I want to tell you about a strange thought I had a few weeks ago, what I learned from it, and how it’s given me a fresh perspective on life.
For the most part, life has been good this past year. In every area of my life, I’m happy and growing. I don’t have everything I want yet, but I get to wake up each day and vigorously pursue it.
I’ve got a fiance I enjoy, a new child, my writing is growing more popular every day, I got an offer for my next book, and I’m making money the way I want to. My health is great and I’m surrounded by love.
But it wasn’t always like this.
Sometimes, when life is going very well, I think about how terrible of a person I was during my heavy drinking days. I think about how self-destructive I was and how many people had the displeasure of crossing my path when I was in this self-destructive state.
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think of all the times I got lucky no one was hurt or that I didn’t wind up dead or in jail.
From the foolishness that was my life until I turned 28, I should at least have a criminal record. However, I stayed ahead of the law of large numbers long enough and stopped tempting fate before it caught up to me.
The life I’m living is significantly different from and better than the one I was living ten years ago. Given the trajectory of how my life was going, it feels like my current life is a low-probability event. After I pondered this for a few days, I came to the conclusion that the only way this change could have happened was if I had died.
Death comes to us all, one way or another
You either die doing something stupid, or the stupid part of you dies off.
Even though I intellectually understand that it only takes two years to change your life, here I am 10 years later, doubting that I even exist because things are so different.
I figured I must be dreaming in my prison cell, or that I died and went to heaven (though I hardly think I deserved to go there)–or maybe I was in a coma after a drunk driving accident.
Of course, this almost certainly isn’t what happened (though there is the idea of Quantum Immortality that’s floating around). Here’s how I think it happened for me and, in explaining this, I hopefully give you a path to changing yourself.
Actions create reality; reality creates a path
Your actions set things in motion in *your* universe. When I say “your universe,” I don’t want to imply that there are different worlds for different people.
We all exist in the same world, but your experience in this world is dependent on the people you encounter, the things you do, and the way you interpret and learn from the two.
You create your universe the same way you create your life.
*Note: This distinction might seem pedantic and unnecessarily long, but I wanted to make it clear that I don’t subscribe to the idea of “your truth” or “subjective reality” in this context.
Certain actions put certain things in motion. If you do the same things and react the same way, you’ll continue to get the same situations. There’s a popular quote that sums up this idea perfectly:
“You’ll keep meeting the same people in different bodies until you learn the lessons.”
There is variance in a system as large, complex, and intricate as the universe, so you don’t get EXACTLY the same experience each time. However, there’s enough precision that doing the same actions, motivated by the same thoughts, will produce the same outcomes, regardless of the places you do them or the people you do them with.
You know this world as your reality.
Your learn to function in this world you’ve created. Your mind gets wired in a way to help you deal with this reality.
And it doesn’t matter how much you hate the reality you’ve created. Your behavior will continue to reinforce it. Your life becomes like quicksand; the more you fight to get away from it, the more it sucks you in.
What is the result of this “Reality Quicksand”?
Either you exhaust yourself trying to escape and sink quickly, or you give up and enjoy the decline and sink slowly.
In other words, you either self-destruct or give up. For an example of the former, think about people who don’t realize why their relationships fail, so they get into another relationship that fails and the cycle repeats.
The desperation and insecurity they enter the relationship with motivates their new partner to keep their distance and eventually break up with them. It only gets worse each time. This cycle then leads to you adopting the latter approach.
You no longer even try or, when you do, it’s so spetactacularly bad that you couldn’t do worse if you were intentional about ruining your relationship.
How does one break out of the prison they’ve constructed that also gets harder to escape from the more they try to? One day, they have a small but significant realization: it’s their own fault they’re in there.
You don’t have to take total responsibility. In fact, it’s likely you’ll still have denial about the role you play in your circumstances, but now you accept that your life is your responsibility. This changes your intent, which changes your actions, which changes your reality.
The change may be small and subtle. It may be large and obvious. But you aren’t the same and your world won’t be the same either.
One action, done differently with new intent and refined motivation, forces the universe to react differently.
Over time, the changes build on each other—especially as you’re forced to behave differently to function in this new universe *your* actions have created. This is why it’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.
The universe responds to action.
New actions, new reality, old mind, older habits
Although your actions have changed and your brain has rewired itself, you still have deep seated triggers and memories.
Much like how a former smoker is triggered by the smell of cigarette smoke or some alcoholics can’t go into a bar, occasionally you see something in this new universe that reminds you of your old self.
You feel drawn back to your old thoughts and habits, but now you live a new life. Those old behaviors are incompatible with the new you.
Instead of being pulled back into the nightmare, you reflect and you wonder: how are you the person you are today, given the person that you once were? The obvious answer is that you died.
Not an actual physical death. It’s death in of the world you once knew. You no longer engage in the actions which sustain that world. People intuitively know their actions create their world, but they get it wrong when they try to use this idea to change their life.
Instead of changing what they do, they try to change their location. This never works because your physical location is irrelevant. Your actions create the world you inhabit. Not vice-versa.
This feeling of death is symbolic. I think it’s just experiencing memories which are incompatible with the life you lead now.
How could the person you are now ever behave as the person you remember being? I seriously entertained the idea that I died doing something stupid in my old life.
The reality is that I started thinking differently about one thing. That lead to me doing one thing differently. From there, a ripple was created which eventually brought down the old structures I built my life upon. This forced the emergence of a new life.
In reality, I didn’t really die. What really happened is that I was reborn.