Three years ago, I burned out and left my career behind.
Having to face the reality of not being in the driver's seat of your own life is hard. More than we like to admit, we spend our weeks, months—hell, often our entire careers—with our thoughts and actions running on autopilot.
We craft a detailed inner monologue, lying to ourselves to justify decisions, both good and bad.
We lose control of our habits and routines, letting them carry us through life for so long we forget we're no longer in the driver's seat.
We throw endless "life hacks" at the wall in the vain hope that one of them will stick.
And we never stop to ask ourselves the difficult question:
SO. MANY. PROBLEMS stem from having no clue about ourselves. Burnout. Bad relationships. Unfulfilling careers. Anxiety. Procrastination. Robbing banks. Electing… you get the point.
To borrow the timeless words of Mark Manson:
"Self-awareness is like great sex: everyone thinks they have a ton of it, but in reality no one knows what the fuck they’re doing."
Why don't we know what we're doing? Why is it so difficult to take a breath and think about what we're doing? What we're feeling? The choices we're making and the habits we're building?
Because avoiding the problem is easier, sure.
But also because no-one ever taught us why understanding who we are is so damn important.
We're stuck playing catch-up in the game of life. And worse, we believe everyone else has all this "life" stuff figured out.
I spend a lot of time talking with my wife Sarah about how society these days really doesn't understand mental health. Yes, the stigma around therapy is slowly fading, and new treatment options and apps crop up every day—all of which is wonderful, don't get me wrong.
Most regular clients Sarah sees aren't dealing with mental illness. They come to therapy because they're looking for confidence in their decisions, changes in their habits, and to live a psychologically healthy life. They don't know how to get there.
"Overall, this general theme points to a psychologically healthy life as a state of integration: Of self-regulation of emotions; cognitive focus, moment-to-moment; values, attitudes and behavior that support wellbeing in both yourself and others; and physical-dietary practices that are linked with them."
The alternative to therapy, of course, is self-help advice—most of which, to be honest, is useless.
It's not that quick tips and life hacks are inherently wrong. A hammer can be a super useful tool—but it won't help you bake a cake. Tools can only be useful when you understand the problem you're trying to fix.
Society's so addicted to throwing out quick fixes, we're handing out emotional bandaids before we know the extent of the wound. Crafting a more awesome life for yourself isn't a problem you can solve with anxiety baking, or using a meditation app for five minutes every evening, or an Instant Pot, or "thinking outside the box." Adding even more distractions just happens to be easier than tackling the real problem.
But society also seems to be hitting a turning point. We're realizing something's wrong—something much more profound than morning routines or relationship quarrels. Self-care and self-knowledge is no longer a chore—it's a requirement.
We've lost touch with ourselves. And we're starting to see why that's a problem.
💡 How to "Grow" Your Mental Health (Psychology Today)
💡 No More Life Hacks (Matt Ragland)
Knowing what makes you tick is the key to unlocking stickier habits, better decisions, and happier lives:
To steal a phrase from Daniel Goleman:
"If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far."
💡 The Problem With Habits (and Why Most of Them Fail) (Medium / Zat Rana)
💡 Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change (Adobe 99U)
💡 How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) (Wait But Why)
I won't lie—there are no right or wrong answers to be found here. I'm not here to hand over your life purpose on a silver platter with tea and cakes.
No, I'm here to explore two questions every week:
You need to become your own life coach. You need to understand your own values, create your own purpose, uncover your own blind spots, admit to your own mistakes, and learn from them. After all, we can't change ourselves, only our actions.
In short? I'm gonna help put you back in the driver's seat of your life.
Every week, I'll bring you original advice on the science and psychology behind why we make big decisions and choose habits (good and bad), along with the best practical tools, tips, and resources from around the web on how you can create a more awesome life.
Personal growth and self-improvement isn't about life hacks, or books, or "unleashing the power within" (gag). It's a muscle that we can strengthen and grow with time and practice.
It's the ultimate ongoing project.