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responsibility-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Take Responsibility For Your Life.

Amazing things will happen.

You’ve been eating and drinking the same way for years. Exercising (or not) the same way for years. Working the same way for years. Sleeping (or not) the same way for years. And for all that time — in your 20s and 30s — it’s worked for you. Worked in the sense that you could do it without serious repercussions. Until one day.

One day, you start to notice some changes. In your energy levels. In how you feel. In your stress levels. In how you look. In this moment, you have a choice.

Do you:
  Continue living as you have been for the last 20-odd years, and hope that its current impact on you will change?

Or

  Shrug your shoulders, and say to yourself: “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s my age.”

My guess is that your choices will be split 50/50 between these two. I say this, because it’s what I observe around me, day in, day out. I observe it especially amongst menopausal women. When I challenge their choice — after all, I’m a menopausal woman, too — many cite experts who say this is to be expected.

You’re telling me to accept my lot in life? One that has me feeling less energetic, being less healthy and more stressed, and looking less alive as I age?

I call time on that.

You see, there’s a third choice, one that very few people even see. It’s to take responsibility for your own life.

What taking responsibility looks like

Taking responsibility means no excuses, no denial. It means accepting exactly what’s before you, no matter how unpalatable that may be. And taking action to make some changes in your life.

I get why the denial and excuses options appeal to you so much. And why the taking-responsibility one is of so little appeal. You’re human, and humans are hot-wired not to like change. You view change as a threat, because it takes you into unfamiliar territory. Which your fear brain views in pretty much the same way as it views a sabre-toothed tiger in your garden.

But there’s another wonderfully human feature you can use, too. Your heart.

Your heart is your instinct. That little voice inside you that knows the truth. The little voice that knows it’s ludicrous to expect a different result from doing the same thing. The little voice that knows that hiding behind the opinions of others is burying your head in the sand.

It’s a great idea to put your heart in charge of taking responsibility for your life. Because, unlike your mind, which thinks it’s great at everything, your heart knows the truth. Your heart knows it’s great at seeing things for what they are, and making decisions. And how — and whom — to ask for help. Plus, unlike your mind, it doesn’t get derailed by fear. Your heart allows fear its full expression. This prevents it from making you stuck, and harnesses fear’s powerful energy. It then hands things over to your thinking brain.

Your heart made the right choice for you. Now it’s time for action. Specifically, for planning for action. And that’s your thinking brain’s sweet spot. It gets a boost from fear’s energy to get focussed. You find yourself able to see everything that needs doing to make the change(s) you need in your life. You know how the chunk the various elements into steps, and how to prioritize them.

Going forward, you’ll need both your heart and thinking brain. They act in tandem to keep your fear brain from blocking your progress. Because it will try, again and again. Remember, your fear brain likes the status quo. It doesn’t want you to go outside your comfort zone. And that’s precisely what taking responsibility for your life does. It pushes you way outside your comfort zone. As it must, because that’s where personal growth — the outcome of change — lives.

What happens when you take full responsibility for your life

When you choose responsibility over denial and excuses, your life blossoms. I’m not saying that everything becomes easy and all challenges disappear. Far from it. I’m saying your life blossoms, because you realize how powerful you are. Your ability to overcome challenges grows with every change you make. You become much more resilient to whatever life throws at you.

How do I know this? I’m living proof of it.

In my late 30s, I was going places. My career was hot, I was married, had lots of friends, owned my own home, took fancy holidays. I had everything you could want in life. Yet… I’d long felt as though something was missing. As though I was here for more than this. My work life was pretty typical of someone in senior management in the corporate world. I worked long hours (50–70 per week). I had a workload that was unmanageable. I was made to do things that went against my values. I had to tow the corporate line. I was stressed out all the time, and felt like a hamster in a wheel. I kept on making the same mistakes, and getting stuck in the same rut. I could help companies out of their ruts, but I couldn’t seem to break free from my own.

Until life as I knew it came crashing down on top of me. I, superwoman, developed an autoimmune disease that ground me to an abrupt halt.

When I stopped feeling sorry for myself for being so debilitated, I knew it was decision time. I could continue as I was, lurching from flare to flare, and medication to medication. Or I could find a new way of coping with the disease. I chose the latter. You see, when I closed my eyes and pictured myself in my 70s or 80s, I didn’t see a sick person. I saw a vibrant, happy and active older me. That was the only image of me I had. So I had to find a way to change my life to make that image a reality.

I knew my lifestyle — how I was living — was behind everything. And I knew I wasn’t looking for a quick fix. I was looking for a sustainable solution. One that needed all my hard-won business skills and an obsessive focus. I went through my life with a fine-toothed comb. How I did things. What happened as a result. Why I was doing them in the first place. I looked into how my lifestyle affected my body, my mind, my emotional state, my spiritual state. No aspect of my life escaped my scrutiny.

This didn’t happen overnight. I spent more than a decade testing everything. I broke habits, made new ones, broke those, made more new ones. It was a circular process, not a linear one.

By the end, I had made myself virtually bulletproof. Resilient to the max. And my life had blossomed. I was happier and more self-fulfilled than ever before.

