Duct-Taping the Check Engine Light
How often do we ignore or mask our problems rather than deal with them?
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY
My wife and I learned a valuable, but expensive, lesson shortly after we were married. She went out a few weeks after settling into our new home to start her car, and it made a strange noise. She called to tell me the car wouldn’t start, so I told her I’d take a look when I got home.
After work, I came home, changed clothes (thinking I was likely needing to change out a battery) and attempted to start the car. I put the key in the ignition and turned the key. Once again, the engine made a strange noise. My friend, a mechanic, saw me with the hood up as he drove by. He turned around and pulled in to see if he could help.
He tried the ignition, and gave me a concerned look. He grabbed a wrench, reached down into the engine, and gave a huge tug. He regripped the wrench and tugged again. Once more, he went through the same exercise, and then started to shake his head.
“The engine’s locked up,” he said.
“How did that happen,” I asked.
He pulled the dipstick from the engine and it was bone dry. No oil.
Shame on me for not being a good husband and doing regular maintenance on my wife’s car.
I asked my wife if she noticed anything strange about her car, and she noted a little red engine light had lit up on the dashboard, but she wasn’t sure what that meant. The car was running okay, so she didn’t think it was important.
I could be upset, but what would that do at this point other than make the tense situation worse. She had never been taught anything about automobiles growing up and wasn’t aware the little red engine light was a warning something was wrong and needed attention.
I learned to pay more attention to my wife’s vehicle, which I seldom drive. She learned to let me know when the Check Engine Light (or any other warning light) lights up on the dash.
It was a painful ripping of the duct tape, but a valuable lesson learned.
My mechanic friend smiled after sharing the bad news and made an interesting comment that’s stuck with me for years:
“When you put duct tape on a check engine light, the problem doesn’t go away.”
How often do we put duct tape on the Check Engine Light of our lives by either ignoring or masking a problem rather than taking decisive action to address it?
We know we’re overweight, so we stop stepping on the scale. We know we’re spending too much money, so we simply pay the minimum payment each month and don’t look at the balance.
Now that I’ve stepped on some toes, let’s go a bit deeper.
According to a 2023 national Health Study, 1 in 10 American adults have been prescribed antidepressants. That’s a 35% increase in just six short years. While there are legitimate uses for antidepressants, this massive increase in the use of antidepressants among American adults begs the question:
Are we duct-taping the Check Engine Light of our lives, hoping the problem will go away?
While depression and anxiety are very real issues some people deal with, what we’re seeing from a growing body of evidence is that we’re engaging in behaviors that are fueling an unhealthy spike in self-imposed depression, stress, and anxiety.
Why is this happening?
Smartphones were introduced in 2007 and by 2015, fully 92% of teens and young adults owned a smartphone. A San Diego State University study found that there is a strong correlation between smartphone adoption and an increase in anxiety and depression. Another study by the National Health Institute found a direct correlation between the time spent on social media and perceived social isolation and a rise in FOMO, the fear of missing out.
Studies also found a direct correlation between a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence among teen and young adult women and time spent on social media. Curated images of women who appear prettier, thinner, more popular, or richer fuel feelings of depression, anxiety, and worries about body image.
With the advent of smartphones, we’ve also seen a significant decline in individuals engaging in physical activity and personal growth activities, such as learning a new skill or hone a talent. These activities not only stimulate the brain and improve concentration and focus, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
We also live in a culture today that glorifies and promotes victimization and oppression. Rather than focusing on the things that unite us, there’s a growing push to divide people by race, gender, skin color, religion, sex, or ideology. If you don’t look, act, or believe a certain way, there’s an effort to “cancel” you.
Rather than agreeing to disagree, and having an open forum where ideas can be discussed, and debated, a growing number of people retreat into “Me Too” clubs that only want to hear from people who look or act like them. We fear being left out (or being alone) and we yield our ability to think and act independently and conform to a culture of groupthink.
Add to that a pandemic that locked people away from others for nearly two years, global unrest, and rising prices and it’s a perfect recipe for stoking fear, anxiety, depression, and anger.
When we haven’t been taught coping skills, or critical thinking skills, and history has been erased so its lessons cannot be learned, we end up with a society that can’t cope. When society teaches, encourages, and rewards victimization, race hatred, and oppression, you breed distrust, anxiety, anger, and depression.
And what gets rewarded gets repeated, and society today is rewarding the wrong things.
This is NOT leadership.
When people can’t cope, they turn to their doctor.
