Play within yourself: 3 steps to settle your restlessness

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I grew up on a ball field and had the fortune to play for a great coach from the time I was 12 until 18. I still lean on a lot of the lessons I learned during that time. One of those lessons was to play within ourselves, which meant blocking out the things we couldn’t control, like a bad call, and focusing internally on the one thing we could always control; ourselves. We controlled our reactions to everything that happened on the ball field. I learned that how we reacted tended to have a bigger influence on the game than the thing we were reacting to.

I’ve been listening to the Jocko Willink podcast. He talks about jujitsu a bit too much for my liking, but he also hits on some amazing leadership (and life) tenets, and one of those things is what he calls the dichotomy of leadership. It’s is a nice summary of the fact that very few things are black and white in our lives. There’s a spectrum to everything, and isolation vs influence of the outside world is no different. You can’t as if the outside world won’t or can’t affect you. The key is having an awareness of its affect on you and controlling that.

It’s easy to let the outside world influence us too much. There are things that “bother” us only because the outside world tells us we should be bothered. I’ve experienced this myself, so now I often examine my emotions: am I feeling what I’m feeling because of me, or because I think that’s what I should feel? The fact that I, who usually couldn’t give fewer sh*ts about most things, have to do this makes me think it’s an introspection we all should make.

We get antsy in our jobs, with our kids, or with ourselves because we aren’t where we “should” be, and that reaction blows things out of proportion leading to poor decisions, but restlessness shouldn’t be ignored. It’s the precursor to unhappiness and should be investigated if it’s lingering. Look at your life situation. If even one part of your life has been in an upheaval, wait for things to settle down a little before making any changes. Chances are you’re restless because you haven’t acclimated to whatever new things are happening.

On the other hand, if you’ve been bee-bopping right along and suddenly find yourself antsy, it might be time to mix things up a bit. Don’t go around making changes just to make them, however, or you could end up with a blog to update twice a week before you know what’s going on . If you’re restless and looking for a change, I’ve got some steps you can take to put you on the right path.

  1. Look long and hard at your life and figure out which part you’re unhappy with. If there are several parts, pick the one that bothers you the most and start there, because it’s likely your dissatisfaction with that one part is spilling over into other places.
  2. Start small. Even when you’re unhappy with your routine, changing it is a big deal, and kudos to you for taking the first step! Supposedly, it takes about three weeks to create a new habit (I have no idea if that’s really true or not, but it sounds legit, right? I suppose if we believe it’s legit, then that makes it so!), and it’ll be easier to focus on something for three weeks if you focus on only one thing. For example, let’s say you’re extremely unhealthy and tired of feeling like crap all the time. It can be tempting to sign up for eight different fitness classes and cut your calories down to something even an Ethiopian child on UNICEF commercial would look at and be like, “Dang…eat a hamburger.” When people go this route, they tend to also turn their new, meager diet into what I call the “free” diet. Gluten free, sugar free, carb free…food free! It makes me think of Kung Fu Panda, “it is said the Dragon Warrior can survive for months at a time on nothing but the dew of a single Ginko leaf and the energy of the universe.” You’re not the Dragon Warrior, and you’re setting yourself up for failure by doing that. Start small and build from there. You didn’t end up where you are overnight, and you won’t get yourself out of it overnight. Try to have patience and change only one thing at a time.
  3. Make sure the change you’re making is an improvement. Change for the sake of change is just as tiring as an improvement, but not nearly as satisfying or productive. Without taking step number 1, this step is impossible to hit on the head. If you’re unhappy, don’t just change stuff up blindly. Figure out exactly why you’re unhappy and start there.

There can be many things in your life that are making you restless. Try to nip them in the bud before restlessness turns into unhappiness, which turns into a pretty miserable life really quickly. When you’re unhappy in one aspect of your life, you tend to take it out on other aspects of your life, and that does no one any good. It can be very difficult to make a change, especially when it’s a big change like going back to school or switching careers. That’s why it’s important to take a long, hard look in the mirror and figure out where your restlessness is stemming from. Once you do that, you can start to make improvements to that sector of your life and make sure you’re improving something, not just changing it.

It’s very easy to let outside noise in and affect you in this process, but you have to play within yourself and figure out what it is that you want. When you live a life that you hate, you do a disservice to yourself and everyone who interacts with you. You only get one life, don’t let the world tell you what it should be.

Side note/legal jargon: Everything on this blog is based strictly on my own personal, private views and is completely independent from my current employer unless otherwise explicitly stated. In no way, shape, or form is my current employer responsible for any written content on this blog, though I may borrow the occasional picture with appropriate permissions and credits.

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