No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.
I sat there in her living room staring at her through teary eyes. “I feel crazy,” I said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Why do you feel crazy?” she asked.
“Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and regretful, and so much more all at once,” I said.
“And you don’t think everyone feels like this at times?” she asked.
“Not like this,” I replied under my breath.
“Well you’re wrong,” she said. “If you think you know someone who never feels a bit crazy and off-center, you just don’t know enough about them. Every one of us contains a measure of ‘crazy’ that moves us in strange, often perplexing ways. This side of us is necessary; it’s part of our human ability to think, adapt and grow. It’s part of being intelligent,” she said.
I sat silently for a moment. My eyes gazed from her eyes to the ground and back to her eyes again. “So you’re saying I should want to feel like this?”
“To an extent,” she said. “Let me put it this way: Taking all your feelings seriously all the time is a waste of your spirit. You have to know that sometimes what you feel simply won’t align with what you want; it’s just your subconscious mind’s way of helping you look at things from a different perspective. These feelings will come and go quickly as long as you let them go… as long as you consciously push past them.”
We shared another moment of silence, then my lips curled up slightly and I cracked a smile, “Thank you, Grandma,” I said.
Over the course of the next few hours we discussed the following – some ways we unnecessarily drive ourselves crazy:
1. Should haves, would haves and could haves…
As Thich Nhat Hanh so perfectly said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
In many cases you stay stuck in your old routines for no other reason than that they are familiar to you. In other words, you’re afraid of change and the unknown. You continually put your dreams and goals off until tomorrow, and you pass on great opportunities simply because they have the potential to lead you out of your comfort zone.
You start using excuses to justify your lack of backbone: “Someday when I have more money,” or “when I’m older,” or the over-abused “I’ll get to it as soon as I have more time.” This is a vicious cycle that leads to a deeply unsatisfying life – a way of thinking that eventually sends you to your grave with immense regret. Regret that you didn’t follow your heart. Regret that you always put everyone else’s needs before your own. Regret that you didn’t do what you could have done when you had the chance.
So how do you prevent regretting all the potential should haves, would haves and could haves?
Simple. Forget the past. Forget what you can’t change. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. From this point on, let there be no excuses, no explanations and no regrets. Start from where you are right now, break free from your cage of comfort and take a bold step forward.
2. Love driven addictions.
It happens to all of us at some point – suffering from the consequences of love-driven obsession and addiction. Your desire for someone bestows upon you an intoxicating, mind-altering dose of feelings you never dared to admit you wanted. It’s an emotional bender, perhaps, of reckless love and roaring excitement.
When the subject of your desire is even slightly withheld from you, you promptly spiral out of control, feeling crazy and depleted, as if a drug you rely on is being dangled in front of you just out of your reach. And then you become resentful of your dealer – the subject of your desire – who you believe encouraged your addiction in the first place, but now refuses to tender the good stuff you have come to rely on… even though you’re certain they have it, darn it, because they used to give it to you all the time free of charge.
Meanwhile, of course, this person has become more and more appalled by your junkie ways. They look at you no longer as an equal, but as a dependent who relies on them. They don’t see the person they cared for; they see the mess you’ve become. But if you stop and think about it, how can you blame them? Your addictive obsession has devalued your own self-esteem and self-worth; and it’s hard to love and respect those who don’t love and respect themselves. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Relationships and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Competing with everyone else.
If you compete with others, you will become bitter. If you compete with a previous version of yourself, you will become better. It’s as simple as that. You are not in competition with anybody except yourself; plan to outdo your past not other people.
Rather than compete against others, work with them on a common goal. Use your combined insights and talents to achieve what none of you can alone. Real personal growth and learning occurs through relationships, when the competitive spirit is replaced with a collaborative one.
4. Complaints backed by lack of action.
Complaining is a draining waste of time. We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Any amount of it you spend whining and complaining is a total loss; do something useful instead.
Take the next 24 hours and every time you start to complain, realize it, admit it and stop it. How often do you complain and harp on negative thoughts? It may be more often than you think. Know that bringing awareness to this unproductive habit is the first step to overcoming it.
Bottom line: You are not allowed to complain about something unless you’re going to do something about it. (Read Think and Grow Rich.)
5. The maintenance of lies.
What’s the best part of telling the truth? You don’t have to keep track of everything you’ve said. Quite simply, the truth doesn’t cease to exist just because you ignore it. It takes constant care and maintenance to hide reality behind a lie. The truth may be hard to deal with, it may irritate you, but it will always set you free.
In the end someone is going to tell the truth anyway. The only question is: Who do you want to tell it, you or them?
6. Procrastinating until there’s an emergency.
To resist at the beginning is always the easiest choice to make, and it’s also the only choice that guarantees you will never reach the end result you desire.
The thing we all do best to drive ourselves crazy is to do nothing when something needs to get done. The way to counteract this is simple: engage deeply in work that needs to be completed.
Your time is now. There’s no price too great for feeling accomplished. There’s no price too great for feeling alive. And if you don’t do it now, you probably never will. You know the thing you’ve been putting off the longest? That thing you’ve been procrastinating on for the last several weeks? That’s the thing you need to start doing today. That’s the thing you need to start before going to bed tonight.
The time to start is not when the crap hits the fan. The time to start is now. Period.
7. Focusing on what you don’t like.
What you focus on grows stronger in your life. When you focus on a person’s wonderful qualities, you have a wonderful relationship with them. When you focus on a person’s not so wonderful qualities, you have a not so wonderful relationship with them. When you focus on benefits of a situation, you get to take advantage of them. When you focus on the drawbacks, you gain nothing but a frown.
The bottom line is that you see only what you want to see, and what you see determines where you wander in life. Your attitude is a little thing that makes a massive difference. Don’t be one of the crazy ones who makes it a point not to smile. (Read The Happiness Project.)
8. Your expectations.
Life will never live up to your expectations, unless your expectations are simply to embrace life as it unfolds and make the very best of it. You have to lower your expectations and increase your appreciation to improve your happiness. Know that everything is in impeccable order whether you understand it or not. How you react determines how good it turns out for you.
Something that is really difficult, but totally worth it, is giving up on how you thought it was ‘supposed to be.’ The most beautiful part of this practice is simply returning to the peaceful feeling of being and working with what’s available to you in the moment. This peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you had expected.
So embrace life’s surprises. Smile and realize that it’s far better to be pleasantly surprised than hopelessly disappointed.
What would you add to the list? What’s been making you feel crazy lately? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Alyssa L. Miller