Have you ever woken up to that feeling of slight panic as the day before you has yet to begin, but you dread what’s to come next? I certainly have and if you’re someone who’s experiencing that, I can absolutely empathize with you. It’s awful when you look at your life and see something that you either allowed to be created by the hands, opinions, and beliefs of others or that by simple inaction grew into something you find displeasure in, perhaps even hatred.

I want to take a moment to encourage you though as you read this. Self-awareness is the first key to personal freedom. It’s only in recognizing something about ourselves that isn’t optimal in life that we can take action or have the self-discipline to correct it and adapt so that we can free ourselves from our unneccessary sufferings.

Perhaps it was the people-pleasing that worked so well as a child to get people to like you, but now that you’ve quieted your voice so much for the sake of making others happy, you’ve in turn become something that’s not aligned with who you truly are. That cognitive dissonance or being inconsistent in your being is a source of tremendous internal suffering. When we live in alignment with our values and beliefs we feel consistent and therefore true to our nature and being, but to do the opposite makes us feel broken and saps us of all self-confidence.

Allow me to elaborate a bit further on this point with an analogy. Think of your life as a garden and you happen to be the gardener. The one thing you absolutely control is the meaning you give anything and your ability to choose. When we don’t act intentionally, the garden becomes overtaken with all manner of unpleasantries, whereas if we tend to greenery with intentionality, we have the opportunity to create something beautiful and meaningful.

Now you may be thinking in your mind that this doesn’t look good. Maybe your garden is a very rough looking place. Here’s the great thing though, you don’t need to get caught up in the macro of your desired outcome and goal. When we see something that we want to endeavor on and accomplish we may have this propensity to see a goal like climbing Mt. Everest. Then comes the overthinking because we are afraid and maybe with the right strategy we can do it, but the thinking leads to more thinking and nothing gets done, which makes us despair and diminishes our confidence further.

When you have a life that’s in turmoil, you don’t look at the peak of the mountain, you look at your feet and figure out what’s the smallest actionable step you can take towards accomplishing your desired outcome. Maybe it’s the pile of important papers stacked up on your desk that you haven’t been taking care of. What if you just worked on few? It’s small enough that it’s not overwhelming, but it’s big enough so that if you were to do this consistently over the course of days or months eventually you’d see the end. That’s what you need to do!

If your garden is overtaken with weeds, you need pull one weed at a time. If being unintentional can cause disaster, imagine what your life would be like if you were more intentional with your health, your food choices, your social life, the friends you hang out with, the activities you engage in, the things you listen to, and anything else that has a meaningful impact on your wellbeing. You can turn what you feel to be tragedy into triumph. You can take the steps. Focus on the progress and only take note of what’s not working so you can error correct and adapt.

I’ll leave you with this, if you’re in this place of profound struggle, I’d encourage in the morning to write in a journal at least 5 things that you’re grateful for (be specific). This will train your mind to begin looking for things that you have rather than what you lack, giving you a sense of contentment as your progressing in life. It will also give you a much more positive outlook on life cause it can always be worse, but now you have the opportunity to make it better.

The last thing is to write in your journal at night and this will be particularly helpful for those of us who are deeply self-critical. I want you to write at least 5 things that you’re proud of that you did today. It can be as simple as “I’m proud I brushed my teeth in the morning”, and real talk, for those who struggle with depression, even a task like that can seem daunting. This will train your mind to recognize progress and to train your mind from being in a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Actions triumph everything. It doesn’t need to be perfect, you just need to put in the effort and actually try. With time and experience you will grow wiser and become better.