Nothing I ever learned in the course of my own therapy and recovery made as much difference as getting in the groove of doing certain things, every day— no matter if I felt like doing them or not. 

When you get into therapy and recovery, you’ll learn all sorts of interesting things. 

You’ll learn things about how perceptions and thoughts feed emotions. You’ll learn how emotions inform behavior. 

You’ll learn how behavior then boomerangs around and influences perceptions and thoughts— how what we think, feel, and do becomes a complex, dynamic tug of war. 

It’s all fascinating, and learning about it can be useful. 

But, in my own experience, nothing that I LEARNED was the difference that made the difference. 

For me, the difference was in what I got used to DOING. 

Even before I went to grad school, I knew a lot about human emotion and behavior. 

Since getting into the self-help literature as a teenager, I’ve read literally hundreds of books about how the mind and the brain and the nervous system all work. 

During the time I’d dropped out of school in my early 20’s, when I was desperately depressed, intermittently suicidal, and desperately addicted to various substances and risky behaviors, I could have STILL had a very high level conversation with you about human psychology and behavior. 

It’s not about what you know. 

It’s about what you do with what you know. 

In my case, the difference was made when I started EVERY SINGLE DAY checking in with myself— with my emotions, my goals, my main problems— and forming and following a daily plan. 

I realized that if I did not take time EVERY morning and EVERY night to review my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (otherwise known as a SWOT analysis), and if I didn’t manage my time every day (down to the hour), I would absolutely slip back into depression and desperation. 

It’s now years later, and those daily check ins and that daily planning are STILL the difference that makes the difference. 

I have made the mistake of assuming that, because I’m now a psychologist, because I have my own businesses, because I’ve been stable for years and have enough of a grasp of various recovery issues that OTHER people even listen to what I have to say, that I can slack off on the daily check ins and rituals. 

And I’ve paid for that mistake. Multiple times. 

Why am I telling you any of this? 

Because I want to move you away from this idea that anyone has “magic words” that you’ll hear that will turn everything around at some point. 

Again: learning stuff is awesome. The more you learn about how your brain and body work, the better. 

But none of it matters unless you’re DOING something different. 

There’s nothing that can take the place of daily routines, rituals, and check-ins. 

Insight won’t replace them. Intelligence won’t replace them. Toughness and character will not replace them. 

Routines, rituals, and check ins— especially daily goal setting— will make the difference between someone who knows a lot, but who is still stuck and unhappy and at risk…versus someone who has learned a lot, and is every day applying that learning to their daily life. 

I WISH there were magic words I had for you. 

But the magic isn’t over here. 

The magic is in you. 

It’s in your behavior. 

It’s in your daily, repeated behavior— your habits. 

That’s how your new life is sculpted in the real world. 

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