There is a quote that changed my life. When I first heard the quote, I was in a tough spot in my life. I woke up every morning with severe anxiety. I was afraid to check my work email because there were so routinely angry, accusatory emails in there that would set the tone for what I could expect when I got to the office.

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In many ways, I hated my job. I was always on edge. I cried most days – usually more than once. It wasn’t a healthy environment and I went through each day and to each meeting just waiting for the next explosion. Hearing my name over the paging system would be met with sympathetic glances and “good lucks!” from my colleagues, not to mention feeling like I might pee my pants.

I complained about it a lot. I worked all the time. Taking days off was never worth it because of the drama waiting for me when I returned.

On the flip side, I was good at the work. I found it interesting and challenging. I had a strong support system in the office of people I really loved & cared about. It paid me well. It helped me get out of debt. I was learning a lot. I was accumulating awesome experiences. In hindsight, that job helped me develop the mental toughness that serves me so well as a business owner. That’s why I stayed but it’s certainly not what I focused on…

I made myself a victim of my circumstances. I focused exclusively on the problems.

I was unhappy & it was my job’s fault.

I was too stressed and tired from my work to take care of myself. I turned to food to respond to the stress.

I blamed my job for my weight, when the reality is that I was overweight before the job, too.

I wasn’t taking responsibility for my choices.

One day, I read a quote from the poet Rumi:

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?

The door was wide open. I could leave any time.

I wasn’t applying for other jobs. In fact, when I had applied for another job, it was offered to me & I turned it down. Actually, that happened 3 times. I was offered 3 jobs and ultimately chose to stay where I was, unhappily. Usually because of the money.

I was so quick to blame my boss and the owners of the company.

I was so quick to point out the dysfunctional management team and corporate culture I thought would never change.

Ultimately, it was on me.

I drove there every day, early. No one forced me.

I stayed late every day, by choice. No one made me do it. Plenty of other people left at 5.

I checked and responded to emails at night & on the weekends. That was my choice. They came to expect it because I set that expectation through my own behavior.

I could have quit. I could have accepted a different job.

But I stayed. I wasn’t in prison. No one forced me to go there and take a paycheck from them.

When I heard that Rumi quote, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” I stopped complaining.

I stopped blaming management.

I began to fully embrace the fact that I was there by choice and if it was so bad, I could make the choice to leave.

It took a few months before I realized how this quote applied to my personal life, too.

I was miserable. I was obese. I hated my body and desperately wanted to lose weight, get fit and be healthy.

But I was creating the prison I lived in.

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?

No one made me overeat. It was my choice.

No one was stopping me from making better food choices.

I wasn’t stuck in that obese body. I was creating it. I was choosing it.

The door is so wide open.

I wasn’t stuck.

You aren’t stuck.

We are a product of our choices.

You don’t have to settle. You can expect more of yourself. You can push yourself. You can change. You can choose a different reality.

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?