How to Overcome Personal Darkness and Build a Life of Purpose (Action Steps)
I hated my life; more than that, I hated myself. If the next 50+ years were just more of what I was experiencing, then I didn’t want it. If there was a God, he had abandoned me. If there was no God, then there was no purpose to anything anyways, so why try? Existence was misery, and I just wanted it to end.
Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now? I guarantee you know someone who currently is. Like the slow decay of rust on a once beautiful car, the corrosion starts small and imperceptive at first. Maybe starting with a small chip from a rock, but then growing like cancer until it leaves hideous gaping holes in our hearts. There are many causes, and it can start at any age, but the decay is real, the pain is real, suicide is real, and so is the anguish of those left behind.
Now, there are varying degrees to darkness, and not everyone gets engulfed to the point of suicide. But, no matter where you are in that darkness, you need to know one specific thing. THERE IS HOPE! I know because I was there. I was ready to end it all. But, I was able to turn my life around and build a life of purpose, and so can you. Your past does not predict your future; who you were is not who you will be, and you can choose today to have a better tomorrow! You need to get out of the darkness, and the only way to do that is to bring in the light. Have faith in a bright future because,
“your future is as bright as your faith!” -Thomas S. Monson
Is darkness real?
There is a story I love, which can be applied to darkness. The story is about a college professor bent on proving that Christianity is a myth and a student who defends his faith with the principles of science. The story is a little long, so I will give an abridged version. You can read the full version here.
In this story, the professor claims that if God created everything, then he also created evil, thereby making him evil as well. The student follows this statement with a serious of questions. The first of these is “does cold exist?” The professor proclaims that cold clearly exists because we can feel its effects, to which the student responds, that cold does not exist. Cold is simply the absents of heat. You can not measure cold, but you can measure heat. Heat exists, cold does not.
The second question is, “does darkness exist?” The professor again states that it exists and turns off the light to prove his point. The student responds by again saying that the professor is wrong and that darkness does not exist. You can not measure how dark a room is, but you can observe and measure light. Darkness is simply the absence of light.
The final question is, “does evil exist?” The professor again responds that evil does exist as clearly show my man’s inhumanity toward each other. These acts are nothing but evil. The student proceeds to explain that evil does not exist, at least not unto its self. Evil is a result of not having God in a person’s heart.
This story is all about opposites, more specifically the opposites we use to describe the way we describe things that exist, and the effects of their absence (Light and dark, heat and cold, good and evil). While cold may not exist, we can definitely feel its effects. While darkness may not exist, its effects are undeniable. However, we must recognize it for what it is.
The real effects of nothing
Darkness is emptiness; it is a void; it is the manifestation of something missing in our lives. We experience darkness when we lose a loved one, a job, or even a wallet. We feel it when we fail to live up to the expectations of others, or when they fail to live up to ours. It appears when we lack understanding or feel misunderstood. In each situation, something is missing, and the emptiness that follows comes as a result of that void.
Not everyone is struggling with deep-seated darkness. We are all at a different spot on the spectrum. Maybe you are mostly happy with where you are and just want to make small shifts. Maybe you feel stuck, spinning your wheels, desperate for some traction. Perhaps you simply feel unfulfilled with where you are. No matter where you are, you are reading this because you recognize that something is missing, and you are trying to figure it out.
The good news is that you have already taken your first steps in the right direction by seeking answers. You have taken action where others have given up, and you should feel good about that! There is a reason you are reading this, and your trials can be a gift. Every brick life throws at you can be used as a stepping stone that elevates you. Then, one day you will look back at your life and thank God for every single one of them. Success is built on the foundation of trials and failures.
Getting rid of the darkness
Continuing with our darkness metaphor, when you walk into a dark room, what is the only way to get rid of that darkness? TURN ON THE FREAKING LIGHT! You need to introduce LIGHT. Darkness can never overcome the light. Darkness MUST disappear when light is introduced, and the same is true for you.
Light is hope. If you have the smallest amount of hope, then you have a light that can guide you. Light can come from many sources. The key is they must encourage and inspire you to be better. They give you hope and show you a path out of the darkness. With that being said, here is your first action step.
STEP 1: Fill your life with sources of light!
A few ideas to get you started. Write them down.
- Read uplifting books.
- Freedom From Fear (Amazon Link)
- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself (Amazon Link)
- Talk to a friend or family member you trust and respect.
- Listen to a relevant podcast.
- Google Podcasts
- Attend an addiction recovery meeting.
- National Rehabs Directory
- Go to church.
- Every morning, list five good things about your life. (ask for help if this is difficult)
- Read blogs about finding happiness.
- Serve at a nursing home, soup kitchen, or animal rescue.
- Other ideas?
Now that you have some ideas, choose 1 or 2 that you will bring into your life this week.
The only way to get rid of darkness is to fill that void with light, something good. Sometimes, in our desperation to fill the void, we turn to momentary fixes that cause more harm than good. I call these things imitation light. The difficult thing about these imitations is they are VERY addictive and difficult to eliminate.
Your brain has become conditioned to turn to these Band-Aids every time you feel stressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, tired, bored, or afraid. It is an easy way to not deal with the situation at hand. The hard thing is that our bodies are work against us.
