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A Life Preserver.

Yesterday I was mad. I didn’t take the time to work out, I was disappointed with how I handled something for my job, and Justin left me way too many dishes for me to clean after dinner. I deserved to do nothing further that night.

But don’t you worry. When I stop complaining long enough to think about it, I realize I’m a lucky girl.

I mean, yes. To do some of the things I’ve done — to have had some of the opportunities I’ve had — it took discipline and hard work. But it’s not like I was mining coal, people. The work took diligence and strength of mind, which, let’s face it, is considerably easier than descending into the dark depths of the earth to dig a fuel whose dust will likely be the cause of my untimely demise. But I likely never would have pursued any of the things I’ve pursued had my life situation — my luck — been different. I was fortunate to be born in the country with freedoms, elected government, and infrastructure; during a time in which women have more rights than they’ve ever had before; amidst a social class that ensured I had a safe home, a warm bed, plenty to eat, and an above-average public school education; and of parents who never beat, neglected, or attempted to make me feel inferior. I married someone who, while we’re very different in many ways, is ultimately supportive of my insatiable curiosity.

I had all of these things, and that was luck.

Yet sometimes, I get sad.

I get sad that, at 32, my husband and I didn’t live the wildly nomadic military lifestyle I’d envisioned for our twenties; that I don’t have an impressive career to show for my lack of children; that I haven’t published a book.

I do that often. I focus on the things I haven’t done, despite my privilege, and then proceed to plop my ass on the sofa to watch three episodes of Girls.

It’s a sickness.

My friend Kevin calls it The Lazy, Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. I just call it stupid.

This kind of behavior is akin to lamenting modern slaughterhouse practices while frying up an industrial-sized pan of Wal-mart bacon. It’s thoughtful inaction. And while it sounds nice and maybe even feels like an accomplishment — because, hey, at least I acknowledged the things I’d like to change — the reality is that thinking alone is never going to improve the situation. The sadness will always be there, a snake in the shadows, waiting for the next quiet moment to pounce.

The truth is, if there are things you’ve wanted to do — little things like learning a language and taking more weekend trips with the family, or big things like writing a novel or stepping foot on Antarctica before you die — just thinking about it while shoving another handful of popcorn into your mouth is never going to make it happen. Sure, you might have the immediate gratification of a warm, buttery kernel. Of curling up next to a loved one to enjoy an inspiring flick. Of spending one more night free from the responsibility of taking action on your dreams. You might have that. But it will never take you closer to those things you really want.

As I get older, it’s occurring to me more and more that I am actually responsible for my own happiness. Not my husband, not my parents, but me. If I want to travel more, I’m the one who has to find ways to financially make it work. If I want to write a novel, I’m the one who has to peel my butt from the cushion and go write a novel. Hell, I don’t even have to peel my butt from the cushion — I have a laptop.

My point is not that you can never again enjoy a lazy evening of television.

Especially if down time with your family is that thing that drives your inner source of happiness.

My point is that, unless you acknowledge that inner source of happiness and start feeding it on the regular, no one will feel sorry for you if you remain unhappy.



For the last several months I’ve been actively making decisions to change the things that make me sad.

And guess what?

I feel sad less often.

(Funny how that works.)

Even better, the more I propel myself in this direction of change, the more things start working out in my favor. It turns out action begets not only results, but luck.

Who knew?

(Probably Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, and Jon Stewart, to name a few.)

Sometimes I still get sad. Sometimes I still sit on the sofa staring at the television for way — way — longer than is physically or mentally healthy. Sometimes I compare myself to other people who know how to do things better/smarter/faster than me and for a minute or six it paralyzes my ability to do anything at all. But then I tell myself to get over it and take more action to produce more results. And I can’t tell you how good that feels.

You just have to experience it for yourself.

Change isn’t going to send you an invitation. And to get there requires action. Time. Discipline. And the encouragement of luck. Which makes it ridiculously easy to sit, do nothing, and quit before you start. And this, without failure, will make you sad. Because a year from now you may wish you had started today.*

So tell me. What’s that thing you’ve been waiting to do? And why don’t you start it today?

