“This article was originally written by Deep Patel and was first seen on Forbes.com under headline The Man Who Escaped A Psych Ward Shares 6 Steps For Transformation. To view the original article click here

Gordie Bufton firmly believes in transformation. Why? Because he is living proof that a former drug addict who struggled with mental illness can change from within by embracing reality.

Bufton was a smart and naturally talented child. As a straight-A student with a college golf scholarship, his future was bright. Despite all this, he slid into a battle with substance abuse and drug dealing, which ultimately led him to become delusional and lost.

In his memoir, Eluding Reality, Bufton shares his dramatic descent into the underbelly of society, including his time in jail and 5 psych wards. Bufton is now an international speaker and family coach who has shared his unique story with more than 22,000 people on several continents. He is passionate about inspiring others and empowering young people to stop eluding their own realities and build the life skills necessary to be successful.

As a founder of Rich Legacy, a company focused on teaching entrepreneurs and executives around the globe to better connect with and empower their children, Bufton gets to live his mission of helping others create a mindful and productive life. A life that doesn’t rely on self-destructive behaviors to cope.

Bufton and his Rich Legacy co-founder, Bradley Callow, have become close friends. Callow’s story is similar to Bufton’s: he also overcame substance-abuse issues, and narrowly escaped prison sentences and suicide.

Bufton offers a simplified 6-step process to take the mystery and hype out of transformation, leaving only the golden nuggets.

Step 1: Change Your Story to Change Your Life

Often we allow ourselves to be influenced by others. We relinquish our own dreams, desires and ambitions in favor of what others want for us. “We allow the voice of others to become our voice,” Bufton says. “We tell ourselves stories justifying why we can’t do something: that we aren’t smart enough or simply don’t have the time.”

According to Bufton, “The negative stories we tell ourselves hold us back. It’s also why we go after goals which aren’t really important to us in the hopes of pleasing other people.”

For instance, Bufton’s father thought he wasn’t good enough to play collegiate golf. So Bufton set out to prove him wrong. Bufton did earn a golf scholarship — but squandered it once he became addicted to ecstasy the first semester of university. “I was doing it to prove him wrong, not for myself,” Bufton says. “This did not provide me with the motivation necessary when things got challenging to push through.”

“One of the few things in life we have control over is our perception and stories we have created,” Bufton says. You will always be able to find reasons why your story is valid. The question you must ask yourself is whether your story is serving your greater purpose.

Step 2: Find Mentors Who Will Shoot Holes In Your Story

Bufton bristles at the phrase “self-made man,” as he has made it his mission to accumulate mentors. “I seek out people who have become world class when I’m faced with a challenge regarding something I know is in their individual sweet spot.”

Mentors can share how they have approached and handled situations — what has worked for them and what hasn’t. A great mentor will seldom tell you what to do. Instead, he or she will ask questions that allow you reach a more informed decision on your own.

“The right mentor will patiently listen to your story, and then stand up and scream ‘Stop!’ when they find holes,” says Bufton. “Nothing is worse than drinking your own Kool-Aid.”

Step 3: Write It Down To Release It

We all need a way to relax and let our minds unwind. Ideally, that relaxation time will allow you to capture your thoughts and ideas to inspire change. For Bufton, journaling has become instrumental in releasing pent-up feelings and emotions, while simultaneously recording his thoughts and ideas. Currently, he journals three times a day.

“I write at least 500 words a day: half a page in a notebook, an email first thing when I wake up and another just before bed, sent to a private writings-only email address,” he says. “This daily ritual allows me to let go and clear my mind.”

Bufton explains that writing down his ideas and thoughts helps him remember and make sense of what he’s going through. He then takes this information to make changes in his own life, and in the lives of others. “I used drugs to slow down my mind,” Bufton says. “Journaling is my way to pause from the busyness and overstimulation of information and process my life.”

If writing isn’t your thing, look for other opportunities to let your mind decompress and review the day. This might be during your commute, where you turn off the music or podcasts and just take the time to drive and think.

Bufton uses the example of Spanx founder Sara Blakely, who takes 45 minutes to drive 5 minutes to work every day because it’s her thinking time. Being a mother of 4 young children and running a billion-dollar enterprise, it’s how she creates time to get away and just let her mind run free. She has even installed a camera in her car so she can record her thoughts.

Bufton also recommends writing a letter to yourself or an individual you have recently been struggling with. Get it all out in this letter. Once the letter is complete, read it out loud, but don’t share with the person it is written to. Then burn the letter in a safe location.

