You know when you hear stories of people where something amazing or tragic happens and BOOM, all of a sudden, everything in their life changes!
They were in darkness and now they’re in light! I love to hear those inspirational stories!
But, for me, it was nothing like that.
For me, (and I’m guessing it’s this way for you, too, it’s this way for most people I talk to) it felt more like a sunset.
Maybe your experience sounds more like this?
Because I found myself in this kind of dark place where I would wake up in the morning, not excited about the day, not excited about what the day had to offer, working through my calendar (not with a lot of passion and excitement) most of the day looking forward to when I could finally go to bed, and then I guess get up and do it again.
But I couldn’t pinpoint a single day where this pattern of negative and uninspired life had started. I just knew I was in a dark place, and I wanted out!
(If that sounds like you or a time of your life, raise your hand).
I also knew that habits were the way out.
I had done enough reading about habits to know that habits made up the bulk of my life. More than half of your life 60 to 80% of your life is habits.
I knew that if I was going to make changes it couldn’t just be a one-day thing. One day wasn’t going to change what had become a lifestyle of unhappiness.
You don’t change a lifestyle of unhappiness with one day of doing something different.
That’s what we call a vacation, you could go to Disneyland for a day and be happy, but you don’t live in Disneyland!
It had to be a change in what I was doing on a daily consistent basis.
In his book “The Road to Character, David Brooks recaps the life of Samuel Johnson. Johnson wrote an essay about sorrow—the exact kind of sorrow I had been experiencing.
Brooks summarizes Johnson:
“Hunger leads to eating and being satisfied fear leads to flight… but sorrow is an exception sorrow doesn’t direct you toward its own cure, sorrow builds upon sorrow.”
Do you see that?!
That’s what was happening for me in my life!
Sorrow wasn’t leading to a cure, having days of sadness and lack of fulfillment, lack of excitement, lack of passion wasn’t helping me be more excited, more passionate about life, more engaged in what I was doing. It was a downward spiral, it was the sunset, the slow diminishing of light and happiness in life.
I don’t want to overplay this. I had bursts of joy here and there, but the overall direction of my life was sunsetting.
I was allowing my sorrow to build upon sorrow.
Why does sorrow build and not die?
Here’s what Samuel Johnson says:
“Sorrow is the state of mind in which our desires are fixed on the past, without looking forward to the future. An incessant wish that something where otherwise than it has been. A tormenting and harassing want of some enjoyment or possession, which we have lost and which no endeavors can possibly regain.”
Sorrow can’t go away because sorrow is fixed upon the past without looking forward to the future.” And it is impossible to fix the past! The more you fixate on what you wish had happened the more unhappy you become.
Turning sorrow around.
I’m not going to leave you hanging! Johnson has a solution for sorrow! (Guess what? Spoiler alert: it’s tied to your habits! 😊)
“Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away, it is the putrescence of stagnant life and is remedied by exercise and motion.”
I’m going to let that sink in for a second.
“Sorrow is the rust of the soul…it is remedied by exercise and motion.
“The safe and general antidote against sorrow is employment.”
Mel Robbins says, “You don’t feel your way to action, you act your way to feeling. Even when you don’t feel like it.”
It’s her famous 5,4,3,2,1.
Even when you don’t feel like it, you take action.
Your daily habits are the power against sorrow!
I print off every Monday, a list of my daily and weekly actions. Things I have decided, are important, actions that make a difference in my life, that I want to do every day and every week.
I still have bad days, I still wake up and don’t feel like I want to do it, and habits are what has saved me.
Habits are what Samuel Johnson says, “That safe and general antidote against sorrow.”
Habits are motion.
So, I get myself up and I get going on my habits.
When I feel down, when I feel depressed, when I feel like life isn’t going the way I want to, I just pull out my sheet, and I say, “okay I’m going to start attacking some of my daily and weekly actions!”
And I get myself going in motion because sorrow feeds upon itself and action beats sorrow.
What can you do?
One encouragement I would give you is to sit down, take a few minutes and write down the things that matter most to you, the activities that will be most impactful
When you feel yourself slipping into the downward spiral of sorrow pull out the list and start taking some small action.
Moving in the direction of a happier set of behaviors, a more positive productive set of behaviors.
Your life is sunsetting or sunrising. When you feel sorrow pulling you down. Take action, focus on the future, and see the light of what is coming!
For help on getting started with your habits list, get the Happily Ever Habits guide free here.