When I hear the word “derail”, I imagine a subway car: when it’s running, everything runs smoothly and everyone gets to where they need to be. When derailed, total chaos; a train wreck means missed appointments, rescheduled meetings and, in the worst case, many injuries.
Similarly, living a life off the rails can be chaos. There are a series of excuses or habits that we fall into that will prepare our lives for the same consequences as the subway accident. And yet, everything I am going to list is so common. Why do we do it? How do we stop? First, some of the biggest excuses that will derail your life are:
- Following the culture. It’s easy and very tempting to get caught up in what other people are doing and then forget to pay attention to your own needs. My biggest example of following the culture was during my freshman year in college, trying to make new friends from scratch. My fellow freshmen’s culture was more or less partying and beer, but that’s never been my scene. Sure, my exclusion meant it took me a little longer to make friends, but my reward was not having to compromise my needs in the name of the zeitgeist. I am in a wheelchair and campus parties were also very inaccessible, but I choose to blame my lack of attendance on a decision I made. That is rewriting history.
- care too much about what other people are doing and thinking. If you find yourself trapped in the cycle of caring about others, you will never be good enough. You will be exhausted and easily broken. Trying to please and appear perfect to everyone around you is, and I don’t use this word often, impossible. Just as everyone is on their own journey, be on yours. The freedom you gain from letting go of the desire to please is just the opposite of the consequence: you are only as “good enough” as you think you are. You can prioritize and give your energy to what matters to you; and you will take away the power of people to break you. When you let go of other people’s burdens, your confidence will grow along with your happiness.
- Feeling sorry for yourself. It’s okay to feel momentary regret about your situation—life can be challenging. But don’t park on that pain. That is a waste of precious time. Instead of gloating over the fact that I didn’t make any friends my entire freshman year on campus, I returned to sophomore year with a new resolution: I’d join a club, I’d get out of my comfort zone. That’s not to gloss over the countless weeknights I spent in my single bedroom, feeling sorry for the missed opportunity. I too had a learning curve. However, when I came back as a sophomore and forced myself to assimilate, that’s when I found my happiness.
There are many things trying to guide us these days: brands, influencers, celebrities, and our peers, to name a few. Stay alert and take regular stock of yourself to make sure you are being guided by positive things (your religion, your health, your passions, etc.), rather than empty things (money, social position, appearance, etc.) . How can you do that? Here are some habits that will keep you on track to where you want to be:
- Respect yourself, other people and everything around you. I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe that opportunities come to people who put good in the world. Check in with yourself, treat others well, and take care of the world around you. will be worth.
- Have quiet time every day. I don’t have kids yet, so it’s easy to check it off my list. My husband wakes up very early to read his Bible, write in a journal, and/or spend time reflecting. I like to sleep in, spend the morning working, and then sneak off in the mid-afternoon to read, be alone, and get out of my uncomfortable wheelchair. No matter what time of day, that time is necessary for both our sanity and our productivity. Even if you have to get up extra early to do it, you should try this one. However, until I have children, let me sleep.
- Set small goals. Let yourself win. For example: I wash a load of laundry, put it in the dryer, and instead of putting it back in my closet all at once, I hang 2-3 shirts a day until the dryer is empty or my husband needs to wash his clothes. It’s ridiculous. Thank God I married a man who doesn’t get upset about it, because he does the same.
We are only on this planet for a short period of time. Don’t put yourself in a position where you will look back on your life and regret the excuses you made or the things that derailed you. Try to incorporate some healthy practices into your routine to keep your life (your subway car) going.
Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. His comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.