HOW I GOT 2 YEARS OF MY LIFE BACK [AND WHY SUFFERING MAY BE THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL]

Below is an article I recently wrote for Mantalks.com

It was snowing outside, I was on my way home and my normal 90-minute drive from the office was already up to 4 hours.

4 hours in my car.

My back hurt from sitting in the same position for so long.

I sat there doing calculations in my head. Then, when I realized I couldn’t add very well, I pulled out my phone (I was sitting still so no worries about distracted driving).

If I average 3 hours a day commuting which was my average on a good day and didn’t include snow or accidents…

That’s 15 hours a week.

60 hours a month.

720 hours a year.

Let’s say I worked in this job until 55 years old (another 20 years) that’s 14,400 hours:

14,400 / 24 = 600 DAYS

Holy Shit, that’s nearly 2 fucking years! Knowing this, I should have decided there and then to change my life.

Change is easy for me these days, as I’ve done so much of it. But back then, no way.

I sat there and justified to myself why it wasn’t that bad: “I have a good job and am making a lot of money. We live in a nice house and my kids are in a good private school. I’ll just suck it up, be a good father/ husband and keep going through the motions,” I thought.

I see this type of justification a lot in my work now.  In order to make significant change people need HUGE amounts of pain and suffering. For me, even knowing that I’d spend 2 years in my car did little but give me something to feel crappy about on a cold dark night in December.

People on their deathbeds regret not seizing the moment, wasting life. I got lucky. I got Anxiety.

Why Anxiety Was a Gift — Getting My Life Back

People frown when I tell them that I see my experience with anxiety as a gift. I get it. Why would something that caused so much mental pain be a gift?

I wasn’t willing to slow down voluntarily. But severe panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, and physical pain finally got me pondering if I was on the right path.

I have come to believe that anxiety comes from living out of alignment. The more out of alignment we are, the more the anxiety rears it’s ugly head.

I began working with a coach and at one point asked him this question: “Am I broken or is my job/ lifestyle making me feel so anxious all the time?”

His response was simple, profound, and gave me permission to start making changes: “Why don’t you change your job or lifestyle and see what happens?”

This speaks to the fact that making any decision about your future is better than staying the same.

I had been asking myself these questions:

Why is this happening to me?

Why can’t things just go back to the way they were before?

Why can’t I just feel normal again?

Continuing to stay on the same path would ensure continued anxiety. I’d passed the point of no return. There was no going back.

Trying to go back would put me on the same road to anxiety again. An infinite loop of misery. No. This time I had to change. I recently came up with this saying, “Stop Coping, Start Changing,” as a way to help my clients create positive change.

In the stress and anxiety space there are so many ways that we cope without addressing the underlying issue.

For example, I learned some elaborate breathing techniques, went on prescription medication, and saw a psychologist. But if I didn’t change at the core then I couldn’t expect my anxiety to just vanish.

This is why I’m not a fan of meds. They allow people to bypass difficult conversations and changes and avoid addressing the actual struggle. Not to mention the potential side effects that come with them.

So I began to make changes, small ones to start with, but eventually I left my job and regained those 3 hours a day I was losing to my commute.

I literally gained 2 years of my life back.

Fixing the Core Problem

If you’re struggling in some part of your life today (and I suspect you are — everyone struggles with something), then instead of looking to fix the symptoms, look at your alignment.

If you have a car with a shaky steering wheel and you replaced the steering wheel, would it fix the problem? How about getting a nice soft fluffy cover for your steering wheel? Would that fix it?

If you’re like me you’d take it to a garage. They’d most likely investigate the wheel balancing, tire pressure and tread, suspension etc. See what I mean?

If you ignore the shaky steering wheel for long enough it may go from being an annoyance to actually being dangerous.

For many of us being out of alignment results in anxiety, depression, being overweight, relationship struggles, disease, or lack of confidence.

If your steering wheel starts shaking, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and consider the source.

Once I began to address the alignment in my life not only did my steering wheel stop shaking, but I also got a new life on a new road, and I’m even becoming a better driver.

Read More By Tim Collins on the ManTalks Blog

5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Best [Instead of the Worst]

10 Simple Ways to Be More Selfish [and How it Helps You Avoid Anxiety]

4 Ways to Get More By Having Less: How to Downsize for Simplicity