 Step 4: Live Your Life, Don’t Avoid Reality

Much of what we do in our daily lives is about avoiding harsh realities or pain. We avoid discomfort in favor of things that allow us to feel better in the moment or distract us from our emotions. We turn to social media or other behaviors so we don’t have to deal with our own lives and emotions.

“These distractions in our lives are only a temporary solution,” Bufton says. He adds that we must all inevitably face our realities and the possibility that we may be uncomfortable in that reality. We must learn how to deal with discomfort in our lives and the way it makes us feel.

He also says that facing our reality and meeting head on the things that make us uncomfortable brings mindfulness to the forefront of our lives. When we are mindful of how our choices influence our lives and the lives of those around us, we can make decisions to better ourselves and others.

As an example, if someone is being short with you, don’t react with anger. Take a moment to consider why they may be acting this way. Perhaps they are going through something stressful or difficult, and one more negative response will only make things worse for them. Mindfully choose compassion over an immediate reaction that could damage the relationship.

“Mindfulness allows people to have the space to determine what their response will be in a situation instead of a knee-jerk reaction,” Bufton says. “A mindful life focuses you on the here and now — no more running and hiding.”

Step 5: Micro Shifts

“The little things we do every day have a profound impact on our lives when they are done consistently over time,” Bufton says. “It’s the little things you do every single day which, compounded annually, will change your life. It’s exercising for 15 minutes a day. You won’t lose weight overnight, but over a year it will have a big impact.”

According to Bufton, how we spend our time adds up. Even the smallest things we do have a powerful effect on our success. Our daily choices have negative or positive ramifications. For instance, we may choose to watch an hour of TV per night, or we may use this same time to improve our lives.

“Sixty minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but over the course of a year, this is 365 hours of TV, which is more than 15 full days!” Bufton explains. “What if you spent this time reading, exercising or learning something?”
Bufton implemented this principle, but had to remember to believe in himself and trust the process. Eventually, the micro shifts got him where he wanted to go.

“I knew it was possible to overcome mental illness and addiction, but it wouldn’t happen overnight,” Bufton explains. “These small healthy practices, such as writing, healthy foods, exercise and meditation, have compounded as I’ve continued them daily almost a decade later.”

A commitment to spend just 15 minutes a day working toward your goal can be transformative. The incremental steps can add up to impressive results. All of a sudden, a massive undertaking like writing a book or losing 30 pounds becomes an attainable, realistic and digestible goal.

“Do just one thing every single day toward your goal for 365 days, and I’ll guarantee you’ll be closer to achieving your dreams at the end of this year than you ever thought possible,” Bufton says.

Bufton recently assisted a 23-year-old to complete a manuscript within 6 months. They emailed daily, and Bufton kept him accountable. The individual spent 30 to 60 minutes almost every day and is now on the verge of accomplishing his dream of publishing a book.

Step 6: Make Meditation Your Drug

“Meditating, for even just 5 minutes a day, will change your life,“ Bufton says. Meditating every day helps him maintain inner peace in a busy, often stressful world. It has replaced the drugs he once turned to, which gave him a false sense of euphoria.

“Meditation allows me to show up in the world and be able to put my own issues on the sideline,” Bufton explains. “It allows me to be fully present with others in order to help them shift their perceptions and the stories they have been telling themselves. Without meditation, I’d be back in jail, in a psych ward or dead.”
Bufton turns to meditation when he feels himself getting overwhelmed with a hectic travel schedule and needs to calm his racing mind or reduce stress. “I’m not perfect, but when I sense myself having disproportionate responses to things I make sure to get some additional meditation time,” Bufton says.

Meditation could be the answer you’re seeking, but note that it takes practice and dedication to build this skill.

Tangible Takeaways

Here’s a recap of Bufton’s 6 steps. If you implement just one of these processes into your daily life, your time spent reading this will be worthwhile.

  • The story you’re telling yourself creates your reality. How can you shift your story to help you accomplish your dream?
  • Seek out a mentor. A good mentor will help you see things from a fresh perspective.
  • Write it down, talk it out or just think. Create a time to journal or think, and book it into your calendar now.
  • Micro shifts can create transformation in your life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but sometimes doing just one small thing every day can have a huge impact.
  • Meditation should become your drug of choice. YouTube has some amazing guided meditations to get yourself started. Headspace is a tremendous app, with millions of users. Create a reminder, and set aside just 5 minutes to meditate.

Remember: it’s your life to live, and you get to make the choice today.