“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time around.” -Jim Rohn
The people around you determine how you think, how you act, and, ultimately, how rich your life is. Relationships matter in a big way. They affect your ability to deal with negative emotions like anger, anxiety and depression. If someone isn’t building you up and making you stronger, they’re making you weaker. If you want to break free from anxiety and reach your full potential, get real about the people you spend time with.
However, relationships are just one leg of the table, and four legs are vital to balance.
These four facets are the solution to my struggle and the one that pulled me out of the depths of anxiety, fear and panic. The philosophy that evolved out of them allowed me to live a much fuller, richer life.
The framework the four legs provide is what I call the Rich Life Framework. When strengthened, the four legs create the foundation of a stable, abundant life. However, without all strong legs, your table will fall.
The Four Legs
Why a table?
A table symbolizes community, intimacy and family. Around a table, ideas are shared, fears are discussed and dreams are mapped. A table can be used for many purposes—just like your life. It’s up to you to determine what you want to bring to it.
Leg #1: Relationships
You are the company you keep: friends, family members, coworkers, books—it doesn’t matter. Eventually, you will start to assimilate to those around you. If you want to heal your anxiety, strengthen your relationships.
This doesn’t mean you need to leave everyone behind and take up a mat in a monastery, but you should critically evaluate your relationships. Relationships are binary, meaning someone is either hurting you or helping you—there is no in-between.
Finding people that viewed the world the same way I did was much harder than I imagined. I started with books and podcasts, inputting only the those that would empower and motivate me. Then I began to expand my circles, reaching out to strangers who seemed like they had a similar world view. One of my closest friends is someone I reached out to via their email list. The Internet is a great place to connect, but make sure you take it offline as well.
Finding and surrounding yourself with the right inputs is so important. Read and watch things that make you laugh. Don’t pound away at esoteric literary texts because you think you should be contemplating deeply. Thinking too deeply is what got you into this mess.
Friends are the support you need to have fun and release tension. Without them, you’re isolating, and your healing will take longer—if it ever happens at all.
Leg #2: Impact
After quitting two jobs during my first two years out of college, I was utterly lost. I understood how to get a job, but the problem I kept falling into was that I was looking for fulfillment by way of monetary value instead of impact. None of the jobs or career paths I initially pursued were based on a desire to impact on the world. The primary drivers were the prestige and money associated with them.
So, for the longest time, I meandered my way through interviews and jobs without understanding what would make me feel alive and allow me to make an impact. Eventually, almost by accident, I found a way to combine my skills with impact by telling my story and helping others heal their anxiety naturally. I finally feel a deep sense of belonging and fulfillment, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I’m pursuing this path to make an impact in the lives of others, rather than blindly chasing dollar signs and titles. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding.
Ask yourself: Are you making an impact? Or are you blindly walking in the direction society has taught you to follow? We need more people to make an impact and fewer pencil pushers.
Leg #3: Craft
Have you ever feared that you have no purpose or passion? Or that you were passed over when the man upstairs was gifting talents?
For the longest time, I was fearful of not having “a thing”—something that made people respect me. The problem that I had in finding my craft was that I wasn’t patient enough to let an interest turn into a skill, which then would turn into a purpose and mold into a craft.
I wanted to be good—now. I didn’t want to take the time to practice or do hard things, and I wanted the glory with none of the pain.
That’s never how things turn out. If you want to be great at something, you have to put in the work.
A couple of months ago, I wrote my first blog post. I had never written for a public audience before, and I had no interest in being a writer. In fact, I had categorized myself as someone who “doesn’t like to write.” Initially, writing was a way to build an audience for a side business I was starting, but I found myself writing for hours on end without noticing the time fly. For the first time, I experienced a flow state. It was incredible.
This feeling had come before, but in the past I hadn’t been willing to put in the work to master the craft. I wanted to be the best without putting in my 10,000 hours. I’m determined to make this time different. So, for the last four months, I have written 1,000 words a day, read four books about writing, and have begun working with a writing coach. Far from being great at writing, I’m learning to love the process of getting better incrementally.
This is how you find purpose: You work, you work more, then you have loads of self-doubt, and then you work more. This is the craft equation: passion + purpose x work = mastering a craft.
If you are unsure of an interest you have, don’t be discouraged. It’s there—you just haven’t paid it any attention. Start listening to the subtle urges you have to read a book or take a class. Those thoughts and impulses are waiting for you to tend to them.
Once you start developing a little more interest, practice more. Practice over and over again until you don’t like doing it anymore, and then go for a week longer. That’s when growth comes.
Leg #4: Health
The fourth leg of healing my anxiety was my health. It seems obvious, but—like all things in life—the simplest solution was right in front of me, but I chose to ignore it. I viewed myself as a healthy guy. I ate well, I exercised four times a week, and I even liked green smoothies. So, when I had my panic attack and experienced a subsequent year of chronic anxiety, my health was the last thing I thought was the principal perpetrator of my mental health.
Ironically enough, the way I was eating was not only causing me anxiety, it was the biggest driver. Once I realized this, I began to respect that eating and sleeping well could lower my blood pressure, decrease bodily inflammation and clear my head.
The diet I finally landed on was simple but not easy. However, if your primary goal is to heal your anxiety and lower stress, it’s well worth it. It will help you lose weight, feel more energetic, and have more focus.
I gave up dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, and I decreased my meat consumption by 20 percent. I added healthy fats and increased my vegetable intake by 50 percent.
It’s important to remove anything that could be causing you stress and then slowly re-introduce it to your body to see what works and what doesn’t.
Exercise was critical as well, but without changing my diet, I would still be an anxious mess.
Sometimes the best solutions are the easiest ones. Examine your diet, and be brutally honest with yourself if continuing to eat the way you are is worth the anxiety. If it is, bon appetit. If it isn’t, change it. You are in control.
Benjamin is the founder of Fully Rich Life, a blog that is focused on helping men decrease stress and anxiety, find more focus, and be more present. Benjamin also helps businesses tell better stories with authentic content strategies. Join thousands of readers in his free 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge.