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
Beth Brogan says
What’s been driving me crazy? Me, for sure. I’m constantly looking at what I don’t have instead of what I do have. It’s something you talk about a lot here on Hack Life, but I really need to be reminded of this almost daily. I’m a go-getter, but I need to learn to appreciate the good moments as I’m living them.
Such a great post. Thank you.
Worrying about what others think of you! That’s a big one for me in dealing with the people I love. Life is too short and only you have to be happy with you in the long run. For the most part, who cares what anyone else thinks?! Make sure you’re happy with yourself.
Humbly and unconditionally love yourself first and be dependent on your spirituality for support. For me, it is Catholicism. Then you can love and serve other people…unconditionally.
If you have to have a bias. Have a bias for action.
What you focus on grows stronger in your life: I have lost people very close to me, in particular my husband 2 1/2 years ago. I was 31 he was 38. Through the initial process of grief I saw myself as being blessed, and today I am in an amazing place. However, as I move forward, I find I have forgotten what has carried me through. While I don’t want to “hang or live in the past”, the period of where I saw my blessings even though times were tough (and now this post) are good reminders – focus on what makes you stronger.
This is just perfect! This guy is driving me crazy right now because he is ignoring me out of the blue. I know I made a mistake and I thought I corrected it, but he already made up his mind. I will let him go and move on. Like my Aunt said, “Feelings change” or in my own terms “Come and Go”. I have to be logical and pursue something that will realistically makes me happy.
I think that some people are pleased to use others – they want you to lose self-esteem in order to control you, and they don’t want you to be yourself. For this reason, they try to manipulate you behind your back, always behind, never in front of you. It’s a sad reality you have to watch out for.
The constant feeling of being chased around by routine, the feeling of incompetence (whether or not it is real), the fear of withdrawing from my shell, of being ignored and aloof in social situations… crazy me. But your blog gives me a boost to get some perspective and work on my issues. Thank you!
So many great points here. It’s really hard to pinpoint just one all important aspect other than “learning to let go,” which I think is really the tie that binds it all together. It’s something I work on every day. Do what you can to sterr things the way you’d like them to go, but become unattached to the eventual outcome, understanding that it was the culmination of 10,000 little factors and NOT just about what you did. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Let go. The only way to keep “sane” these days. Enjoy life and all it’s little idiosyncratic events. It’s the best reality show going!
GREAT post, and as always, thank you!
Paying people in their own coin. In other words a vindictive spirit. I have learnt over time that as much as making adults realize their mistakes or foul attitudes can be difficult as hell, a vengeful attitude tends to cut short our happiness as we spend so much mental energy planning how to give them a dose of their medicine. Instead, when you focus on your positivity, you realize that it starts working to heal people around you. Btw, this is officially my most favorite blog!
Your last point reminded me of this quote: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” by Joseph Campbell. This is the quote that made me realize I needed to leave my abusive marriage.
# 8. Dead on. A few years ago, a realized that the less you expect, the happier you become. No one in our lives will ever act like we hope or expect them to, ever. They are not us; they will not love, give, respect or care like we each personally do. Definitely #8.
It is amazing how our thoughts in life dictates our happiness. From reading these posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I am learning of the chaos that I create in my life simply by the thoughts I allow to control me. Step 7 is so very true “What you focus on grows stronger in your life.” I choose today to focus on happy things. I can’t change the past. The future I envision may or may not come to pass, but I have today.
Always thank you,
Just remember that this is a temporary stay. We are all going to die. Life is endless however and there will be other chances. (personal belief in re-incarnation) – This whole thing called life (on earth) is an illusion. Everybody rushing to ‘get it right’ – ‘achieve this’ , ‘learn’ that. It is meaningful while being meaningless. Let go, and look for the Divine everywhere, in everything, to guide you.
Jessica C. says
I’d also like to add, taking on every thought, worry, concern we have at the same time. A flooded brain does nothing for solving one important and specific problem. Taking one thing at a time is crucial in maintaining our sanity. This is probably one of my biggest problems.
I would add: Listening to too many ‘experts’ instead of listening to yourself.
Information is all around you and if you’re not careful it will suck you into a black hole. While it’s wonderful to read books, listen to podcasts, etc., avoid taking what an expert says as Gospel. Learn how to filter out information and use what will work for you and leave the rest. If something you’ve read or heard doesn’t resonate with you, leave it. Otherwise, your voice and inner knowing will be silenced forever. Develop your intuition and weed out unnecessary information NOW!
Wow! How inspirational!! I love to read your posts and this one was right on target. It’s time to make some changes, real changes and live again! The past is the past, no matter how perfect it was, does not mean life cannot be good again. I have to stop living in the past and cherish the here and now! Thank you:)
Since yesterday I have had the thought, pull out ‘Think and Grow Rich’ to get more positive in my thoughts to deal with our grown daughter and her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. What are the odds of your article referring us to that book? I appreciate this wonderful article to make us not whine and get our shoulder to the wheel of life and push!
