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High school version of Heath: Never at home. I wouldn’t consider myself extremely different than most other teenagers, except for I had a knack for literally, never being at home. I would walk into the house after a weekend away, show up, and then hit the road again. I love my parents and had a great home, but for some reason I always felt a desire to go, go go go go go….ha, you get it.
College version of Heath: In two years at my junior college I spent one entire weekend in Temple, TX. Every single weekend I would venture to College Station, Austin, or my hometown. I made the claim it was because Temple was boring, which was true, but more than anything I just couldn’t sit still. I had to go somewhere. If we had a day off or a weekend was free from baseball, it took me all of five minute to pack a bag, make a to-go sandwich and hit the road to go and hang out with some friends in a different town.
Post college version of Heath: Spends nine months in first real job. Quits job. Gets married. Spends 7 months traveling the country. Finishes 48 state tour, visits Texas for holidays, and moves to California for two months and visits Hawaii. Currently, I’m in Atlanta, Georgia wrapping up a three month book tour for an author I’ve been working with where I’ve knocked out my last state and have successfully visited all 50 states in less than a year.
It’s safe to say I haven’t grown out of this habit of “go go go.” I’ve always thought it was just who I am, “I’m Heath. I travel a lot and never sit still, it’s kind of my thing.” But recently I’ve started to wonder why I am this way. Why on Earth can I not sit still for more than two seconds? Why can’t I be content with where I am? Why can’t I just be happy with the little moments, instead of having to travel the country and try to find big moments?
I’ve spent the last month or so diving into some of these questions, reading a book about slowing down, and here’s what I have to say about my sporadic personality.
- I struggle to stay in the moment. This is one of the biggest challenges of my life. I remember in college when I was running my t-shirt company, I would constantly shut myself inside my room and work all day. Occasionally, I would go out and see a movie with a friend and feel guilty the entire time. I should be working. I’m wasting my time right now. Because of this battle to “stay in the moment,” it’s ironically made me miss so many moments in life. The reason why is because while I’m doing something, like watching a movie, I’m not presently enjoying the moment because I’m thinking about work or anything else that pops up in my mind. This causes me to have less fulfillment in the everyday moments and then I feel like I need to do more and see more in order to get more enjoyment out of life, instead of just being fully present and enjoying something as simple as watching a movie with a friend.
- My mind never slows down. This year I’ve learned the value of taking naps. My mind gets moving so fast during the work day I feel like it’s running at a thousand miles per hour. Laying down to take a nap during the middle of the day helps to ease those thoughts for at least twenty minutes. However, as soon as I wake up, I’m back on the thought treadmill, running around and making myself feel tired. I also don’t let myself turn my mind off when I have a few moments to spare. Instead, I break out my phone and start scrolling through Twitter or Facebook so my mind has something to take a look at, instead of just sitting to enjoy a nice quiet moment. While technology has cured my boredom, it’s also given me an excuse to never sit still. I never have to wait in line without using my phone or wait for an airplane without scrolling Twitter. There is no such thing as downtime anymore, just more time on my phone. Yes, my boredom is not an issue but my iPhone has only escalated the speed at which my thoughts flurry through my mind.
- I constantly feel rushed. I really love to work out. In high school, I actually woke up every morning at 4:20AM and went to the gym before school. It was one of the best parts of my day. No matter what happened the rest of my day, there was this piece of the day that was mine, that I had control over. But since I quit playing baseball and graduated from college I’ve struggled to find the time to work out. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. I like working out. I like feeling in shape, so why won’t I take a half hour to go and run or hit the weights? I’m beginning to realize it is because I constantly feel rushed. I wake up in the morning and my to-do list is pounding through my mind and I feel like I am already behind on life. How am I going to get everything done today? What is the most important thing on this list? Crap, there’s no way I’m going to get everything done. These thoughts have haunted my mornings for some time and as a result I push back my workouts to later in the day, then later this week, then later this month, and the pattern continues. Because I feel like I have to get everything done right this second, my mind is rushing and I tell myself I don’t have the time to work out, when in reality this is the result of my own false thinking.
- I have trouble listening. I strive to be a good listener, but I fail at this a lot. I want to be a better listener in my marriage. I often find my mind wandering when Alyssa is talking and I have to grab my attention and bring it back. It’s not that I don’t care, I really do. I want her to know that I care so much about what she is saying, but my mind seems to want to run around like a 5 year old that just downed a bunch of pixie sticks filled with sugar. When I’m trying to listen to her talk my mind is attempting to bring up my to-do list and what I didn’t get done yesterday. I somehow have let these thoughts dictate a moment that isn’t theirs to control.
(Before I go any further, I’m not making a case for ADD. I believe I have the power to control these thoughts and inclinations.)
You might be wondering how all of these apply to me not being able to sit still, but the truth is they are all intertwined. These four issues I have with listening, feeling rushed, staying in the moment, and my mind always running amuck make me feel less and less fulfilled in my work and life. I might be looking at the Grand Canyon or planning an epic book tour, but in my mind I’m always wondering “what’s next?” or “did I do good enough?” I feel less fulfilled even when doing really cool things, and it makes me want to step up and do more incredible things. Traveling on the weekends and during vacations wasn’t enough, I needed to travel full-time. Traveling the country in an RV for seven months wasn’t enough, I needed to go on a book tour, etc. Because my mind has been distracted, it’s been a hindrance for me to enjoy the moments I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
Before Alyssa and I hit the road last year I told her the biggest struggle we would have on the road and during our journey would be to enjoy ourselves. I said this because I knew how crazy life would be, how much pressure we’d have on ourselves to make enough money, and do/see everything possible in 7 months. Now I realize I was wrong. It wasn’t our struggle, it was my struggle. I was the guy who had such a problem enjoying the moment, because I wasn’t there– I was somewhere else, in my mind, thinking about work, or my future book. I’ve spent so much of my life thinking about the future moments, there is no telling how many moments I’ve missed because of it.
If you’re reading this and can empathize with what I’m talking about, I would love to know. I don’t believe I’m the only person in 2015 who struggles with this same problem, or maybe I am. If you have a story that’s similar, leave a comment below as I would love to not be the only crazy person who struggles to sit still.
As for how I’m going to fix the problem?
I’ll let you know when I do. As for now, I’m trying a few different things.
- Pushing thoughts aside when they enter my mind, not giving them any more time than they deserve.
- When people talk to me, I try to listen with no judgement or thoughts of my own, just hear what they have to say and digest the message after words.
- Not trying to be so analytical in situations, but let my common sense deal with complex problems.
- When stressful thoughts or possible future scenarios pop up in my head, I let them go to the back burner and don’t worry about them. While they may or may not happen, letting them sit around and stack up in my mind is only going to cause stress and worry.
Thanks for taking the time to read,