If it entertains you now but will actually hurt you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you need in the long run for what you kinda want at the moment. Study your habits. Determine where your time goes. Delete the toxic distractions.
Taking small steps can make a big difference, especially in tough times, but there’s no getting around the fact that taking these steps is often incredibly uncomfortable. That’s why so many people often don’t do it—at least not initially. But we have to catch ourselves, and remind ourselves that just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. The key is to remember that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, because that’s where human growth and healing begins.
In order to get something in life, we often have to give something up. In order to change our situation for the better, we have to take some action that’s not necessarily going to be easy or fun. Life is the opposite of perfection. It can be beautiful, of course, but it’s obviously quite messy and chaotic at times. Too often we shy away from taking the next step because we’re afraid it might not be worth the discomfort. It’s scary and uncomfortable to upset the status quo, even when it’s in service of something better.
It all comes down to a single question: what is worth suffering for right now? Is the change you’re wanting to implement—finding a new job, reinventing yourself or your business, ending a relationship, or something else—truly going to help you move toward the life you want to lead in the weeks and months ahead? If so, then it’s a sign that it’s time to step forward, and it’s probably worth enduring some extra pain and discomfort to get there. You can also rephrase the question to help you think through it: How important is moving forward to you? And what are you willing to sacrifice, in the short term and long term, in order to be happier in the long term?
By questioning your situation like this, you’ll realize that there are great reasons to step out of your comfort zone and to suffer. Changes of this magnitude do not come easily for any of us—especially as we collectively deal with the realities of COVID-19—and we understand that. But once you start to have an honest conversation with yourself about what you want to change in your life going forward, you’ll find it easier to direct your full energy toward overcoming your present obstacles. When you’re focused on all the good that will come from making the change you desire, the sacrifices you’ll have to make to achieve that change simply won’t seem as big a deal.
In any case, adapting to change, and getting unstuck from an unhappy or unhealthy present situation, is fundamentally about becoming comfortable with discomfort. It’s about choosing to embrace that discomfort, not because you want to make your life overly complicated or difficult, but because there are some things that are worth suffering for. It’s about suffering a little bit more in the moment, in order to suffer a lot less in the long run. It’s about giving certain things up right now to get more of what you truly want in life in the weeks and months ahead!
No doubt, if you want those six-pack abs again, you also have to want the hard workouts and the healthy meals. If you want the successful business again, you also have to want the long days, the stressful business deals and decisions, and the possibility of failing five times to learn what you need to know to succeed in the post COVID-19 market. If you want to reinvent your life and adapt well to a “new normal” starting now, you simply have to give up certain ideals, comforts, routines, and so on, to get what you ultimately want.
And remember that giving things up isn’t just about making small, immediate sacrifices. It’s also about gradually gaining the resources you need to do something significant going forward. When you give something up, you automatically create an opening in your life for something else. By saying no to everything that’s not aligned with your priorities, or the present reality, you make room for what is. In other words, if you want to achieve a significant outcome in your life in the weeks and months ahead, you have to give up the things that conflict with it starting today. You have to sacrifice something that you value less than whatever you ultimately want to achieve.
What You Might Need to Give Up in Order to Move Forward
Eleven years ago, when our mutual best friend Josh died, as difficult as the news of his death was to swallow, Angel and I intellectually knew nothing would bring him back. But it still felt emotionally easiest to get lost in our grief and mull over the idea of never losing him—far easier than actually confronting what his loss meant to us. So that’s precisely what we did for a while—we fantasized about not losing him, and bringing him back—until we suffered a collective bout of moderate depression. Thankfully, in the middle of our unhealthy mourning, we caught ourselves—something needed to be done to change our outlook on the tragedy of losing him. We reached out to Cami, Josh’s widow, a person we might have easily chosen to distance ourselves from in order to shut out the pain of loss. Truthfully, we didn’t know the right things to say or do, so we simply decided to show up and listen. We realized that this might be uncomfortable for us, but it was nothing in comparison to what she was going through.
So one evening, Cami, her sister, Tina, and the two of us sat around a table together. As dusk began to settle, we started speaking openly about Josh. None of us anticipated how the conversation would go. Tears were shed as we sat there, the dark falling around us, but it was our way of stepping into our loss and accepting it.
