Discover more from Year Of The Opposite - Travis Stoliker's Substack
I failed at 75 Hard & I Veered Off the Path to Good Health.
Sharing the bad with the good.
Preamble: My Thoughts On Sharing the Good & The Bad.
Today I’m going to talk about a topic that almost no one wants to discuss: Sadness.
The reason I want to talk about this even though it’s difficult and uncomfortable to do so is that:
Sadness struck me unexpectedly this morning and I want to attempt to understand what caused it & how to avoid it in the future.
I think social media and newsletters like this can project and incomplete and potentially misleading representation of the authors life. I want to attempt to present a more balanced picture.
I think that people only seeing the highlights & good stuff on social media can create a powerful illusion that everyone else’s life is happier and more exciting than their own. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of the many reasons why people seem to be more depressed these days.
I have observed that my own personal social media posts and this newsletter may also contribute to this problem.
I noticed that my post explaining how I cured my grief related depression gave people the incorrect impression that I was always happy. This of course is not true and I struggle with mood swings like most of us do.
To combat this perception problem that my post created, I am going to make a concerted effort to be more balanced in my writing. I want to make sure that I share my struggles and battles as well as my wins and triumphs. I want to make sure that I am painting a fair picture of my life and not broadcasting a distorted overly positive view of my life.
Also note: I understand my life is blessed and that my struggles and sadness pale in comparison to what others are experiencing. I have nothing to complain about. But, that is precisely why I think it’s important to share our struggles so that we all can appreciate how unique, yet familiar, our shared human experience can be.
Today I am going to share one of my struggles. Please let me know what you think. Do you think I should share more like this or do you think I should focus on the positive uplifting stuff? Your feedback is very helpful.
Today (Monday) I woke up sad and it was hard to get out of bed.
Taking inventory: What was I feeling when I woke up?
Lonely: I felt alone. I had a strange feeling that no one cared about me.
Unlovable: I felt that I wasn’t lovable. I felt that my presence upset people and that my participation in events didn’t bring joy to people’s lives.
Directionless: I felt directionless. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose or a mission to work towards today.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I felt these emotions this morning. It makes me feel a little pathetic and very vulnerable. Moreover, sharing my feelings so openly stirred a sense of guilt within me, reflecting an ungratefulness for the many privileges I enjoy compared to others. What gives me the right to feel this way and complain about it when others have it so much worse?
Of course, logically, all of the sad feelings I was experiencing have no factual justification. How could I feel lonely and unlovable with Laken and Lane showering me with love and attention everyday including this morning? How could I feel like my friends don’t like being around me when I had an amazing weekend with 3 of my closest friends spending the weekend at our house? How could I feel directionless when I have a to-do list a mile long and more opportunities to pursue than there are hours in the day to pursue them?
My sadness makes absolutely no sense when you look at it logically. But of course, that knowledge didn’t make my sadness disappear. Even though in my brain I knew that I had no reason to be sad, I couldn’t shake it. It’s frustrating how that happens.
Then I remembered something, this feeling of sadness without a logical reason to explain it, used to happen to me a lot. The feelings often came disguised alongside a hangover, but not always.
It made me very thankful to realize that in the past year, these feelings have become very rare. To the point where I almost forgot how this feels.
That realization got me thinking, what changed in the past year? Why is it more rare for me to feel morning sadness now?
It was time for me to analyze how I was doing on my daily activities by analyzing my journal entries and daily reports. Let’s take a look:
How was I doing on waking up early, brushing my teeth, flossing, making my bed, and seeing Lane in the morning? I was only successful 20% of the time.
Was I doing my 7 min HIIT workout in the morning? No, 0% in the past 7 days.
Was I maintaining my diet? No. I ate very poorly for multiple days.
Was I honoring my 75 Hard Challenge? No. I failed.
Was I journaling every night? No, 33%.
Was I tracking and rating my performance on my metrics with the Way Of Life App? No. I was 6 days behind.
Was I ignoring my phone 1 hour before & after sleep? No. I failed at this 6 of the past 7 nights.
Was I ignoring the news and focusing on only what I can control? No. I failed at this 75% of the time.
