The following is an excerpt from my article on Tiny Buddha.
“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.” ~Dodinsky
It hit me as I cruised along at full speed on a busy motorway on my way to a friend’s house.
Shaking like a leaf, I pulled myself out of the car and stood by the side of the road. I desperately gulped in the fresh air, a frantic attempt at calming myself down.
This was the ninth day in a row I’d experienced a wave of panic so intense, it felt like I was about to die. It was utterly unbearable.
I’d been worrying about all the work I had left to do on my Master’s dissertation and berating myself for taking a day off to spend time with friends when I should have been working. All of a sudden, my throat closed up, my chest tightened, and my hands shook so much that I was convinced I would lose control of the car.
This was the final straw.
I’d been waiting for a magic solution, a miraculous savior, a quick fix that would snap me out of my near-constant state of worry. I’d been waiting for the universe to wave its wand and finally grant me a normal life. It wasn’t happening.
I wasn’t willing to face up to the work I needed to do in order to stop indulging in my bleak hypothetical predictions about the future. And more importantly, I didn’t even know what the work was. But that day, I made the decision to find the key to a happy life and to start putting in some serious elbow grease.
I just couldn’t live like that any longer.
That was three years ago.
What You Practice, You Get Good At
The problem is, for a very long time, I practiced worrying. About everything.
I worried about what people thought about me. I worried about what might happen to my health. I worried about whether I would have the career I wanted.
I also practiced managing this worry, and the myriad of unpleasant emotions that accompanied it, with food, alcohol, and sex. I used substances (and other people’s bodies) to make myself feel good, to take my mind somewhere else, and to give myself a moment to relax.
But underneath, the worry was still there; these “fixes” just masked it. Instead of paying attention to what was actually going on in my head and realizing that my thoughts were creating a reality that didn’t actually exist, I practiced covering up my desperation, hoping that this fix would be the one that actually worked.
I was constantly feeding habits that gave me short-term satisfaction or relief, that I knew were ultimately destructive. And I know I’m not the only one.
Many of us spend our days acting mostly out of habit—the foods we eat for breakfast, the route we take to work, even the thoughts we entertain. These become the actions we practice, over and over again.
And what we practice, we get good at.
Like what you’re reading? Check out the full article on Tiny Buddha.