One night in 2011, I got a call from the repo man telling me he was taking my car and that I needed to collect my belongings. That was the moment I realized how much I had lost. I didn’t have 10 dollars to my name, I was 170 pounds overweight, and I had just separated from my wife — all because of my perspective.
I had always believed that average people like me were doomed to unhappy lives, but I finally decided that wasn't good enough. I picked up Dan Miller’s 48 Days To the Work You Love, and decided to try to take control of my life.
Hitting rock bottom, and coming back from that point, taught me some incredible life lessons. I don’t think I need to tell you that life is short, and how you spend your days adds up to how you’ve spent your life. But here are five of the more specific realizations that helped me get my life back on track, stop surviving, and start really living.
1. Money is necessary, not important.
Money is not the most important part of life. It’s not something you should worship. But, it is necessary for a lot of things. Financial stress breaks up marriages. It adds stress to your life, and it cripples dreams. Debt puts a burden on us and makes it hard to live the kind of life we want to live.
By practicing the basics, you can avoid letting money be a stressor in your life. Pay off any debt you have and avoid accruing more. Save a portion of your income for emergencies and invest in the markets. Time is your friend, and compound interest helps your money work for you.
2. A good support system makes all the difference.
Sometimes it seems easier to struggle on your own, keep things to yourself. And sharing your difficulties with friends and family can even feel embarrassing. But a good support system can be the difference between success and failure in life. Even if it’s just one good friend, have a reliable support system that will be honest, and always there for you when you need them. When everything fell apart in my life, my three best friends were the only thing stopping me from hurting myself.
3. It starts with your health.
What you eat has a tremendous effect on how you feel. If you bring garbage (highly processed, unnatural foods) into your system, it will zap your energy and make every day feel like a struggle. Exercise teaches you discipline, gives you energy, and helps you focus. It doesn’t take much to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it will reap dividends. Being healthy is a prerequisite to succeeding in every other part of your life.
4. Fear is a choice.
Fear keeps us stuck in the what-if stage of our dreams. We worry about what other people will think if we fail, how we’ll recover. Overcoming your fear is a matter of recognizing that what you want is more important than what you’re afraid of.
5. No one decides what you’re capable of but you.
We are conditioned by society to be skeptical of anything that’s outside of the realm of the typical. We forget that people do extraordinary things all the time. I lost 170 pounds; I quit a job I hated to write, and moved with my family to our dream destination of Maui. The first step is refusing to accept someone else’s expectations for you.
You don’t have to go be embroiled in tragedy to want a better life. You can be grateful for the life you have, but still want to improve it.
Don’t let doubt, fear, or self-limiting beliefs keep you from creating the reality you want. I wake up every day and live a life that seems surreal.
This is the only life you get. Shouldn’t it count?