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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,
Heath, I have so many things to say! First: THANK YOU for putting this out there. I love that you have been getting introspective lately and sharing that with all of us. Serious high fives for wanting to improve yourself.
You said “my book.” Did you really mean YOUR book?!?
I can relate to about 90% of your experience. I struggle to stay in the moment (I feel guilty if I think I could be doing something more productive), I don’t use free time to chill but instead come up with some plan for adventure or travel or something productive, my brain is constantly running, I’m always doing SOMETHING (can’t just relax), etc.
There are two things that have worked really well for me, although I definitely do still struggle with all of the things you mentioned. One thing that has helped is writing things down. If I’m in a conversation and my mind wanders, I jot down a quick note about what I’m thinking so then I’m able to focus on what’s being said to me. Most of that is that I have a crappy memory and I’m always concerned I’ll forget an idea, thought, response, task I need to do, etc. The second thing that has helped me is “build a bridge to tomorrow.” I learned this from Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. Basically you end your work session or day or whatever at a point where you KNOW where to start tomorrow. That can mean planning your next move OR it can mean stopping before you’re finished just so you know where to start the next time. I especially love that the latter essentially gives you permission to not be so gung-ho. (I can’t just have a small idea. No way. Everything has to be HUGE! It gets a little nuts sometimes). That approach could potentially lessen the struggle you have with your busy mind and feeling rushed.
Oh! Also! In an effort to be more “in the moment,” I did a 30-day personal challenge where I wrote in a gratitude journal once daily about a few highlights and one positive experience. It was one of those “appreciate the small moments” things and that has helped immensely too, especially since I continued after the 30 days.
One thing I noticed about your action items is that they all rely on willpower. I’d love to see you find some systems or tools that help you implement those actions. or maybe even come up with different actions.
I see a lot of myself in your description. If you wanna chat more, I’m happy to! Maybe we can solve ALL the problems of the world together! haha. And then Alyssa can talk some sense into us.
I read this immediately when you wrote it, but wanted to leave a more thoughtful response.
First off, yes I am writing a book. It will be called “I Have an Idea” and essentially it’s my story of the guy I used to be (person who had lots of ideas but no execution) to a guy who follows through and acts on his biggest ideas and makes them real. It’s something I’ve struggled with for years, and feel like the message will hopefully resonate with other people as well. I’m also considering opening up an “Idea Academy” for people who have ideas but need a community + guidance to help them get started- whether it’s a business, book, blog, travel, or anything. I’m going to recruit 10-20 people to get started (free of course) and see if we can build something meaningful with it. I’d love to know if you have some kind of idea you’re working on where you’d like to be a part of it.
Also, I will do some thinking about how to create more of a “tool kit” for some of the action items I mentioned above. I definitely agree with you and since it’s something I’m working on, I don’t promise it will be anytime soon but I’ll try :).
Practicing gratitude is such a great practice. Speaking of gratitude, your thoughtful comments on my blog is so encouraging. I’m super grateful for you!
Thank you 🙂
!!!!!!!!!!! (<– There are not enough exclamation points in the world to show my excitement over your new endeavor)
I support all of that! And like you (or well, maybe old you), I'm an ideas person so I have lots of ideas but struggle with execution. I'd love to talk more whenever you're ready to recruit and see where I am, if I fit, and how we can help each other because I'd LOVE to be a part of anything you're doing!
It’s wonderful to see social media and the technologies of the millennial age utilized to encourage innovation.
How exciting is it to live in a time where it is so easy to connect and collaborate with a large group of individuals that share a common goal, yet exhibit a wide diversity of skill sets… the possibilities are endless!
Idea #1 – Drone medical supply company (on second thought maybe a drone coffee delivery… someone fly me over a chai tea STAT ha!)
Unfortunately this idea been stolen from me by Amazon. In all seriousness though, why is apple focused on releasing a newer update on the ipad when what the world really needs is flying hovercrafts or cars that can magically avoid traffic?! Priorities.
Best of luck with your ideas, I sure hope they beat mine hah!
