I remember back when I was in college. It was the middle of second semester. It’s the busiest semester we (my classmates and I) had. The lecturer gave us tons of assignment. Who loves working on assignment? We need a rest! What funny is when it’s Friday, we are relieved. But what we don’t know is, the cycle will repeat itself the very next week.
Welcome to college life. It’s safe to say that those assignment mentally dries us. It sure does. My colleagues are dead tired from them. They sleep soundly every single night. Then, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me? It’s driving me nuts.
Trying to solve the problem
For your record, I tried to solve the problem. I start googling and found several sound solutions. Eliminate all lights? Check. Don’t drink and smoke? Never had any of them. Have a warm shower before sleep? Check. Nothing effective. Nothing works.
You know what? For me, it took 3 full months of sleepless night! Imagine, you’re in your bedroom after a relaxing shower. You write any of your insecurities on a paper—hoping that they would get out of your head. Then you ready yourself to sleep. 2 hours passed. You became restless. You prayed to God (I’m an atheist. You see the irony here?)—hoping for His mercy to get to sleep. It doesn’t work. Then anyhow, somehow—you fell asleep.
Those three months of torture really sucked my life out. I remember how one day, I’m sobbing myself on the bed. I can’t even remember the last time I cried. This is so tiring!
Fast forward, two months and several sleepless night later, I— somehow—can sleep easily now.
“What? That’s it?” You might asked. I don’t even know why. I’m just glad that it’s gone! But that’s not the end.
The root cause
5 years later, that experience came and haunt me again. Even now, I can still feel the horror while writing this. What’s different now though, I came to conclusion what is the root cause of this problem.
Before I tell you what it is, I assume you, like me, have tried every possible things that contributes to sleep. That is: exercising, fixing your sleep hygiene, and journaling. While at the time those three variables didn’t help me sleep right away—all of them are good habit to practice for.
Now, for the moment of truth: I realized that I can’t sleep because I was anxious.
“That’s generic!”. But bear with me here. I tell you everything in detail.
Anxious—as a concept—is abstract. It is the affected & resulted by many different scenarios.
Maybe, it’s the lost of life you deared the most? Perhaps, you just lost your job? Your boyfriend/girlfriend just dumped on you?
If that’s the reason (or probably something similar)—that’s out of your control. Then, only time could heal that. That will be gone by the time you let go of that thoughts. That’s by the time you found peace in yourself.
What happen to me though is something that was in my control. I’ve so many ideas that never came to life! It’s always on my mind. I was so busy working (read: when I have spare time, I immediately check my social media) and didn’t have enough time to ruminate on myself.
Busy? More like afraid of boredom.
And what happens when you try to kill boredom? You don’t have time to think about your dreams! The only time you can’t make yourself “busy” is when you shower, and tada: when you are in your bed.
That’s the reason your mind start racing the moment you went to sleep. Whilst journaling help this to some extent, your options still battling each other to make a decision. And that thought only arise when you don’t have distraction.
Do you see the problem now? Those thoughts will never completely disappear if it still stays on your head. You only have two choice for this: let it go, or take action.
Letting go or take action?
So, which one do you choose? Letting go of your dream to go to Paris does work. But can you stomach that? Are you fully sure you can let it “just go”? If you can’t, the only solution is to take action (or just wait until your mind ready to let go, which for me, took 3 months.)
This realization creates new habit: I consciously spare my time to organizing my mind. Every big idea needs to be broken down to an actionable one.
Well, let’s start a case study!
- “I want to go to Paris”. That’s a goal. It’s not actionable.
If you want to go to Paris for a month, you need to save money. You need to be more specific:
- “I want to travel to Paris cheaply”,
which translates to:
- “I need to save $2,000 to support the lifestyle.”
- “To save $2,000, I need to find side job.”
- “To think about it, I have copywriting skill. I can do freelance.”
- “My current market rate is $300 per project. I need to find approx. 7 paid gigs to achieve that.”
- “Problem now is, where can I find those gigs?”
- “I can google first where to find them!”
Bingo! Google where to find gigs. That’s actionable! While it didn’t solve the problem right away, that’s a progress!
Think about this: if you didn’t exercise translating your dreams to actionable steps, it’ll stays on your head. They come and go. But one thing for sure: It won’t leave!
That thoughts leave eventually though. That’s the good news. The bad news? Goodbye Paris. You’re just another dream that never happen to me.
“This exercise is too simple!”, you might think. Question is, do you do that? If you do, you won’t be here right now.
The act of thinking are demanding. A short—25 minute dash of focused thinking will leave you tired. That’s why not everyone invest their time to do it.
Turn goals and dreams that nagging you into actionable steps.
“I need to save $2,000 to support the lifestyle” is not enough. You need make it actionable.
Recite that. Actionable.
That’s the key, and that’s everything you need in this life.