As we move through life, it is natural to change and evolve. We will feel that change needs to take place when the way we navigated life isn’t working in our favor anymore. Changes can be abrupt and unexpected or subtle and predictable.
Our natural reaction may be to resist these changes and fight to preserve the consistency of who we know ourselves to be, as long as we can. This is who we are as humans. We like predictability because it gives us a sense of control. But resistance can cause more suffering, grief, frustration, anxiety, and panic, than the change itself. Simply tweaking a few things can work miracles, and before we know it, we feel skilled navigating this new season that wanted to unfold.
At other times, we are required to undergo a major shift in life: learn new skills, challenge old beliefs, and embrace new behaviors. How do you know if a change is knocking on your door?
Pay attention to: when things that once brought you joy don’t do so anymore, when activities you engage in don’t feel adventurous anymore, when you wake up every day dreading the day ahead, when relationships don’t feel fulfilling and supportive anymore, when you are dragging yourself through the day from one thing to the next, when there is something you keep dreaming about and wanting, but can’t make yourself do it.
You don’t need to have all the answers.
Welcoming change is not a final destination. It’s continuous learning, trial and error, letting go of the old, falling and getting up again, not having all the answers, and oftentimes just having a blind faith that the best is yet to come!
Making decisions is one of the most important things that attributes to us feeling as a creator of our life. Even though a lot of us are not aware of it (mainly because we do it subconsciously and on autopilot) we make many decisions throughout the day. Many of these decisions do not feel empowering. The reason for that is that they don’t help us get to where we want to be, they don’t help us create experiences that feel joyful, and they don’t bring us close to our goals and desires. More often, the opposite is true – they make us feel us stuck, powerless, and lead us to recreating more of what we don’t want.
One decision is all it takes to get out of the rut, start creating momentum, and change the dynamics of what is currently not working. Anyone can start making better decisions. Ones that will make us the creator of our circumstances rather than a victim of them and ones that will bring us closer to our goals and towards embodying the person we want to be.
Traps to Watch Out For:
1. Swimming in Futile Questions
Notice whether you’re asking yourself questions that can’t possibly be answered in the present. For example:
-Will it be worth it?
-What should I do?
-What’s the right decision?
-Will it turn out the way I want?
These kinds of questions at first may seem like they are productive, but they are not. They will keep you spinning in circles, they lead to nowhere, and will take up a substantial amount of energy and time. Swimming in useless questions will create thoughts and feelings of overwhelm, worry, fear, and powerlessness, and will not give you any answers because they are not designed to bring you answers.
2. Being Attached to the Outcome
When making decisions, we are wanting a specific outcome. But when we are overly attached to the outcome, there is a tendency to overanalyze all the options and become paralyzed in non-decision. Many times it is not because we simply want a specific outcome but because we feel like we NEED it. Needing something (attachment to the outcome) happens when we identify our worth as a person with an external accomplishment - we make the result mean something about who we are as people. We turn our result into supporting evidence for a general statement about ourselves. For example, “I need this to happen, because if it doesn’t, it will mean I am not capable,” versus “I would love for this to happen, but regardless of the result, it has nothing to do with who I am as a person.”
Better Questions to Ask Yourself:
-Does this decision support my best self?
-If I could be happy regardless of my decision, what would I choose?
3. Focusing on Certainty Instead of Probability
No matter how logical and sensible you are in your decision making, no one can guarantee you a certain outcome. And while there is no certainty of an outcome, there is a high probability of what might happen. For example, if you decide to invest in yourself by going back to school because you want a better job, no one can guarantee you will actually get a better job, but there is a high probability that you will have more opportunities then if you don’t take any action.
Better Question to Ask Yourself:
-If I chose this, what might be the best case scenario in a year, two, three?
-What’s the best case scenario if I don’t make a decision?
-What decision might I regret not making?
4. Labeling an Undesirable Outcome as a Mistake
Any outcome is simply information. If things don’t turn out the way you hoped or you keep getting stuck over and over on the same thing, this is an invitation to evaluate what needs to be changed. Oftentimes, what we label as a mistake, leads us towards something else, many times, towards something better.