When I stopped and evaluated my activities for the past couple weeks it became obvious why I was not happy. I was neglecting the activities that consistently make me happy. I was breaking promises to myself by failing at 75-Hard, I violated my diet, I neglected journaling, I didn’t practice gratitude, I missed my exercises, I was focusing on things outside of my control, I was watching the news, and I was too addicted to my phone.
Of course I was depressed this morning!
In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I was setting myself up to be sad. I was literally doing everything possible to make sure that I woke up sad. I was not being disciplined and I was not honoring the commitments that I had made to myself.
There is a quote that I heard once that seems relevant here: hard choices easy life, easy choices hard life.
I used to think that waking up sad would cause me to have a bad day.
Now I realize that in most cases, waking up sad is the direct result of me making bad life choices.
I had it backwards….
All of the things that I was doing recently were the easy choices. Eating ice cream made me feel great for a few fleeting moments. Going to lunch with friends instead of exercising was very entertaining for about an hour. Sleeping in and watching TV with Lane instead of running the 8K race was relaxing. All of these things gave me a little temporary satisfaction. But the feeling disappears quickly.
And as I sit here today battling the sadness that I currently feel, I know that I could temporarily mask my feelings by repeating all these same activities. I could just drink a bourbon and I’d forget about the sadness almost immediately. I could eat some ice cream for a short burst of pleasure. I could fire up TikTok or Youtube for some mindless entertainment. But none of this would address the root cause of my sadness. I would just be masking the problems for a very short while.
The momentary sadness that I feel today can’t be meaningfully solved with a cheap easy fix. The only way for me to regain lasting happiness is to recommit myself to the daily activities that consistently generate these positive emotions.
By re-committing myself to health, fitness & diet, I’m rebuilding my self confidence. As Naval says: “Self-esteem is just the reputation that you have with yourself.”
Today I am starting to rebuild my self-esteem. I am re-committing myself to the practices that have consistently led to more happy days.
However, I gotta tell ya, it would be a hell of a lot quicker and easier to just drink a Manhattan. But my logical brain knows that activity will only provide a few moments of artificial happiness. My true happiness only comes from having a good reputation with myself and that means doing the hard work to forgo the easy choice and make the hard choice everyday.
“Show me your habits, I'll show you your future.”
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” - Bruce Lee.
I would really appreciate hearing from you. If you enjoyed this please reply to this email, comment on the post, text message me, or give me a call. Your feedback means the world to me.
** Full disclosure: I have nothing against drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a popular tool because of how effective it is. But for me personally, it doesn’t seem to be a long term solution to my mental wellbeing as it tends to make my moods more inconsistent and hard to regulate. Alcohol in general makes it harder for me to regulate my emotions and maintain a more consistent emotional temperament. But if it works for you, more power to you! You find no judgement from me.
How I failed at 75 Hard
I wish I had a cooler tale, but here’s the truth. After 26 days into the “75 Hard” challenge, I slipped up. I missed my 45-minute outdoor workout and broke my diet with some ice cream. I’m really disappointed in myself. I want to give it another shot, but I’m torn. If I restart now, it’ll clash with Thanksgiving. Skipping Thanksgiving for 75 Hard is a big deal, and I need to think hard about that. (Pun intended).
An Important Reminder about My Writing:
I'm no philosopher and far from perfect. I haven't got it all figured out, and I'm not the one to dish out advice. What I write here captures my thoughts at the moment—imperfect and evolving as they are. Mostly, I write to keep a record for my future self, recounting lessons learned and mistakes made.
Don't expect me to push an agenda or persuade you to see things my way. I'm simply sharing my thoughts at a given point in time. I fully expect that some of my views will be proven wrong as time goes on, and I'm open to changing my mind. In general I like the idea of "Strong opinions, weakly held." Have a reasoned stance, but be willing to adjust when better information comes along.
In today's culture, changing your mind is often seen as a weakness—you might even get labeled a 'flip-flopper.' That's a shame. We should applaud, not scorn, those who can critically examine their own long-held beliefs, stress-test them against new data, and have the courage to admit they were wrong. It's not an easy thing to do; it can be overwhelming, even frightening.
So when you read my writing, understand that it's not gospel. It's a snapshot of my thinking, and I welcome the opportunity for it to evolve. Let's celebrate the potential for growth and change rather than fearing it.