Control is what we're after. We're willing to change, as long as it doesn't mean:
Changing our habits
Changing what we do with our time
Changing what we eat
Changing the way we spend money
Changing where we live
Changing our minds
Changing the things we think define our personality
We love to say, I'VE TRIED EVERYTHING! That phrase is a dead giveaway that we're never going to get results where we think we want them. It means we think our default mode is viable. We think what we're doing basically works. We think what we do every day is the norm, and that it's perfectly fine and serving us well. We think we're starting out at the hub of normality, and occasionally we'll shuffle a step away from that hub in one direction or another. Shortly thereafter, we're back to standing in the same spot. We think the only thing that works is the one thing we know does not work.
What works is a fundamental paradigm shift.
In simple terms, what works is to say, what I was doing before definitely does not work. What I think of as normal IS the thing that is causing my problem.
As an example, I used to define myself as an insomniac and a night owl. Because of this self-diagnosis, I behaved in certain ways. I didn't do any further research. It took me several years to figure out that my real problem was a parasomnia disorder - totally different from insomnia - and that I could manage it through my behavior. I thought I had "tried everything" and that "insomniac" was just a core part of my personality. In this way, I took a piece of fate and made it into a destiny.
Things happen to us, but they're not necessarily permanent. We're not "stuck that way." If anyone who ever lived overcame the situation that we're in, then there's a good chance we can do it, too. If not, then maybe it's our destiny to be the first.
A sure-fire way to find the area of most potential in your life is to look for the resistance. When do you most want to stay up for an hour pounding out replies on your keyboard? What articles or comments can you simply not ignore? What is the one insult you could never laugh off? What is the issue you want to insert into every conversation? Whatever it is, there's some juice there for you.
As it turns out, the easiest thing in the world is to change your mind. Changing your mind about anything can lead to instantaneous, revolutionary change in your life. Fighting to hang on to outdated ideas can lead to years of struggle and stasis. It hurts. There is really nothing harder than continually trying to convince yourself of something when all signs indicate that it isn't true in your life.
Sometimes it helps to simply say, "This is how it is, and I'm not willing to change it." I'll do other things, but not this. I will cheerfully work hard in other areas, but not this one. I am married to this one aspect of my life. I don't necessarily like it this way, but I would hate myself if I changed what I see as this fundamental aspect of my personality. I choose to maintain my identity around this issue. Autonomy is mine.
I've known lots of people like this. Some of them choose Level One squalor because they hate the way "clean" looks. One of them self-limits his income because he has no interest in ever owning his own house, being in a relationship, or having a family. He likes renting a room, letting someone else shoulder the responsibilities of mortgages and bills, and working just enough to get by. I met one guy who got lucky in his first job out of college, when the company made its IPO and the first couple dozen employees became millionaires overnight. He invested his money and lives off the interest, which is just enough to live in an apartment with a roommate. His only worry in life is replacing the roommates who get tired of coming home from work, only to see him still sitting in front of the TV in his bathrobe. What all of these people have in common is that they put a lot of thought into their life strategies, and they're doing exactly what they claim they want to do. I choose mess. I choose a low income. I choose a terminally boring daily routine. All righty then! More power to you.
Most of us get similar results, only without the conscious choice.
Choose it, then. I choose to maintain my debt and my spending patterns. I choose to maintain a chronic level of exhaustion and my late-night entertainment consumption. I choose to maintain chronic disorganization and chronic stress from always being late and losing things. I choose to maintain my current physique by eating and doing whatever the heck I want, so shut up. It's my life and I do what I want!
Things get interesting when we realize that nobody else really cares what we do. This happens when you turn forty. You look around and realize that people all around you are doing whatever they want, and nobody tries to stop them. There's a guy in my neighborhood who wears a straw hat carefully covered with tinfoil. In all other respects, he's perfectly normal; he just likes wearing a tinfoil hat. Maybe he knows something we don't. I saw a guy yesterday whose beard was bigger than my dog. Good for him. The question then becomes, what will we do differently, now that we know we aren't impressing anyone one way or the other? Now that we have NOTHING TO PROVE to anyone but ourselves?
We're allowed to live in a hoard and stack trash bags to the ceiling. We're allowed to get into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, or maybe even hundreds of millions. We're allowed to gain as much weight as we can afford - the current world record is somewhere around 1200 pounds. We're allowed to become addicts (to gambling, alcohol, huffing glue, or whatever). We're even allowed to commit crimes and go to prison. All is permitted. We can do whatever we want, as long as we're willing to withstand the consequences.
We are free.
The trouble with freedom is that we are more free than we agree. We don't believe we have the freedoms that we actually have. When it comes down to it, most of us don't really believe in free will! We don't think we can choose. We especially don't think that the results we are getting have anything to do with choices we did make, or might make, or could make. We think we've done the only obvious things to do, and that what comes naturally is predetermined in some way. This is how I roll. It runs in the family. This happened. This is how the world works. This is why we're only really willing to make small changes; it's all we think we're allowed.
Doing what other people don't do can be really fascinating. A few years ago, I realized that I could go on a Fact-Finding Mission whenever I was curious about something, and I could be a test subject in my own experiments. What happens if I do this? What happens if I do that? What happens if I change my diet? (I change my body). What happens if I change my personal environment? (I change my mental bandwidth). What happens if I change my mind? (I get different results). At the end of the day, here I am, with a body I created, in a living environment I created. My results are not just different from almost everyone else's results: my results are HUGELY different from almost everyone else's results. As a consequence, I now try to come up with ways to change my mind as often as I can. Why on earth would I want to keep thinking the same thing and doing the same thing if I didn't have to?
Making one radical, revolutionary, about-face change can lead to another. Changing your mind about anything reveals to you that you have the power to change your mind about everything. You don't have to be stuck, unless you want to be. You don't have to be broke. You don't have to be as limited by illness as you think, or your doctor thinks. You don't have to live the way you do. If you want something different, you can find someone else who is demonstrating how it's done, and you can figure it out. Major change is easier than small change, because major change can actually pay off.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.