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The One Thing You Can Do Today to Instantly Reduce Stress


Remember that scene from City Slickers when Curly and Mitch discuss the secret of life? It went like this:

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: “Your finger?”
Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean sh*t.”
Mitch: “But what is the one thing?”
Curly: “That’s what you have to find out.”

I went skydiving. You know why? Because I paid for it. Yup. See, I considered it from a distant and logical perspective (Is it safe? A valuable experience? Something I want on the life list?) The answers were yes, so before I could change my mind, I bought the ticket. Thereby cementing the decision into an unstoppable momentum toward completion. I simply won’t waste the money and I know it.

What do you dream about? What is your big ticket item that you will regret if you never did it? The rocking chair of your 80’s is arriving. Don’t wait. Put the wheels into motion with a decision that seals the deal.

As soon as you do that one thing- you will feel alive and free. Any stress that is occurring in your life will be quickly replaced with hope and energy. Trust me.

Making an irreversible decision to value your life, whatever the consequences may be (financial hardship, explanations to family and friends, quitting your job, fear of failure, etc.) means that you have made a commitment to yourself that supersedes society’s pressures and expectations.

I’ve always wanted to travel and write. I saved money and managed a 2-week trip every year. I tried to find time on the weekends to write. For the most part though, I worked to pay the mortgage and came home too tired to do much of anything but dream about it. After the kids moved out, the whole point of it felt pretty meaningless. I was living in a big house by myself with a big payment and a demanding job. I started to feel discouraged, hopeless and even a bit angry. I couldn’t stop thinking that I was missing out on a bigger life calling. I was stressed.

So I put a map on the wall, poured over travel magazines and websites and imagined what I would do if debt and commitments were not a variable. I planned out exactly what I wanted to do as if I were free and the world were my oyster.

Then I did a thorough pro/con list. Guess what? The con list was far longer (by a mile) than the pro list. But the pro list weighed more (tons). Cons: lose the house, potentially my job, default on bills, become broke in 3 months (imagine destitute and stranded in a remote foreign land begging for food on cardboard) BUT (pros coming)… I’d find out what is out there, I’d have the adventure of a lifetime and I’d learn what I am capable of.

I knew that if I didn’t do it, I’d always wonder what if? The stress would turn into cancer or heart disease, and I’d become a bitter angry old woman.

I didn’t have any of the problems solved- but the right decision felt obvious- I had to go. I could feel it. Just imagining it made me feel giddy inside.

So, on that day, in that moment I bought a plane ticket to Thailand 9 months from that day. I simply looked at the calendar, picked a day and booked a ticket. I didn’t have the extra money for the ticket- it meant that a bill would go unpaid. I had no idea if that would be the most convenient day, or how I’d effectively navigate the hurtles to make it possible to actually board the plane. I couldn’t tell anyone or they’d think I was crazy (and they’d probably have a good point). It made absolutely no sense. I was elated.

The thick dark fog full of stress and worry was gone. In that single move, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and I instantly felt taller, lighter, and younger. I was free. I was going to have an adventure and live my life. It was my life and I wasn’t going to be 80 in a rocking chair wondering what it could have been. Succeed or fail, I would know the answers to my biggest questions and that alone was something I knew I wouldn’t regret.

I’m in Thailand now, broke as can be. Happily exploring every day, eating from the street vendors, writing, and living. It isn’t always easy and there is stress, but it is a different kind of stress- it is the healthy kind. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 9 month frenzy before I left to settle the debts, reduce my belongings to a small storage unit, and negotiate with my boss is a distant memory. But even that wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Somehow all the impossible things worked out and the world turned miracles in my favor. Maybe being so happy helped me think more creatively to solve them. Maybe my increased energy brought a good mojo and drew a positive energy from others who stepped in to help me.

Unhealthy stress happens when we live inconsistent with our true nature, desires, or pace. Our dreams and aspirations (if we live into them) tip the scale back to a balanced natural place and stress drops dramatically.

Whatever it is that you’ve been dreaming about, make an irreversible decision today that ensures that it will happen. Bravely do that one action today and release the stress right now.

Remember: “You were free here once, don’t let them tame you!”