I was trapped.
This sucks, I thought to myself. Should I stay or should I walk away?
I was in a black box. It was dark everywhere. The only source of light, is the huge screen in front of me and a dozen other people.
I glanced around. I had my 3D glasses on. White frame. Red and blue. I must have looked like an idiot. The screen was showing blue people flying around. I felt dizzy. The red and blue only made it worse.
The only thing I could appreciate was the smell of popcorn. But then, I could still smell it outside the theater. Hell, I could even buy some out there.
I really wanted to walk out. I’d already paid for this three hours’ worth of torture. It is only thirty minutes in, and the movie was already testing my ability not to fall asleep.
Man, I thought. I could have been drawing, studying my new language, working out…even freaking web surfing would be better than this.
It was true. Instead of wasting so much time on a lousy movie, I could have use that time on things that actually mattered – things that contribute to my long term happiness.
But I still couldn’t let go of that £12 ticket. Instead of walking away, I sat it out.
I wish I could say it was worth it, but it wasn’t. I was now three hours closer to death. I think it’s safe to say I made a bad choice.
What Happens When You Walk Away?
This was quite a good few years ago, and I still couldn’t get over that crappy movie. From then on, I always think twice every time someone asks me to watch a movie with him or her.
This little incident taught me a lesson though: Never waste time on worthless things. That is, even if you have already invested in it. Be decisive, and walk away.
Being an outsider, you must have thought I was dumb not to walk out of that movie, just because of a few pounds. But I bet many people would do the same, you included.
You see, human beings are motivated more by the fear of lost than the prospect of gain. That’s why people seldom walk out of movie theaters, even if the movie sucks. They want to get their money’s worth – except when it’s worth nothing.
When you walk out of a movie, you incur something called an “opportunity cost”. It is a cost you have to pay when you choose something over another. In this case, the opportunity cost is the ticket price.
Not being able to walk away from a movie sounds innocent enough. Not so much when you are stuck in an abusive relationship, a hopeless career, and a deadly addiction.
Many people are paralyzed to change their course of life because of this fear. That’s understandable. In the end, if you give it all up now, all the years you’ve lived would mean nothing anymore. It is part ego, part pride, and part fear of the unknown.
Predictability is nice. No matter how bad your life is, at least you know what to expect. At least you are still the old you.
The Haunting of the Unholy Trinity
The familiarity of pain. The comfort of routine. The certainty of life.
Jessica is stuck in an abusive relationship, because she keeps hoping her partner would change some day. She doesn’t want to lose all the love she has invested in their relationship. She hopes that he is still the one, the lovely, caring man she fell in love with.
But it is just a fantasy.
The reality is, Jessica is disappointed and physically hurt, time and time again. The pain gets familiar, predictable. It becomes part of their abuser-abusee relationship.
She knows she needs to walk away from him. But now, she is too familiar with the pain. It is part of her life now.
Chen is stuck in a hopeless career, because he couldn’t resist the comfort that it provides: Wake up at the same time. Put on the same suit. Hit the same road. Off at the same time. Go home and eat the same food. On the weekends, drink at the same bar. At the end of the month, a paycheck. It’s all good.
Except it will get him nowhere.
Chen has a dream, buried deep down somewhere in his heart. Something big. Something that makes history. Does he want to continue to live in a loop until the day he dies? Of course not.
But he can’t let go of the comfort predictability gives him. After all, he’d invested so much time in this job. If he walks away now, he can never find a job like this again.
Tyler is stuck with an alcohol addiction, because it gives him an escape from all his problems. Life has been brutal to him. When he was drunk, he can forget everything that bothers him, and just act however he wants to.
Everyone knows drinking too much is bad. Tyler knows it too. But he also knows that if he gives up alcohol, he will have nowhere to turn to when he gets frustrated.
Alcohol is his best friend, his safe haven, and his only solution to every problem in life. Alcohol is always there for him. He can just take a shot whenever he needs to.
There’s no complication, no uncertainty.
On top of that, Tyler is too proud to give up drinking. He is only too happy when people call him a drunkard. And yet he knows, as well as anyone else, that he is just a slave to his urges.
He knows giving up drinking would be the best choice he could make in his life, and yet he can’t walk away.
How One Decision Transformed My Entire Career
Just a few weeks ago, I was still stuck in the cliché “self-help blogger” circle.
