“Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an unbelievable breakthrough.” ~Unknown
I had hit rock bottom.
Now that means different things to different people, so let me explain what my rock bottom meant.
I’ll start with my physical health. I was underweight, about twenty-five pounds. My face looked gaunt and scrawny.
I was hypertensive, even though I was eating a healthy diet. I also had severe eczema. The itching was so bad that I woke up in the middle of the night with my legs covered in blood from the scratching.
The only thing that helped make the eczema less itchy was if my wife covered my whole body with bags of frozen peas.
On top of that, my energy was down the drain. Some weekends I would lie in bed the whole day.
My emotions were all over the place. Most nights I wept myself to sleep. I was anxious, stressed, depressed, and there were a few times that I wanted to end my life.
The only thing that kept me from doing it was the potential pain it would cause my wife and family. I couldn’t put them through it.
I was so ashamed of my state and so afraid of being judged that I completely isolated myself from all relationships. So, I lost connection with all my friends.
My work performance had also gotten so bad that my employer retrenched and took legal action against me. I can’t blame them though.
For most of my life, I had been an overachiever. Most of the time, I got what I wanted. I kept asking myself, how did I let things get so bad?
Here are a few of the lessons I’d like to share in the hope that I can help someone avoid a similar breakdown. When I started applying these lessons, I saw a massive improvement in my life.
1. Let go of control.
I have a confession: I’m a bit of a control nut. What kept me from living a fulfilled life was resisting and wanting to control the present moment, especially when it wasn’t in line with my expectations.
I would do everything in my power to either avoid the situation or change it. I discovered that whatever you resist will persist. So the more I resisted unwanted situations, the more they appeared in my life—because I hadn’t yet learned the lesson.
Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”
It took me a while to learn this way of thinking. To say I’m stubborn is an understatement. But I finally learned the secret of surrendering and going with the flow.
Resistance creates emotional turmoil that zaps you of your energy. You can even see how resistance manifests itself through your body. For example, you might frown, or tighten your chest, stomach, or shoulders. Let it go and let it be.
We humans are too shortsighted to see the long-term benefit of that supposed horrible situation we’re resisting. But trust me, in the long term, it’ll make you a better version of your old self if you embrace it and let yourself learn and grow from the experience.
2. Don’t try to do everything on your own.
Pride can kill you. It almost killed me. Not only am I stubborn, I also used to think I knew better than everyone else. That led me to want to do everything on my own because I didn’t trust anyone.
Now I’m much more trusting and can let go of a few responsibilities. I still keep my finger on the pulse, though. But instead of having too much on my plate, I know rather find someone that has the results I desire and work with them as a mentor, coach, or consultant. And that’s for all areas of my life. It’s much faster, cheaper, and less frustrating.
3. Trust your gut.
If you ignore your gut, you’ll allow people to force their will, beliefs, and opinions onto you. Your gut knows best.
It’s about building your intuition and your ability to listen to your instincts. Sometimes we know what to do, yet we avoid the situation because we’re afraid to do it or scared of the potential outcome.
If you avoid your gut for too long it will stop whispering and start shouting. Because it’s also the universe’s way of communicating with you. Telling you that you are not living life according to your highest values.
It’s cool that we have this built-in tool that can guide us throughout life. And at the same time, it’s heart-breaking that some people don’t know this or refuse to use it. Don’t be one of them.
4. Give up the “if/then” illusion.
“If I’m successful, then I’ll be happy.” I know it sounds cliché, but life is all about the journey. Because there is no destination…
There will always be a new challenge you seek. Think about it, every time you’ve reached a certain milestone you probably asked yourself, “Is this it?” And then you proceeded to chase a new goal, thinking it would give you the fulfillment you desire.
Trust me, that fulfillment never comes. Fulfillment can only be found in the present moment. The trick is to be grateful for your current blessings, however small they might be.
And also, detach from specific outcomes. Remember rule #1? Go with the flow!
Don’t make the mistake I did by saying you’ll be fulfilled when X, Y, or Z happens. The planets are never going to align. The right time is now.