Here’s the hard proof. Today, I’m 55. My metabolic age is 30. The autoimmune disease I developed in my late 30s is in full remission, and has been for years.

All because I chose to take responsibility for my life. My thoughts, my actions, my health, my fulfilment, and my happiness.

You see, I still have a LOT to do in my life. I have big dreams and even bigger plans.

Don’t you?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

fear-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How I learned to go forward boldly into the unknown

And channel fear’s powerful energy.

I’m 55. And I’ve just got braces.

Turns out, I need them. Without braces, there’s a healthy risk that my teeth will become unanchored. As in, they’ll get looser (yes, they already are a touch). As in, they’ll fall out.

It’s not my fault. I inherited my mum’s mega-deep bite and my dad’s super thin gums. As one of my specialists implied, this rich genetic heritage was an accident waiting to happen.

This makes me laugh, and think of my dear mum. She had a very dry sense of humour, and disliked discord. One of her favourite sayings to diffuse tense situations was: “I blame the parents. Every time.” It always made people laugh, coming, as it did, somewhat out of the blue and from an aged parent.

Besides the genetic misfortune going on in my mouth, there’s something else. I spent my teen years in the UK, a place renowned at the time for orthodontic neglect. Strike two to my parents…

But I digress. Fast forward to today, and the braces. Plus the associated dental and periodontal treatment required alongside these metal delights. One thing about all this dental excitement triggered fear in me. Not the braces themselves, despite the fact that they hurt. And get in the way of some of life’s more pleasurable pursuits.

It’s the cost.

I’m self-employed, and have no dental insurance. So it’s all on me. I have to earn about twice the cost in extra income to cover it. I know this is doable, but it still scares me. A lot. Yet, despite being scared, I moved forward with the treatment. I didn’t have to. I could have pretended my problem didn’t exist, or hoped that what three dentists have said isn’t true. I’m still scared about it all as I write.

Fear. It can make or break you.

Why fear can be a problem

Fear has a tendency to stop people dead in their tracks. And hold them there.

The stopping part isn’t an issue. It’s healthy to take a moment to feel the fear, and whatever emotions are arising with it. But the holding part is. This is where you get — and stay — stuck.

It’s not your fault you get stuck. I blame your parents. Every time. OK, so they share the blame with all your forebears. The truth is, your human brain is hot-wired to minimize threats in your vicinity. This causes you to spend your time scanning the world around you for threats. You do this unconsciously and non-stop.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between real, tangible threats, and imagined ones. Tangible, as in sabre-toothed tigers. Imagined, as in the ‘what ifs’ associated with change (“What if x happens?”, “What if a does b?”). Your brain interprets them in the same way, because, for you, the same thing is at risk each time.

Your safety and security is.

Your risk alarm is set off by the prospect of your becoming a sabre-toothed tiger’s Dish of the Day. And by the prospect of your having to make life changes. So you’ve adopted a no-risk policy in most of your decisions.

It’s this no-risk policy that keeps you stuck.

Fear itself isn’t the problem. Your response to it is.

Changing your response to fear

If you want to change your response to fear, you have to start by changing your understanding of risk. Then, by changing your understanding of change itself.

There’s a reason why your brain views change like it views a sabre-toothed tiger. Change represents the unfamiliar. And the unfamiliar doesn’t feel safe and secure, so it’s a threat.

Change doesn’t start off life as a threat. It starts as one of the choices present when you’re trying to reach a certain outcome. The different choices facing you are different ways of achieving this outcome. Each choice comes with its own level of risk. Some of the risk is real. Some is perceived.

Let me use a trip to the restaurant to illustrate this point. You’re going out to eat because you’re hungry. The outcome you desire is a full belly. The choices facing you are the items on the menu. Many people believe there’s a risk associated with ordering. “What if I don’t like it?”, they wail. But unless you have an unenviable list of food allergies, any risk is perceived. Actual risk only exists for people with food allergies.

Actual risk must come into the equation when you make a decision. Perceived risk has no place in decision-making.

Yet, here’s the kicker. Perceived risk is what’s behind most of your decisions. I say this, because much of the time you decide to do nothing rather than make changes. You choose doing nothing, because it feels better – safer – than the alternative. The alternative being the picture you’ve dreamed up from all the change-related ‘What ifs’ flying around your head. You choose to favour the imaginary over the real. The real being the actual risk you face from not making changes you know you need to make. In my braces example, the real risk is having my teeth fall out. The imaginary one is finding myself broke, unable to pay my bills.

Which brings me to the first thing you have to change. This tendency to favour perceived risk over actual risk.

Now, let’s get back to change itself. Specifically, to your very human view of change as a threat to your safety and security.

Change brings with it the unfamiliar, which you see as disruptive. More than the anticipated disruption, what you’re really reacting to is this. That change takes you outside your comfort zone. And you don’t like how that feels.

But, here’s the truth. Change isn’t a real threat. It’s an imaginary one, conjured up in your mind, because you don’t like being outside your comfort zone. This imaginary threat stops you in your tracks, which, as I said earlier, is OK. It’s what you do next that’s the important part.

Do you stay stuck in threat mode, and follow the path of least resistance?

Or do you overcome your resistance to being outside your comfort zone, and advance into the unknown?

