I sat down last week to write a post on the difficulty of making a change in your life when the resolve isn’t there. I found a well-worn soap box, climbed on top, and cleared my throat. I began to pontificate on how society’s expectations, and the influence of social media, impact on the choices we make along the way. Nine hundred words later I slumped in the chair. The post was far from what I had intended it to be. I didn’t say anything about how change could be made when facing tough odds. I didn’t speak to any of the experiences I had, both in succeeding and failing. I was writing what I thought people wanted to hear, rather than what I wanted to say. It was meant for me, and the people I hope will take something from the message. So I filed it away and moved on. Here’s hoping the second time around is a charm.
In my previous post, Positivity from Depression, I mentioned my life needing to change, not adjust. It was a deliberate choice of wording when I wrote that line. ‘Change’ is a process where something becomes different, as opposed to ‘adjust’ which is to alter slightly. If you have something in your life which is causing you stress, even affecting your health, it will take more than a slight alteration to fix it. This is true for those suffering from mental health issues or the average person on the street. In my case, it’s overcoming that deep seeded aversion to change, when standing pat is not an option. The outcomes are the same for all, even if the method, and starting point, are different for each of us. There is no 100% foolproof plan to affect permanent change, but you can look to the example of other’s and claim the best parts as your own. I gleaned my process from some of the following sources:
- Self-help books;
- Articles on self-improvement & life change;
- Bloggers with similar experiences;
- Work experience and training;
- My own life experiences; and
- Mental health websites.
Where do you start? This is going to sound simple, bear with me on this one, but….. you need to know what you want to change. Only it isn’t as simple as it sounds. I assumed I knew all the issues when I started. I dived into the ‘how to’ without a second thought. But I had only scratched the surface, wanting the change so much it didn’t matter what the actual change was. The start is definitely the moment to take a breath. Even if the solution is obvious, remember, it will still be waiting for you when you get back to it. I learnt that the hard way, forced back to where I began, disheartened and weaker for the experience.
Look at everything in your life regardless of how it impacts on you at this point. Go through work, finance, health, goals, relationships, living arrangements, friendships – ask yourself how each one of them makes you feel. How they impact on your state of mind. Take your time and don’t rush this part. You need that clarity of mind to see anything you have been blind to before this point. If you are going to make changes, why not make enough to tip the balance in your favour. I had one glaring obvious negative in my life, but some smaller issues were lurking in the background. I had been too distracted by the main issue to even see them the first time round. I didn’t need to resolve everything, but I wanted a positive result for all my efforts. To have the scales tipped in my favour after a long time of being weighed down with burden.
Black and white had no place in what I did at this point. Absolutes provided no benefits, other than larger targets to miss. Understand your targets can be elusive, and they evolve as you evolve. Your first targets are just that, first targets. A beginning to the exercise, and a direction to head in. So take that deep breath and spend the time to interpret what is not working for you.
At my lowest ebb, I was a bona fide Clairvoyant. At least I thought I was. If I was staring at a problem and a solution presented itself I could tell you the outcome in mere moments. It was always negative, and also seemed as real as if I had actually lived it. I dismissed any positive solutions because I was looking at them through shit splattered glasses.
If I was going to resolve anything, then that needed to stop. Easier said then done I know, especially with a warped frame of mind. This is where finding what works best for you comes in to play. I can be as stubborn as a mule when I have made my mind up, so I used that. If I didn’t think it would work, then fine, I was going to prove it wouldn’t! All I was going to lose was time so why not just do it anyway. It turns out I was proved wrong, a lot of the smaller issues got resolved despite my mystic talents. How bloody annoying is that! My clairvoyance was a sham and I ended up the better for it.
You don’t have to stop the endless negativity. It is never as simple as ‘thinking positive’ – that misconception is a battle for another day. Why not try one of the solutions you found anyway, and find out if you were right all along. If you were, then no big loss to you in the scheme of things. I would be surprised if that turns out to be the case though because it isn’t always about the outcome. What you learn along the way can give you that next push to try again, to take another little leap of faith. It’s gains in inches not miles. This maxim also rings true in how you approach your problems. Taking them head on, even with the clearest of minds, is a herculean task – never mind when you are at a disadvantage. You may find you identified, say, 4-5 problems that you know need changing. Pick one and put the rest to the side. Again, they are not going anywhere and tackling them all at once will just deplete your, already, short supply of mental energy. They can wait their turn.
Take that one problem and break it down. Take the outcome you desire and write down the steps you need to take to get there. Now you don’t have a mountain, you have a series of large hills. If you can break each of those steps down further, even better. As a simple example, let’s say you are having financial issues and you have a bill you can’t pay. You might have steps like:
- Work out what date you can actually pay the bill by;
- Calculate how much payments each week or month would be;
- Get all the contact details you need for the company you owe;
- Call the company to explain you can’t pay and you need a payment plan;
- Organise a direct debit from your account to make sure you meet the payment plan dates; and
- Look at how you are going to pay future bills to prevent a recurrence.
The above is simple, straightforward and gives you actual actions you can mark off as you complete them. I chose an uncomplicated example to highlight how the basic tasks can be made hard by a depressed thought process. If it is tackled as one big issue, and you have had that time alone with your ‘Depression Gremlin’, you will never move forward until it is planetary in size. Not wanting to face it, because it is all too much or too hard. It’s only a simple example but it is not about knocking big problems out of the park, it’s about doing a little bit each day to get you there. When I started to take action the second time – one of the first tasks for me was changing how I spent my time – it was like an adrenaline injection. I could feel every little chain that was lifted off my back, and it drove me forward to the next task. None of the steps were huge, and I chose it because it was the easiest fix of the issues I was faced with. That was the point, getting in motion and keeping myself there. Easy wins and building confidence going forward. Depression for me has been all about lost energy, lack of free will and no clarity of thought. Taking that back inch by inch is better than the alternative. One of the best articles I read on this approach was by Mark Manson who, in his own words, is an ‘Author.Thinker.Life Enthusiast.’. Mr. Manson pulls no punches and delivers incisive, intelligent commentary on subjects that impact on all of us. I have included a link to his ‘Do Something’ post at the bottom of this article. This helped me immensely at the time, because it spoke to a course of action, over inertness.
A word of advice and caution. If you do choose to take action and break the mountain into manageable mole hills, sometimes things will go south. Just be aware, this is actually OK. Nothing ever goes as planned, but with a plan the unknown is at least minimised. It doesn’t mean it will be all plain sailing, and there will be a strong urge to berate yourself when it goes wrong. Try to give yourself a break when it does. It happens every single person on this planet, and some of the best lessons learnt are through mistakes. Don’t give in too much to the moment. Dust yourself off, take one of those deep breaths, and get back to taking action. Keep in motion, keep moving forward. Make it a habit so it is hard to break. Good habits and routine have been my best assets so far in tackling the low days. The habits keep you moving long enough for a positive to arrive again. So please, if something doesn’t go to plan, go again. Rinse, wash, repeat. Trust in the routine, trust in the habit and know you are moving forward, some days can be slower than others. For me it has been about making my defenses instinctive, rather than something I have to think through every single time. That wasn’t the case at first, but given enough time it will happen. I believe that is true of anything you apply yourself to in life. In my mind, happiness is living the life you choose and never stopping to ask why. It happens by instinct but rarely comes pre-installed in our programming. It is making choices based on what you want. It is discipline and self-sacrifice, but all for your benefit. One foot in front of the other, and you will get there but in your own time.
Below is the Mark Manson link on taking action.