I learned something very important in my Boy Scout days: you can’t get very far when you carry a heavy backpack.

Seems like common sense, yet many people go through life wearing a heavy (metaphorical) backpack, a backpack that is filled with bricks comprised of life’s disappointments, frustrations, judgments and general unhappiness. As days go on, the backpack gets heavier and heavier as more bricks are added. Soon, you can’t find the energy to be happy because you’re always carrying such a heavy load. You essentially carry the weight of your world on your back. And let’s be honest, carrying the weight of all these bricks makes life hard, heavy and disappointing. How can you be happy with all that extra weight quite literally weighing you down?

Let’s start with what the bricks actually are. The bricks in this metaphor represent your response to any event in work or life that don’t go as planned. We’ve all had days where nothing seems to go right and, as is human nature, we get disappointed, frustrated and upset. But the bricks happen not by feeling an emotion, but when we hold on to it. When things don’t go as planned, we justify being upset, often wallowing in self-pity or rage for an unnecessary – and often unhealthy – amount of time. In doing so, we create a new brick that gets added to our backpack.

You may not notice the consequence of forging these new bricks and adding them to your backpack right away. In fact, it’s a slow progression, one that often goes unnoticed for a time until one day, you realize life is just hard. You’ve reached the point where your normal is to feel unhappy, stressed and frustrated. You are unable to just let things go because, quite frankly, you’ve forgotten how. And this is how many people start to feel stuck in where they are in life, unable to move forward, unable to get out of the rut they’ve created.

The irony, of course, is that everyone always has a choice. You have the ability to choose how to handle what life sends you. You have the ability to choose how you will respond to the situation. And you have the ability to choose what you do with the brick that is created when you feel frustrated, upset or disappointed.

Consider how implementing these two tips can help you stop adding bricks to your backpack and start taking out the ones already there.

  1. Expand your awareness. Each time you become disappointed or frustrated with something, stop and notice it. Pay attention on purpose. You have just created a brick. Now that you see it, you can choose to learn from it and leave it on the side of the road, instead of adding it to your backpack and carrying it through your day.
  2. Improve your understanding. Understand what bricks are already in your backpack and how they got there. What grudges or judgments do you hold on to? With a full backpack, the world looks mean, unfriendly and unkind. Understanding what bricks you carry can help you start to figure out how to get them out of your backpack and – here’s the most important part – not put them back.

What if instead of adding every new brick to your backpack, you remember to focus on what is good, great and dynamic instead of the challenges and problems? Same world. Different view.

Challenge yourself to identify a brick that’s always added to your backpack. Once you recognize it, what is something you can do to stop it from happening?

Remember: you choose how you show up to the events of work and life. Handle the heavy stuff right away; don’t dwell on it or make it more than it is. Choosing to make and carry a brick out of life’s challenges and frustrations just wears you out. Forgive. Accept. Move on. Remember, it is easier to walk through life without carrying the weight of your world.