While doctors are amazing people who do incredible things, much of what they do is treatment-based. They don’t have time to counsel an individual to get to the root cause of their depression or anxiety, so they prescribe a pill to mask the symptoms.
The Check Engine Soon light is glaring red, but a prescription often only masks the symptoms. It doesn’t address the underlying cause.
It’s duct tape for the brain.
It’s like driving down the highway, ignoring your fuel gauge, oblivious to the fact you’re going to run out of gas.
When you’re duct-taping your brain, you’re yielding control of your life to others. You’re oblivious to the causes of the stress, anxiety and depression you’re experiencing. You keep doing the very thing that’s causing your stress, amplifying what’s wrong.
Because it’s easier to make an excuse for bad behavior than to change. So, you wallow in self-pity, whining and making excuses for why everything in your life is bad. Because misery loves company, you surround yourself with other stressed, anxious, depressed people who are also stuck where they are, as they are, unwilling to change.
It’s easier to run to the doctor and get a pill to make us feel better than to go through the painful process of changing bad habits and bad behaviors, or learning to cope with anxiety, depression, rejection, and all of the stressors in our lives.
Miserly also loves isolation, so you spend an increasing amount of time disengaged with others, only serving to fuel further depression and anxiety.
Life is a series of choices and consequences.
We get to choose our choices, but the consequences we experience in life are a direct result of the choices we’ve made.
So, how do we avoid putting duct tape on our brains?
First, take a candid, honest, reflective look at what you’re doing and how it’s affecting your welfare and well-being. Ask yourself WHY you’re stressed, anxious, or depressed and start looking for the triggers that are causing this. It’s amazing what you’ll uncover when you spend time in reflective thinking, becoming intentional about what behaviors are elevating stress.
Secondly, choose to be happy.
Stop seeing the world as half-empty and choose to see the world as half-full. One of the ways you can make this mindset shift is to start a Gratitude Journal. Every night before you go to bed, spend 10-15 minutes writing about who and what you’re grateful for today. Do this right before bed so your subconscious can dwell on these gratitude thoughts as you’re sleeping.
Remember, happiness is a choice. You’re only as happy as you choose to be.
Affirmations are a powerful tool to shift your mindset, alter your beliefs, and improve your self-esteem. There’s a powerful FREE resource in the Courses section of my website, “The Power of Affirming Words.”
You’ll find that, along with other free and paid resources, at www.beablackbeltleader.com.
Thirdly, stop seeing challenges in life as roadblocks.
You see what you’re looking for.
So, what are you looking for in life?
Don’t forget that your outlook determines your outcome. Challenges viewed as obstacles or roadblocks create an “I’m stuck” mindset. It leaves you where you are, as you are, experiencing more of the same. Once you believe and accept you’re stuck, your brain rejects any information to the contrary. All you can see is an obstacle or a roadblock with no way forward.
If you feel stuck, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled, you’re only fueling more stress, anxiety, and depression.
On the other hand, when challenges are viewed as opportunities, you start to see how you can use these to learn, grow, and keep moving forward, You move from “I Can’t” to “I Can”, opening your mind to consider possibilities and outcomes you haven’t considered before.
You stop seeing obstacles and roadblocks, and you see detours and alternate routes to get you to where you want to go.
So, here’s my challenge to you this week.
If you’re living life stressed, anxious, or depressed, take a step back and examine your life. You likely already know what you need to do to change things for the better. If not, hire a Coach or see a Counselor who can help you uncover that.
Let me encourage you to take that first uncomfortable step you know you need to do to change things for the better in your life.
Shift your focus from what’s wrong in your life, and in the world around you. Instead, start focusing on what’s right in your life, and in the world around you.
Hire a Life Coach to help you put together a Success Plan for your life. Tom Landry said it well, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you always have known you could be.”
If you need professional help, go get it. If you need medication, take it. There’s no shame in that. Do what you need to do to get back to a healthy, vibrant version of YOU.
Just make sure you’re not putting duct tape on your brain and failing to address the root causes of what’s stressing you out, or making you anxious or depressed. Stress, rightly used, can be a powerful catalyst for your personal growth.
Don’t spend the rest of your life oblivious to what’s going on in your life and how it’s affecting you and those around you. Identify the habits you’re engaged in that are fueling your worst life now and replace them with habits that will fuel your best life now.
Remember, Black Belt Leaders challenge the status quo to change things for the better.
It starts with ripping off the duct tape.
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