Playing Chutes and Ladders with Your Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can treat myself better.

We all know what we should do. Eat our vegetables, get enough sleep every night, exercise, blah blah blah.

Yeah, we know. But things get in the way.

Life gets in the way.

We get in our way.  

Oh yeah. I’m calling us out. You. Me. Our big old superegos.

We have all thoroughly mastered the art of masochism. We flagellate ourselves for doing less than everything, for being less than perfect. We push ourselves constantly to do and be more, and then punish ourselves because when we’ve achieved what we hoped to, we find there is more to be done. And so we tell ourselves we still aren’t doing enough. And therefore we aren’t good enough.

It just sounds so mean, doesn’t it? Like the stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella, always yelling, “Cinderella, Cinderella!” Except we are our own cruel task masters, and no prince on a white horse is going to save us from our deepest fears. And no fairy godmother, for that matter.

So how do we save ourselves?

Let’s start by playing a little game I like to call Catastrophizing. We all do it subconsciously anyway, so let’s just make it conscious.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Pick one thing that is making you feel pushed to your edge.
  2. Ask yourself what is the worst possible thing that could happen if you didn’t accomplish that task or actively decided to let it go.
  3. Then ask yourself what’s the worst possible thing that could happen next.
  4. And next.
  5. Continue until you’ve reached the worst possible thing. Really dig down deep into your inner panic stricken self and make it as bad as you possibly can. Deep down, what is it you truly fear? Face it.
  6. Then do a reality check. Chances are, you’re going to realize one of two things. Either the worst possible thing really wouldn’t be that bad. Or there’s absolutely no way the worst possible thing would happen and you’re just freaking out over nothing.  If so, ask yourself what is actually likely to happen if you don’t accomplish your task. And allow that to inform your decision.


Once you’ve played this little game, the next step is to simplify.

If you have determined through this game that you can let that one thing go, great!

If not, ask yourself what is the simplest possible way you can accomplish your task.

Simple, people, seriously, simple. Do not turn this into an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world that you are superhuman – or Martha Stewart.

Instead, use it as practice. Every time you choose the easiest route from A to B, your brain breathes a little sigh of relief and you automatically move forward a step in your own health. If this were Chutes and Ladders, you would climb up a ladder for every time you take care of yourself. For every time you choose to make things more difficult, you’re sent down the chute.

The prize at the end of the game?

Your life.


Here’s to climbing up the ladder!




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