Off the Beaten Path

Photo by Chris Leggat on Unsplash

This week, I’m talking about daring to be different and letting go of the fear that stops so many of us from reaching our potential. I will refer to video games again because they’ve taught me some valuable lessons, so if you’re not a gamer, bear with me – what I’ve learned could help you, too. 

I’ve been playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a massive game about exploration. It’s been in my backlog for years, mainly because I couldn’t stand that you can go wherever you want in any order, and there’s no real structure on how you do things. Just as there are so many ways to progress, there’s so many ways to fail. 

I feared playing it. What if I go wrong? What if I fail? What if I get stuck? How will I know what to do next? Will I have wasted my time? 

It’s a hugely limiting mindset that’s not just stopped me from experiencing  award-winning video games, but living life to the fullest.

Anyway, I decided to give the game another try, and overcome this way of thinking. 

Surprisingly, I’ve found myself addicted (not unhealthily) and actively exploring the environment, even when the main quest is blinking on the humongous map. There’s always something to see, and always a reward or two for exploring an area.

There were times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I kept playing anyway, determined to see all it has to offer. And I made tonnes of progress. That gave me the confidence to try another exploration type game called Hollow Knight. It’s popular with gamers, but I’ve shied away from it in the past because of the game not holding your hand and telling you where to go next. 

“Let go of that mindset and just explore,” my husband said when I started. And I did. I went against everything inside me that was screaming with the anxiety of not being guided down a specific path, and before I knew it, I was immersed and finding something new with every direction I went. 

Yes, I got my ass handed to me several times, but it was such an enjoyable experience that I found myself trying again and again until I beat certain enemies. 

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

I stopped worrying about whether I was going in the right direction and started wondering what I would find in the next area. I was enjoying myself without being directed. 

What’s your enemy in life? Fear? Procrastination? Being a master of weaving excuse stories rather than the story you want to tell? Go ahead and beat it! There’s joy and excitement on the other side. 

In real life, I’ve always struggled and become very anxious when there’s no clear path or no guidance saying “do this/go here next.” Playing video games that took me out of that comfort zone has been a big stepping stone for me. 

Overcoming that anxiety and learning to guide myself is vital because I’m on the path to becoming a counsellor and want to own my own practice in the future. I want to feel more relaxed and confident in situations where nothing is certain. 

Because life isn’t certain. 

I’m not saying that you should play video games if you want to change your mindset, I’m saying that taking action and facing your fears has more power than you could imagine. 

Photo by Lopez Robin on Unsplash

Since playing those games and fighting through that mindset,  I’ve also had a revelation about my writing. A lot of the writers block I get is down to feeling creatively blocked because with writing there are no rules per se. 

Just like with Hollow Knight, and Breath of the Wild, it’s about exploring and finding what works. It’s about letting go of fear of the unknown and turning it into excitement and curiosity. It’s about exploring off the beaten path. Trying something different. 

As Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

It’s like boarding a plane to America, even though you’re trying to get to Japan.

Straying from the beaten path is crucial if you want to escape mediocrity and discover your true potential, yet so many of us stay stuck in jobs we hate, in toxic relationships, and with habits that no longer serve us. 

Most of society would have you believe that life is all about survival. Keeping your head down and not taking any risks. After all, staying on the well-worn path is ‘safe’. It’s far less scary than going off to explore that sparkling river of opportunity in the distance. 

It’s also the path to forgotten and lost dreams. Staying on that path can lead to you forgetting who you are, what you have to offer to the world, and what you truly find fulfillment in. By staying on the linear, worn path, you don’t get to see the sparkling river, the lush forest, or find the hidden treasure. 

So, don’t hesitate. Let go of your fear. Be adventurous. Leave the beaten path and follow the river instead. Who knows where it could take you? 

Photo by Paula May on Unsplash


How To Simplify And Boost Your Day Before 6AM

Brace yourself for this post because I am about to talk about something which sounds scary, but which could dramatically improve and simplify your life.

Waking up at 5AM (or earlier depending on your job/career status).

If you’re anything like me, and just the thought of removing your blankets makes you want to run a mile, I implore you to stay with me here, because what I’m about to tell you could further enhance your minimalist lifestyle and transform your mindset.

This time last year, I started waking up at 5AM after reading Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning.  