I want to make this a personal goal – Bottom line: You are not allowed to complain about something unless you’re going to do something about it. Wow! This one statement will change how I would look and react to everything going on in my life.
Sandra Hamlett says
As usual, a great post with a lot of wonderful advice.
If I could add one thing to the list it would be- waiting for an apology or an explanation from someone who has hurt you. It’s okay to acknowledge the pain but not okay to hold on to it hoping that the person who inflicted the pain will care. Someone who truly cares about you will know your pain and will not need to be reminded to apologize. When someone inflicts pain and suffering on purpose, be thankful, be grateful because this is a wake-up call. This person is showing you who they truly are and that it is time to remove them from your life.
Haha… only you could make me go from teary eyes to LOL in 10 seconds… thank you again! I think I’m gonna have to print this one and have it for when there’s no new “Marc and Angel” in my mail box.
What drives me crazy is obsessing about some problem I can’t do anything about and should just “let it be”… which, though I already knew – and often forget – came to my mind as I was reading your post.
The funny thing is as I calm down and think of it, the problem doesn’t even seem to be that big deal. It’s like “so what if you do nothing about it and just move on”… well, there’s nothing I could do anyway, the only thing that change is that I stop worrying about it. And start living better because of it.
Now off to work as I have to do some “procrastination” stuff to deal with before go to bed tonight. 😉
You once posted that “what you resist, persists”. Sometimes that’s my downfall. When I try to resist something, even a thought or feeling, it persists because then I’m always focusing on resisting the feeling or thought. Maybe it is best to let the thought come or feeling come, replace it with a positive thought or feeling and move forward. Constantly being in “resisting” mode doesn’t work for me because then I’m always in the negative activity of resisting.
What if the people inflicting the pain for years are your family? This has been my biggest challenge is life, and I feel I have hit a wall and I’m still struggling with this.
What drives me crazy about me is having a difficult time saying “no”, especially when I know I can’t possibly do what my mouth has just committed to without causing me more craziness. Working on it…
Marc and Angel, I shared your blog with my 20-year-old daughter a while back; and she loves it. The other day, she showed me a photo of you two. I guess I never realized that you are so young (I was blown away!); you have the wisdom of those who have lived a long life, and you articulate that wisdom so well. I am most grateful that you chose this path and share your amazing gifts with us!!! I am sure I’m not alone when I say that your words have helped me immensely. Thank you!
It can be really difficult when one has lost their life partner, to move on without looking at the expectation of what could have been. I’m working with what is certainly a challenge. I do however appreciate the time we spent together and am very grateful for the huge impact he has and had in my life. Appreciating this moment is great but sometimes honoring the moment with whatever emotion is good too, whether it be negative or positive, to me it’s about acknowledging it and moving through the emotion without holding on too tight.
How do I drive myself crazy? Let me count the ways ..
But one way I continually drive myself crazy is by being so incredibly hard on myself. Expecting that I always have to do and be my absolute best – that it’s not OK to sometimes coast and let go. Expecting everything to be perfect. Expecting that I should always know all the answers. Expecting that I can never fail. Expecting that I can never be human. The list could go on and on.
So this speaks to the points of “expecting less” as well as “procrastination” for me. But as always, thank you for this inspiring blog and routine reminder that we are all in this great big boat together! Reading everyone else’s comments (as well as the blog) has been such a source of comfort to me – and a reminder that I don’t struggle with all this stuff alone 😉
I so needed to read this today. Thank you!!! I’m going through divorce & it’s ugly & this morning I had such a horrible conversation with him about my children & then I got this in my inbox & totally changed my perspective for today. I am so grateful…thank you!! <3
[email protected] says
Maintenance of lies is critical one. It becomes far too easy to go down the path of a white lie. Great points.
Anita C says
Thank you for this post. I have been having a difficult time deciding if I need to leave my current relationship – not because he is an intentionally hurtful person, but because it is wearing me out to always be the “responsible” one. I don’t want to leave because I love him but I might need to, so I don’t lose myself trying to take care of both of us. He is fun and creative and free-spirited, but also impulsive, irresponsible, and I am losing respect for him because I need someone who can do the hard, “boring” stuff too.
BUT – your post reminds me that I need to make a desicion and be honest about what my needs are, without being mean about it, so that I can move forward. And that I need to try to continue to let my resentment go and focus on making my life the best that I can, where I can, no matter what my decision ends up being.
Thank you for helping me think about this a little more clearly and calmly. I needed that!
