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Why the World Needs Happy Men

And 10 steps to start becoming that man

I love men. Especially happy men. But there aren’t many of those around.

It’s not your fault, men. Society has made you what you are today. It has made you wear masks that hide the real you. The sweet you. The gentle you. The vulnerable you. The soft under-bellied you.

The happy you.

Society decided a long time ago that men needed to appear hard, uncaring, and even ruthless in order to be successful. Showing feelings was seen as a sign of extreme weakness. So you had to repress those feelings of yours. In public. Even at home.

You can repress feelings for a while, but not forever. You eventually run out of space to hide them, and then they start to come out. On their own terms, and in their own time. And it’s never pretty when they do come out because they’re beyond your control. They come blurting out, fast and furious, when you least expect it. They’re typically directed at someone you know will take it. That usually means a loved one, and one who doesn’t deserve it. Which makes you feel bad, and angry at yourself. You manage to control those feelings of hurt and anger, but don’t express them. You do what you normally do. Sweep them under the rug of repression. And the space freed up by your last outburst soon gets filled up again.

My heart goes out to you. You’re stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. And you deserve to be happy. But right now, you’re not. You’re an unhappy man.

How do I know this? Because I’ve spent my 56 years of life surrounded by unhappy men. At home, at work, at play. I can see your pain. I’ve been on the receiving end of your pain. And it’s not been fun. For you, or for me. These men are my template for what an unhappy man looks like.

I also know this because I’m now with a happy man. A truly happy man. And the difference is astounding — for him and for me. This man is my template for what a happy man looks like.

Life as an unhappy man

An unhappy man is an angry man. You’re not allowed to be yourself, to feel what you feel or say what you want to say. This makes you frustrated and angry. This anger lives close to the surface, bubbling out every now and then when you can’t take any more.

You’re a stressed out man. So much is demanded of you. Meeting the expectations of the labels you wear is exhausting — provider, employee, father, husband, son, brother. Work is so unfulfilling. The version of yourself you have to be at work bears no relation to who you are. And keeping up this facade is a full-time job in itself.

You’re a man of many masks. One to match every label you wear. Sometimes, you wear the wrong mask. That’s hardly surprising, it’s so hard to keep up with all those versions of you. The only good thing about the masks is that they cover the way you’re really feeling.

You’re a wounded man. Not being allowed to be yourself sends you a message loud and clear. That you’re not good enough as you are. Every time you’ve shown a part of the real you, it’s been shot down. And that hurts.

You’re an inauthentic man. How can you be real when you can’t be yourself? Being inauthentic takes up a lot of your energy as you shape-shift constantly. You shape-shift to be the right version of you in any given moment.

You’re an automated man. When you don’t express your emotions, the way you do things becomes automated. You spend much of your time on autopilot. You get things done, but your heart’s not in it. And when your heart’s not in it, life isn’t fulfilling.

You’re a untruthful man. You can’t be truthful when you’re not yourself. You don’t know what your truth is. You know society’s truth, but not yours. It’s not like you’re walking around lying to everyone. You’re just not being truthful to yourself.

You’re a repressed man. Of course you’re repressed. You’re not allowed to express your true feelings. Trouble is, you can’t repress certain feelings and not others. They all get repressed, to some extent. So you live in the middle zone, without the lows, but also without the highs.

You’re a man who abuses his power. Again, this goes along with everything that society expects of you. When you have power, you’re supposed to keep it. And use it. Using it invariably means that it benefits you in some way. And, in so doing, abuses someone else in some way. Even saying something along the lines of “Because I say so” or “Just do it” in response to a question is an abuse of power.

You’re a man who uses people. A lot of powerful men get other people to do their dirty work. You use other people for tasks you don’t want to be associated with. Even overtly ‘nice guys’ do this. You get others to do your firing, to deliver bad news. You avoid taking responsibility for your decisions.

You’re a man who numbs your pain. You binge on your anaesthetic of choice. Sports, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, TV, shopping, thrill-seeking. You do this to escape from what you’re feeling. And it works. For a while.

Life as a happy man

A happy man is a kind man. You put the well-being of others at the same level of importance as your own well-being. And I’m not just talking about that of your loved ones. You place everyone’s well-being at that level.

You’re a compassionate man. You don’t judge others. You seeks to understand them, even if their point of view doesn’t match yours. You accept them as they are. You don’t bully or threaten others. Ever.

You’re a gentle man. You use gentle words, and have a gentle touch. You doesn’t impose yourself or your opinions on others. You aren’t forceful in any way.

