Getting Out of My Own Way

I just deleted a Facebook game that I’ve been playing for over five years. I’m such a creature of habit that I continued to enrich my super bad ass fictional character long after it was fun. It became a chore – something to attend to daily. I completely overlooked the fact that it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. These moments in my life lead to conversations that I have with me:

Easy conclusion – Well, that’s dumb. (I think most people stop the conversation here).

Good question: Why do I do shit like that?

Answer: I do a lot of things without thinking about it.

Ok, wait – lemme think about that. I wanna make sure I don’t repeat this mistake (there must be another f@cking life lesson here, it feels too familiar…).

Opportunity: Differentiate the habits that are functional/helpful from the ones that were mindlessly created out of repetition (used to be necessary, used to be fun/enjoyable).

Ok – break from conversation. This is the most frustrating thing I say to people I see in therapy: “If you want to be happy and have a better life, take stock of everything you do that doesn’t work and then (drum roll, please) stop doing it.

This invites eye rolls and groans but hey – pop quiz – what do you do that doesn’t work? Betcha can’t answer that one off the top of your head, huh? Reflect on that while I go back to talking to myself:

Harder question – What else is in my life that is neither necessary nor enjoyable? These would be things I see as obligations…but are they?

Let me weigh the things I feel I must do. I can separate them objectively (paying taxes) from things that I simply learned/was socialized to do (being tolerant of sucky people). I want to live more fully and be more free. To achieve these ends, I shall do what I do by conscious choice. What I do on automatic pilot doesn’t always work well.
Let me explain:

I see most everything as opportunity while living in a society that attaches a negative connotation to being an “opportunist.”

That’s dumb.

The person who lives with anxiety asks, “What if…?” and worries. The opportunist asks. “What if…?” and creates, manipulates, or otherwise capitalizes. Which do we wish to be?

That’s easy.

This is the part where people usually tell me, “Easier said than done.” No shit. Nearly everything is easier to say than do. What’s stopping you?

The “time study” seems to go in and out of favor in corporate America. People who don’t really understand what we do demand that we account for our time by bullet pointing how we spend it. I favor this approach in my personal life. What do I devote time to?

Its split:
Crap: Television, Facebook, excessive snacking, games, things I justify as helping me to unwind.
Good stuff: Time with friends, going to dinner with my wife, reading, writing, listening to music, new experiences, travel. Investing in my own and other people’s dreams.

Give it a try:
Life is simple and Thoreau was right, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Invest 20 minutes with pen and paper and list out what you do weekly. Now choose it – say it out f@cking loud. It’s not about judgment – it’s about choosing consciously how we will live. Hear yourself say things like, “I consciously choose to:

- Spend time with people I don’t like because I’m related to them and I feel guilty f I don’t.
- Watch X hours of television a week.
- Drink X amount of alcohol a week
- Devote time to dusting three times a week
- Procrastinate taking that class, starting that new hobby, seizing that opportunity
- Not try new things, meet new people, or move outside my comfort zone

Then ask yourself, “How can I be more alive, passionate, and happy?”

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.