When we made the decision to have that conversation about Josh, we knew what might be at stake. Confronting our loss wasn’t easy, but that moment came out of the intentional decision not to run away from thinking about Josh. What did we give up by engaging in Cami’s friendship? We gave up what was easy—fantasizing, and trying to deny his death altogether—and stepped into a place where we felt unsure. But that’s where change is built: in the uneasiness and discomfort. And out of that, we built a great relationship with somebody who mattered more than anything in the world to Josh. And Cami now works with us as an executive assistant for our business (the foundation of which is marcandangel.com).
Changing your situation is about not sidestepping the issue or avoiding the elephant in the room. It’s about moving into uncertainty with openness and honesty, and realizing that this choice might bring with it anxiety, discomfort, and even pain. It’s about being willing to accept what comes, about being vulnerable. By being open to this kind of honesty and vulnerability, you also open yourself to a sense of renewed freedom, peace, and emotional richness that otherwise may never have entered your life.
You have the power to change your situation for the better, no matter what. But again, before you can do that, you may have to give up some of the stories, ideas, ideals, and assumptions you’ve been clinging to about yourself and your current situation. Remind yourself that giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak or wrong. Today, it simply means you’re strong enough and smart enough to let go and move forward with your life.
How to Start Making Progress Today
Right now, many of us are still hopelessly trying to find our passion and joy again—an idea we believe will ultimately lead us closer to renewed happiness and success. And I say “hopelessly” primarily because we are putting the cart ahead of the horse. When we say we’re trying to “find our passion and joy,” it implies that we’ve lost our passion and joy and now they’re somehow hiding behind a tree or under a rock somewhere. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is, our passion and joy come from habitually stepping out of our comfort zones and doing things right on a daily basis.
If you’re waiting to somehow “find your passion and joy” somewhere outside yourself today, so you finally have a reason to put your whole heart and soul into life again, you’ll likely be waiting around for an eternity.
On the other hand, if you’re tired of waiting, and you’d rather live more passionately and joyously starting today, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to proactively inject passion into the very next thing you do.
Think about it…
- When was the last time you sat down, or picked up the phone, and had a conversation with someone you love, with zero distractions and 100% focus?
- When was the last time you exercised, and literally put every bit of effort you could muster into it?
- When was the last time you truly tried—I mean TRULY tried—to do your very best with the workload in front of you?
Like most of us, you’re likely putting a half-hearted and half-minded effort into most of the things you do on a daily basis. Because you’re still waiting…
You’re still waiting to “find” something to be passionate and joyous about in these “new normal” times.
What you need to do is the exact opposite!
When I was a kid, my grandmother used to tell me, “Stop looking for the next opportunity. The one you have in front of you is your opportunity.” She also said, “Too often we spend too much time attempting to perfect something before we ever even do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, just do your best with what you’ve got right now, and improve it along the way.”
Interestingly, recent psychological research indirectly reinforces my grandmother’s sentiments. For decades psychologists thought that our minds could alter our physical state, but not the other way around. Nowadays, however, it is widely documented that our bodies—for example, our momentary facial expressions and posture—can directly affect our mental and emotional state. So while it’s true that we change from the inside out, we also change from the outside in. And you can leverage this reality in your favor right now…
If you want more passion and joy in your life right now, do something about it right now.
Put your heart and soul into something!
Not into “the next opportunity,” but the small opportunity right in front of you.
Not into tomorrow’s work, but today’s work.
Not into tomorrow’s workout, but today’s workout.
Not into tomorrow’s relationships, but today’s relationships.
I’m certain you have plenty in your life right now that’s worth living for. You have people and lots of little circumstances you’re taking for granted. You have an endless reservoir of untapped potential within you, just waiting.
Do the uncomfortable things.
Suffer a little to gain momentum again.
There is no next opportunity, only the one you have at this moment.
Give up the toxic distractions and ideals, focus on what matters most, and put your heart and soul into the opportunity directly in front of you today! Make doing so a habit and see where it leads. (Note: Angel and I build tiny, life-changing habits like this with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
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