I was fascinated, although slightly sceptical of what waking up at 5AM could possibly do for someone with chronic illness, but I gave it a go. The trouble was, despite the massive improvements to my life, I only managed to keep it up for a couple of months before the winter months dampened my resolve. 

But the benefits of rising with the sun were so great, that I’m going to reintroduce 5AM back into my life. And I’m going to share with you, exactly why early mornings can be your greatest ally to a better you. 

The reason I tried it in the first place was because I was fed up with the stress of rushing around in the mornings trying to get myself ready for work and my son ready for school.

I loved to write but by the time the evening rolled around, I was too burnt out to hammer a single sentence out on the keyboard and would inevitably get drawn into mindless activities instead. 

Perhaps you can relate?

Things like scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed (which you know turns into an endless time sap), playing videogames, or watching Youtube took over my free time in the evenings. Anything but doing what I really wanted to be doing. 

I’d feel guilty, then the cycle repeated itself. And after rolling out of bed on the weekends, I would go on entertainment binges which was detrimental to my productivity as a writer. 

It was time to make a change.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Now, waking up at 5AM, (or earlier) isn’t easy if you’re used to hibernating, and you’ll probably have to ease yourself into it by gradually reducing the time you spend in bed. 

I was mad enough to roll out of bed the instant my alarm went off so that I didn’t have time to register how bleary-eyed and zombified I was. I even did what Hal suggested in The Miracle Morning, and found myself an accountability partner. 

As soon as I woke up, I would message my accountability partner, and sometimes she would message back with a picture of a beautiful sunrise from her abode. Living in the UK, I saw more overcast skies than pastel sunrises, but just the feeling of that part of the morning being mine for the taking was enough to motivate me. 

Here’s the benefits I experienced from becoming an early riser:

  • My mornings were quiet and peaceful. I found that I was able to think calmly, and had a burst of ideas for my writing.
  • I could do what I wanted; read a book, write, meditate, or a combination of all. The extra time was all mine. 
  • Because my mind was starting off uncluttered and without the noise of a busy work day, I had far more ideas for my writing than in the evening. This meant I got far more writing done. In fact, I churned out most of the first draft for the book I’m working on.
  • I had the time to journal or write a stream of conscious(getting all of my thoughts down on paper) which made me understand myself on a much deeper level. It also ensured I was starting the day with a positive mindset. 
  • Before it was fully winter, I got to see a couple of glorious sunrises (as many as I was going to see living in the UK).
  • It changed my mindset on what was possible because I achieved so much while everyone else was still in dreamland.
  • I was more organised because I had so much more time on my hands.
  • By the time my husband went to work and took my son with him to school, I was often already dressed, so I formed a new habit of leaving home early and going to my local cafe to write once a week. Not only did that cement a writing habit, but I got to see my town in a tranquil state of awakening, which was surreal. 
  • I was happier throughout the day knowing that I had already got my most important things done.  Therefore, my days ran smoother and were much simpler. 
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

By this point, you’re probably thinking ‘but what about the downsides?’  And I’m not going to lie to you, here. There were downsides to rising so early.

I couldn’t stay up as late which meant that when my toddler son was in bed, I had little downtime before I felt ready to crawl into bed myself. You can’t be a morning person on too little sleep; at least not without risking physical and mental health

That’s it. That was the only downside I discovered.

Admittedly, living in the UK makes 5AM wake-ups much more challenging in the winter months because mornings are cold and dark, the days are short and the days are often overcast. 

That’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate in the beckoning warmth and comfort of bed, and unsurprisingly, people’s vitamin D levels drop to an all time low. 

But as soon as I let the winter beat me and stopped doing the Miracle Mornings,  I noticed that I was back to old habits of procrastination, achieved far less (my book is still in first draft) and am less fulfilled. 

To give you the best chance of success at becoming an early riser, here are a few tips:

Get plenty of sleep. At least 8 hours. It’s more important than you think.

Use a clock which has a gradually increasing light

Use an app like Alarmy which doesn’t let you turn off the alarm until you solve a problem

Have a shower

Have a soothing ritual you look forward to. Mine was a hot cup of tea and free writing.

Life’s too short to be unfulfilled and stressed. 5AM rises will make you feel like you have far more hours in your day, either to de-stress or to start working towards the life you envision. 

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Why not give your days a boost and start tomorrow? Let me know how it goes in the comments, and watch out for next week’s post on detoxing from social media.