04/02/2014 02:32 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2014

What Is the Universe Trying to Tell Me?

Shhh... The universe is talking to you, but are you listening? I am by no means qualified to get into a debate as to whether or not we are the only sentient creatures in the universe; however, I do believe that my mind is usually so preoccupied with mindless internal chatter that I am ignorant to the signposts that are being subtly laid before me. To prove this to myself I conducted a little experiment over the course of three days in which I made an effort to write down any nugget of wisdom I heard or read. Here's what came my way...

1. "Sometimes the wrong train can get you to the right station." -- from the movie The Lunchbox

At the age of 16, it felt like my entire uncharted life lay before me. At that time, I didn't set out to become a recovering addict who battled with his addictions, and who continues to struggle, to get through each day. That being said, I wouldn't change a day in my life because boarding the "wrong train" has delivered me to where I am today -- resilient and grateful to be the man I've become.

2. "Without someone to tell your secrets to, you have no memory." -- also from the movie The Lunchbox

Like most people, I spend far too much time living in my head instead of living out my dreams. As a recovering addict and as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I am painfully aware that secrets can snuff out the light in your soul. Everybody needs that one special person who sees directly into your soul and coaxes out your passions and allays your insecurities.

3. "It's not about how you feel right now, it's about how you pick yourself up and move on." -- from a friend on Twitter

The people who inspire me most are those who have a few dents in their armor -- those who clawed their way to a place of inner strength, redemption, and hope. Rarely do we remember fame and celebrity, but when we witness inner fortitude, it resonates and is transformative.

4. "Dream big and your problems become small." -- a quote from Vishen Lakhiani

The theme of my blog is to "live a bigger life," and having come across this quote from Vishen Lakhiani, I now have one more incentive to aspire to that mantra -- the opportunity to dwarf my problems in the presence of the enormity of my dreams.

5. "Everyone has something to teach you." -- a quote from the Dalai Lama

Wishing away where I am right now, or what is happening in my life right now, is an exercise in futility. When I step back and acknowledge that I have an exaggerated reaction to what I'm facing, and this is most often manifest in rage, fear, or even euphoria, I am fighting the urge to push it away or to let it consume me. Instead, I am working towards being open to the lesson that lies behind the static of the moment.

6. "Fear doesn't shut you down; it wakes you up." -- from the movie Divergent based on the novel by Veronica Roth

It's not unusual for people who have had a health scare to say, "That was a real wake-up call." It's a bitter truth that at times, things have to fall apart in order to come back together stronger. Just as a muscle needs to be stretched and stressed in order to grow, so to do we need to push and tug at the boundaries of our comfort zone to feel invigorated.

7. "Self-trust is the first secret of success." -- a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson

How often have we fallen victim to the little voices in our head echoing those toxic statements that contain the words "not" and "enough"? You're not intelligent enough? You're not handsome enough? You're not strong enough? And so on. Just as any structure is only as sound as its foundation, so to does our success stem from the wellspring of our conviction that we indeed "are enough."

8. If you want to kill something like an acne, all you need to do is surround it by barriers or by walls until the inside dries up and dies. The same can be said for any type of an identity, if you use it to surround yourself, you end up creating isolation from others -- ultimately killing your connection to others. -- Paraphrased from a TED Talk by novelist Elif Shafak

When I'm afraid or embarrassed, I isolate myself. When my own company become intolerable, I reach out to others with whom I identify, and most typically they share the same characteristic, or experience, that caused me to isolate myself in the first place. This support community, or what I like to call my "comfort group," envelopes me with a warm buffer of safety that gives me the courage to step out of my isolation. That all seems great at the outset -- the problem lies in the fact that by clinging to this comfort zone, I shut myself off from all the other people and avenues that can ultimately enrich my life.

9. "Divorce your story and marry your truth." -- From a TED Talk by Tony Robbins.

I smiled when I heard this because it reminded me of what I wrote on my blog homepage under the category "About Me." People think they know me... I'm a husband. I'm a father. I'm a teacher. I'm an ultra marathoner. I'm that sarcastic dude that keeps putting his foot in his mouth. But I ask you to look again... I've spent most of my life living with labels... "bipolar," "addict," "victim of childhood sexual abuse," but those labels have limited my life and given me an excuse to avoid growth. What I wasn't able to articulate at the time I wrote that was my burning desire to "divorce [my] story and marry [my] truth."

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.