How Much Good Could You Do?
Fear, embarrassment, worry, what’s holding you back? What’s really holding you back? What would it take for you to become more productive with your life while providing inspiration and joy to others? To find happiness, to attain peace. Could it be that it's no more complicated than avoiding negative habits AND reducing negative emotions when they occur? Addition by subtraction. We have been programmed to believe that more things and more stuff will somehow fill a void, to plug a hole that we have in our lives. May I propose a solution?
As I say in my new book, This One’s For You,
“Chasing happiness can be an illusion if you haven’t dealt with what’s holding you back in the first place. I believe there is no recipe for happiness; what we should be seeking are the skills for avoiding negative emotions and habits, in which happiness should result.”
Negative emotions are fine, just keep their lifespan limited. Anger, envy, sadness, self-criticism, and fear in the short term may provide a spark, an injection of motivation yet held long term can be very destructive. However, negative habits are always destructive. Negative habits would be lying, stealing, smoking, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, excessive drinking, wasting time, and any substance abuse in general. Emotions make us human, habits make us happy
Let’s look at lying for a moment. Lying is a negative habit we are all guilty of yet do actually consider the damage it causes? How many problems could have been avoided if we simply told the truth? Being honest ranks very high on admirable traits in relationships. We demand honesty yet when someone’s honesty towards us impinges on our bad habits we tend to get defensive. We can’t have it both ways can we? The only person you cannot lie to is the person staring back at you in the mirror, the person that always knows the truth.
It takes time to break a bad habit. There are two main barriers to changing bad habits:
*It’s not fun
*It takes a desire to change
For example, I have had a “bad back” for as long as I can remember. I am 54, not 84 and I shouldn’t be limited like this. The pain is in my lower left back and it shoots down my left hip at times I can barely walk. My Dad has had back issues his whole life as well so it possibly runs in our family. As I have gotten older I planned my day according to how my back would feel. Mornings are the toughest and by afternoon it seems to loosen up to be able to do most things. Early morning golf, no way. I stretch every time after I workout. I have been to doctors in the past, I take aspirin/ibuprofen when needed. I have lost weight as I thought that would help relieve pressure on my back. I wear a back pain patch often. Fancy named pillows made of high tech materials and a space-age mattress to no avail. It is estimated that over 50 million US adults deal with chronic pain every day (CDC Morbidity and Mortality report 9/14/2018). Occam's Razor states, in simple terms of course, “of two competing theories, the simpler explanation is preferred.
This got me thinking. What could be the simplest cause of my back pain? Well, I came to realize that it wasn’t any more complicated than to change how I sleep. Rocket science, right? I sleep on my stomach, with a “sleep pillow” that I use underneath. In researching back pain this is the worst way to sleep. The best way to sleep for pain management is to sleep on your back yet it’s thought only about 8% of us sleep this way. This is a bad habit, not a bad emotion. I decided to change and immediately tried to sleep on my back. Easier said than done. Breaking a bad habit that I have had my whole life takes time, still does and it wasn’t fun. After 3 months of focus and commitment, I now sleep most nights solely on my back. I am happy to say that this has relieved the majority of my morning back pain! Coincidence, luck? Who cares! I had the desire to change and I did.
By reducing or eliminating this ONE bad habit my life has become substantially more enjoyable and more productive. Now imagine if I eliminated a few more? We all have bad habits and we can eliminate most of them. What percentage of personal misery, trauma, and pain is caused by internal actions we do to ourselves? How much good could we do if we weren’t in so much pain, physical or mental? What’s holding you back? Maybe Philosopher William of Occam was right, the simplest explanation is probably the best!