Escaping A Mental Prison

Yesterday, I woke up in a bad mood. Edgy, cranky, sad, and a bit irritable. The reason?  I had been dwelling on what to do with the rest of my life. Questions like, “what’s my purpose,” “where am I going,” “how can I best help,” were peppering my consciousness and pulling me out of the present.

As I mopped around my house, life moved on without me.  While I was doing a good job at keeping my emotions to myself (IE – not taking things out on my family), I remained in a mental prison of sorts, knowing my own mind was cutting me off from the wider world and the beautiful day that was taking place outside.

After about 2 hours of this wallowing, I realized my wife had called me on my phone.  She was out with a friend for a walk, and they invited me to join them on the friend’s porch for a morning drink (tea not liquor).  Knowing I needed to do something to shake me out of my funk, I quickly grabbed my shoes and headed out the door.

As I walked the 3 or 4 blocks to where they were, it was almost shocking to realize people were going about their Sunday mornings.  Where are these people going?  What’s up with the birds chirping?  How the hell is this breeze so cool during late July?  I had been buried into my mind so much, the “outside” world seemed foreign and distant.

Walking up the steps of the porch, I could feel a reconnection with reality – the reality outside of my mind.  My awareness opened up, noises became more recognizable, and the weight of the morning got a bit lighter.  However, compared to “Happy Dan”, I was still in a bad mood.

Getting a warm hug from my friend and sitting down in a comfy chair, I found myself in a battle.  The negative thoughts in my head were still there and they wanted to stay negative.  But additional thoughts were now “war’ing” with the negative.  Thoughts like, “I am so lucky to have friends that will invite me to drink a cup of coffee with them,” and “this weather is SO nice!” and “hot damn those croissants smell good!”  On the “Mood Meter”, I was now moving out of the bad smiley face reading and into the neutral emoji face.

A couple of minutes into the conversation, I was asked, “how are you doing Dan?”  Deciding against a perfunctory, “I’m good,” I shared the truth about how my morning didn’t get off to the best start.  I went on to add that I felt my life was at another crossroads and I had to make some big decisions on what route to take.  The conversation progressed and my friend asked a question that was akin to Thor hitting me with a lightning bolt from his hammer – “are you at a crossroads or are you on the path, but getting distracted?

It was a simple but masterful question.  A wave of confidence, joy, optimism, and relief flooded into me.  I knew instantly that my path was sound, and that I was merely being distracted by bright lights. 

With additional clarity, I saw what was distracting me.  In recent days, I had been approached with two separate business opportunities that were very attractive and interesting.  Both would provide a significant boost to my bank account and a substantial lift to my ego.  In the past, I would have jumped at these projects in a heartbeat.  Today, the mere presentation of these opportunities was enough to put my mind into a tailspin.  What was once a big flashing greenlight with the word “GO” on it, had now become a distraction similar to a billboard on the side of a highway.

Upon further reflection, I realize that the Dan I have tried to “kill off”, one who was driven by fame, fortune, and winning, still remains.  This “Old Dan” will probably never truly go away.  More shadow than sun, the “Old Dan” is just behind me wanting to chase after the shiny distractions off of the path.  Knowing “Old Dan” is there gives me confidence that with additional work, “he” can be controlled, so the Dan I want to be today can remain focused on what’s most important, right now.

Are things perfect today?  No, not really.  I still have a bit of sadness in my belly and I am still being pestered by life’s big questions.  But unlike yesterday, I “have this sadness” rather than the “sadness having me.”  Overall, waking up in a thought induced mental prison is an experience I am extremely grateful for.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been given the real opportunity that I continue to seek – the opportunity to escape this mental prison and taste the gold that life has to offer – a helluva good croissant with some wonderful friends on a beautiful Sunday morning.


Author Bio: Dan started Fired and Free in 2017, to provide his “truth” after being fired as CEO of the company he started and led. After a diverse 17-year career in management consulting and entrepreneurship, Dan now leads 3Sixty Leadership, where he provides coaching and consulting to business owners with $1M to $20M in revenue, helping them to improve their leadership and company culture.

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