5. Commit to a routine.
Routine and structure keep us sane in the face of chaos and uncertainty. There are so many things we don’t have control over. Especially the situations (sometimes unwanted) that life throws our way.
When we feel overwhelmed, the best way to ground ourselves is through a routine, including a morning routine to start your day right.
That may include exercise, meditation, journaling, visualizing your ideal future, reading a spiritual book, etc. Doing a morning routine is like exercising. You don’t always feel motivated to do it, but you will feel like a new person afterward.
6. Build a strong foundation.
I always used to chase the wrong goals (wealth, success, money) to the detriment of my physical and emotional health and my relationships.
I learned the hard way that no amount of money can buy those three things. If you don’t have them in place, you have nothing.
I see so many “successful” people making this mistake. They reach the top of the mountain without those three things and then they get depressed or even commit suicide.
Trust me, it’s not worth it. Make time for self-care—exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, get outside—and prioritize time with the people you love. Once those three foundational elements are in place, then feel free to chase the more material goals.
7. Stop chasing happiness.
So this one is a bit controversial, but hear me out. There is a universal law that keeps balance in the world. It’s like a pendulum.
If you swing too far to the right, you’ll swing just as far to the left. This happened to me. I was chasing happiness and resisting sadness thinking that I was doing something wrong whenever I felt down.
I learned that if I swing too far to the right (happiness) the universe will bring me back to center by swinging the pendulum to the left (sadness).
Do you want to know what’s at the center of the pendulum and how to remain balanced? It’s love and gratitude—two things you can feel no matter what’s going on in your life.
The universe, in her infinite wisdom, knows this and tries to teach us this. So be sure to do some gratitude journaling whenever you get a chance. Or be grateful for the small things in life whenever they arise. The things we sometimes take for granted.
8. Be authentic.
I always admired my grandmother. Not for her baking and cooking skills, but for how honest she can be. She tells it straight. She’s not trying to be something or someone she’s not. And I’ve seen this pattern in many elderly people.
My best guess is that they have learned that life is too short to be inauthentic and not speak their mind. This is the exact opposite of how I acted.
I tried to be something someone else wanted me to be. Or worse, I agreed with people because I wanted their approval even though my gut disagreed (rule #3!).
Anyway, I’ve learned to be honest even if it’s uncomfortable. I now speak my mind (even if it hurts), and people respect me more for it.
I’m not saying you should go around being mean and insulting people. I’m saying be classy, and be true to yourself. I know it can be hard, but the long-term benefits are worth it.
9. Live life based on your own values.
I’ve learned through my experiences that the purpose of life is to live life on your terms. Whatever that might be. The mistake I made was by living life on someone else’s terms. Living life through other people’s values instead of my own. Only we know what’s best for us.
This allows me to respect other people’s values even if they didn’t align with my own. Even though I think I know what’s best for someone else, I don’t! I have no right to judge them or their situation. Everyone has their own journey. And let me share another secret with you…
Once you know what you want out of life, give it! If you want love, give love. If you want money (value), give value. If you want respect, give respect.
10. Choose consistency over intensity.
I’m very intense, and I’ve always had this ‘go cold turkey’ approach to chasing my goals instead of easing into things.
Now that might work for some people, but those people are in the minority. What’s helped me more is to be moderately consistent.
I’ve learned that when I would go all out, I would tend to burn out.
Take exercise as an example. Let’s say you want to get fit. You’re motivated and you hit the treadmill hard for thirty minutes on day one! The next day you are sore and miserable. That soreness lasts for four to five days.
Now compare that to the guy who exercises moderately and consistently for ten minutes every day of the week. He isn’t sore and stiff and he gets in seventy minutes of exercise in a week, while the intensity guy only gets in thirty minutes of exercise a week.
This principle ties in with a great quote from Tony Robbins: “We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” So be the tortoise that wins the race, not the hare.
The biggest takeaway I want to give you is to focus on love. At the end of the day, that’s all there is. Love others, love what you’re doing, and most of all, love yourself. It’s hard to love others fully if we don’t love ourselves first. You can’t give what you don’t have.
That being said, I’d LOVE to learn from you! What valuable life lessons have you learned up until this point in your life?