What’s Your Absolute Value?

Remember Absolute Value from math class? The absolute value is a number’s distance from zero:

coolmath absolute value
via www.coolmath.com

In this example, -3 and 3 both have an absolute value of 3, because they are both 3 away from 0.

When applied to our lives in terms of our emotions, thoughts and actions, we can see how far from center we’ve traveled.

The goal is to understand what zero feels like, so that you are aware of deviations from center.

On the positive side of the number line are the things that boost our mood, get us a little high, or really high, and stroke our ego.

And it’s not just the over-the-counter or from-a-guy-I-know drugs that get us high. The high could be a hug from a crush, a job promotion, a new Netflix series released, a weekend beach getaway, an Amazon Prime delivery arriving at the door, new insights gained from binge watching Spirt Science, or someone liking your latest selfie.

At the highest end of the spectrum, at 3+, you might find a coked-out, ego-maniacal goon who loves gloating about his achievements. His motto is, “I’m too good.”

I’m not good enough

On the negative side of the number line is where hangovers, pain, loss and heartache live.

You get dumped, fired or forgotten. You’re depressed and confused about your direction in life. Will I ever find love again? I’m too old to find another job! Where do I even begin?

This is the realm of complaining, crying, and comiserating.

It’s where you think, “I’m not good enough.”

Both “I’m too good” and “I’m not good enough” swiftly pass through the same number: Zero.

The Liminal Space

Zero is uncomfortable, scary and uncertain. It is nothing. And it is everything. You can’t divide by it and if you try to multiply it you return to it. It’s a place where nothing seems possible, but everything is held together by it.

Some call this place of zero the Liminal Space. A Franciscan Friar named Richard Rohr said about the Liminal Space:

“It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.”

It is the place just outside zero, whether you are arriving from the top of a mountain, or from the bottom of a sea.


What areas of your life are repeatedly leading you to the same, unfulfilling story?

What is pulling you into either side of the number line, and causing you to travel wildly from side to side?

Once you have an idea of what these forces that are pulling or pushing you away from zero are, list them. Next, eliminate from or add to your life the habits that return you to zero. Try living your list for  30 days and see what happens.

Here’s what my list looks like:
-Television (this includes Netflix, and Youtube smarty pants)

+Read 15 minutes a day
+Keep a dream journal
+Within 30 minutes of waking up, drink 30 oz of water, and do 30 pushups

Non-Negotiable Habits
+Meditate for at least 10 minutes per day
+Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Find three things you’re grateful for before getting out of bed.
+Say “Thank you” to yourself the moment you awaken.

To help keep you in line, get an accountability partner. Show them your list and enforce it.

What’s your list looking like? What other additions, or subtractions have you tried? Have any of these worked for you?

Leave a Reply