By now you might know I write in a gratitude journal everyday (I use the 5 minute journal). If you’d have told the 20 year old me that in my 40’s I’d be doing this along with meditation, I’d have known for sure you weren’t a time traveller. Choosing gratitude is part of a belief I have that we can rewire our brains and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back this up.
For over a decade friends and coworkers had thought the self help journey I’d chosen was all woo woo and hippie. Maybe it is? I’m cool with that as I like hippie and thanks to people like Tim Ferriss the self help movement (now more aptly coined life style design) appears to be fashionable. So it turns out the by product of my dedication to improve is I’m at the height of fashion, not something I’ve been very often..
Life style design takes huge dedication and effort. What isn’t often talked about is how dangerous the journey can be when you go it alone. 5 years ago I had first hand experience when my brain plugged in some wires to my mind that I’d unplugged as a child. The result was my life went wildly off course.
I had a difficult childhood. it wasn’t that I didn’t get the practical things in life. It was the other stuff, stuff I’ve only told a handful of people.
By the time I was 20 I was still troubled. My brother and I were forced to go it alone in the world and had found a house to share together. It felt sudden and I had a lot of anger to deal with. What I wanted more than anything was to feel free from the life I saw ahead of me. A life where I was a slave to a job during the week, drinking on a Friday / Saturday night and numbing my brain with TV in between. I wanted more, so while at college I rebelled against the status quo by joining a movement that was gaining traction. The acid house, rave, indie music revolution. Those of you who’ve seen the movie 24 hour party people(an iconic movie) will be able to picture the culture I became a part of. It was fantastic, though not a long term solution. Ironically what I hadn’t realised was the path I’d chosen would most likely lead me to the very life I wanted to avoid. A path of short term highs and long term lows.
A couple of years later I was spending my week evenings playing Noel Gallagher acoustic songs alone on my guitar. It felt therapeutic somehow. Singing the lyrics cemented different thinking for me and I became more creative. One day I remember singing and playing Sad Song, the lyrics kept whizzing around in my head. It was a rainy day in spring and I remember having an epiphany, over time the lyrics had rewired my thinking. I put the stash of weed I’d been smoking in the bin (I haven’t touched a drug since) and that night I wrote to my dad in Seattle. 2 months later I was in the USA and my life changed course forever.
It was another 10+ years before I became a husband and father. I want to be the best, most inspiring father I can be, so when my wife Mandie became pregnant I did what I do best, I read prolifically. Not your usual parenting books, I read about psychology and the human continuum. What I hadn’t accounted for was the power of 2 particular books. Books that almost crippled me (literally). They F*ck You Upand The Continuum Concept. Both incredible books I recommend for anyone considering parenthood, just be careful if you have unresolved issues.
The problem I now had was the trauma from the darkest depths of my mind. It kept coming and wouldn’t stop. These 2 books had surfaced stuff I had consciously and unconsciously locked away. Crying in private had become a thing and back pain had become part of my daily life. Back pain so bad that some mornings I couldn’t even ride my bike to the train station.
I was told I needed back surgery and I was considering therapy for my mental pain. WTF? I had spent years designing and making a positive life and now I’d been reduced to incoming depression and daily back pain. Where was the inspiring, engaging, active father and husband? I had hit a low right after I’d reached the happiest time of my life.
I wanted my good life back, the one where I had adventures rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and snow boarding. The one where I designed my days and life didn’t control me.
So I went back to what I do best again, reading prolifically. I revisited Stephen Covey, Tim Ferriss and found new inspiration from a doctor named John Sarno. His book Healing Back Pain had the keys to getting my life back. He described TMS and how our brain brings on neck and back pain to prevent focus on things such as childhood trauma. It took me 12 months of working through a new lifestyle design, one made up of the mind body experience (more woo woo). Surgeons told me I had spinal stenosis but it turns out thousands of people do who also don’t have pain, so I was going to fix myself by facing my trauma.
Long story short, it was hard. I publicly hid much of what I was going through as people have enough going on without me lowering their mood when asking me how I am. I really do thank the universe and life style design for the people I have in my life.
I made it through to the other side better than I could have hoped. The biggest thing I’d like to achieve is to make a positive dent in the universe. Life style design is helping make that a reality, I hope I’m doing it right.
So, the most pertinent lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that it’s important who you choose to spend time with. Not just in person but who you read, watch and listen to, it’s what put me where I am today, I am definitely feeling grateful.