To save energy and streamline decision making, your brain uses neural pathways. These pathways are learned patterns of behavior. Much like water running down a hill, the more times these pathways are used, the deeper the channel gets carved, and the harder it gets to change our pattern of behavior. This process is extremely beneficial when it comes to helping us make quick decisions, but can easily be a problem if we develop unhealthy habits. When our brain learns to use these quick fixes, it is instantly rewarded through a chemical rush created by the substance or our body. This instant reward reinforces repeatedly using that fix and leads to an intense, crippling addiction.
Some of these addictions may include drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, junk food, tv, videogames, etc. Mine was pornography. I ran from my feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred, and feeling unloved by seeking a VERY cheap imitation of those things through a computer screen. I would repeatedly chase this imitation light only to be left feeling worse than I did before. The addiction was slowly eating away the very small amount of self-esteem I had left.
Not only do these addictions fail to fix the problem, but they also create MORE problems. Turning to these momentary escapes is much like trying to build a tower with tactics from Jenga. With every block you take, you leave a new void somewhere else until eventually, everything comes tumbling down around you. You fall till you hit rock bottom, and rock does not provide a soft landing.
STEP 2: Identify the imitation lights!
Ask yourself, “what do I turn to when feeling negative emotions?” Write them down.
Here are a few to consider
- Dangerous Actions (Adrenaline Junkies)
- Social Media
The rock bottom rebound
Hitting rock bottom will either destroy you or change you, but the choice is yours. The good news is that rock bottom is a great place to build from.
Almost every person who has had great success and happiness first faced great trials and failures. Abraham Lincoln grew up in an abusive home, faced continuous doubt and criticism, and lost eight presidential elections. Michael Jordan was rejected by his high school basketball team. Henry Ford went bankrupt five times. J.K. Rowling said she was the biggest failure she knew. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company. Robert Downey Jr. grew up in a house full of drug abuse and lost many acting jobs because of his own drug addictions. If they can overcome their obstacles, so can you! Your past pain and failures do not need to be something that holds you down; they can be stepping stones to help you move up. But you must choose to do so.
You have everything you need to succeed inside of you right now. God does not create junk, and he created you. You are divinely designed to be filled with light. It is something we all crave because it is what we were made for. You are meant to be happy, and you can be.
STEP 3: Set Goals!
Ask yourself, “If anything were possible, what would my life look like five years from now?”
Write this out in as much detail as possible, and write it in the present tense as if you already have it.
Here are a few things to think about
- What will you be doing for work?
- How much will you be making?
- What will your relationship with family and friends be like?
- Who will you be friends with?
- What will your house be like?
- Where will you live?
- What will you do with your time?
- How will you feel about yourself?
- How will you treat yourself and the people around you?
- How will you be treating your body (food/exercise)?
- What will your hobbies be?
- What things will no longer be a part of your new life?
- What will you be doing to stay inspired and growing?
After doing that writing exercise, write 1 to 2 things you are going to do this week to start making that vision a reality.
Beware the black hole
As you begin filling your life with light, it is important to be prepared for the black holes you WILL encounter. According to NASA, “A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out.” Darkness cannot destroy or overcome the light. However, these black holes of negativity and doubt can suck the joy and light right out of you.
Black holes can be specific environments (like a bar or strip club), but usually make an appearance as acquaintances, friends, and family members. When you tell them about your goals and plans for the future, they say, “you can’t do that!” “that’s impossible”, “you’re an idiot”, and a slew of other LIES. Just remember this term “crabs in a bucket.”
If you put crabs in a bucket, none of the crabs will be able to get out because the others will keep pulling them back in. But, your not a freaking crab! You don’t need to let them pull you down. You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react. So, every time someone tries to pull you down, just say, “you’re a freaking crab in a bucket, and I am not going to let you pull me down!”
One important thing to mention is that some of these black holes don’t even know they’re doing it. Their actions are disguised by good intentions and a desire to help. One example is the concerned parent who is afraid you are going to fail. They love you, but they are pulling you down because they think they are protecting you. Just remember that you can still love a black hole while not letting it suck you in. These are the ones that you can inspire through your success, and eventually convert into sources of light.
You have the power to limit the number of black holes around you. There are some you may not currently have much control over (like your family if you’re a minor). Still, there are many that you can remove (like negative environments, friends, an abusive partner, or acquaintances). These black holes may be hard or painful to separate yourself from, but you can do it. By removing these light-suckers, you will more easily see all of the light you already have in your life. Remember, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” so choose wisely
STEP 4: Identify the black holes!
Take a look at the people and environments around you. List the ones that drain the light from your life.
A few examples include
- Toxic Friends
- Toxic Family
- Toxic Acquaintances
- The News
- Celebrity Influences
- Political Figures
- Strip Clubs
- Social Groups
After you have made a list, choose the easiest one to remove from your life, and write how you will do that.
“Man of Action”
Now that you have gone through the four steps above pay attention to how you feel. There may be a bit of anxiety and apprehension about the action steps you have chosen, but you should feel good. You might even recognize this good feeling as HOPE. There is hope! Your life will get better, moving forward! You will find joy! There will be trials! You will make it through them! And I will stop using exclamation points!!!! You have a goal, you have a plan, and now it is time to take some action because you are a “Man of Action.” You don’t settle for the life given to you; you create the life you envision! It is time to make that vision a reality. Go to work!