle more with my mood and wellbeing lately. 

More on these changes to come.

Do any of these misery makers resonate with you too?

Any thoughts on how you’d like to make changes?

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