*This quote is attributed across the internet to author Karen Lamb, but since I can’t find reference to the original source where she said or wrote it, I’m hesitant to attribute it solely to her.


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I have been bullying myself into doing all the things I should (working out, going to bed at a normal hour, packing my lunch) by always asking myself this while I’m doing procrastinatory things, “am I being kind to my future self by doing this?” usually the answer is “sure right now I’m enjoying watching Netflix but will I be but I wont be happy with me tomorrow when I wake up to a messy kitchen and no lunch for work” my future self is a real nag, but she’s pretty good at getting me up off my ass.


Haha, you’re very right! It’s that future self we have to think about more often. Not the, “suuuure this feels good now” feeling, but the “how is this going to make me feel tomorrow?” feeling. Nag on, sista! :)

Colleen Brynn

Dude I feel ya. There is no end to the things I want to experience and accomplish in life and sometimes I just find myself sitting on the couch. I guess it’s about finding that sweet spot, the balance. I’m completely out of whack from all the demands from school so it will be nice to be a bit more balanced this summer and that means more WRITING. Hoping to see some of your stuff by then. Keep going!!! You are so talented, don’t let it go to waste!! x


Exactly! And you have to prioritize. Obviously, while you’re in school, it’s going to be extra difficult to focus on creative pursuits. So you have to focus on one first, then the other. It’s hard, but that’s the most effective way to get it done!


P.S. Thanks — AGAIN — for the motivation! In attempting this, it’s hard to look at it and not think it sounds stupid. But I’ll keep pushing through and get a second opinion. Yours! You will DEFINITELY read something this summer, whether it’s done or not.


I think nothing. There’s nothing I’ve been waiting to do. Not much of a waiter, really. Ideas go from germination to execution or total abandonment pretty quick in Stephanie-world, so there aren’t really any things hanging over me.

Oh, and I’m totally that person driven by the bliss of family downtime. :)

I liked this post a lot. If you’re lucky like most of us who have the time to read your blog, then yes, happiness is often a choice. As is unhappiness.

And getting to a goal makes most people happy. So it’s good to work at them.

At the same time, I’ve been going through some opposite mental processes lately. I happen to be taking a lot of education at the moment. And it’s quite a lot of work outside of my actual work. It’s all to create future opportunities. (Honestly, I haven’t a clue what I want for the future, so I tend to just collect certificates that seem interesting in the hopes that one day the perfect thing will come along and I will just happen to be qualified.)

But then the other week a lady from work died. She was in her mid-forties. I don’t know exactly what went wrong but on Friday she was working late at the office, Saturday she went to the doctor because she didn’t feel great, and Monday she passed away.

And I do know that you can’t live your life as though you’re about to die. But at the same time, so much work and sacrifice for a future that is so unknown also seems a bit questionable to me right now.

My current compromise is to give my work and studies only as much as I can without resentment or feeling like some kind of martyr and then stop when those feelings start bubbling up.


“There’s nothing I’ve been waiting to do. Not much of a waiter, really. Ideas go from germination to execution or total abandonment pretty quick in Stephanie-world, so there aren’t really any things hanging over me.” <-- That must be SO nice. I sincerely can't even imagine what that must feel like. I envy you that. You do make a solid point though... If you found out you were going to die in five years, is there anything you'd scramble to do, or would your priorities (spending time with family and going to school) stay the same? The question is, are you dissatisfied by the amount of time you're spending in school without a set goal in mind, or is SCHOOL the direction? Maybe you and I are actually very similar in that respect -- we both seek ways to continually educate ourselves, only your way is through academia, and mine is through... well... whatever means I can settle on for a time. By the way, I know this isn't the point, but I'm very sorry for the loss of your co-worker. I lost one once to pancreatic cancer. It wasn't quite as sudden, but it was still quite a shock. One minute he's counting down to retirement, and the next there is no retirement. Sure, you can't live as though you're about to die without planning for the future at all, but you can certainly prioritize, figure out what, if anything, you'd be super upset to die without being able to accomplish, and go from there. My friend Colleen (above) told me a friend said to her once, "What if you die without publishing a book?" And that was the motivation she needed to acknowledge her goal and work towards completing it.