You’re a big-hearted man. You take nothing or no one for granted. You know that there but for the grace of god go you. You’re generous of yourself, and share what you have with others. You’re caring.

You’re a vulnerable man. You don’t fear your emotions, and allow yourself to feel them fully. You express them freely, in a controlled manner, and without hurting others.

You’re an optimistic man. Optimism and happiness go hand-in-hand. When you’re happy, you see what you have, not what you don’t have. You see the possibilities, not the obstacles. You see yourself as limitless, not limited. It’s not that you wear rose-tinted glasses — you know you’ll have hard times ahead. It’s just that you know you can overcome them.

You’re a questioning man. You ask questions, instead of making assumptions. You ask questions to come to your own conclusions, instead of just following the crowd. You ask questions so you keep on learning new things, instead of just reinforcing what you already know.

You’re a resilient man. You’ve done your self-work. You’ve worked hard to become the the man you are. You always pick yourself up off the ground, and carry on. You’re resilient to whatever is thrown at you, which is good because life always throws things at you.

You want to be your best self. You’re not afraid of failure. You know it well, and have used it well. You learn from everything that happens to you. All you want is to be the best possible version of yourself. And you take steps in that direction every day of your life.

You’re an unconditional man. You live without conditions. You love without conditions. You choose to accept people and situations as they are, instead of wishing they were different. You focus on what’s important in life — meaningful relationships. And you don’t get caught up in anything unimportant — that’s just detail. You never try to change people. You either accept them as they are, or you stay away from them.

You’re fully alive. You experience life in all its glory. You see and think with greater clarity. You feel intensely. You fear less. And love more. You’re engaged with what you’re doing, all the time. Your creative self is on fire — even if you didn’t know you had a creative self. You wake up every day looking forward to the day ahead. You go to sleep every night grateful for the day you’ve had.

You’re a fun-loving man. Happiness and fun go hand in hand. You see the fun in the things you’re doing. And you see more opportunities for fun. You look at the world with wonder, not fear.

You’re a patient man. You don’t force things. You know everything unfolds in its own time. Sometimes that’s fast, sometimes it’s not.

You’re a man with dreams. You know how you want to live, and are working towards that. Your dreams aren’t just dreams. They’re your personal goals. And you’re a man of action.

You’re a creative man. You tap into that part of you that exists in us all, and find a way of expressing it. Photography, art, music, writing, cooking, film, sculpture, wood-working. It doesn’t matter how you express your creativity. You do it because it makes you happy and fulfilled to do so.

You’re an in-the-moment man. You don’t spend your time dwelling on the past, or wishing for the future. You don’t wonder “What if…?” all the time. You’re a ‘what is’ kind of guy, only interested in what you’re doing right now. In this moment. This makes life much less full of anxiety. And much more fun.

10 steps to becoming a happy man

There’s no quick fix to becoming a happy man. You become one by wanting it so badly that you’re willing to put in the work. The work isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes honesty, commitment and consistent effort. But when you see what as a happy man looks and feels like, you can see it’s worth every scrap of effort.

Here are 10 steps you can take:

