What does that mean? I am sure you have heard this sentiment echoed by self-help books and other personal development resources, but I am here to decode this often-misunderstood statement. Before I delve into what this means and more importantly, what it means for YOU and YOUR OWN LIFE, I want to provide some context for this article. So, let me introduce you to myself.
My name is Andrew. I am 22 years old, and I live in NYC. I understand I am young so I do not claim to have all of the answers. I know I have just scratched the surface. But over the past few years I have learned a lot about myself and about what it means to be happy. One thing that significantly helped me was taking charge of my life- owning my experiences and my responsibility for my own happiness.
I am here today sharing my experiences with you all because I want you all know to ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. I sincerely hope that sharing my experiences here will help at least one person reading this. Why? Because I want to help astonish someone. What do I mean? I mean that when I think about my own life, I sometimes get astonished about how far I have come- that I went from miserably unhappy to a very happy person. I used to think I could never be happy, that happiness was something for other people. I used to think I did not deserve to be happy. I get astonished because I realize how wrong I was. Everyone is worthy of happiness, despite what he or she may think. Everyone deserves to be happy, to live a life they are proud of, regardless of their past.
I’m sharing this article because as bizarre as it sounds, I love you all. We are all people just trying to live, trying to get by, trying to understand life. We are all in this together.
This article is about what I did almost 2.5 years ago. It is about how I got myself out of rock bottom. I knew I did not want to continue on the path I had been on and it was time to change. This article describes the process I used to pull myself out of a crater of self-pity and what I did to create the life I have today.
I quickly looked away from the TV and glanced down at my hands. Beads of sweat were forming around my fingertips. My head was pounding, my chest thumping, my eyes watering.
Fuck this, I thought.
I had just finished playing a game of Call of Duty in my efforts to distract myself from my inner conflict. I was frustrated from the game, and with myself. This had gone on for too long. The past couple of days had been hard. I felt the pit of my stomach twisting deeper and deeper the more I thought back to the week earlier. I felt my face getting flushed with anger, my jaw tightening with tension. Then my anger morphed into sadness. How could this happen to me? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I fell into another repetitive cycle of self-pity and self-hatred. Did I do this to myself? I must have deserved this in some way.
I grew tired. I was weary I had fallen down the rabbit hole of endless negative spirals. I did not have enough energy anymore. I stopped for a moment. I looked around my basement – at my TV where the Xbox logo had been flashing on my screen, begging me to play another game. I looked at my phone where I had an article opened titled, “How to get through Depression”. I looked inwards where I felt sad, confused, and angry.
Was I doomed to feel this way for the rest of my life?
I thought about my life. About my relationships with my friends, my family members, my goals, my career path. I thought about why I was unhappy, why I had felt inadequate my whole life. What was it? What is it something about me? Was I just unworthy of happiness and having a strong self-esteem?
Was there an alternative? Could I actually have a life where I was happy? How do you be happy? What does that even mean? How do you get there? What would I have to do to become happy?
I thought about this for 15 minutes, when a sudden wave of anger rushed over me. I had this voice speaking to me, an inner monologue that- unbeknownst to me at the time- was my inner strength.
“Just do it. Just fucking do it. Do whatever it takes to be happy and to stop being miserable. Grab yourself up by the balls and make shit happen for you. For yourself. For your life. Because if you don’t, who will?”
In that moment I decided to listen to that tough inner voice. I did not know where this would take me, but I decided I had nothing to lose.
I was tired of feeling like a victim and not taking matters into my own hands. In that moment, everything changed. I took control of my life, and I did it with a simple exercise.
NOTE: After finishing this article, I want you to try out the exercise yourself.
I want you to sit down and, genuinely evaluate who you are and where you are in life. I want you to honestly think about what you want and the path your life is on. Evaluate your life as if you were helping a friend- be kind, but be real.
Step #1: Sit down and write down what you want to accomplish in life. Write down WHAT you want to accomplish and WHY you want to accomplish that goal.
The list below is what I wrote down 2.5 years ago. It contains WHAT I wanted to accomplish + WHY I wanted to accomplish that goal:
1. Run a mile, so I can feel healthier and start running as a new hobby.
2. Not let my emotions control me, so I can exert more control over my life and my actions.
3. Have an optimistic attitude in life, so I can be happier and view setbacks as temporary obstacles, and not permanent.
4. Develop a strong charisma so I can be a pleasant person to be around.
5. Get on the Dean’s List for the remainder of college so I can set myself up for a great job after college.
6. Stop caring what others thought of me so I can live my life the way I wanted to, not the way others wanted for me.
Step #2: For each corresponding goal I wrote down, I asked myself, “Am I on my way to achieving this goal?” If I was not, I would ask myself why. Doing this allowed me to identify my weaknesses and see how my weaknesses were stopping me from living the life I wanted.
