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Before Setting Off on Life’s Journey, Shake the Pebbles from Your Shoe

The other day I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping outside my window, and brilliant hues of pink and orange beginning to illuminate the eastern horizon. I felt healthy, after struggling for several days with a stomach bug. My family was healthy, too.

We were coming off a great spring break trip to Florida, where we had the chance to hang out with friends, and we were preparing to visit friends and family downstate and in Ohio for a long Easter weekend.

Our marketing agency was doing well, and we were making great progress on our new Life and Whim business.

In other words, life was good.

Yet, despite all the good in my life, I found myself stuck in a state of cynicism and negativity.

Heather could tell something was wrong because, despite my best efforts to be present, my mind was fixated on something murky, distant and inarticulable. She would say something to try to cheer me up, and I’d find every excuse to find the cold, dark side of every warm, bright moment. She pointed out silver linings. All I could see was grey.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, I’m still not exactly sure what was dragging me down. It was probably a combination of factors, including fatigue and stress, that stewed in a cauldron of self-defeatism.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been to this place before, and I’ve studied its contours and terrain, so I’ve learned over time how to navigate my way out of it. It’s easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle of negativity, where every obstacle life throws your way seems insurmountable.

Escaping the cycle? It’s also easy in principle, but much harder in practice. It’s like working out – gains come inch by inch, while falling out of shape seems to happen overnight. As with most things in life, it’s one thing to know what to do. It’s another altogether to actually do it. As Tony Robbins has said, “Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only potential power. Action is power.”

Negative, cynical mindsets often result from life’s little moments, not momentous events. The unreturned phone call, the unpaid bill, the cluttered desk, the avoidance of a difficult conversation. These things are relatively insignificant in isolation, but become overwhelming as they build and gather. Left unaddressed they becoming paralyzing.

As Muhammad Ali once said, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Contentment in life, therefore, boils down to pebbles, not boulders. {tweet that} If you can clear the pebbles from your path – life’s day to day troubles and travails – you’ll be better positioned to take on the occasional boulder that rolls your way.

The beautiful thing about the human mind is that it’s resilient. It often takes just one small win to transform a vicious cycle into a virtuous one. As Woody Allen explained, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” On the other hand, passivity in the face of adversity is the path to nowhere.

But patience is required. When good things don’t happen quickly, in spite of doing all the right things, it’s easy to assume that they never will. The truth is that success often comes just beyond the point where others would have stopped.

When you think about it, achieving success and happiness in life is pretty simple. It all boils down to prioritizing action over desire. If you want something, you just need to work for it. But that’s what makes life so frustratingly difficult at times. Doing what you know to be true and right requires constant vigilance and dogged determination.

Success begets success, one step at a time. Just make sure to shake those pebble out of your shoe before setting off on your journey.