Haha! This made me laugh Chassity! I love it! If a drone woke me up each morning with a fresh latte I wouldn’t complain. 🙂
Your question is one of the reasons I love Elon Musk. It seems like everyone in the world is focused on builder technology just a tiny bit better to make our lives a tiny bit more comfortable, but it’s not life changing innovation- just comfort innovation, which we already have plenty of.
I don’t know too much about medical supplies, but I think accelerating that process would definitely help out a lot of people. People seem to be obsessed with drones these days, which is not a bad thing because hopefully it will lead to some flying hovercrafts like you said!
thanks for reading!
[…] introspective? My ginger RV-loving hero, Heath, explains The Reason Why I Can’t Sit Still. I could relate to him so much that I practically left him a novel in the comments. If you’re […]
Hello Heath and Janelle,
It’s great to know I am not alone in this struggle to control and organize one’s own thoughts! I was always in honors/AP classes growing up, so I knew I capable of working hard and enjoyed reading, yet I was always the last person in the room to turn in exams. This “ADHD” or whatever you like to call it (my optimistic side likes to believe that I am just a deep thinker and refuse to be rushed into a decision) seemed to affect me the most in nursing school.
As the professors would be on slide #56 I would still be look at #13 having an internal debate on all of the things that could potentially go wrong if I followed the care plan proposed for a particular diagnosis. Rather than listening and moving onto the next slide, I couldn’t help but doubt every bit of the material I was supposed to be digesting. By the end of each class my head was literally spinning in circles.
ADHD medication sometimes helped initially, but in the long run it ends up messing with my sleep cycle or making the issue even worse. When you take this medication from a young age I truly believe you become somewhat dependent on it. General Anxiety Disorder was another diagnosis tossed around, but these meds just put me straight into a coma. As the occurrence and the discussion of hyperactivity disorders has managed to explode with our generation, I believe that your idea truly a grand Heath.
A few things that I find help keep my head on straight (what gives me willpower so to speak):
3) going to sleep at the same time each night
4) taking deep breaths when I get excited and my mind begins to spin out of control
5) I am too impatient to type or write these days, so instead I use the dictation button on my ipad/iphone to take notes (the keynotes app is also wonderful for this!)
6) taking personal time to write – funny thing is I do not remember EVER in my life having a diary or journal, yet recently something sparked an interest to begin writing a fiction book
***so far it is better than therapy, not to mention much more cost efficient
Plus, it’s a great creative outlet that you can look back and laugh about weeks later!
Hope this was helpful! Feel free to contact me regarding this idea course. I think it will be a success!
I appreciate you taking the time to leave all of these awesome thoughts. I have had similar experience with ADHD medicine in the past and have steered away from it ever since.
That’s awesome about the book idea, I’ve found that writing really helps me out also. One of the best ways for me to physically calm down is to exercise, although I’m sure most people know it helps not everyone does it.
Would love to keep you in the loop about the idea course, send me an email to [email protected] and we’ll talk!
I totally understand EXACTLY what you are saying here. I cannot slow down.. and I’m much older than you. I used to write my Christmas letter and then end it with, “Next year we hope to slow down and smell the roses more.” … Never happened. Finally I quit saying that. You have at least mastered the Nap. For me a nap lasts about 5 minutes if I white knuckle it before I have to get up and do something. And read a book.. Ha, my husband reads about 300 books a year. I watch the movie. That is my down time.
I blog. Most of the people that read my blog (120 or so) comment with how they love to live vicariously through my adventures, BECAUSE THEY WOULDN’T HAVE THE ENERGY TO DO IT THEMSELVES…. Hummm. My husband and I are in the process of transitioning to full time RV’ers. A new adventure awaits every day! And in those slow moments, there is always Facebook on your phone.
Haha, you and Heath sound so alike! Except he reads like crazy and I’m a movie person. Excited for you to join us in the RV life! It’s a good way to see the world and expend all that energy! 🙂
I can relate to all of these 100%. I’ve always thought it was add. Do you experience social anxiety as well?
[…] The truth is, Heath uses all five of these desk set ups on any given day because he can’t sit still. […]
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