Picking Yourself Up
Life is one of the hardest things to cope with. Every day we overcome struggles in some shape or form. Some days are harder than others. There is so much negativity, hate, and challenges in the world, and it is quite literally amazing that we all still manage to function the way we do… And I know what you’re thinking. This is a bit of a pessimistic way to start an article but hear me out.
Some of the most wealthy and successful people in the world suffer severely from mental health issues and are not ‘happy’.
From what I can see from the parallel between these individuals who are ‘happy’ and who aren’t, revolves around the idea that when you lose ‘meaning’, you give up. In our privileged countries we have a good place to live, food on the table, and people all around us that love us… sometimes we forget the necessity of growing and doing something each day to allow us to live the best and most fulfilling life we can.
From this position of privilege, we struggle to know what to do with our lives. We are basking in the success of our ancestors who have made it possible for us to live the lives we do today. Which ultimately leaves us with the overwhelming decision of what we do with our lives. Sometimes it can become so overwhelming that we become so demotivated that hours… days… or even weeks go past without doing anything to help ourselves achieve the greatness within us.
For instance, I recently had a lot of coursework deadlines, and worked extremely hard to make it the best work I could. I went into University every day, sometimes until it closed at midnight and I was thrown out by the security team. Without fail I was there every day. Some days I didn’t plan on going in and ended up there anyway. I was the most productive I have been in a long time. It was the first pro-longed time since moving to London where I didn’t feel lonely, and it was great.
But sustaining that feeling is hard, especially after I handed in the coursework. This can be the same for anyone when you are working towards something and you finally achieve it. They can be short term or long-term goals or achievements. It could even be something that took up time in the past that you are no longer burdened to do.
Sometimes it’s not any of that… sometimes there are days where it is just really hard to get going. Everyone has them. It’s normal! And a lot of us don’t have the willpower to be able to get out of that rut and back into the state of flow that we all desire to live in.
Getting Out of the Rut
It is very hard and there isn’t a universal cure to be able to suddenly be productive again. However, there are certain principles that I think are important to try to attain when getting back on track.
One of my friends recently told me about his three step approach to when he is feeling bad to snap him back into productivity:
- Brush his teeth,
- Drink some water,
- Go for a walk.
Now this model might work perfectly for you, but the chances are you just think he is weird. But by all means try it, try different interpretations, try and find something that works for you. And that’s generally what this post is all about… helping you to make your own little routine to make you feel better.
Whatever little cues you introduce when you are feeling bad have to be easy. Otherwise you just won’t want to do them and it won’t help you. If anything, you will just feel worse.
The point isn’t to magically make yourself productive again. It’s to make yourself feel a little better because when you feel better you do better.
Introduce something small and easy that you need very little brain engagement to successfully complete… for example; drinking water, brushing teeth, washing your face, doing a few push-ups, changing clothes, stroking your pet, tidying your room.
How big you make the task depends on how easy you think it is to do. For example, if you are a tidy person then tidying your room might be very easy, but equally if you are a messy person then tidying your room may take a long time and will be hard. Stick to something you can do within a minute or two.
It’s important for you to assess the difficulty of the tasks and match them with your ability to get going when you are feeling negative.
Change Your Location
The YouTube video “This Is Your Brain On Stale Air” by Tom Scott featuring Kurtis Baute identified the importance of making sure that you aren’t breathing in too much Carbon Monoxide. It’s a really interesting video and I encourage you to check it out.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning can kill you. Contrary to popular belief, that’s how a lot of people die in house fires and not the fire itself. However, it decreases your brains ability to function even when under the level that will kill you. Even in your house there are higher levels than if you were to be outside. In rooms without plants it’s higher and it’s higher in the city compared to the countryside. There are many factors that affect it.
So hence the next step…. Change your location! Go into a different room, open a window, go to a garden, go for a walk. Do something that supplies your body with more oxygen. Everyone loves a fresh feeling (and if you don’t you are weird, because your body is engineered to desire it). By getting some air, you will feel fresh, you will think with more clarity and you will be able to change your mental state.
Get a Dream – Make it Happen
This one I haven’t alluded to yet, but something that’s so important for all of us. We should all have a dream or a goal… something that motivates us to do what we do each day. We don’t know and will never know the meaning of life. But life is full of meaning because it’s what we make of it… to become a lawyer, to become an artist, to become a CEO, to become a secretary, to own a business, to become a parent, to write a book, to write a blog, to do whatever the hell it is you want out of life.
It’s a contentious opinion, but to me… that is the meaning of life! We all have a separate meanings of life and we all contribute to something so much bigger than ourselves. Something that has existed since time began and something that will exist until time ends (if there is such thing). It’s something that we will never understand. But what we can understand is how make the most of our lives, and that’s something that is, and can only ever be personal.
So now moving away from the motivational speech I just constructed… if you don’t have a dream, or something you are working towards, then make one. Remind yourself of it any time you start to feel down or get in a negative headspace.
Les Brown, one of the best motivational speakers, told everyone to ‘be unreasonable’. Every achievement anyone ever attained was unreasonable at the time. Don’t get put down by internal or external critics. Be completely unreasonable, and one day you might get there… or you might get extremely close… or you might get no-where near… But you will be a hell of a lot closer than if you never tried.
Howard Thurman, an African-American author, philosopher, and theologian introduced the perspective that if you died today, what would die with you? What ideas, what dreams, what potential achievements would disappear with you right now?
That is the sad truth… a lot of people never achieve their dreams. I mean it might not be their own fault! Some people are better than others at certain things. Sport is a perfect example of this. I could train harder than anyone else, I could give more than anyone, but I will never be able to become the best… dancer in the world. It just will not happen. But as long as I have that dream and desire to do so, my life has meaning, and I will work towards it every day. And hey… it could happen! My dancing isn’t that bad!
The Decathlete, Dailey Thompson, trained even on Christmas day. He was that hungry for success that he wanted to train and work when his opponents weren’t because he knew that the extra day of training may be the difference when it came to the competition.
Think of it like this… you are never going to work towards something you don’t want, care or dream about. Go get a dream to start with. Something that will make you want to work. Something that will make you stop wasting the limited time you have on this earth. Make sure those dreams and achievements won’t die with you or do everything you can to make that happen. Then work towards it every day. Be hungry for success just like Daily Thompson was. And use it when you start to feel down to see the bigger picture.
There are many ways you can implement this in your life. It could be as simple as reminding yourself when you start feeling negative, what it is you are working towards. You could get a vision board so when you see it and it reminds you why you are alive and what gives you worth. Get some posters, pictures, anything! Surround yourself with your dreams, and soon you will be living a version if it.
Also published on Medium.