If you choose to stay stuck — and this is a choice — one thing is guaranteed. You will not grow as a person.

If you choose to move forward into the unknown, you will open yourself up to personal growth. The further outside your comfort zone you go, the greater the growth.

“One can choose to go back towards safety or forward toward growth.” ~ Abraham Maslow

How to use fear to move forward

I learned about the duality of fear when I was very young. That fear could stop you in your tracks. And propel you forward.

Fear was a pretty common feature in my life. It stopped me in my tracks plenty of times, but I also found I was able to use it to propel me forward. It felt natural to me to do so. It was almost as though my survival instinct had come with personal growth factored in. As in “Get me the hell out of here, fast, and help me learn from the experience.”

Putting my physical self at risk was never part of my game plans. I always had a healthy respect for actual danger. But putting my emotional and mental self at risk? Game on!

Change became my vice. Changing where I lived, changing jobs, even changing my handwriting. If it wasn’t nailed down, I changed it. Over the years, I’ve changed things up in my life with such regularity that my loved ones live on high alert on my behalf. My actions seem to press their fear buttons more than they press mine. My loved ones have also gone through more address books than they’d like.

People around me say that it’s easy for me to change things, because I’m fearless. I’m not fearless. I get scared every time I move outside my comfort zone. Yet, I keep doing it.

Why do I keep moving outside my comfort zone?

Because I’ve done it enough times to know that outside my comfort zone is where the growth is. To know that any discomfort I feel is temporary. This, too, shall pass. Everything does, in the end.

How do I keep managing to move forward?

Whenever I feel the fear rising within me, I sit with it. I allow myself to feel it fully. Doing this is essential for two reasons. First, it lets me know that I’m doing the right thing. That I’m pursuing the path of greatest resistance, and greatest growth. Second, fear makes me feel very alive. And I channel this energy into action.

You see, when I’m scared, yet energized, I start planning. This is when I have my greatest focus. When I can see all that needs to happen to deliver the outcome I want. And it’s this planning that leads to successful action. Without planning, action becomes difficult, and outcomes fail to materialize.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over the course of my life, my success at achieving the outcomes I want has resulted from one thing. Never shying away from making whatever changes were needed. Going forward boldly into the unknown is my modus operandi. And will remain so for the rest of my days.

Will it become your MO, too?

Postscript to my mum

When I look at my dental bills and stress out, you know what I’ll be thinking…

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

fear-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to move past fear & into action in 8 steps

You wake up in the middle of the night in a flat panic. Fear is coursing through your veins, making everything seem threatening. “What ifs” are flying around your mind, vying for space with the “I’m f*ckeds”.

You’ve really done it this time – you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. What were you thinking? What’s going to happen when you fail? Who’s going to bail you out from this one? Your heart is beating the way it does after climbing five floors of stairs. You toss and turn some more, hoping this calms you down. It doesn’t.

You turn on the light – maybe this will chase away your fear. You pick up your book and start to read. You find yourself re-reading sentences endlessly, but you’re managing to distract yourself from your thoughts. Eventually, you fall asleep again for the few hours remaining before your alarm goes off. You wake up with a fear hangover that stays with you all day.

You just want the fear to go away. Is it too late to reverse that decision you made – the one that triggered the fear?

Even if it’s not too late to reverse that decision, it may not be the right thing to do. If you made your decision in a thoughtful way, based on some sound reasoning, then it was a good decision. If, however, you made it in a reactive way, with little thought behind it, then it was a bad decision – and it’s so easy to make decisions like this when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. So, if your decision was a bad one, reverse it; if it was a good one, stick with it!

The thing is, most of the best decisions you make are scary, terrifying even. That’s because they push you beyond your comfort zone to the next level – the place where growth happens. The bigger the potential for growth, the scarier the decision. I decided, in my 50s, to uproot myself completely THREE TIMES – moving first across the country, then half way across the world, and finally back. On my own. Over the course of four years. These moves were well thought through and the right thing to do – and helped me grow enormously. They were neither easy decisions to make OR take action on – and I was terrified by each one. I often felt fear coursing through my veins. But, with these and all other big decisions I’d made in my life, I didn’t let my fear stall me.

Instead, I stepped into my fear and used its energy to propel me forward.

How do you move into your fear and use its energy to move forward? Here are 8 steps you can take to help you do this.