Better Questions to Ask Yourself:
-What would I choose if I’m not scared of making a mistake?
-What would a person who love themselves do?
5. Urgency to Decide
This happens when we are scared to fail, so we make decisions wanting not to fail versus to succeed, which leads to attempts to minimize the risk and make a “safe” decision. By asking yourself what is the intention behind your decision, you can notice whether it is coming from a place of fear versus authenticity. Mind you, there is nothing wrong in making the “safe” decision, because as long as you are consciously choosing it, it is an authentic decision.
Better Question to Ask Yourself:
-Will this decision help me become more of myself?
-If I was the person I long to be (courageous, authentic, compassionate, ambitious, peaceful, etc.) what would I do?
-Is this decision coming from a place of fear or authenticity?
Keep in mind that these questions don’t need to be utilized only when faced with big, lifechanging decisions. They are perfect for tackling daily decisions. The more you practice asking yourself why are you doing what you’re doing, the more you are practicing conscious, authentic living that’s based in the present. Notice if you get into any of these traps and challenge yourself to come up with your own “better” questions.
On any given day, there are so many different things to think about and manage, that it is easy to slip into stress, overwhelm, and mindlessness. In this state, it’s all about getting through and reacting instead of having a sense of ownership and deciding what needs to happen next. So, if you tried stressing about everything you do and don’t do, and it still didn’t solve your problems or made you more present to your life, here are a few things you can incorporate immediately to approach things in your life with more focus, clarity, and ease.
Setting an intention for the day ahead is one of the best things anyone can do to feel more like a participant in one’s life instead of bystander. If you are not setting intention in your life, you are guided by your automatic behaviors instead of purposefully creating the very thing you want for yourself. If despite your best efforts you keep doing things you don’t really want to be doing, or you know you are bringing yourself further away from your optimal life, it’s a sign you are pulled by automatic behaviors that keep you stuck.
Where to start?
Start with taking a few mindful minutes or as much time as you can, to intentionally think of how you want to show up in your life that day (calm, present, compassionate, curious, loving, etc.). Imagine what it would feel like if you showed up that way and what would be different.
Throughout the day you can connect with your intention and check in with yourself: Am I honoring my intention by doing what I’m doing right now and by focusing on what I’m focused on now? If the answer is “yes” – What allowed me to show up exactly how I intended to? If “no” - How can I bring myself back to my intention?
2.Spending Time Alone
Not being distracted by busyness, outside influences, or time consuming yet non-productive activities is one of the best ways to get to know oneself. If you are constantly focused on something outside of yourself, you can’t hear what is happening in your inner world and connect to what matters to you. If you haven’t practiced being alone and connected to yourself, your inclination might be to dismiss this practice as boring and futile, but this space is where you can hear yourself. If you struggle to be with yourself alone, that too is information you can use to practice curiosity and ask yourself, “why is that?”
Where to start?
Start with carving out/scheduling a specific time of the day. Notice: thoughts that are coming up, feelings that might be arising, sensations, images, and memories. If there is an area of your life in which you need clarity, a solution, or there is something you’re struggling with, you can form a question and keep coming back to it when you notice your mind wandering. Remember to not interpret or judge your experience. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so if you’re taking the time to sit with yourself and give yourself the gift of connection, you are doing it right!
Being aware of your thoughts is a skill that leads to increased self-awareness and feeling more in control of our actions as our thoughts are driving what we do. Repeated thoughts over time become deeply engrained beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world. When you’re not aware of your thoughts, you still act on them, just without knowing. When you can become aware of your thoughts and observe them, you have more of a choice whether or not to follow them. You gain awareness that you are simply the observer of your thoughts, and whether you believe them or not, is up to you.
Where to start?
Throughout the day, notice when you have a strong emotional reaction to someone or something, or when you are struggling with something or someone. Slow down and see if you can detect the feeling underneath your reaction. Then proceed with a self-inquiry: What are the thoughts I’m having about this? What am I telling myself about this? How am I interpreting this situation? What am I making this mean? The most powerful way to do this self-inquiry is to write it down. Just keep writing everything that you are thinking until you cannot generate any specific thoughts. After you write it down, ask yourself whether what you are thinking is a fact or just an opinion/belief you established over the course of your life.
