About a year ago, I reached a very low point in my life.
My relationship was ending, my job was asking for ever increasing hours and my business was turning into an expensive and unenjoyable hobby. Bills would come knocking on my door (almost literally), and with all the stress piling higher and higher, I felt like I had no one I could turn to.
Two bald spots and a month of drudgery later, I made a call to my brother out of the blue. He had told me that there was a common denominator in all of the issues that I was listing. My relationship, job, business etc; the common factor in all of them was just this: me. This little tidbit I found incredibly unsavory, and immediately refuted his statement with all sorts of my usual excuses.
“I’m not the one who wanted to end my relationship!”
“My boss is making the entire team stressed, it isn’t just me!”
“My customers simply aren’t buying!”
For whatever reason after saying it aloud in this particular instance, I had a thought. What if I was the reason that I was so stressed out? Why was I always talking about me? It was in fact I that was blaming everything/everyone for my problems. I had never truly stopped to consider that I had even a modicum of control in any of these situations. This lead to a series of realizations which lead to a fundamental shift in my life, and subsequently allowed me to move on to the next chapter in my life.
As soon as I blamed someone else, I gave up the option to control my outcome.
When my relationship ended, I knew that I had messed up. Sure I’d made poor choices, but I also figured that in any relationship it takes two. And in this relationship, it was her part of the two that made this one fall apart. If only she’d thought this way or done that, then we’d still be together and I’d be happy again.
One thing that I’d realized, albeit a tad too late, is a bit about love. Yes, I definitely felt that I was in love with my S.O. However, my actions were still rooted in me getting what I’d wanted. For example, I’d buy too many things for her (which would help explain why I felt like I didn’t have money), because deep inside I wanted her to do something for me. Even when I’d said that wasn’t the case, it was. I’d take her on trips because I enjoyed the location, and wanted her to enjoy them as much as I did. I didn’t take time to consider that maybe she didn’t want more things. I didn’t ask if she wanted to go on those trips. I didn’t often ask what she really wanted to do, much less what she wanted in the relationship. Most of the time it was about me. So yeah, I felt like I was in love with her, but my actions did nothing to convey that. An old friend once said that love is an act of self sacrifice for yours (because you can and should love yourself too) or someone else’s growth/benefit. And well, I wasn’t sacrificing anything. I was spending a lot of time and money to chase what I wanted, but never getting it.
The relationship ending, no matter the reason, was something that happened. I won’t blame myself entirely because relationships take two, but I can only speak to my actions, since I’m not her. However what I’d learned was that I essentially wanted to be happy, and for her to be happy. Now, I understood enough to know that I couldn’t choose how other people felt. What I hadn’t considered was that I could choose how I felt. Things happen all the time in our lives, many of them outside of our control. If I continued to blame those things, then nothing would happen. I would be letting those circumstances dictate my current, and future actions; thereby effectively taking control of my life out of my hands. That doesn’t sound fun, and it wasn’t. I could just as well choose to be happy, to be grateful for experience that could mold me into a better version of myself. Then I could choose to live a more fulfilling and exciting life, rather than the dull one where I’m being crushed by the weight of life’s difficulties.
I can’t achieve outstanding results by going along with the crowd.
I understood this at a conceptual level. I’d always read about it in blogs and magazines, but never knew how to go about applying this to my life.
“This is great! I’m already different from the people around me and my opinions differ from the majority, so I’m bound to be outstanding.” — almost literally what I’d think to myself after reading. I’d feel pretty good about myself for a few minutes, and then go back to whatever I was doing before.
Sure, at work the whole team may very well be stressed out- boss included. That didn’t mean that I needed to bicker about it. Complaining did a few things for me:
- It felt good to commiserate about our collective disdain of our boss. I didn’t feel alone on this issue.
- I had a reason for less than stellar results. My boss was hampering our efforts as a team.
- I got to be right. My boss was wrong, and me and my coworkers were justified.
An excuse is still an excuse. I wasn’t happy with my job, no matter what reason I decided to use, that was my reality. I wasn’t contributing much to my job, and I wasn’t feeling satisfied. When I finally made the decision to work hard and achieve results, there was a shift.
I was performing better at work, and got an outstanding achievement award (a little thing they do for recognition. It didn’t really do anything, but it was cool to be recognized). My job became less stressful, in fact the stress of it left entirely. I was focused on doing what I could to benefit our clients and making their experience better. When they expressed their gratitude to me, I felt better. I was contributing to the company and to others’ lives, and it felt great.
No more commiserating with suffering, commiserate in happiness.
A good company provides value to the lives of your customers, and isn’t just after their money.
This should be a given, but what can I say, I’m a tough study. My first company, to put it lightly, was not founded with the best of intentions. While I had grown up in a low-income environment and desperately wanted to make more money (since that would solve all of my problems), doing so from what amounts to purely selfish reasons is not the way to do it. In fact, the opposite happened.
It was most definitely not the fault of my customers that products weren’t selling. It never is when it comes to business. I needed to provide a product or service that fulfilled a need in my audience. If you provide value, you have the opportunity to gain value in the form of money, as well as a sense of fulfillment. I stated that I began to feel pretty great at my job when I was helping the lives of the company’s clients. Why should it have been any different with my own company? It was a lesson hard learned, but a good one.
Last year was arguably one of the roughest patches I’d ever experienced. It also taught me some of the most fundamental lessons that continue to drive me in my endeavors today.
Things I used to say things like,
I’d be happy, except my job is stressing me out.
I would love, except my girlfriend broke my heart.
I would give, except I don’t have money.
I’d have peace, except my life is falling apart.
have changed to:
I am happy.
I will love.
I will give.
I have peace.
I’m reminded of a quote that I’d heard from Tony Robbins:
“Suffering is over obsession of self. Stop expecting, start appreciating.”
A life without excuses is a simplified life. Don’t let yourself be taken by circumstances that don’t go how you want. Things will happen, and life will go on. I had, and do have everything that I need to live a fulfilled life, and so do you.
To be redundant, here’s a quote from the one and only Bruce Lee:
“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.”
Words to live by.
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