  1. Acknowledge the fear. When you feel fear, allow yourself to sit with it. Feel it fully – feel its strength.
  2. Accept that you’re scared. Whilst feeling its strength, accept that you’re scared. I say to myself something like: “Well, Sarah, this IS a big one. I’m feeling scared by this decision. And that’s perfectly understandable and OK.”
  3. Commit to change. Fear dissipates when you accept it, leaving behind its energy. Now’s the time to commit to yourself that you’ll make the change – decide that you’re worth the effort required.
  4. Plan. Using this energy, start planning the detail of what you’ll need to do to make the change happen. Make sure you plan in enough steps – a lot of people fail to make changes, because each step is too big and overwhelming. Instead, make each step small enough to be achievable, yet big enough to have challenges that will sustain your interest.
  5. Take action. Do something EVERY DAY to take you closer to your desired change. Daily action gives you momentum and is totally doable if you’ve planned your steps well. If you find yourself unable to take daily action, go back and re-plan your change, breaking it down into even smaller pieces. Momentum is everything and is MUCH easier to keep going once it’s started, than to build it back up repeatedly.
  6. Celebrate your success along the way. Don’t wait until the end to celebrate, do it every time you complete a step. This will keep your spirits up and also contribute to your momentum.
  7. Review. At the end of each of the larger steps, have a look back at what you’ve done. Note what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. With this in mind, review your remaining steps and alter them, if required. You should also alter your plan if anything relevant about your situation changes. Nothing remains fixed, so it’s important to incorporate new information into your plan as it arises.
  8. Complete. Unless you have a VERY good reason not to (e.g. a substantial change in your situation), see your decision through to the end. After all, if it wasn’t worth seeing it through, you’d never have started it, would you? It’s amazing how good this will make you feel – because you’ve shown that you were worthy of ALL the effort.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. You can be stalled or even stopped by it. Or you can be fuelled by it.

The choice is yours.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-awareness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

7 tips to help you manage the holiday season

Let’s be honest.

You have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. You love-hate the partying, the abundance of food, the family time, the rush, the gifting, the music, the cheer, the lights, the traditions, the excessive consumption.

So you love-hate most things about it – except for the stress. You hate the stress.

I totally understand. I had a love-hate relationship with the holiday season myself – and it was more hate than love. It used to stress me out BIG TIME – so much so that by Christmas Day itself, I was almost out of good cheer. Sure, it was pretty complicated logistically – not surprising when your parents are divorced and you have to try to spend equal time with both parties. But that wasn’t all of it. Something just didn’t work for me. I continued to have this love-hate relationship with the holiday season until decades later – until I truly understood WHY. Why it bothered me so much when at its core was something I loved – sharing time with people I care about.

My ‘why’ was this. I found much of the holiday season inauthentic and forced. I also found that most of the original intention behind it – sharing time with loved ones – was lost. Lost in a fog of consumerism. And consumerism and inauthenticity go against my values.

Now I know this, the holiday season goes MUCH more smoothly for me. I avoid the bits I hate – I don’t play the consumerism game. I relish is the bits I love – I spend quality (i.e. unstressed) time with loved ones.

Here are my top tips for managing the holiday season.

  1. Get CLEAR on what you want from it. How much family time, how much partying, how much gifting, how much eating, how much tradition, etc.
  2. PLAN your time out so you spend it the way you want. If you don’t, you’ll end up spending your time the way others want you to spend it.
  3. Make sure you leave some ALONE time. You’ll need it to recharge yourself, even if you’re having a great time.
  4. Take a technology TIME OUT. Only check your messages, emails and social media a couple of times a day, turn OFF your phone and computer by 9 p.m. and don’t turn them on until after breakfast.
  5. Take FIVE when someone presses your button(s). Count to five and let it go – do NOT react, this only fuels the fire.
  6. Make PHYSICAL ACTIVITY a part of every day. Taking a 30-minute walk every day improves your mood – who can say no to that?
  7. Love MORE, fear LESS. Being grateful for what you have is a great way to foster love. Start a daily gratitude practice at the dinner table – get everyone to list three things they were grateful for that day.

This year, don’t use escapism – bingeing on food, drink, shopping, etc. – to distract you from the miserable time you’re having during the festive season. Take control of your feelings by being aware and preparing yourself throughly.

It will make your holiday season the best one yet.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

alive-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Feel more alive with these 8 top tips!

“Fatigue is one of the fastest-growing issues in the U.S. Not too surprising. In a culture that fetishises working as hard as possible, it’s easy to trade good sleep and home-cooked meals for 10-hour days fuelled by on-the-go, prepackaged junk.1 Almost 15 million Americans work full-time on evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts, or other irregular schedules, and about 19% of working adults clock in 48-hour or longer weeks; 7% work 60 hours or more.”*

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to feel alive when living like this – and this way of life is not unique to the US. As the article says, modern society has made a fetish of working as hard as possible and sleeping as little as possible. You may think that you’re super productive and that this level of stress benefits you in some way, but you’re wrong. You’re not and it doesn’t. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Your ability to think clearly and effectively is severely compromised by continuous stress, and far from energising you, a stressed lifestyle depletes you.

If you’re honest with yourself, you actually know this. That’s why you feel so much better after a couple of weeks of holiday – after you’ve recovered from the cold or ‘flu you got at the beginning, that is. And don’t your sleep issues miraculously disappear when you’re away from work for a few days?

So how do you go from existing on stress to living fully? Here’s how.