  1. As with any big life change, the starting place is to acknowledge that you need to make one. To acknowledge that you don’t want to continue living like you have been. Even if the world outside tells you there’s nothing wrong with how you’ve been living. Here’s the acid test of your true quality of life. Ask yourself this: Does your life feel as good to you as you thought it would at this stage? If your answer is “YES!”, then read no further. If your answer is “NO!”, then it’s time to make some changes to your life.
  2. Next comes a commitment to yourself to do the work. If you’re honest, you’ll know you find it easier to commit to your boss to do something you hate doing than to yourself. When you see it in black and white like that, it seems a bit nuts. But don’t be hard on yourself, it’s how you’ve been trained by society.
  3. When you make life changes, you embark on a journey of discovery. As with any journey, you need to know where you’re starting from. You should assess where you’re at today. Take stock of your life. See what’s working, and what’s not working. Note how you’re feeling… truly feeling, inside. Writing in a journal every day is a good way to do this. And see how you’re spending your time. That’s always pretty shocking. This assessment is a snapshot of your life today.
  4. If you’re not happy, chances are you’ve lost touch with yourself. With who you really are. It’s so easy to do this when your impulse to fit in is so strong. Because fitting in requires you to be a defined person… someone defined by others, not you. It’s time to go deep inside and rediscover yourself. To find your answers to the questions “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?”.
  5. You used to dream when you were a child. A lot. You may have continued to dream into your 20s. Then life took over. It’s time to dream again. Dream big. And turn the ones that best reflect who you are and why you’re here into personal goals.
  6. Having dreams is only part of the equation for becoming happy. Making them happen is the other. This requires rigorous planning. Not the sort of planning that takes the joy and spontaneity out of living. But the sort of planning that identifies the steps required to take you from today to your goals. And breaks them down into achievable chunks.
  7. If you’ve done your planning right, you’re primed for success. With steps sized to be achievable, all you have to do is act. You have to take action on your steps every single day, or you’ll lose your momentum. And it’s much easier to fail without momentum behind you. Another way to keep your momentum going is to celebrate your achievements as you go along. Don’t wait until the end! Celebrate every little step along the way.
  8. When you’ve reached a milestone, stop and enjoy the view from there for a bit. But not for too long. Take the time to review where you’re at and how you got there. Identify what worked well for you, and what didn’t. Because you’ll need this information for the next step.
  9. What next step, I hear you say! Aren’t I happy now and forever? Well, you might be, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you don’t slip back into your old ways. Because your default programming is strong. It’s easier for you to be that person because you’ve spent a lifetime being him. Being the person you truly are, the person you want to be, takes more work. Constantly review your behaviour and make sure it’s aligned with who you want to be. Constantly review how you do things and make sure it’s the best way for you. You’re a work-in-progress. And always will be. That’s the wonderful thing about being the real you. You’re dynamic and limitless, and constant growth is the name of the game. You’ll always be starting some new work on yourself. Because you want to. Because that’s who you truly are.
  10. And finally, here are some daily practices that will help you increase your happiness quickly, and make your mindset more positive:

Vigorous exercise three times at week for at least 20 minutes.

Expressing 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.

Performing a daily random act of kindness/generosity. This can be anything, like 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.

Reliving 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.

Practicing 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 recognizes something familiar from a past grudge. That’s right, your stress response is triggered in the present by something that happened in your past.

Strengthening 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.

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. Even two minutes a day has an effect, so start small and build up.

Living a meaningful life. Having a life vision that reflects who you truly are and what you’re here to do and taking action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

Men, I see you. I see your pain. I feel your pain. And I’m here for you. Please do whatever you can to become happy. The world needs you happy because the world needs more compassion. And less power-mongering.

 

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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9 Reasons Why Making Assumptions is Dangerous

“When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME”

I first heard these words of wisdom years ago when I was learning to drive. I’d made an assumption about what another driver was going to do. My driving instructor’s response told me my assumption was incorrect. He hit the brakes, and said those words. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what he meant, but thought it was intriguing enough to commit to memory.

These days, I get it. 

 

Why assumptions start

It’s easy to make assumptions. All you need is incomplete information about a situation. And an unwillingness to ask the questions you need to complete the information. In the absence of complete information, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.

You fill in the blanks with YOUR interpretation of what you see or hear. Your interpretation comes from past experiences that seem similar. It comes from your past experiences, and also from those you’ve heard about from others.

Armed with your information, you connect dots that aren’t there. You can’t help doing this because you’re missing relevant information. In trying to make sense of the situation, you make connections between today and the past. Connections that don’t really exist. You jump to conclusions that are wrong.

When I was learning to drive, I saw a driver doing something, and assumed he’d do x next. He didn’t. He did y instead, making it likely I was going to hit him. Hence my instructor’s brake-hitting. Had I scanned what was around me for more information, I’d have seen x wasn’t possible. He had to do y. 

 

How assumptions develop

If assumptions are incorrect when dealing with rational matters, ponder this. What happens when emotions come into play?

All hell breaks loose. You see, emotions arrive with many sensitive buttons. These buttons are the places where you got hurt in the past. Your memory has stored this past pain. And activates it whenever your nervous system recognizes anything that feels painfully familiar.

Once activated, you react as if you’re experiencing that same pain again. Your old pain feels as real today as it did when you got hurt. Your present situation doesn’t even need to be the same as the past one that hurt you.

When those emotional buttons get pressed, the resulting dot-connecting is rarely kind. The assumptions you make in this state have one thing in mind. Lashing out in some way. To repel or hurt someone with unkind and disrespectful words presented as fact. 

 

What assumptions do

Behind these harsh words lie the original hurt. And an unwillingness to step up and own your part in it.

This is toxic for the people you’re lashing out at, and for you. The negative energy expressed with this can take a toll on health. Theirs and yours. And by pressing your pain buttons again and again, you deepen your hurt.