4.Nurturing Our Bodies
Taking care of our mind cannot be complete without extending the same care to our physical bodies. Oftentimes we tend to make things so complicated for ourself that we convince ourselves that being kind to our bodies has to be difficult and torturous. Many see that there are two ways when it comes to eating healthy and exercising - overindulgence or deprivation. But taking care of our physical health (the portion you CAN control) can be as simple as doing our best most of the time, not 100% of the time.
Where to start?
How are you supporting your health? Where can you make a better choice? What is getting in the way of you making a better choice? In what way is this behavior serving me?
Is this a choice I am making, an automatic reaction/response, or is it behavior I learned in the past? How is it serving me?
You can choose whether a break is a waste of time or time to refuel. Taking a mindful break is not self-indulgent. It is of utmost importance for your mental and physical health. When we don’t listen to our natural signals that it’s time for a break, we risk burnout, depletion, resentment, dissatisfaction, and an overall subpar quality of life. Many people, without thinking too much about it, mistake productivity with busyness, yet these two are very different. When you are intentional and aware of how you spend your time, you can account for your 24 hours, and naturally you will incorporate things that matter to you. When you go through the day not knowing what it is that you want to accomplish, you are more likely to waste time on things that fill the time, adding nothing to the quality of your life.
Where to start?
When you create intention and structure your day around it, you will inevitable have time for a break, because you will not be mindlessly being pulled from one thing to another. Approach breaks as a reset between activities. Know what it is that would give you a rest, and purposefully take ownership over what you want to focus on next. Notice when your energy/creativity tend to wane and see if you can structure your breaks around it. Be specific with how long you will take a break for and how you will relax. You must find what works for you. If funny animal videos relax you, do that, but decide intentionally that you are doing it to relax instead of mindlessly scrolling on social media.
What would you add to this list?
What is your must-do daily routine or something you believe is the key ingredient for an optimal lifestyle?
What are your daily must-dos that keep you energized, present, and fulfilled?
People around us are not always the most reliable source of support and insight. They might not understand our needs for change, they might know how to support us, or they might not even want to support change. At times, in attempts to appease their own discomfort they enable our (and likely their own) harmful behaviors & ways of being.
Implementing any new behaviors and experience is already challenging, but when those around you interfere in your progress because they are benefiting from your complacency, it can be much more difficult to be consistent and patient with yourself in the process.
Ways in which others show resistance.
People around you might resist the change by trying to discourage you, giving you ultimatums, being unsupportive, minimizing your desire for change and your efforts, convincing you how unnecessary change is, making fun of you, calling you selfish, trying to guilt you, making rude/insensitive comments, continuing to remark that the ‘old you’ was somehow better.
All of those things can add a layer of barrier to change, create self-doubt and shame, and then drive you to choose the same, familiar, and the known - even if it’s hurting you. But, if you find yourself waiting for other people’s permission to change your life and put yourself first, just know that you might wait forever.
You have to take care of you.
Remember that you are living your life and your life only. No matter how much we may want others to get onboard and be an endless source of support, our healing and change is always in our own hands. And while it is wonderful to have encouragement and accountability from others (and makes one’s life easier) it is not their responsibility to do anything for us. It is our responsibility to turn our desires into actions. It is our responsibility to create the desired change. It is in our power to give ourselves permission to pursue the life we long for. Others have power over us only when we let them, when we believe their words, and when we keep participating in dynamics that are hurtful to us.
What to do?
You might have to have a difficult conversation (if possible) and be curious about their resistance. You might have to distance yourself, create firmer boundaries, be assertive, seek unbiased support (therapist or a coach), or create a sustainable plan that won’t rely on their support. Be open minded without giving yourself up and losing sight of your desire to heal and grow. Be honest with yourself and always choose what is best for your wellbeing.