My eight pillars of a life worth living

  1. A clearly defined life vision. Without knowing where you’re going and why, it’s hard to start living the kind of life that makes you feel alive. To create your life vision, you need to go back to the basics of who you really are and why you’re here, removing all of your family and societal conditioning (it’s there, even if you can’t see it yet). Find out what your true beliefs, values, rules, personality and worldview are, and craft these, along with your dreams, into your life vision.
  2. A positive mindset. With this mindset, you are happy and in control of your life. You prioritize meaningful relationships, cope well with the challenges life throws at you, enjoy what you’re doing (because you know why you’re doing it), and spend your time in ways that are consistent with your life vision and goals.
  3. Regular exercise. There’s no denying the fact that regular exercise is good for you. It increases happiness and improves productivity. Try this as an aliveness booster: 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, ideally in nature, and 20 minutes of more vigorous exercise three times a week.
  4. Quality nutrition. You are what you eat – you really are. You can’t expect high quality performance from poor quality fuel. Quality nutrition is the best investment you can make in yourself and your family. For starters: eat chemical-free, unprocessed food; cut out all sugar and artificial sweeteners; watch your consumption of grains – many grains contain mould and other toxins that deplete your energy and promote brain fog; cut out ALL soft drinks, including diet ones; stay away from GMO products / products made with GMO ingredients – “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food (American Association of Emergency Medicine 2009),” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.[1]; drink lots of water. I’m a big fan of the Bulletproof Diet – the science behind it makes a lot of sense to me.
  5. Resilience. It’s important to be able to weather life’s storms when they arrive – and arrive they will. Greater resilience is a by-product of a positive mindset and a daily meditation practice is a key way to develop both. Find a type of meditation that works for you and start small – even two minutes a day makes a difference, so start there and gradually build up!
  6. Continuous learning. A bored mind leads to an unhappy person. Develop a lifelong passion for learning about things that interest you! Learn something new every day – it’s empowering and invigorating, because you’re doing something for yourself that truly engages you.
  7. Good sleep hygiene. You can’t expect to wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go if your sleep hygiene is poor. A good night’s sleep is essential, so you need to prime yourself for it. Start preparing for sleep a few hours ahead of time: turn off all LED lights – they reduce melatonin production and the regenerative and restoring capacities of your eyes; turn off all computers and smartphones (more blue lighting); relax; meditate; make sure your bedroom is cool and completely dark.
  8. A toxic-free lifestyle. Just as you are what you eat, you are also what you absorb via your other senses. Mainstream personal care products, make-up and household cleaning products contain many toxins, so do yourself a favour and buy the least toxic variants (i.e. those without ingredients you can’t pronounce). Better still, make your own, as I do. You also need to stay away from toxic people – those who are negative and bring everyone around them down – as their energy affects yours negatively.

There is nothing like waking up every day looking forward to the day ahead, and going to sleep at night grateful for the day you had. You can be this person – it just takes a 100% commitment to yourself to do whatever it takes. And now you know how to start.

* https://blog.bulletproof.com/fight-fatigue-with-these/

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

happiness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to use change to increase happiness in your life

You feel so ungrateful, so confused. After all, how could someone who has everything feel anything less than elated? Yet, that’s how you feel. Less than happy. Less than self-fulfilled. Less than clear about what you’re doing and why.

You ask yourself “Is this IT?”

All your life you’ve been working towards what you have today, but now you’re here, you don’t feel like you expected to. You expected to feel happy when you achieved your success goals – and you did, for a while. But then the happiness dissipated and you were left wondering what was next. What’s the next success goal you’re supposed to have to make you happy?

While you figure this out, you’re just going through the motions, day in, day out. You’ve been in that mode for a while. It’s not that bad – your life isn’t that bad. But it’s not that great, either. Maybe people like you aren’t supposed to have great lives – most people don’t, do they? As long as you have a roof over your head, food to eat, an income and loving people in your life, that’s enough, isn’t it?

No, it’s not. If it were enough, you wouldn’t be wondering if this is it.

You’re right, there’s nothing wrong with your life. But it could be so much more! You are a human being and humans who have their basic requirements met need more. They need to feel self-fulfilled and to have a strong sense of purpose in their lives – Maslow’s 1943 Theory of Human Motivation was all about this.

You need to feel self-fulfilled and to have a strong sense of purpose in your life. Without this, you will always wonder: “Is this IT?”

When you’ve spent your life pursuing certain success goals, chances are that you’ve lost some of what makes you uniquely you along the way. Those goals depended on your meeting certain standards – being a certain person, behaving in a certain way – and that inevitably meant that you stopped being fully yourself.

How can you be yourself if you’re expected to be a person who meets a certain external standard?

It’s the loss of those parts of the real you that you’re feeling. Not being fully yourself is making you feel less than happy, less than self-fulfilled. 

If you want to do more than merely exist, if you want to thrive and be happy and self-fulfilled, then you need to stop looking for external answers. You need to stop waiting for something to change and start changing yourself. Yet, you resist change, because change feels scary, like a threat to your security. Besides, it would be too unsettling to change anything now – change is so disruptive.

Exactly. Change is disruptive. Change is innovative and ground-breaking. Change is THIS version of disruptive.

Trouble is, you only see change as the other version of disruptive – change as a threat. So you’re afraid of making changes in your life. And that’s not surprising, given that your human brain is wired to hate change, to view it as a potential threat to your security.

But change isn’t the real threat.

Doing nothing is the real threat. Because doing nothing threatens your happiness and self-fulfilment.

So do something!  Choose happiness and self-fulfilment and use change to help you get there.