Wonderful post! I can relate to all of it! I would add: A. SLOW DOWN– there’s a big difference between busy-ness and accomplishment. It’s really easy to try to appear busy, to make it seem as if you are actually accomplishing something when you aren’t…. and B. JEALOUSY– it saps your energy to always want what other people have. It’s a much happier way to live when you’re content with what you have (and can live within your means because of it. This was a hard lesson learned for me, but I am much happier now that I have realized it.
Braja Patnaik says
My 2 cents: Thinking and worrying about the future – This is also one thing that drives many a people crazy.
Amy Rohl says
It’s like you can read my mind. Thank you for this blog!
Jen Bardall says
#1 is so huge for me. I tell people all the time that one of the THE biggest reasons for unhappiness is the word “should”. There is no “should”, but we all hold ourselves to it. Inevitably we fall short every time, and thus appears a problem when really there isn’t one.
This is such a wonderful post. You share so much wisdom, I hope more teens and young adults will read this information.
Thanks for all the great insights.
I love how number two is inspired by “Eat, Pray, Love.” Another insightful article, thank you.
Greeshma Madappa says
I feel blessed for having visited your website accidentally… now I visit your site daily.
I am chained within my feelings, and your articles honestly relieve me.
Toxic people who put you down for no rhyme or reason. Even a simple gesture of wishing ‘Good Morning’ to them could result into a statement like-‘What is so good about this morning, Idiot?’. They just suck the life out of you. It requires lot of energy and willpower to be around them everyday.
At times, I really get confused about #2 Do, I mourn the death of relationship or person in general…
Great Post 🙂 Keep going guys!
I’ve been wondering all weekend and perhaps much longer than that… what was it gonna take to snap me out of this loop I’ve found myself in. I’ve been living in the past, beating up on myself… pretty much guilty of everything on this list… driving myself crazy. I needed a change in perspective. I especially like how simple you make it: Forget the past. And that’s all there is to it. Forget the past. No excuses. No explanations. No regrets. Forget the past. Thanks for this post.
Shabana Feroze says
What’s been driving me crazy lately is that I feel I don’t stand up for myself enough. I feel like I let people take me for granted and I react too late. I need to put a firm stop to this.
Great Post… thank you.
A huge one for me used to be taking things personally. I am still working on this, but I use this tense to convey to myself that I am there. I can’t let my “crazy” thinking continue by putting myself down because of a situation or someone else’s action. It’s not about Me, it’s about Them. I have to remind myself that I can’t assume what anyone else’s actions are about. I’m not walking in their shoes.
Thanks for the list it comforted me to know that I’m not alone in my “crazy” thinking. I would also like to echo what someone else said about hearing from all the other people “addicted”(in a nice way) to your wonderful site… I love to read what everyone else has to share. I learn so much. I learned along time ago in a 12 step program that everyone has something that I can find useful if I keep and open mind and listen.
Thanks to everyone here and have a Great day!
I wanted to make another comment to VPE. I’ve been there and your have 2 choices: to lovingly detach and not let their negativity and hurtful actions be taken personally, to Live and Let Live. Let go and live your life. Put yourself first. You can do this with them in your life or if you can’t… to physically remove them from your life. You owe no one else your life….not even your family.
Another amazing blog Marc and Angel – timely, simple and hopeful. I also love what Jonathan said above, doing the best you can and then letting go of expectations of the end result. So hard to do, but so crucial if we are to get through things we don’t understand, especially the ones that feel so very unfair.
I thank myself for getting up tonight and reading your post . Marc and Angel you are awesome. If I have one word to describe both of you it would be “awesomeness!”
My new mantra lately has been “you have more than you need” because I keep catching myself obsessing about not having enough (money, food, options, etc). The truth is that I have more than I need. I keep challenging myself to hear the truth, and quit listening to the worrisome lies I keep telling myself.
My innumerable insecurities are driving me crazy.
When I read some of inspirational words, I get confused with my self 😀 not because I don’t feel good about myself. It’s my mind that telling me I should do more, push higher, work harder or anything to go out of my comfort zone.
I think I need to find the balance between wanting more and feeling grateful for this life.
Guess it’s already covered, worrying is one of the things that completely irritates me especially when done by people around me. Like in college, working on an assignment as a group and we can’t come up with a solution to a programming question tears us down. To my surprise, I almost see everyone worried that we’re going to score nothing on that assignment. I always say to my peers, if we could stop worrying and be positive about how far we are, then it means we’ve been on the right track all the time. Blew a blog post on this, and if might be interested it’s linked above.
Thanks for this post. Really inspiring. Recently I am going crazy over something which is slowly going away from me, almost gone… 🙂 I feel I am kind of addicted to a person, couldn’t get over them from my past to move forward, bit I’m slowly allowing myself to move on. But the feeling to live with this pain is tough.
What drives me crazy? Letting my ex into my head, letting her hatred dictate who I am. Peace comes from praying for her, realizing I am not her image of me and reading posts on this website. Thank you!