Note: I’m thinking about making a free product for you. But before I go nuts and throw myself into it like a madwoman, I want to make sure you actually want it (so I don’t feel like an idiot). More details at the end of the post.
It’s been a little over week now since I left my job. At last, I’m on my own! True to form, I’ve been on a mad cleaning rampage instead of working on the things I intended to do, but that seems to be my coping mechanism for change.
Things get weird? Time to create some order. Clean things, file things, write to-do lists, plan. Once I do enough of that, then I have the mental space available to get back to creating.
I’ve been blown away by all of the people who have sent me words of encouragement and celebration. Thank you all! I’m really touched.
Many people I’ve talked to have told me they wish they could quit their jobs, too. I appreciate the spirit that’s meant in, but at the same time, it kind of bothers me to hear it. The implication is that some kind of magic has enabled me to do this, and without that magic, others simply can’t. That is just not true.
Here’s the real story.
A few years ago, I was a complete mess. I hated my life, but I didn’t know what to do about it. That scared me so much, I couldn’t even face how unhappy I was.
The more afraid I got, the worse it got. I was afraid of everything, even my own thoughts. I was convinced there was something ugly hiding in my mind, and it would destroy me if I let it see the light of day. I censored like mad to keep whatever it was locked down and hidden.
I was afraid to let my guard down for a second, with myself or with the outside world. I was in a screwed up marriage, and whenever my husband was around, I always felt threatened and anxious. He never abused me–on the contrary, he was always calling me “sweetheart” and saying he wanted me to be happy–but our relationship was sick in an insidious way that left me confused and perpetually drained.
I contributed to the dysfunction with my mistaken attempts to fix everything by continually sacrificing my needs for his. If I needed solitude when he was starved for attention, I gave him attention. If I needed sleep but he felt abandoned if I went to the guest room to escape his wiggling, noises, and cover-thievery, I stayed put and let him wake me up a zillion times a night.
Hundreds of scenarios like that come up in the course of a year of marriage. By choosing him over myself again and again, I came to believe that I was worthless and powerless, and my wants and needs didn’t matter.
The way I saw it, I was trapped. I had to do what he wanted or I’d be a bad person. I had to do great at work or I’d be fired. I had to make sure all the bills were paid and everyone was happy and everything was perfect, or disaster would ensue. I had to keep up a pretty facade or nobody would like me. I had to hide my true feelings from everyone, especially myself, or it would all go flying apart.
I was absolutely convinced that there was no way out of any of this. I had to find a way to make it work and be what everyone needed me to be.
Things kept getting worse and worse, until finally, I hit bottom.
I wish I could say that I realized what was happening, pulled myself together, and started pulling myself up by my bootstraps. That might have happened eventually, but what really happened is I had a horrible allergic reaction. I suspect my body was in some whacked-out high-gear attack mode due to all the stress and depression, but I don’t know that for sure.
Anyway, the doctors put me on a heavy dose of steroids. The drugs gave me this insane manic energy. I couldn’t sleep more than three hours a night, and suddenly, I had all these connections in my brain that hadn’t been there before.
More importantly, my denial and bullshit factories shut down. Suddenly, the reality of my life became inescapably obvious. I was in a bad marriage that was destroying me. I hated my job. My house was way too expensive, and I hated the commute. I’ve never liked living with anyone.
Basically, everything needed to change. But, at the same time, the realization came that it could change.
I wish I could say it was easy after that, but it wasn’t. It took more than three years before I managed to extricate myself completely from the last remains of that mess, including some very ugly times. But it was more than worth it in the end. Really, who cares about easy if you can have happy instead?
I think, deep down, the biggest fear I had was that if I faced reality, I would have to change my life. If I acknowledged how unhappy I was, I would have to take action and do something about it. I was so exhausted already, and what if it didn’t help, and what if I did all that work just when it was about to get better on its own?
When I finally took ownership of my life and started working to make things better, it didn’t happen over night, but it did happen. If you had told me back then how great things are going now, I don’t think I would have believed that I would…
- race cars for fun
- create a successful blog with friends and visitors from all over the world
- help other people change their lives and be happier
- write an ebook on how to have a good relationship, and get it into over 1100 buyers’ hands in the first two months
- come up with the idea for a huge project, get dozens of big-name people to collaborate, and see it gross over $100,000 dollars in three days
- quit my job and follow my dream of supporting myself as a writer
The thing is, all of this was in my power all along. I just didn’t see it. My own fears, doubts, and mistaken beliefs were holding me back and keeping me trapped in a life of misery. All that time, I had the key to my own cell and chains. I just didn’t realize it.
It’s amazing, once you start facing your fears and doing the things you’re afraid of, how gratifying it is. It’s not just being able to do the things you always wanted, although that is very satisfying. It’s also how great you feel about yourself! You respect yourself more and realize your worth. You no longer need to compare yourself to other people or worry about what they think, because you have confidence in yourself. And you open yourself up to so many more possibilities!
As I’ve done each scary thing, it has seemed terrifying before I did it, merely part of life while I did it, and astonishingly no big deal after I did it.
As I’ve demonstrated to myself that each of these things was neither impossible nor dangerous, my comfort zone has gotten bigger, giving me a foundation for trying new, bigger things. And I’m not sure there’s anything more exhilarating than the whoosh of your comfort zone expanding, whether it’s from jumping out of planes or just getting guest posts accepted.
I know many of you struggle with the same things I did. You may feel stuck and trapped. You may not even know what you want to be or do–maybe you’re afraid to know. Or maybe you’re one of the many who want to help people, do meaningful work, and change the world. Maybe you’ve always wanted to publish a book or support yourself with your art.
I want to see you do all this and more. I want to see you living your dreams, and dreaming bigger and bigger.
I’m thinking of creating a free resource for you, if you’re interested in overcoming your fears and changing your life.
I’m humbled and amazed at how many people have written to me about this! There’s a lot of interest in the workshop for overcoming fear that I’m thinking about developing. But to test the waters, I’m thinking about making a value-packed, 100% free guide to facing your fears and finding out what’s holding you back, just for you.
This guide will show you:
- how to figure out what’s really holding you back
- how to get control of your own life
- how to get clear on what you want
- how to know whether you should take a risk or listen to your fears (they are right some of the time!)
- what to do to make your efforts more likely to succeed
Here’s the catch.
If you’ve been hanging around 17000 Days very long, you know I go all out whenever I do something. I get ideas, and they take over my whole life and become all I talk about. A classic example is the relationship workshop I built back in May–that was meant to be a small ebook but quickly mushroomed into a 25-module workshop with over 38,000 words of text and 88 pages of exercises.
There’s no reason to think I’ll be any different with this project. To tell the truth, I love throwing myself into things and writing and building like mad. But I would feel really stupid if I did all that and it turned out nobody wanted what I made.
Before I get carried away, I want to get a list of everyone who is interested in overcoming fear and getting this free guide.
Here’s what I want you to do
I’m making a list of everyone who is potentially interested in getting my free guide and getting in at the start of all this. If you’re interested, then enter your email address below. If I end up making it, I’ll send it to you at the email address you list below. (Leaving a comment with any suggestions on what you’d like to see in the guide would also help.)
Even if you’re already subscribed to my newsletter, please sign up here–this is a separate thing.
(If you can’t see the form, please go to the original post to sign up.)
If enough people get on this “interest list” then I’ll make the free guide and send it to everyone on the interest list. But if nobody wants the free guide, no worries. I still have plenty of dusting and organizing to do, and you know that vacation I keep saying I’m taking? I’m finally doing it. Tiny cabin in the woods, here I come!