Take the first step towards a life that is meaningful and makes you feel fully alive.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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8 secrets of happy people

You weren’t born happy – that’s just how you are. Some people are born happy, but not you. Sure, you have your happy moments, typically when you get something you want, but they’re fleeting and pretty rare. It’s not like you’re really unhappy, either. You’re kind of between the two – you cycle between happy and unhappy – but spend more time in the unhappy zone.

Because you’re made like this, you’re powerless to act in any other way than the one you’re programmed with. You have little control over what goes on in your life – when things are going well, you’re lucky, when they’re not, you’re unlucky. You’re like flotsam and jetsam in the ocean – at the mercy of the forces around you. That’s what you believe, anyway.

And you couldn’t be more wrong.

It’s not that you’re choosing to be unhappy – who would? Especially when unhappy people:

  • are routinely stressed, which limits their ability to be efficient and effective and compromises their relationships
  • have a scarcity mindset – they never have enough, always want more
  • are less healthy and, if they’re also skeptics, are three times more likely to develop senile cognitive dementia than optimists
  • are emotionally flat, because they believe they need a reason to feel something

It’s that you’re NOT choosing to be happy.

You control how happy you are. You can decide to accept that this is true and do something about your level of happiness. Or you can decide to deny it and remain stuck in your unhappiness. Yes, happiness is a choice.

Happy people know this. They deliberately act in ways that enhance their happiness – and this is a very wise thing to do. Happy people:

  • are 31% more productive
  • are 300% more creative
  • earn more money for themselves and others they manage
  • manage stress better – i.e. they’re more resilient in the face of challenges
  • are healthier – happiness is as good for longevity and health as giving up smoking
  • have stronger immune systems
  • have better relationships – and these, in turn, enhance your physical and mental health
  • spread happiness to others – emotionally & physically ( via energy transference)

Surprisingly few people describe themselves as “very happy” – only 31% of people in the US do, according to a 2016 Harris Poll, down from 35% last year. It’s surprising, because you can create your own happiness.

Happiness is a habit, not an outcome. By practicing certain activities daily, you can create happiness-inducing habits.

Here are eight practices that are scientifically proven to re-wire your brain to be happier.

  1. Exercise three times at week – 20 minutes of cardio training.
  2. Express your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones – each person sharing his / her three things.
  3. Perform a daily random act of kindness / generosity. This can be writing emails to colleagues praising something they did, or paying something forward, or helping pick up things someone’s dropped, or giving a bigger tip after a meal.
  4. Relive a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this – you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  5. Practice forgiveness – of yourself and others – for past wrong-doings. When you hold onto grudges, your nervous system gets unconsciously triggered into stress mode EVERY TIME it recognises something familiar from a past grudge. That’s right, your stress response is triggered in the present by something that happened in your past.
  6. Strengthen your social connections. In all research, this is shown to be the single most important contributor to happiness. You may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one as being stressed out isn’t conducive to building strong relationships.
  7. Meditate daily. This practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases your alpha waves and physically changes your brain to give you more control over your response to stressful situations.
  8. Live a meaningful life. Have a life vision that reflects who you truly are and what you’re here to do and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

Choose happiness! It’ll be a decision you NEVER regret.

 

Sources: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor; Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert; Dave Asprey Science of Happiness video.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Hey, your life is waiting!

You think things are pretty good. Your life is pretty good. Your work is pretty good. Your relationships are pretty good. You know where you’re at and what’s going on. In fact you know this so well, that you hardly have to think about it any longer. Day in, day out, you go through the motions, doing what needs to be done, saying what needs to be said, thinking what needs to be thought, feeling what needs to be felt, seeing what needs to be seen.

You do what’s expected of you. You’ve always done what’s expected of you, that’s your way. You’d rather fit in than stand out. You’d rather do things for others than do things for yourself. You’d rather admire others than admire yourself. People know what to expect from you – your behaviour, your beliefs, your values, your rules – and they like this about you. Your life is predictable – everything that’s within your control is, anyway.

From the outside, your life looks great. You’ve got it all – the job, the home, the car, the relationship, the family. You’re the archetypical success story!! From the inside, your life looks good enough. But is ‘good enough’ good enough?

If you’re living a life that’s good enough, you’re existing, not living. When you’re existing, you’ve limited yourself – it’s as if you’ve created a box for yourself and live inside that. It can be perfectly OK inside your box, but you’re playing it small in there. You’re not living to your full potential. You started living in your box the minute you started wanting to fit in. And you started wanting to fit in when being yourself – your true self – was rejected in some way. Fitting in meant you had to become the person others wanted you to be – the person who does what’s expected, who has a predictable life.

You’re not meant to have a predictable life. Machines are meant to be predictable. Humans are not. Humans are wonderfully unpredictable – that’s our essence. You’re not meant to have a predictable life. You’re meant to have a wonderfully unpredictable one.

Having a wonderfully unpredictable life doesn’t mean it’s completely chaotic. It’s actually the opposite. When you decide to stop existing and start living, your life is on your terms. This means that you have to establish what your terms are. Once you have your own terms for living anchoring you, there is nothing you can’t do.