 

Why you should avoid making assumptions like the plague

  1. They’re an easy out. The path of least resistance is also the path of least growth.
  2. They stop you from taking responsibility for your life. Assumptions allow you to hide behind your version of the story. This means you don’t own your part in the true story. You prefer to blame others for your misfortune, rather than look in the mirror.
  3. They keep you stuck in the past. Assumptions rely on old information to fill in blanks and connect dots. Instead of expanding your horizons, you retreat into the past. Into your painful past.
  4. It’s lazy behaviour. Instead of asking questions to get the information you need, you jump to conclusions.
  5. They foster a negative mindset. Most assumptions are derived from old, painful information. This reinforces your innate negativity bias that dates back to prehistoric times. And keeps you thinking the world is a fundamentally hostile place.
  6. It’s toxic behaviour. To protect yourself from more hurt, you use your assumptions to lash out at others. This is bad for them, and you.
  7. They become a bad habit. The more you make assumptions, the easier it is to continue making them. You find it easier to relive past hurts to get missing information than to ask questions. Go figure!
  8. They deepen your pain. The more you pick at a sore, the more painful it gets. And it doesn’t get a chance to heal.
  9. Assumptions are ALWAYS wrong. I have a perfect record with the assumptions I’ve made. 100% of them have been wrong. And it’s hard to believe that I’m unique in this.

Life beyond assumptions

These days, instead of making assumptions, I ask questions. Lots of them. Even if this means finding out a truth that might be painful to hear. If my default behaviour kicks in and I start to assume something, I notice it. And nip it in the bud.

Since I started asking questions and stopped making assumptions, I’m much happier. I’ve managed to release much of my past pain by not activating it constantly. I’ve grown a lot from all the information I’ve gathered through asking questions. I enjoy conversations more because I’m not worrying about protecting myself. I’ve deepened my compassion for others by understanding the fears that lay behind their assumptions. I’m more positive. I’m more fun to be around.

If you think you’re pretty assumption-free, try this. Make a note of every assumption you make during an average day. And double it to count the ones you don’t notice.

If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised by the result.

 

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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It’s Time to Stop Chasing Perfection

And start accepting it

You are already perfect.

Yet, you don’t feel it. Far from it. All you can see are imperfections. When you look in the mirror. When you hear the voices inside your head. When you look at everyone else’s life.

And yet, you are perfect.

Your life might not be picture perfect. It might be a tangled mess of conflicting emotions, contradictions, and inconsistencies. But your life is perfect.

You are perfect.

Chasing false perfection

Modern society is obsessed with perfection. And geared towards chasing it. Yet, the ‘perfect’ defined by modern society, doesn’t exist. The perfect 36–24–36 female body. The perfect six-pack abs. The perfect bright-white-straight-teeth smile. The perfect design-magazine home. The perfect dutiful daughter/son/husband/wife/employee. The perfect for-life job. The perfect two-child family. The perfect happy-every-moment life.

That’s fantasy, not perfection.

Worse still, it’s fantasy born from judgement. If there’s a ‘perfect life’, then there must also be an ‘imperfect life’.
Think about the voices in your head that you beat yourself up with. Aren’t they all about how you’re failing at being perfect? How you’re not thin enough, or attractive enough. How your home isn’t big enough, and your car not new enough. How your kids don’t go to the right school. How you’re not attentive enough to your elderly parents. How you don’t do enough for your family.
Who decided what was enough, and what wasn’t?

It certainly wasn’t you. You inherited that way of thinking, from your family and from society.

Reframing perfection

My ‘perfect’ is very different. It’s kind, non-judgemental and accepting.

This kind of perfect allows you to be yourself. As you are. It allows you to see what’s right there before you. And be OK with it, instead of judging it. It doesn’t seek to find fault. It seeks the clarity that can only come from seeing everything as it is.

Seeing everything as it is ISN’T about seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. It’s about seeing, with clarity, everything before you, and being OK with it ALL. Even those parts of yourself and others you’re less than thrilled with.

Looking at the world like this is hard, because you’re not used to it. Those voices in your head won’t have anything to beat you up about if you start being like this.

And yet, this is what you must do if you want to be happier and less stressed out by life.

Seeing yourself as perfect doesn’t mean that there’s no room for self-improvement. Far from it. It gives you greater room for self-improvement, because it gives you clarity. Clarity that comes from seeing everything and accepting it all. This makes sense if you think about it. If you don’t accept what you see, then what you see isn’t there. And how can you work on something that isn’t there?

