This is part three of a multi-part series on Taking Action. Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2.
She was incredulous. She leaned forward on the table and asked for the second time, “You were bulimic? You?” And I said, “Yea. For about 11 years.” And she said, “Wow. How’d you get over it?” She went on to tell me she suffers from depression and eating issues, and has never found a way out.
I get asked this question a lot. It’s a huge deal to recover from food addiction and depression. I know that. So, I’m grateful, and I’m willing to talk about it openly with those who ask.
There were a number of things that contributed to my recovery. But if I had to choose one thing, it would be “taking action.” Before I “took action,” I let action happen to me. It’s easy to let this be the pattern of your whole life, until you find yourself in a life you never wanted, and David Byrne is dancing in your head singing, “How did I get here?”
Here’s how it went: When I graduated from high school, it was assumed I’d go to college. So, I went to college. I had no idea if I wanted to go. I just went. When I got to college, I spent my summers doing lame (lame!) internships because I was told it looked good on my resume. I took classes because I was told they would be good for my career. (What career?) In short, I never actually took a moment to ask myself what I wanted and take action towards that goal. Coincidentally (?), I had a raging eating disorder. After college, the pattern continued, and I found myself in a job I hated, and dating a man who had nothing in common with me. Finally, a wise voice in my head said the following sacred words…
“You have got to be kidding me.”
Then one day, I got a guitar. The first thing I did when I got home each evening was to play my guitar for about an hour. Then I started writing in a journal every night before bed. Next thing you know, I left the guy…
You get the idea. I took action.
After my New Year’s blog, many people chose the word “Action” as their word of the year. This made me smile. Action is crucial. And not just for the sake of getting something done. It’s because of who you become during the getting it done.
(Note: Let’s be clear about something here. When I talk about happiness and recovery, I’m not talking about an event. I do not walk around in a state of bliss, shouting, “I made it!” I am still learning and growing just like you.)
So, why does “taking action” make you happier? Here are my five reasons:
1 – When you take action, you focus.
The average person lives in a pretty scattered state. It’s like my cat, Atticus. Sometimes I spot Atticus down the road a little ways. I call him. He looks up. He starts walking to me. A bird chirps. He turns his head. He starts walking in that direction. I call him again. He stops. He looks at me again. He walks towards me. A squirrel jumps in the leaves. Atticus sees it and starts heading that way. I call him again…etc. Eventually he makes it home. But only because I keep calling.
Most people let too many things take their attention. The news, the drama, the girlfriend with the cheating boyfriend, the boyfriend with the cheating girlfriend, the latest shooting, the latest bombing, the latest plague, an invitation to something they don’t want to do. Taking action sets your focus. You suddenly step out of the muck. And you claim your own present moment. You have an intention, and you hone in on something that actually matters. This act alone is nothing short of a miracle. And it feels so good.
2 – When you take action, you become a creator.
Creativity is the opposite of competition. Creativity is also the opposite of reaction. Being a creator makes you take the reigns in your life. The power that comes from choosing to do something and then doing it is unparalleled. Do that enough times, and you might just develop something called “self esteem.”
3 – When you take action, you decide.
Deciding is a big deal. Deciding creates direction. Lingering in indecision is a guaranteed way to get depressed. Making decisions forces you to ask yourself what you want, rather than just following the usual course of what you “should do.” Or what you “usually” do.
4 – When you take action, you engage.
Most people are busy. They are busy running around doing things. But they’re not engaged. They’re not connected. Taking action on a goal locks you into full engagement with your life and your spirit. Maybe not right at first when you’re taking baby steps. But eventually. Engagement brings joy. Having a connection to a project or to a goal can give your life meaning and excitement.
5 – When you take action, you create new patterns
Bruce Lipton travels the world teaching the principles of his book The Biology of Belief. One of those principles is that new neural pathways are created in your brain when you shift old emotional patterns. This is also what happens when you learn something new, or when you engage in a creative activity. You create new patterns in your day, in your body, and in your spirit. That sounds pretty lofty, I know. But it’s true.
Final thought: Someone wrote an email to Heather at her blog, Transcend Bulimia. The woman who wrote the email had begun healing her bulimia by taking one huge action: she quit college and began taking art classes. It’s a beautiful note. Read it here. Get inspired. Then, take some action!