So, how do you go from merely existing to living fully? You grab your life with both hands and redesign it, that’s how!! Here are nine steps to help you do just that.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that right now all you’re doing is existing. You cannot make changes in your life if you don’t acknowledge and accept that something is wrong. The impetus to change comes from knowing that the way things are now isn’t right.
  2. Give yourself permission to put yourself first and do this work. You’re not used to doing this, you’ve been putting others first forever. Now it’s YOUR TIME.
  3. Get clarity on yourself and your life. Discover who you are and why you’re here (this post can help). Discover what you believe in, what your values are and what your personal rules are. Then create your life vision. It’s much easier to do this with the end in mind, asking yourself how you want to have lived your life by the time you die. So write your obituary of your well-lived life – that’s your life vision.
  4. Get passionate about your true self and your life vision. You’re going to need to generate some serious energy and excitement about these to get you started on your new path. And energy and excitement haven’t been in demand in your life for a while, so here’s how you can generate it. Close your eyes and picture your new, meaningful life. Picture yourself living to the max – feel the excitement and energy rising in you and boost it even higher with your mind. Sit with this energy for a couple of minutes and allow it to fill you up. Repeat this exercise every time you need an energy boost.
  5. Summon up your courage – you’re going to need it. Living life to the max will have its scary moments – they’re how you know you’re really going for it. Before you say you’re not courageous, that you were born without the courage gene, stop. You are – everyone is. You just have to summon it up by tapping into how passionate you are about your true self and your life vision. Are you really going to let ANYTHING get between you and that wonderful life? It’s natural to feel scared when you’re doing something you’ve never done before. But don’t get paralysed into inaction by that fear. Use your passion energy to keep you moving forward, to move past what scares you. Summon up your courage.
  6. Plan how you’re going to move forward towards your life vision. You know where you’re going, now you need to know how you’re going to get there. Plan out your action in MANAGEABLE chunks. Each step should be challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so challenging that you can’t achieve it. If you fail at any of your steps, it will kill your momentum – and you need this to keep you on your path.
  7. Act on your plan. All the vision and planning in the world isn’t going to get you living your new, meaningful life – only action is. JUST DO IT!!!
  8. Hold yourself accountable. In order to keep moving forward, you need to inspire yourself to do so – it’s human nature to get distracted from what we’re doing and start something else. By holding yourself accountable, you’ll keep connected to your vision and your plans. Here are a couple of tactics to help you with that, both are courtesy of world-renowned high performance coach, Brendon Burchard. For the first one, take your vision and break it down into three questions that, when asked, will keep you true to your vision. Ask yourself these three questions at the end of every day. My three, based on MY vision, are: 1) Did I live fully today? 2) Did I love fearlessly today? 3) Did I make a difference in someone’s life today? For the second tactic, take your values and choose the three words that best reflect who you are and how you want to live. Create a reminder on your phone so that these three words flash at you three times every day. I’ve created three repeating calendar entries for mine. Using these two tactics to check in with yourself daily will help keep you accountable and moving forward.
  9. Celebrate your successes as you go along. Don’t wait till the end – celebrating each success as it happens keeps your momentum going. I high-five myself every time I finish a step – this both entertains and energizes me. Find what works for you!

If you take all of these steps, you’ll understand something important. That you’re responsible for your own happiness and life. No one else can make you happy, or your life, fulfilled. Only YOU can do that.

So grab your life with both hands and don’t keep it waiting for a moment longer.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Learn how you can stop playing it small – and become limitless

I know you. You play it small. You limit yourself in some way.

You limit how high you climb at work. You limit your personality. You limit the kind of work you do. You limit your love life. You limit your influence. You limit your visibility.

You don’t do it consciously – it’s the result of something else. Of not wanting to be different. You limit yourself because you don’t want to be different.

In other words, you play it small because you want to fit in.

This behaviour often started as a child, because being different wasn’t encouraged or even welcome. If being yourself – i.e. different – wasn’t welcome, how did you feel? You felt afraid and ashamed of who you were. So what did you do? You decided to be the person you needed to be to fit in. And this meant you stopped being yourself.

When you stopped being yourself, you felt good… at first. What a relief it was to fit in! You quickly learned who you needed to be in all sorts of different situations – as if you were an actor in a play. Which is exactly what you were. Except that you were never off-stage. You could never be yourself. You became absorbed with playing your roles – often The Perfectionist and The Good Person – and became so adept at them that you forgot your main role. Being you.

You were so busy playing roles for other people that you lost yourself completely.

You cannot be self-confident or have self-worth when you’re not being yourself. Which is why you play it small. You don’t have the courage of your convictions – they’re probably not YOUR convictions, anyway. So you stay under the radar and play it small.

I know you. Because that was me, too.

It’s scary when you stop playing it small. You feel exposed, naked even, and ungrounded. The foundations on which you built your life – being afraid and ashamed of who you were – have crumbled, and it takes a little while to rebuild your new ones. Your new foundations are very different. They’re based on your full ownership of and pride in who you truly are. Not that ego-based pride of being better than others. That real pride of being happy and satisfied with who YOU are. Your new foundations make you glow from the inside out, they make you feel safe, secure, limitless. And enough.

When you stop playing it small, you are enough.

Here’s how I stopped playing it small.

