Here’s an experience that I will never forget: when I was in my early teens my mom made me read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. As someone who has been an enthusiastic and avid reader my whole life it was strange to be forced to read a book; forcing e to sit at the table until my plate was empty was normal, forcing me to clean up after myself was (and oftentimes still is) normal. Bur reading? Reading has always been and will likely always be something I love to do, just like writing. Hell, I even bring books to social events just in case. But that book in particular was a different story. The books I read for school were for a grade, the books I read for pleasure were self-explanatory, and so I found no purpose in reading that one. My mom wanted me to, sure, but why? In my mind I was already a “highly effective” teen, whatever the fuck that meant. I was good in school, not really rebellious aside from my love of heavy metal and my lack of religious beliefs. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything because of strict parenting and for the most part I was okay with that. A book on improving myself was boring and unnecessary.
That was then.
Honestly, if I could go back in time and make my teenage self read that book I still wouldn’t. Not because it was a bad book, I’m sure it isn’t. I’m sure it helped someone who needed it, but I don’t think it would have made much of an impact on my life. I never finished it and being forced to read it at all made me dislike books in the personal growth genre as a whole up until about a month ago. A whole nine years of my life.
Truthfully it took me feeling like I hit rock bottom to actually pick one up. I had a general sense of dissatisfaction with where my life was and no idea at all as to where it was going. I felt stuck in my unhappy situation. I had nightmares about being trapped in the house or having my mouth suddenly glued shut when I was trying to say something important. When I woke up my prison was less literal, my silence my own doing and not the work of some invisible magic glue. Still, my reality was the same. Every day. I think a lot of us know what it feels like to wake up every day feeling unhappy with where we are in life. Whether you wake up in a place you don’t want to be, you wake up broke, you wake up single, you wake up to do a job you hate, or all of the above plus some. A few of us found our own way out of the cycle of unhappiness on their own, and if you’re one of those people then I am so proud of you. Really, I am. I am applauding you right now even though you can’t hear it. That’s awesome.
Some of us are working on it. I am one of those people and if you’re right here with me then I’m proud of you too. We should all be proud of ourselves for attempting to better our situations. Whether you quit the job you hate, are trying to find an affordable place to live so you can finally have the peace and quiet you need to move forward, finally grew the gonads you needed to ask that person out, are trying to pay off debt, or even just drove past McDonalds even though you’re hungry because you know you have food at home. Amazing. Keep going.
But there are some of us who are still stuck. Some of us don’t even know where to begin when it comes to making their quality of life better. I was there. We’ve all been there. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re one of those people because going from being stuck to pulling yourself out of the quicksand is rough. It takes a lot of strength, energy, and motivation. How I found that motivation is by doing the exact thing I spent nine years thinking was a waste of time. I picked up a book on personal growth. I was in a “Better or Bust” mindset, forcing myself to either find a way to start getting my shit together or let depression and anxiety sink me down further and further until I reached a point where suicide became an option…again. But I couldn’t let myself sink that low. I knew that if I allowed it then the chances of me living to see twenty-three were slim to none. Being the person that I am, I knew that if I could find the time to lay around feeling sorry for myself then I could also find the time to learn from someone who actually made it out. Sure, some of the books feed people some self-entitled bllshit and some of it is so unrealistically positive that it goes down more like a spoonful of sugar instead of the medicine a lot of us really need, but it was better than nothing. Nothing is what I was doing, and by just reading a book I was taking a first step forward toward actually doing something.
I’m not saying that your life will suddenly and miraculously do a complete tailspin by reading a few chapters of You Are a Badass. Reading is a step in the right direction not the full solution. Treat it like you would treat getting good advice from a friend (notice I said good advice). Actually do the exercises that the books suggest, even if they make you feel stupid. Do I feel like an idiot when I look at myself in the mirror, beat on my chest, and repeat positive affirmations to myself every morning? Yes. But did I notice myself starting to change for the better as a result of doing it? Also yes. That change is what is keeping me going. That change is why this blog exists. Could I have figured my shit out without ever picking up a book to begin with? Maybe. Maybe not. But why learn the hard why when there are thousands of people who have already and are trying to pass that advice down to me so I won’t have to? That’s just immature and illogical.
There is a page in the works on this blog where I’ll put my own personal suggested reading, but don’t let that stop you from looking for yourself. Your struggle is different from mine. How you learn is different from how I learn. Maybe you’re more of a podcast listener than a reader or maybe YouTube videos are more your style. Learn your way, but please learn. Learning inspires growth, and growth will get you far from where you are right now. If where you are right now is nowhere in comparison to where you want to be then what do you have to lose? Even if you start moving forward only to fall back down, you’ll notice that you won’t be as far down as you were when you started and that in itself is an improvement.
So I’m leaving you with homework: whenever you have the time, take your first step. Find a book, or a podcast, or a video, or an app that will help you and inspire you to get off your ass and start moving toward where you want to be. You won’t regret it.
“Just DO it!”