I know this one well. A lot of behaviours used to press my buttons. Other people’s behaviours. In response, I complained. I got irritated, angry even. I had to have the last word. I felt I was in the right. All I could see was THEIR behaviours. And I felt MY response was justified.

This way of living was exhausting, and deeply unsatisfying. When it became unsustainable, I was forced to look more closely at behaviours. Starting with mine.

In doing this, I discovered that I behaved like this for a very good reason. I couldn’t bear to see my part in it, let alone accept it. I couldn’t own my behaviour, because it was too painful. You see, back then, I still had the wrong perspective on perfection. So my being perfect required that I have no flaws. This meant that all the flaws HAD to belong to others. That’s why this way of living was unsustainable.

When I was able to see and accept why I behaved as I did, I could start working on myself and my life. I could start down the path of self-improvement that has enabled me to live with much greater ease.

What happens to your life when you see yourself as perfect

Your life gets better, that’s what happens.

When you see yourself as perfect, you STOP:

  • Beating yourself up
  • Being constantly stressed-out
  • Seeing the negative in everything
  • Feeling less happy than you think you should

And you START:

  • Feeling more in control
  • Being more grateful
  • Being more loving
  • Feeling happier
  • Seeing the positive in everything
  • Having better relationships
  • Feeling more alive
  • Living more fully

How to start seeing yourself as perfect

The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you spend a lot of time focussing on the negative in your life. On what’s missing from your life, and not on what you have. On wishing things were different than they actually are: “If only I/she was more…”; “When I have …, then I’ll be …”.

When you can acknowledge that you’re wishing your life away, then you can start to change.

There’s an easy way to start shifting your perspective from a negative to a positive one. Begin a daily gratitude practice. At the end of every day, write down three new things from that day for which you’re grateful. You can be grateful for anything! From a chat with a loved one, to finishing a project, to some kind words when you needed them, to a new music download. You can share these at your dinner table, or keep them to yourself. By the end of the week, you‘ll have 21 new things to be grateful for; 91 after four weeks, and 1,092 by the end of the year. After practicing gratitude for a while, you’ll notice some important things. That you have A LOT to be grateful for. And that most of what you’re grateful for comes from OTHERS.

Alongside your daily gratitude practice, these practices will also make you more positive:

  • Vigorous exercise three times at week for at least 20 minutes.
  • Performing a daily random act of kindness/generosity. This can be anything. Like writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Or paying something forward. Or helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Or giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  • Reliving 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.
  • Practicing forgiveness — of yourself and others — for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges from your past hurts you TODAY. You see, your nervous system stores the memory of past, unforgiven hurts. And when something today reminds it of a past hurt, the memory triggers a stress response. This gives a whole new meaning to your past coming back to haunt you!!
  • Strengthening the quality of your relationships. This has the biggest impact on happiness, according to research.
  • Meditating daily. Meditation helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases the alpha waves in your brain. This gives you more control over your response to stressful situations. Even two minutes a day has an effect, so start small and build up.
  • Being clear on who you are and why you’re here. This gives you a sense of purpose that’s larger than the humdrum of day-to-day life. Humans whose basic needs are met often search for work they find meaningful.

Accepting your inherent perfection

With a positive mindset, it’s easier to accept yourself as the perfect being you are. To see — and love — everything about yourself. To work on the parts you want to change. And, through accepting your own perfection, you can see others, and life in general, in the same light.

When you accept that you’re perfect, you can become the person you want to be. Your best self, living the life you know is possible. This is why it’s time to stop chasing society’s false perfection. And start accepting that you are already perfect.

 

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).

 

comfort-zone-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Lessons From a Lifetime Spent Living Outside My Comfort Zone

I still remember the terror I felt the first time I went outside my comfort zone.

I was three years old.

I hadn’t gone there intentionally. I was pushed. The fact that the pushing wasn’t intentional, either, didn’t matter. I was still terrified. That moment forever changed me. And changed the course of my life.

First things first. What is a comfort zone? It’s a place where things are familiar to you. A place that feels comfortable to you. No two comfort zones are the same. One person’s comfort zone might be another person’s greatest fear. I know this to be true. My comfort zone — what’s familiar to me — often elicits a fear response from people. How I choose to live makes most of my loved ones scared for me.

There’s a question that begs here. If comfortable feels good, what’s wrong with feeling comfortable? Well, nothing, in one sense. And everything in another. It’s great to feel comfortable. But not all the time, and not in everything in your life.

