A Self Help Nerds Midlife Journey to Personal Development

self help
self help

Welcome adventurer, my name is Eric Whitten, actor, filmmaker, self help nerd. This blog is a quest like journey, where I attempt to take self help steps toward my own personal development. Some of the self help monsters I’ll be facing are:

  • Depression
  • Laziness
  • Anxiety 
  • Lack of Confidence
  • Wealth Management
  • Time Management
  • & More…

You might be looking at the picture above and think, “He looks pretty happy, well-adjusted and not nerdy at all.” I’m definitely a nerd. Plus, I still have many self help monsters that are consistently a problem, even in my midlife, and I want to tackle them head-on. Why do I keep calling them self help monsters? It’s more of an analogy, but let me explain the idea behind self help nerd.

self help limits

A SELF HELP NERD INTRODUCTION

When I was a kid, I had a board game called HeroQuest by Milton Bradly. Let’s be real. I still have it. I told you I’m a nerd. It’s a fantasy game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons (yup, he’s a nerd), but with less complicated rules, perfect for kids and adults with short attention spans. You pick a hero, such as a fearless, often half naked barbarian (maybe they felt more comfortable in just their underwear? Don’t we all?) or a magical wizard capable of casting powerful spells. The only problem? The wizard can get killed really easily, so he often had to stay in the back away from any real trouble. He couldn’t help himself. Ha! Get it? Self help, help yourself. Self help nerd. Okay, I digress.

The goal is to fight through dangerous dungeons full of monsters and evil sorcerers. As a kid, and continuing later in life when I played Dungeons & Dragons (knew he was a nerd), I became that hero for the couple of hours it took to play an adventure. I was bigger than life, a greater version of me. Didn’t you always want to be bigger than life? An astronaut? A princess? A world leader? A self help nerd?

“I was bigger than life, a greater version of me.”

self help hero
We are all heroes in life…

Fast forward many years and here I am. I’ve been a pantless barbarian for over 20 years. Just kidding. I wear pants. Recently, I celebrated my 38th birthday by actually putting them on, a sometimes tough decision amid the current quarantine situation, when the need for pants isn’t always immediate. As I stood there, in my pants, being sung to by a kind friend over Zoom©, while a candle flickered before me, wedged into the middle of a cookie I made. Yeah, I bake. Ladies? Standing there in that moment, I reflected on my life. The quarantine was a blessing in some ways. It gave me time to sit with myself and look inward, outward, backward, forward, all sorts of “ard”.

The previous two years were particularly on my mind. Why these two? Well, because personally, they have been two of the hardest years of my life where I’ve struggled emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, all sorts of “ally”. Some days were easier to manage than others and sometimes these feelings would only last a few hours, but others could last for days. Even after one had dissipated, another would be waiting around the corner for an opportunity to strike the moment I passed, just like these monsters in the dungeon. I didn’t understand it. I have so many things to be grateful for, but I was still battling so many issues. Becoming a self help nerd became a priority.

DIFFERENT SELF HELP NERD CHALLENGES

self help hero quest
See? No pants!

There are many different kinds of monsters in a game, such as little green goblins, big green orcs and not-so-green gargoyles. Each monster is unique, some more powerful than others and thus more difficult to defeat. As I stood there, in my pants, staring at the candle, my friends sweet voice lingering in the air, I realized I had a multitude of self help monsters I had been avoiding for a long time. Monsters like depression, anxiety, financial ineptitude, and more. “There’s too many of them.” – Gureni Telsij. Also, Star Wars nerd.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I wasn’t the pantless barbarian, charging through the front lines, but the frail wizard avoiding danger, trying to manage the horde with my spells, waiting for my turn to strike from afar and hoping they wouldn’t get too close. I was avoiding my self help monsters. The problem was, there was no barbarian to keep those monsters at bay, so I had to pick and choose my battles carefully, especially when I found myself “low on health” and “outnumbered”, just hoping to find a magic potion that would keep me in the game a little while longer. Needless to say, I didn’t always find that magic potion and often succumbed to the horde of monsters who roamed my personal dungeon.

The forces of evil won for the day and I was resigned to try again the next. I crashed and burned in my life, found myself flailing, doing nothing, just hoping for the day to be over with rather than trying to swim back to the surface. The self help nerd tugging at me.

self help hit points
Live to fight another day?
self help dice roll
We don’t always roll so well in life…

For years I’ve played my own HeroQuest adventure in my life with varied success, until these last two years. Now, I know what you’re thinking, here is where he’s gonna exclaim how he pulled himself up from his leather bootstraps and overcame his personal monsters, right?

That would be quite the heroic tale. I mean that’s what these blogs usually do, right? A successful individual lays out their story of personal struggle and how they overcame it against great odds and if you want to overcome yours here is how you can do it. Free of course, but further enlightenment comes at a low cost of only, “buy my book”. Well, this is a different sort of tale, because I’m just starting out in my self help quest. I’m that level one hero walking out of the tavern, hoping I don’t roll a bad set of dice. I love being a nerd.

