How to Derail Your Life

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on September 23, 2022 # Lifestyle

When I hear the word “derail,” I imagine a subway car: when it’s on track, everything runs smoothly, and every person gets to where they need to be. When it’s derailed, total chaos; a derailed train means missed appointments, rescheduled meetings, and worst case, lots of injury.

In a similar vein, living a derailed life can be chaos. There are a number of excuses or habits we slip into that will set our lives up for the same consequence as that subway crash. And yet, everything I’ll list is so common. Why do we do it? How do we stop? First, some of the biggest excuses that’ll derail your life are:

  1. Following culture. It’s easy and so tempting to get caught up in what other people are doing, then forget to pay attention to your own needs. My biggest example of following culture was during my freshman year in college, trying to make new friends from scratch. The culture of my freshman peers was more or less of party and beer, but that has never been my scene. Sure, my preclusion meant it took me a little longer to make friends, but my reward was not having to compromise my needs in the name of the zeitgeist. I’m in a wheelchair, and the parties on campus were also very inaccessible, but I’m choosing to blame my nonattendance on a decision I made. That’s rewriting history.
  2. Caring too much about what other people are doing and thinking. If you find yourself stuck in the cycle of worrying about others, you will never be good enough. You’ll be exhausted, and you’ll be easily broken. Trying to please and show up perfectly to everyone around you is – and I don’t use this word often – impossible. Just like everyone is on their own journey, be on yours. The freedom you’ll take from letting go of the desire to please is just the opposite of the consequence: you’re as “good enough” as you think yourself to be. You’re able to prioritize and give your energy to what you care about; and you’ll take away people’s power to break you. When you let go of the burden of other people, your confidence will grow alongside your happiness.
  3. Feeling sorry for yourself. It’s OK to momentarily feel sorry about your situation – life can be challenging. But don’t park in that pain. That’s a waste of precious time. Instead of wallowing in the fact that I didn’t make any friends during my entire first year on campus, I came back for year two with a new resolve: I’d join a club, I’d get out of my comfort zone. That’s not to overlook the countless weekday nights I spent in my single dorm room, feeling sorry for myself for the lost opportunity. I had a learning curve, too. When I came back as a sophomore and forced myself to assimilate, though, that’s when I found my happy.

There are a lot of things that try to lead us these days: brands, influencers, celebrities, and our peers, to name a few. Remain vigilant and take regular stock in yourself to ensure you’re being led by positive things (your religion, your health, your passions, etc.), instead of empty ones (money, social standing, appearance, etc.). How can you do that? Here are a few habits that’ll keep you on track for who you want to be:

  1. Respect yourself, other people, and everything around. I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe that opportunities come to people who put good into the world. Check in with yourself, treat others well, and take care of the world around you. It’ll pay off.
  2. Have quiet time every day. I don’t have kids yet, so this is an easy check off my list. My husband wakes up extra early to read his bible, write in a journal, and/or spend time in reflection. I like to sleep in later, spend my morning doing work, then slink away mid-afternoon to read, be by myself, and transfer out of my uncomfortable wheelchair. No matter what time of day, that time is necessary for both our sanity and productivity. Even if you have to wake up earlier to do it, you should try this one. Until I have kids, though, let me sleep.
  3. Set small goals. Let yourself win. For example: I’ll wash a load of laundry, put it in the dryer and, instead of returning them to my closet all at once, I’ll hang 2-3 shirts per day until either the dryer is empty, or my husband needs to do his laundry. It’s ridiculous. Thank God I married a man who doesn’t get annoyed by it, because he does the same thing.

We’re only on this planet for a short amount of time. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll look back on your life and regret the excuses you made or the things that derailed you. Try incorporating some healthy practices into your routine to keep your life (your subway car) on its tracks.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.