I don’t think there’s anything I’d regret if I died. My only priority is family and friends and I do put them first.

The direction isn’t school itself or a goal. Education for me is insurance in case bad things happen so I will have it to fall back on. And my current employer pays for it, so feels stupid not to take advantage. And I want to be a good role model and I think seeking constant betterment is part of that.

But if I was going to die in five years, I probably wouldn’t be in school because I wouldn’t need the insurance. And I’d rather have the time. I’m not a natural student. I like learning, but I hate studying. Particularly writing papers. I abhor writing papers. I’m not dissatisfied with the amount of time I’m spending. To be honest, I’ve given myself permission to get a C and that’s pretty freeing. I think that’s what this little death-provoked existential crisis did for me – let me just do enough and not need to be the best at something that isn’t the most important thing to me.


Well then, I think you hit it. Why work so hard for something you don’t even want? I believe in basic preparedness, like having a solid savings account in case of emergencies and at least one family member who loves your family enough to not let you end up on the street. ;) I 100% believe that your priority is family and friends, but I do get the sense from your comments that maybe you’re missing the travel aspect of your life. I realize it’s a million times harder to do it with a kid, but if you’re not already, consider doing small weekend trips around Canada and Washington to start. That part of North America is so beautiful — I feel like I’d be inclined to explore all of the time!


Travel is on hold for a while. Not forever, but just for now. Partly because the big Australia/Mexico trip was exhausting in a way that travel never has been and I’m not keen to repeat it just yet. Partly because it turns out that daycare costs almost as much as my mortgage. But yes, short trips to Seattle and Portland are on the horizon.

Andi Fisher (@andi_fisher)

I changed my outlook on life and how I approach it and how I let it impact me in April of 2002. It was an important change that took a lot of will power and it was the most significant thing I ever did in my life. I was miserable, everything made me unhappy and I was just a bitch to be around. I woke up April 12th and said to myself “damn, it is miserable being you, get over yourself”. And I did. And now nearly 13 years later the time for will power has come again. I have gained 20 pounds in 2 years for various reasons and I really haven’t done anything significant about it. I have finally reached my inflection point again. I have signed myself up for a 4-week bootcamp that starts at 5:30 and it will take another act of focus willpower to make it happen, but I am going to make it happen. Because I can. I am worth it. And it will make me happy. And I am so glad to see you are headed in the same {mental] direction.


I love this! I love that you have the ability to recognize something you don’t like in yourself and take action to change it. It sounds so simple, yet many people can’t — or simply don’t — manage to try. I started taking my fitness much more seriously at the end of last year. I haven’t had a major weight issue since college, but I’m tired of feeling tired, you know? I’m in love with a couple of Jillian Michael’s videos because they’re short workouts that I can do from home. On the weekends, I switch to P90 X yoga. I can touch my toes when I stretch for the first time since high school! I feel flexibility in my spine! It’s amazing. I’ve never one who’s gotten addicted to working out, but I could see getting hooked on yoga, simply because it feels so good to be able to move more like I could as a kid. Best of luck at the bootcamp! I don’t envy you the wakeup call and massively hard work, but you’ll be able to ride those endorphins for the rest of the day!


say what you may about getting older…some perks are the wisdom that comes with life experience.
It’s about the journey, not the destination, right?!

kudos on 5 years…btw! So proud of you.


Did I say something bad about getting older? I didn’t mean to! Those of us who do are fortunate — those of us who do is gracefully even more so. :)

And you’re right about the journey! That’s really part of the point I was trying to make — that being passive about the things you want instead of going after them seems, at least to me, a happier way to live!

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