1. Am I on the path to running a mile?
No. I was nowhere close to being able to run a mile due to being a little overweight, and smoking and drinking a little too often.
Why? Poor eating habits, not exercising enough, and not taking care of my health.
2. Am I on the path to gaining better control of my emotions?
No. I let little things bother me too often, and far too often would let my emotions derail my day. For instance, if it took too long to put my contacts on in the morning, I would get annoyed and say great, “Looks like today will suck.” I would carry that negative energy and let it affect the rest of my day.
Why? I had a low to non-existent emotional intelligence. I had been raised in an environment where I was taught to scream and yell at anything that raised any uncomfortable emotions. I did not understand that emotions are fleeting, and I did not understand how to be mindful of them.
3. Am I on the path to having an optimistic view towards life?
No. I always imagined what could go wrong, rather than what could go right. I didn’t believe I could do anything.
Why? I failed to realize the things I had accomplished. I failed to recognize my successes and instead focused on my failures.
4. Am I on the path to developing a strong charisma?
Partially. I had always been good at making friends and was an extroverted person. So, I was on the way there. However, I was seeking a special type of charisma- I wanted to be the kind of person that made everyone around him comfortable and enjoyed their presence.
5. Am I on the path to getting on the Dean’s List for the rest of college?
Why? I strongly disliked what I was studying (Biology). My parents wanted me to be a doctor but I had no interest in doing so. I also was depressed so that did not translate to having productive study habits.
6. Am I on the path to living my life for myself and not for other people?
Why? I did not know who I was. I did not know what I wanted in life and who I wanted to be. I had some self-discovery to do.
Step #3: Finally, for each obstacle that I recorded, I wrote down the steps I would need to take to overcome it.
1. Run a mile
- Start intermittent fasting to lose weight and start following a diet.
- Clean up my alcohol consumption and cut back on smoking pot.
- Start running 3 times a week, at my own pace.
- Make a promise to yourself to stick to running and to try your best, no matter how difficult it was going to be.
2. Not let my emotions control me
- Read as much as you can about how to develop an emotional intelligence.
- Start forgiving those you had issues with
- Find a therapist
- Stop feeling sorry for myself. Self-pity is a hindrance to improving myself because it only perpetuates a spiral of feeling helpless and staying stuck in the past. I will make a conscious effort in reminding myself, “I am the only one who make my life better.”
3. Have an optimistic attitude in life
- Learn to look at the positives of every situation you are in.
- Start to practice gratitude. Gratitude will help you recognize what you do have and how lucky you are. When you wake up in the morning, say 5 things you are grateful for.
4. Develop a strong charisma
- Smile more often. Don’t take things so seriously, and just smile.
- Try to have fun in whatever you do. Life is just better when you’re having fun.
5. Get on the Dean’s List for the remainder of college
- Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The good grades will come from there.
- Try to do a little bit of work every day, don’t procrastinate.
- Start thinking about what you really want to do as a career. Identify where your strengths, interests, and passions align and pick a minor/major based on that.
6. Stop caring what others thought of me
- Talk to new people. Learn about different people and cultures, and in that you will learn what interests you and who interests you.
- Be less judgmental towards yourself and others. Have an open mind and try out new things.
- Be more self-aware. Think about what you want and why you want it.
After I started working on myself, within a couple of months I started to notice drastic changes within myself. For the first time in my life, I was happy. Truly happy. This was mind-blowing for me because up to this point in my life I had convinced myself I was not capable of being happy.
I started to see results in my fitness, emotional state, optimism, charisma, education, and self-identity. I was, and still am, so proud of myself for taking control of my life.
However, this article is about helping you, and not about documenting my life. So, I would like to leave this article with one message:
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it would be:
Give yourself a chance.
It is so easy to look at others and believe in them and their abilities, so why not try yourself? Why not try believing in yourself?
If you find it hard to start, I’ll give you a boost/head start:
I believe in you. I believe in your abilities. You’re stronger than you realize. Please don’t settle for a life less than what you would like to live. We’re all capable of great things. Trust.
We all start from somewhere. We are not guaranteed anything in life. We need to go out there and get it.
Thank you for reading this article, and I wish you the best of luck and a happy and healthy life.
If any of you have any questions or would like someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.