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In 2010, a chance encounter with Leo Babauta saved me from a terrible mistake.

I’d recently had a minimalism epiphany after our family moved for the second time in 3 years.

As I unpacked box after box, I saw how our stuff was driving decisions we never consciously made. We mostly bought little things–a new fry pan one month, a toy for our young daughter another–but we also rarely threw things away. Over time, our stuff had become a burden (at least to me).

The way I saw it, it was a vicious cycle. The more stuff we needed to store, the more furniture we needed to hold it all. The more furniture we had, the bigger house we felt we needed. And then you had to spend all that time cleaning…

It was driving me crazy and I wanted to make a big change … right now.

My zeal backfired. My three-year-old felt under attack and protectively guarded every toy. My husband, who is sweetly nostalgic, couldn’t bear to part with his softball mitt from his childhood. “What if she plays softball one day?” he bemoaned.

The more I tried to convince them that they needed to change, the more they resisted me. In fact, the more they resented me.

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The choices seem small and insignificant, but they plague you.

Should you take a long walk outside or answer your email? Should you watch a movie or work on the book idea you’ve been talking about for years? And when are you going to finally enroll in that Spanish immersion class?

Every day you feel pulled in different directions, torn between the things you want to do and the things you feel you have to. And that tension, quite frankly, is wearing you out.

Instead of making a decision, night after night you allow yourself succumb to the things you think will make you feel less stressed. You watch TV. You splurge on burgers and a milkshake. You skim your email, read celebrity gossip, or play video games until it’s way past your bedtime.

Just before you drift off to sleep, you realize: I’m never going to get that day back. And I wasted it.

String enough days like that together, and you start feeling helplessness. You feel sick inside, like you’ve failed a final exam.

Leo Babauta, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, recently encouraged people to imagine how they would spend their time if they started with a blank slate. That’s a good question, but I find there’s often another problem you have to solve first.

You have to get to root of the expectations that are draining you.

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What I was trying to do should have been simple.

I was attempting to hold a small stack of books with my left arm, where my hand cupped one edge and my elbow cradled the other. But I couldn’t do it.

I had noticed my wrist getting weaker for a couple of years. And thanks to some back pain issues, it had become clear my office set-up was probably the source of my problem.

But I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t see a doctor. I didn’t look for a new desk. I didn’t even take the simple step of ordering a wrist brace online.

The questions is: why did I wait until I had nearly debilitating pain before I decided to act?

The answer might surprise you.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll share with you the solution I found that almost instantly allowed my wrist to start healing. I can now hold that stack of books with my left arm and write for hours on end without issue. It’s not rocket science, but I’m rather proud of what I came up with (better late than never).

But today, I want to explore this idea of waiting until it hurts. Because it’s not just me that does this. I see how this strange decision-making process trips up my clients and my friends too.

As I recently told people on Facebook, if you want to make a profound change in your life, the fastest way to do it is to become dissatisfied with the way you’re currently thinking. But first, you have to understand your thinking.