  • Acknowledge that you have a void inside. Notice and accept your void. If you don’t, you’ll continue to feed it until it gets so huge you can’t ignore it any longer. It’s much harder to fill a huge void than a regular one (I know, I had to).
  • Decide to stop pretending to be someone else. Take a stand to be yourself. It won’t happen all at once, but you’ll start to notice when you’re really not being yourself – this will help you catch it sooner the next time.
  • Start getting back in touch with your feelings. The only way to be someone else successfully is to squelch your own feelings. A good way to reacquaint yourself with them is to write a feelings journal every day. Don’t censor or edit, just let out whatever wants to come out.
  • Understand who you really are. Dig deep into what’s important to you (things like values, causes), what you love doing (go back to before you were 8, when you were still you) and what you’re truly good at (your natural skills and abilities).
  • Stop beating yourself up. Learn to manage your inner critics – those voices in your head that tell you you’re not enough.
  • Find your voice. Describe yourself – the REAL you – in a few sentences. Who are you? What do you do?
  • Learn how to manage whatever life throws at you (even rejection). Turn the key life truths (acceptance, letting go, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion) into daily habits.
  • Learn how to save yourself (because no one else is going to). Understand what it takes to put your own health and well-being first, and do it. You cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first.
  • Create your own roadmap for your life. If you’re not following your own roadmap, you’re following someone else’s. Make sure it takes the WHOLE you into account – who you are, your dreams, your desires.
  • Take action. Dreams are great, but they remain just dreams until you take action. How you spend every minute of your time should reflect what’s on your personal roadmap.

What’s the opposite of playing it small? Living large.

I’m living large. Will you join me?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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6 actions that will change your life forever

If you’re like I am, you’ve spent a lot of your life in pursuit of this elusive state of being.

Feeling good about yourself.

Your pursuit has led you far and wide. You’ve read every self-help book going. You’ve owned the perfect home. You’ve done therapy. You’ve gone to meditation retreats. You’ve had your astrological chart done. You’ve hired a personal trainer. You’ve talked to mediums.

You name it, you’ve done it.

And, after all that, you still feel less than great about yourself. Any feel-good moments you encountered along the way were pretty fleeting.

This leaves you feeling deflated, even depressed. You’ve tried everything and nothing works.

Is This It?

No! Feeling good about yourself is just around the corner.

You were on the right track. The answers you were seeking do lie within some of what you tried. But, here’s the thing.

Merely experiencing these things doesn’t create lasting change.

What creates lasting change is action. A daily practice that incorporates all of the life truths you’ve learned.

You need to create new habits that are based on these life truths.

Here are six life truth habits that will help you feel good about yourself if you practice them daily.

  1. Get clear on your values and live your life according to them. If you have some firm guiding principles – and they’re essential if you’re to feel truly whole – they must operate in ALL aspects of your life. e.g. One of the things that drove me out of the corporate world was being told to treat people in ways that went completely against my values of kindness and compassion. e.g. When I’m shopping for anything, I find out everything I can before buying it so I know that the item has been ethically manufactured, has a minimal environmental footprint, etc.
  2. Be compassionate towards yourself and others. To me, being compassionate means being kind, understanding and forgiving. In a world that is becoming increasingly hard and critical, there is a real need for kindness, understanding and forgiveness. You cannot be truly compassionate to others if you’re not compassionate to yourself first. So give yourself a break – treat yourself with kindness, understanding and forgiveness. And then pass it on.
  3. Stop judging yourself and others. When you judge yourself or someone else, you are engaging in toxic behaviour. It’s damaging and exhausting. As a recovering judger myself, I understand how difficult it is to break this habit. What works for me – and has made my life so much more joyful – is to try to understand any difference I encounter and even celebrate it. e.g. When I see a garden full of gnomes, I note that, whilst they’re not my thing, it’s wonderful how much pleasure the owners must get from them.
  4. Question everything and stop making assumptions. It’s human nature to fill any void with something, and usually the first something that comes to mind is an assumption. Assumptions are ALWAYS wrong, and are at the root of most disagreement and conflict. If something isn’t clear, ask questions instead filling the void with assumptions. Ask as many questions as you need to get clarity, and don’t worry about looking stupid. Making assumptions is the best way I know to look stupid, as it turns you into a sheep – someone who unquestioningly follows the views, gossip or doctrines of others.
  5. Express gratitude freely and daily. Even at your lowest, when it feels like everything in your life is going wrong, there are things you should be grateful for. For me, it’s the amazing people in my life, the healthy food I’m able to eat, that I have a roof over my head, that I’m able to spend time in nature. Expressing gratitude helps balance you out and brings you away from the precipice. And gratitude begets gratitude – the more you’re grateful for, the more you’ll have to be grateful about.
  6. Ask for and give help. If you’re the sort of person who finds it easy to help others, you’re probably also someone who finds it hard to accept help from others. You may view the need for help as a weakness, a sign that you’re not capable. It’s not. It’s actually a sign of generosity – that you’re willing to give others that same wonderful feeling you get from helping.

When you start to create daily habits that reflect how you want to live, you’ll start to feel better about yourself. You are in control of how you feel, so take control and design a life that feels good.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).