Everyday Life

The other day I was driving next to a pickup truck that was flying two American flags. They flapped in the wind as we drove.

When we stopped, I noticed how beat up both flags were. The edges were tattered and torn from the wind.

I thought to myself, how could the wind do that? Then I laughed and thought about how the invisible forces in our lives wear on us the same way.

But really these forces aren’t invisible. We just distract ourselves with busyness. Intentionally or unintentionally ignoring what’s too hard to handle.

Things like fear. Not fear of seeing the doctor. That’s little fear. I mean big fear, like the fear that we may leave this world never having achieved the things we had hoped to.

That’s hard to imagine. That’s hard to think about. That’s hard to live with. Continue reading

The World’s Worst Fortune Teller

Their use to be this cartoon on TV called Courage The Cowardly Dog. It was about a terrified old mutt who was constantly trying to protect his owners from scary creatures.

Even though he was afraid of everything, even his own reflection, he still went to great lengths to keep his owners, Muriel and Eustace, safe.

One of my favorite parts of the show was when Courage would see huge shadows of monsters on the wall, only to realize it was just Muriel walking into the room or a lamp shade.

Nothing was ever as bad as he imagined and things always turned out alright in the end. I watched a couple episodes the other night and I can relate to Courage.

Continue reading

How The Little Things Make A Big Difference

I don’t remember the first time I had coffee, but I imagine it was gross.

Or maybe I added a bunch of cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

I’m not sure, I was probably 12.

I’ve never really liked coffee. I can’t seem to get it to taste right. It’s either liquid candy or dirt.

But sometimes I drink it to fit in with the aficionados. A hot cup of joe next to my computer as I write makes me feel important.

I can’t deny that it packs a pretty nice energy boost. And the smell of hazelnut is wonderful.

Still, I’m not a big fan.

I’m stuck on the classic stuff that I’ve always liked. At least that’s what my girlfriend says.

Old cars, vanilla ice cream, black and white sneakers.

I’ve never put in the effort to experiment and create my perfect cup. I just assume it’s not for me.

I added it to the “do not like” list. I do that a lot.

We all have our favorites. The things we never stray far from. Our safe zones.

And sometimes they hold us back. They keep us from exposing ourselves to new things and new ways.

Our little habit of staying in our comfort zone and living by assumption, snowballs into the larger portions of our lives.

We stick to what’s familiar and become afraid change, too nervous to switch things up.

We keep jobs we hate. We stay with people that hate us. Our sense of strength crumbles.

All because we fear the unknown.

But we can’t grow without experimenting. Testing and trying is what creates our sense of curiosity and discovery.

Just like when we were kids. We knew how to try things and we knew how to give second chances.

We just have to start small, then build our confidence from there.

Newness can bring freshness to life. Getting past the fear is the hard part.

I’ve been experimenting with coffee this week and it’s starting to taste a bit better.

Medium roast, coconut milk, cinnamon and coconut sugar.

Or maybe it’s all in my head.

All we can do is try.

Working With Fear and Anxiety

I finished my work right on time and at the very last minute, someone asked me a question. Even though I knew this would make me late for my appointment, I stuck around to help out.

Then came my 25 minute drive. I watched the clock and tried to stop time. I rattled my brain trying to think up a quicker route. I hoped that every street light would stay green. I envisioned the angry receptionist waiting at the window eying her watch. By the time I got there, my heart was racing. I was sweating. It felt like I had run there. I stepped through the front door and heard…

Hi, Nick. We’re running a little behind, we will get to you in about 10 minutes.

Ha. No one even noticed. There was no dramatic music. No blinding spotlight. No weapons were drawn. Was this an appointment or an old western gunfight? Was everything I just put myself through worth it? Even if rushing would have gotten me there on time, is being on time actually worth my sanity?

Our ancient ancestors had to be afraid. They had to be anxious. For them, it was a matter of life or death. But for me, 99% of the time, it’s not. Which is probably true for most of us. Here are a few practical tools that I’ve used to nip my fear fits and anxious breakdowns in the bud before they get out of hand:

Labeling

Fear and anxiety have their place. We wouldn’t exist without them. But that doesn’t mean they have to run our lives. In stressful situations try labeling them. Say “This is fear” or “This is anxiety”. It can help knock the edge of their intensity rather than letting them run wild. Try calmly repeating statements like this until you’re able to relax and bring things back into perspective.

Acceptance

I’ve done a lot of work with fear. For a long period of time, I thought to myself don’t be afraid, which was like throwing a sheet over an elephant. It wasn’t until a meditation teacher said “invite it in” that I started to accept it and see it for what it was. At first, yes it was scary. Yes, it grew larger. But as I stayed with it and as I got closer and closer, it got smaller and smaller. I got so close that it seemed small enough to fit in my hands. I realized that ignoring it caused it to grow and as it grew I would try harder to ignore it. It was a vicious cycle. Taking time to accept your anxiety and fear can be reassuring. It gives you something concrete to work with instead of becoming lost in abstract ideas. You no longer have to run from it.

Attention and Evaluation

Pay attention to when your fear or anxiety disappears. Take a few seconds to evaluate whether it assisted you. Did it solve your problems quicker? Did it make you feel safe? Did it prevent something from going wrong? Use these types of questions to start building a case. Something that you can continue to reference as a reminder that your pre-conceived ideas aren’t as accurate as you think. Your fears and anxieties probably don’t have a winning record for predicting the future.

Working with all of this feels like an impossible task, but it’s worth the attempt. A calm mind is worth the effort. And if it feels larger than life, don’t be afraid to get help. Ask someone with experience or seek a professional. No one does any of this alone.

Subconsciously, fear and anxiety want to keep us safe. They try to create solid ground for us to stand on. But solid ground doesn’t exist. Life is a free fall and nothing is absolute. When we decide to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, we’ll find peace. When we decide that the only way to know anything is to dive in and experience it, we’ll realize that fear and anxiety only get in the way. For so long they’ve stolen the energy that we could be using to do what we love. Make finding freedom your priority. Your sanity depends on it.

Don’t Get Over It, Just Go Through It

I never looked in the mirror and said it out loud, but I was basically trying to force myself to get over it. I left my job to work full time on my own business. There was only one problem, my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to make money and build something on my own, rather than pursue what I felt was close to my heart. Six months later I decided to go back to my old job and reevaluate my life.

Through the entire process, I never allowed myself the time to experience the fear, regret, frustration and guilt. I just wanted to get over it and move on. I thought getting over it would be more beneficial than actually facing the emotional whirlwind. Or maybe I felt better ignoring the fact that I had experienced what most would consider “failure“.

Since then, I’ve realized that getting over stuff never works. Life is like a puzzle and each experience is its own unique piece. You can’t see the entire picture without all the pieces. If we leave out the experiences we identify as negative or bad, then we never see the full picture. Together the negative and positive experiences are what makes us whole.

Thats why I’ve given up trying to get over things. Going through something is much more valuable. When we go through something, we come out on the other side with more wisdom. Wisdom that we can use to help free ourselves from the source of our stress and anxieties. When we force ourselves to get over things, we try to skip over our negative experiences without acknowledging our feelings and therefore getting nothing out of it. That leaves us vulnerable to running into the same challenges over and over, suppressing emotions that will sooner or later find their way out.

Emotions have gotten a bad wrap, let’s cherish them for all the lessons that they bring rather than treating them like a nuisance.