Self-Destructive Tendencies. Why We Actively Harm Ourselves, And The Strategies I’m Using To Fix It
I recently moved into a new place right in the heart of the Litte 5 Points/Candler Park neighborhoods in Atlanta. For those who don’t know, it’s a badass location. Little 5 Points is the bohemian center of Atlanta; full of artists, musicians, street murals, and other interesting characters. I wanted to move here because it reminded me of Austin, which remains my favorite city.
My apartment is a short little jaunt to bars, restaurants, coffee shops, parks, a golf course, and multiple city parks. It’s the balls.
There are a few times in life where your entire routine gets turned upside down and everything is in flux. Moving is one of these times.
The entire process of moving is a pain in the ass. Buying things like a trash can, toilet brush, shower curtain, and all the other little bullshit items we never think about. It adds up.
There are other factors you have to consider as well. For example, I have two dogs. I have to factor in how early I need to get up in order to make sure they get a walk before the day starts.
Leading up to the move, I was looking forward to all of this newness. I had the proverbial clean slate we all look for. I already knew of some habits I had wanted to take up. I knew my routine would be malleable, and I was going to strike while the iron was hot.
- I was going to start meditating.
- I was going to food prep every Sunday and Thursday
- I was going to wake up every morning and write for an hour
- I was going to read for an hour before I went to bed
My new place was going to be a bastion for productivity and life crushing.
The first few days were a little crazy. I drank a bit more than normal. I ate out a lot because so many new restaurants were nearby. I also started the Netflix series Narcos. Which, by the way, is fucking outstanding.
That pattern continued past the first week though. I knew I needed to get shit done. What did I do instead?
- Challenged myself to eating an entire pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
- Drank 10 beers when I should’ve stopped at 2 because I needed to wake up at 4am the next day.
Just so we’re clear, these were activities that happened
every night repeatedly over the course of a few weeks. I was aware of what was going on, but I let the gooey grey matter in my brain trick me into continuing my self-destructive actions.
“Hey, you’re already 4 beers in. Why not go ahead and finish off what you’ve got in your fridge?”
– My stupid fucking brain.
This has been my reality, and I’m not proud of it. There have been certain moments where I’ve gotten my mojo back. I actually ate a meal of chicken and vegetables the other day and said to myself, “Yeah baby! We’re in business.”
Then I ate an entire pizza that night. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza.
Add all of this to the fact that a very happy relationship of 2+ years had just ended, and it’s safe to say my entire life has been flipped upside down.
I never stopped wanting to overhaul aspects of my life. And I was still elated at the fact that I had been given that proverbial clean slate. I just wasn’t acting on that excitement.
If we’re being honest, the past few weeks have been a gigantic clusterfuck of epic proportions.
Why do I tell you this?
It’s important to know how much we all struggle at various points. Thanks to social media allowing people to show their personal highlight reels, we tend to believe that others have their shit together while we’re floundering.
This is all wrong. Everyone has his or her own struggle. Are my past few weeks better than the nightmare many people live when suffering through addiction, crippling poverty, and other issues? You better believe it.
But there’s something similar as well. Once we start down the rabbit hole of destructive tendencies, it’s easy to keep falling further down the rabbit hole.Once we start down the rabbit hole of destructive tendencies, it's easy to keep falling further down. Click To Tweet
We all see a better version of ourselves through rose-colored glasses. We think that when we move, get our new job, or find that special someone that we’ll start acting like that better version. Nah, bro. The time to act is now.
Or, as Tim Ferriss puts it:
“Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
So you’re caught in the self-destructive trap, how do you claw your way out?
Getting out of a spiral of self-destruction isn’t as simple as “quit that shit” like some Internet self help gurus will tell you. That doesn’t do a damn bit of good. I’m not going to claim to have the answer for everyone, because I sure as shit don’t.
However I am going to share some strategies that worked for me. Feel free to put them to use.
I got back to winning.
One of the keystone strategies I talk about with clients, friends, and myself is little wins. The idea is that you break up accomplishments as small as possible, and accumulate wins.
It works well for me because I played a variety of sports and competed in academic competition when I was younger. Winning is something I’ve been conditioned to work for my entire life.
- One of my little wins I went after was prepping food. After that it was eating the food I prepped.
- Another one was moving my chargers out of my bedroom. That was a visual cue that I charge my electronics outside of my bedroom, because my bedroom is for making magic and sleeping.
It doesn’t matter how big you win. It just matters that you win. Once you start to pile up little wins, you develop some serious momentum that carries you into the realm of complete change.
You’re not the victim.
When your entire life gets turned upside down, it’s pretty easy to start playing the victim. After all, we all want to be the star of a pity party every once in awhile.
NOPE. Cut that shit out right now. Playing the victim is a huge mistake.
I was reneging on some work duties, which wasn’t fair to coworkers. I blamed it on my life being crazy. In reality, I was just playing the victim, and once I had started getting a little bit apathetic, that trend spiraled out of control.
How did I fix it? By owning up to the world, like I am in this blog post.
I also picked 3 instances I had played the victim, and rectified them immediately.
It’s funny what happens when you apologize and are honest with yourself and others. The blow up you expected rarely happens. Why? We’re all human and we tend to fuck up at from time to time.
I’ve never been good at meditation. Quieting your mind for extended periods of time isn’t as easy as it sounds. However I think in today’s info overload world, periods of intense quiet and solace are important.
Being mindful, present, and aware is a quality many of us are lacking. Especially myself. That’s something I wanted to fix.
One place I screwed up was by expecting myself to meditate for at least 10 minutes at a time. Fuck that.
Instead I set a timer on my phone for 1 minute, and used that minute to just intensely focus on my breathing. If I had a thought, I acknowledged it and got back to breathing.
Once I got good at that, I added a minute.
I’m sure some meditation snobs exist that could tell me all the ways I can improve, but this system works for me at the moment so GTFO with your meditation snobbery. Go walk across some hot coals or something.
One of my favorite books of this past year has been The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. In it, Holiday takes a look at the philosophy known as stoicism, and explains how to practice it in our modern day world.
For those who don’t know, stoicism is basically enduring pain or hardship without complaining, or displaying feelings.
Does this mean I’m completely emotionless? Hell no. I’m a pretty charismatic dude. However it does serve as a useful reminder that you can’t get a rainbow without a rainstorm.
Sometimes shit sucks. That’s a part of life. Accept it, look at it as an opportunity to practice gratitude, compassion, empathy, and most importantly learn. Then move on.
It’s now been a few weeks since I moved in. I’m settled in, I have a bit more of a working routine going, and generally happy with how I’ve changed things. I’ll update more in depth later on, and give a glimpse into my actual routine and more strategies I used.
It’s not lost on me that my current state is one of those elusive clean slates full of new location, new people, new routines, etc. I’m excited as hell about what lies ahead, and for someone who has experienced a ton of change, I’m surprisingly giddy all the time. For real, I can’t wipe the damn smile off my face.
There are going to be plenty of times where I slip up and fall back into that circle of self-destruction. I know it. I accept it. I don’t ever expect to be perfect. One thing is for sure though; I’ll handle those periods far better than before, that’s for damn sure.