BLAMING OTHER NERDS AND NOT OURSELVES

When we feel helpless to do anything, we often resort to blaming everyone and everything but ourselves. I know I do. We make excuses for why we’re not as successful as we want to be. Often, we blame our jobs, our rent/mortgage, or the poor barista who got our coffee order wrong for why we’re not as wealthy and fulfilled as we want to be. Sometimes, we blame partners for our lack of good relationships. Lastly, we blame others for our lack of friendship or community. I blamed everything and everyone but myself, not wanting to look inward at my own personal dungeon waiting to be explored. The self help journey ahead.

self help blame
We only have ourselves to blame…

Deep down I knew that in the darkest parts of my personal dungeon was me, my best self, locked in a cage, guarded by an evil sorcerer while a doppelgänger roamed above pretending to play hero. These last two years have taught me that something is wrong. We’ve all felt it at one time or another. You know a change needs to be made, but you’re paralyzed to do anything about it because it frightens you. You don’t know where to start. I wanted nothing more than to make it to the final level of my personal dungeon, defeat that evil sorcerer and free my best self, but I never had the courage. I needed help.

BUILDING A SELF HELP NERD COMMUNITY

Usually in a game there is a suggested number of players, often a minimum of two. Now, I could try and play this with just one hero (myself), but the challenge would be an uphill battle and why would you want to face evil alone, when you can have good companions by your side. Companions can be anything from friends, to family, or even communities of others who are working through self help issues themselves. No one wants to enter a dark, dank dungeon alone, unless they’re already a monster. Are you? I think not. All of the self help monsters in our personal dungeons are just different manifestations of ourselves. Just as we are scared to face them, they are scared of being slain by us.  

“Why would you want to face evil alone, when you can have good companions by your side.”

self help community

Eventually in a game, the Dungeon Master is going to look to you and say, “Okay, it’s your turn. What do you want to do?” So, pickup your sword, wand, or bow and go on this journey with me as I try different methods and techniques towards becoming a better me and together we can make it to the last level of our personal dungeons, defeat the evil sorcerer and free our better selves. The quest for self help begins.

ENTRANCE TO THE SELF HELP DUNGEON

The creaking of the rusty metal door whines, sending a shiver down his spine. He grips his wand tight as the darkness inside warns of impending doom. He looks to his companions and nods just before he steps through, disappearing into blackness. 

Every good dungeon has a map. Some areas are visible and others are not. Here is our map for this week. This is our guide to my personal dungeon, likely given to us by some mysterious stranger in the corner of the tavern from whence we came.  

self help map

In my self help dungeon you see there are two major challenges complimented by four minor challenges. The minor challenges are there to aid in the solidification of the major challenges and keep me on track. 

My monster this month is DISORDER, a chaotic little goblin who is hell bent on keeping me from staying on track. It will try its best to disorient and dissuade me from having any sort of healthy ROUTINE. 

self help disorder

The two major challenges go hand in hand. My goal is to wake up at the same time every day this week and go to bed at the same time every night. This is to try and re-establish a good sleeping schedule that will keep me on track for our current self help adventure. I personally will be aiming for a 6:30AM wakeup time and a 10:30PM bedtime. That gives me roughly 8 hours of sleep. If you want to try this yourself, you can adjust these hours to make sense for your own schedule.

self help schedule
The hardest part of my day…
self help water

Then comes the four complimentary challenges. The first two will be part of my new morning ritual and the other two will be part of my evening ritual.

In the morning, when my alarm goes off, I’m going to sit up and drink a glass of water, which I will prep the night before on my bedside table. As you sleep, your body continues to use fluid and when we wake, most of us have slight dehydration. While a good cup of coffee sounds like the ticket, a glass of water is more beneficial for your metabolism and mental alertness. Check out this article by Business Insider on the topic.

The second minor challenge is to make my bed right away. I know it sounds like a small thing, but this easy, productive task will help us immediately feel like we’re moving forward in our day in a positive way. Take a look at this video in which US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven talks about how the little things are actually bigger steps to success than we realize.

self help electronics

The second set of minor challenges are made to compliment the end of my day. The first is to remove any electronics from my view at least an hour before bed. Electronics delay your body’s internal clock and prevent it from releasing the much needed melatonins that induce sleep. In this article the Sleep Foundation highlights the impact electronics have on our rest.

The second complimentary challenge replaces the need for electronics, such as our phone or television, and instead, encourages us to pickup a book or write in a journal. If your brain is busy, getting your thoughts out on a page can help clear your mind for a good nights rest. Reading a book creates comfort and causes your body to relax. This article goes into great detail about the benefits of reading before bed.

Those are my challenges. So, what’s next?

self help start
Enter the dungeon

MOVING FORWARD WAND AT THE READY

Next week I will come back and discuss my own feelings about this current self help routine building exercise. I also encourage anyone following along in this adventure to share your thoughts, practices, experiences, and more. I will ask myself a few things. Did it help? Was I able to do it every day? What happened on the days I wasn’t able to succeed? How did it make me feel? Was I more or less productive? Have I discovered the meaning of life and why we wear pants in the first place?

I just have one minor rule for any comments made. Please, keep them positive. You are free to express your personal feelings, but keep it constructive. I’m not an expert and don’t pretend to be. I’m just a new hero on a self help journey to personal development, looking to defeat a few personal monsters along the way, and share that experience with others. Therefore, play nice, so we can all enjoy the game.

self help limits

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