“The same thinking that has led you to where you are is not going to lead you to where you want to go.” —Albert Einstein
The odd thing about overcoming anything difficult in life is that even when you overcome it, the looming thoughts of its resurgence is always top of mind. For 18-months I was at my worst. Lost. Overwhelmed. Unclear. Everything scared me. Airplanes. Buses. Social settings without proper lubricant (i.e. alcohol). It didn’t much matter what it was; I was afraid of it.
As I have made my way out, I fear falling back into my old ways. I fear, so deeply, that one day all of the progress and growth I have gained over the last year will be taken away. I will end up right back where I started. I fear that if I do not do the ‘right’ things or implement the perfect diet or set up the perfect routine my life will fall into shambles. Unable to tap into the resilience that I have gained.
This fear is prevalent anywhere there is growth. Whether it stems from climbing out of your personal hell, starting a successful startup, or having a family, people are afraid of losing what they have accomplished. Being left bare without the tools gained in the process, left to the person we “used to be.”
For the longest time, I felt my healing was a form of magic, something outside of my control. The voice in my head kept reminding me to “tread carefully, at any moment you could fall right back to where you started.”
I began writing this article outside of a bus stop in Indianapolis. The birds were happily chirping. The sun was shining over the old brick encampment. It was empty and a bit chilly.
A woman sat next to me with two kids, both wearing matching backpacks, eager to get to their destination. She told me that her family lost their home last week, and they were heading to grandmas in Chicago. They had taken this bus many times, she said but hoped this would be the last. I, on the other hand, had never taken a bus from Indy to Chicago, so I lacked understanding but tried to show empathy.
There was no wifi, which meant I couldn’t publish the article. A little frustrated, but ultimately accepting, I began to start noticing the world around me. A funny thing that you start doing when you write.
I had no emergency food or water, something I always used to need in case something bad happened. After a couple of minutes of enjoying my surroundings, the woman sitting next to me informs me that the bus was delayed 60-90 minutes due to a mechanical problem.
In the past, my anxiety would have started firing on all cylinders, but that day it didn’t. I found peace in the waiting and observing. The cold February breeze was like a breath of fresh air. And the warmth of the sun helped amplify my feelings of calm.
The constant need to escape, to get to the next place and be done with the journey was the primary concern for much of my life. Just survive the moments. Get through the shit. And be done with it.
However, I made a decision on that trip to stretch myself, albeit not too far, out of my comfort zone, by taking a slower, less traveled way of commuting home. I wanted to be uncomfortable. To have the feeling of fear, anxiety, and worry come up, so I could test how far my growth had come.
It’s 9:45 am now, thirty minutes until the next bus. This moment right here in the East Mark courtyard is one of the most serene I have felt in a long time.
Maybe the desire and resilience gained in healing myself mattered more than the actual changes themselves? What if the desire to get better, to improve myself at any cost, was the driving force of my stability? What if the fear of one-day relapsing was unfounded?
At this moment, I believe it is. I believe it is more about who we become in the process of change that matters. In a world inundated with articles and books about new tools and hacks for growth, which always made me feel like I was lying to myself, I finally felt a sense of relief. Maybe I didn’t need the perfect morning routine or the newest hack to get better after all. Maybe it is the mindset that matters.
That morning as I sat outside of the Indianapolis bus station, I found myself developing a deepening sense of belief in myself. In the resilience I built. In the agency that I had to create the life I wanted.
Whether at home or on the road, my mind is along for the ride. And it is my mind, not the tools, that dictate the future. The tools help, but the mindset is the foundation.
Your mind is important. Make it the priority today.
Take three deep, long breaths.
Go for a walk without technology.
Visit a museum.
See a comedy show.
Whatever you need to do to give your mind some rest, go out and do it. Appreciate the life that is thriving all around you. Even while will sit and bang away at our computers, the world carries on with much need for our attention. Try to realize that you have this same capacity.
It is not the tools, the productivity hacks, or the 11 steps to your ultimate self that will create sustained growth and fulfillment. It is your mind. And she is waiting for you to pay her a visit.