Ever since I became a writer, I’ve always wanted to write about spirituality. But to make a living writing spiritual stuff, you can only either brand yourself as a “life coach”, “spiritual teacher”, or even worse, a “guru”.
I am none of above.
To get my name out there, I have no choice but to write for self-help blogs. To write for those blogs, you’d have to pitch a post written specifically the way they want it.
This completely stifled my creativity. I was churning out posts with a formula. My words had no soul. My posts were empty shells I put together to make the end product look like an article. It doesn’t even feel like writing.
After a while, I was completely blocked, to the point where I couldn’t write a single word anymore. I couldn’t keep teaching things I don’t believe in.
But I knew I have to stop writing this way. I knew if I continue, I will become just another faceless self-help writer you don’t care for. Frankly, do you even remember one name out of all the writers you read on self-help blogs?
Another reason was, writing like that was just plain torture. This reason alone was enough to push me over the edge.
But what could I do? If I give up writing using “self-help blogosphere” lingo, I would become an outcast. No blog would want me anymore. No one would ever come to read my blog.
And what about those “connections” I built with these blog owners? I thought I was making friends with them. If I stop giving them what they want, I wouldn’t have an “in” any more. All my investments in the self-help circle would be lost.
It was a hard decision to make. The opportunity cost was huge. But unlike the movie, I didn’t sit it out this time.
Now, my writing flows like the Niagara Falls. I just vomit words onto the page. My fingers never stop flying on the keyboard. Because now I write the way I think. I write about things I believe in.
Many of you are really supportive. In fact, since I wrote this way, the engagement from my readers has shot through the roof. I am really glad you like me for who I am. I am really grateful for your support.
I will never go back to being a fake self-help writer anymore.
Freedom Is Only a Decision Away
This proves that sometimes, you should just forget about the past, and make that decision you should have made a long time ago.
I know, a sudden change of direction is hard. You are essentially throwing everything away. Everything you’ve invested so far – time, money, energy, love, and memories – would mean nothing anymore.
It also means you’ll have to admit you made the wrong decision. Some people are too proud to do this.
But if you know, deep in your heart, that something has to change, you can’t let your ego get in the way. Admit your mistake. Let the past go. Give up your investments.
If you know your life is going down, there’s no point holding on to what is left of it. It’s like holding on to a sinking ship. You’ll only go down with it.
Let everything go. Live a new life. Discover new possibilities.
Actually, it’s really like walking out of a crappy movie.
At first, you look around a bit. You hesitate. It is really hard to stand up when everyone is sitting down, pretending that they are enjoying it.
You finally stand up. A dozen pair of eyes stares at you. Oh boy, you think. This is really awkward.
Summoning up your courage, you begin to walk down the aisle. As you get closer and closer to the exit, your body relaxes. Your back straightens. Your steps become more certain.
You open the door. A crack of light tears through the darkness.
I’m out, you pump your fist, I am finally free.
Yes, you might have lost a few dollars, but you also got two and half hours of your life back. Now go do something worthwhile with it.
And oh, don’t forget to get yourself some popcorn.
What To Do Next
Most of the time, you operate on autopilot. This means even if you know you have to walk away, you will still freeze when the time to decide comes.
Truth is, you can only change how you act when you are mindful and aware. Meditation is a good starting place if you want to increase your self-control, mindfulness and awareness.
I have written a super-detailed guide called “Buddhist Meditation Ultimate Guide”. Even better, you can download it right now for free.
This free guide has more and better information than most of the meditation books on the market, including those that sell at a premium price.
Two Extra Bonuses
By signing up for the meditation guide, you also get two extra bonuses, “The Buddhist Way to Quiet Your Mind And Find Happiness” and “How to Let Go of Thoughts and Quiet Your Mind Podcast”.
(If you are already a subscriber, just enter your email again, and you’ll have access to the bonuses.)
Postscript (Tiny Buddha)
I don’t mean to pick fights with just anybody.
I know a lot of you know me from Tiny Buddha. Lori, the owner of Tiny Buddha, is a very nice person. She has no ego, a trait I rarely see in blog owners, especially when Tiny Buddha has gotten so big.
Lori helped me a lot since I got into blogging. I fully endorse Tiny Buddha and all its writers.
Since changing my style, I haven’t submitted a post to Lori (this post was submitted over two months ago), but I am sure she will read my new stuff with an open mind.