by Jackie Simmons

You have dreams. You’ve set goals. You’ve established accountability partners and hiking buddies, but by the end of a typical day, are you too tired to take action on a hobby or the change you’re seeking in your life (and your bank account?)

You’re not alone. In fact, you could be part of the community of Americans known as “Chronically Unhappy.” The Chronically Unhappy are stuck in the land of just getting-by emotionally, even though some of them are incredibly well off financially. Chronic Unhappiness is an equal opportunity condition striking all ages, races, & ethnicities. Studies vary on the percentage breakdown by age, race, ethnicity, & net worth, but all agree that the ranks of the Chronically Unhappy are growing.

As far as I can tell, the Chronically Unhappy are known for 3 things. If you have any one of these on a regular basis, you may be part of the 60-67% of Americans suffering from this condition.

  1. Not engaging in hobbies
  2. Not taking risks and trying new things
  3. Not having much to talk about except: other times, other people, and other times.

Yes, I listed time twice. Time gets a double mention because how we talk about time and how we spend time hold the key to curing chronic unhappiness.

How we talk about time:

  1. Do you hear yourself agreeing that there’s “not enough time”?
  2. Do you rush into meetings apologizing for being late, often?
  3. Do you ever complain that time got away from you when you were doing/dawdling over an unpleasant task?

This kind of time-talk is not only an energy drain, it truly wastes what time there is, compounding the perceived time shortage. Yes, I said perceived. Time is all about perception. Time is a man-made construct designed to improve communication and productivity and when they created it, they forgot to write down the instruction manual.

The truth about time. Time is a constant. It is unchanging, no matter how we perceive it. If time seems limited and opportunities scarce, you may be stuck trying to walk your talk. Spending your time walking your talk means you’re doing 2 things:

  1. You’re listening to the exact language you use, truly paying attention to what you’re saying
  2. You’re precisely matching or attempting to precisely match your actions to your words.

Walking your talk takes a high level of mindfulness and watchfulness.

Imagine Flo. Flo’s talk is all about honesty. It’s core to how she does business and how she relates to everyone she knows. Flo walks her talk. . . except when she doesn’t. The challenge, Flo’s “walk”, her actions, are sometimes less than mindful, especially around money. Flo might not notice when she’s been given too much change and if she does notice later, Flo usually doesn’t “walk” back and return the excess. It’s too much bother. She knows her walk’s out of sync with her talk, but she shrugs it off, thinking it doesn’t matter all that much.

She’s mistaken. The disconnect between her walk and her talk drains Flo’s energy and takes her relationship to time out of sync as well.

Unfortunately, even if Flo was incredibly mindful and never missed an opportunity to own up to an undercharge or an over-refund, the high level of mindfulness steals her time and drains her energy just as much as being disconnected. Spending every waking minute watching your actions to make sure they exactly match your words can be exhausting because perfection is required.

When you’re trying to walk your talk 90% won’t cut it, anything less than 100% creates energy and time distortions. And 100% is nearly impossible. It’s a no-win situation. The stress created by trying to walk a talk is intense and we know that intense stress shortens lives.

The cure is simple. And because it’s simple, it’s often overlooked. The cure it to reverse the process and start talking only your walk.

Talking only your walk means that instead of minding your words, you mind your actions and talk only about what you’ve actually done. Instead of talking about the concept of honesty, you wait and when you catch an error, you share the story of straightening things out. If you set a goal and missed it, share the story of re-evaluating your actions and promise to update others as you attempt a new approach. Talking your walk is not about sharing only the stories where you’re the hero, it’s about sharing all of the hero stories you encounter in your day.

Talking only your walk gives you the freedom to relax. You don’t have to do anything except live your life. You don’t have to be anything except you. Being relaxed, knowing that there’s no ideal image to live up to frees up your energy and your time. Imagine having plenty of time to get the important things done and knowing that getting just the important things done is enough. It always has been, only no one likely told you. It’s not their fault. No one told them either, that’s why they spend time talking about how there’s not enough time.

Talking your walk is simple, it just requires spending a little time doing things worth talking about, noticing the hero stories around you. And being willing to be completely out of step with most of the people you’re around. Being willing to march to a different drummer is worth it. It’s worth the effort to learn the new rhythm because, let’s face it, it’s hard to be unhappy when you feel relaxed and know that you have plenty of time.

So, are you willing to give yourself a break from walking your talk? I hope so, it’s time for America to shift.

Please share this article with those you work and play with. Let’s shift America from being the Land of the Chronically Unhappy, back to the Land of the Free . . . to be Happy.

By Jackie Simmons – contributing author to: Unscripted: How Women Thrive in Life, Business, and Relationships (Real life advice from Women on Balancing their Power) on sale May 9, 2018