Are Your Problems Real or Imagined?

Want more actionable ideas every week?

Join millions of readers and subscribe to Your Next Breakthrough newsletter below.

    101 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    Two things for you to think about

    When we lack real problems in our lives, our mind quickly sets out to imagine some for us.

    We invent threats to give ourselves a sense of purpose. We imagine obstacles to create a sense of meaning. We start conflicts with others in order to feel necessary.

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    Three things for you to ask yourself

    What problem(s) in your life is self-invented? Why do you think you invented it? What were you trying to feel?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    One thing for you to try this week

    Take a problem you’ve been struggling with in your life and simply stop identifying it as a problem. In a roundabout way, this is a form of acceptance—realizing that something you were resisting and fighting against is actually not worth resisting or fighting over.

    This is one of many ways to develop the skill of “letting go.”

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    Last week’s breakthroughs

    In last week’s newsletter, I asked you to improve one simple thing in your life and see if your insurmountable struggles become more manageable.

    Jeremy made a simple change and had a surprising result:

    I bombed an interview today. I like to treat myself to a meal out after a job interview (hopefully I’ll land something before it gets too expensive!), so I navigated to a nearby diner. I sat in my car to meditate for a few minutes and decided instead to go get a fruit bowl at a location in the same plaza.

    I felt a lot lighter afterwards than I would have had I eaten some greasy diner monstrosity, which would have knocked me out for the day. Later I took periodic movement breaks and ended up sending out a lot more applications than I expected to.

    Like you pointed out, it’s clear here that a few small, concrete, relatively easy decisions, meditating for a few minutes in my car instead of immediately getting out to go eat, then making a healthier choice as a result of that moment between the stimulus and response, led to better choices for the rest of the day.

    I also noticed a bit of anxiety underneath the urge to run off and eat something greasy and carb-rich, but I felt better after eating a bowl of fruit, acaí berries and oats.

    Junk food is under-discussed as a way to numb our unpleasant emotions. For years, I used food as a way to bury feelings of anxiety. Best of luck with the job search, Jeremy.

    Jimena is killing two birds with one stone, facing her fears while also getting a bit of exercise:

    I finally let my friend convince me to try swimming in the ocean again. I am very anxious about the idea of sharks (shouldn’t have watched Jaws when I was too young), and I get really anxious when swimming and my feet don’t touch the bottom.

    Well, for some very strange reason I decided to give it another go (I had done it twice before and it just didn’t take), and this time it felt like something I wanted to continue doing. Not only am I managing, I am swimming on my own on the days we don’t swim in a group, it makes me really happy, and leaves me wanting to go the next time.

    I am of course sleeping better and the swimming helps me deal with my anxiety (there are many things I worry about at the moment), so I intend to continue doing it, even in winter (wet suit anyone?).

    It’s been a real joy to have finally had the courage to do it in spite of my fear of the ocean, with all the physical and mental benefits this small act of bravery is bringing me.

    Sleep helped Holly navigate her way out of a seemingly impossible situation:

    Oh you hit the nail on the head with this one. I was spiraling in bad thoughts, situations that I thought were impossible to improve.

    We just had a baby in January; we also have a daughter who is three. Tiring stuff. We were planning on moving back to the US from abroad and nothing worked out. Plans that we had in the works for years vanished overnight. Everything seemed black, no solution in sight.

    But at the same time, never before had I been more affected by lack of sleep! Going on a long walk and going to sleep early has been the true antidote, especially this past weekend. We were able to fine-tune our plans to make it work for at least the next couple of years.

    And Oana had a realization that will surely resonate with many:

    This hits very close to home. I know exercise is literally the answer to all my problems yet it’s the first thing I postpone every day. I appreciate the reminder that reading about what’s good for you does nothing if you don’t actually do it.

    Oana, if you’re reading this, get off your ass and go exercise. Hell, that goes for the rest of you, as well. :)

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
    My WebsiteMy BooksMy YouTube Channel