You see, feeling comfortable can become a problem. Or, more precisely, feeling TOO comfortable can. It makes you take things for granted. It makes you stop exploring yourself, what you’re capable of. It makes you afraid the minute you stop feeling comfortable. It limits you.

I’m making you feel uncomfortable right now. By talking about it. But, bear with me while I illustrate what I’m talking about.

Think about the early days in your serious intimate relationships. When you first started getting serious, you were pushed outside your comfort zone. Way outside. You felt so open, and vulnerable. Your guard was down. But you were OK with it because it felt SO good there. The exhilaration you felt from falling in love with someone was stronger than any fear you felt. Your fear was on hold. For a while. Then, one day, you started to feel uncomfortable. You might not have known why, but you knew how to respond to this feeling. You pulled back in some way. Your discomfort at being outside your vulnerability comfort zone made you afraid.

How did you pull back when afraid? By taking the other for granted, choosing to see the flaws, instead of the wonder. By not exploring your vulnerable self, choosing to shut down, instead of opening more. By putting up your guard, choosing to limit yourself, instead of growing.

You’re squirming now.

Lesson one: get to know your comfort zone

If you want to move outside it, you need to get to know your comfort zone. Intimately. To know its core rules, and its more nuanced ones.

My comfort zone is a place where making changes is routine. So to go outside my comfort zone, I have to get very deliberate. And go big. Things that happen on a daily basis rarely send me there, such is my comfort with change. I also have to be interested in an area before I’m willing to extend my comfort zone in it. Extreme sports, for example, have never interested me, so I put in no effort there. But I’m drawn to push my physical activity boundaries in other ways. This is one of the more nuanced rules.

Over the years, I discovered that if I decided to explore a new facet of my life, nothing got in my way. Except for in one area. I did everything to avoid pushing out my boundaries in one area for 30 years.

Love.

Going to that place of real, deep, unconditional love with a significant other. Love terrified me because being vulnerable terrified me. Being open to scrutiny at such a deep level was too far outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t go there. At least not until I did the necessary self-work. Considerable effort later, love no longer has me running scared. Love has me opening up more and more every day. Unconditional. Vulnerable. And it’s wonderful.

Time for you to examine your own comfort zone. Thinking back over your adult life so far, ask yourself:

  • Which things feel easy to you? Easy in the sense that they provoke little or no fear in you?
  • Which things make you feel scared? Scared when you’ve done them, or scared when you think or hear about them?
  • What have you instinctively tended to avoid doing? And why? (Like me and extreme sports.)
  • Are there people in your life who live in ways that make you feel uncomfortable? This may manifest in different ways. By your making judging comments about decisions they make. By your rolling your eyes when they tell you what they’re going to do next. By your telling them why they’re wrong to be doing whatever.

Have a look at your answers, looking for common themes. Take a step back, and see what it tells you about your comfort zone. You should have a picture of what it looks like.

Lesson two: change is good

I’m not saying this because making changes is within MY comfort zone. I’m saying it because making changes is how you grow. Moving beyond your comfort zone is how you grow.

I’d go so far as to say that beyond your comfort zone is where all personal growth lives.

If you do the same thing you’ve always done, day in, day out, you won’t grow. In fact, you barely think when you do this. Yet an astoundingly large number of people live like this. Because they don’t like change. Because they fear change.

Instead of fearing change, you should fear not changing. The things you fear about change are imagined. The things that happen when you avoid change are real.

Here’s what’s real about them. And why avoiding change will cause you trouble down the road. First, you won’t grow as a person. You won’t live up to your amazing potential. And I know your potential is truly amazing. Second, you’ll get bored. When you’re bored, you’ll distract yourself to avoid feeling that way. And your distractions won’t be good for you. Sugary treats, alcohol, binge watching TV shows, shopping for things you don’t need. Being bored for any length of time stresses you out. So you go into autopilot mode to deal with that. And autopilot mode numbs your feelings. All of them.

It’s time to make a choice. Do you want your life to be defined by fear? Or defined by personal growth?

Lesson three: how to get more comfortable doing more things

Moving the boundaries of your comfort zone takes effort. A whole lot of it. But, here’s the truth. If I can learn to embrace unconditional love after 30 years of avoiding it, you can learn to embrace anything!

I’m going to share with you the secret to making changes in your life. Start small. Start with something that is low on your scariness scale. And that won’t take too long to complete.

I used to be afraid of heights. So terrified of them that, as a kid, I’d rather face the ridicule of my peers than jump off anything high. My mother, a nurse, had put the fear of god in me when I was four. I’d been found walking across the parapet of a bridge with a 200-foot drop on one side. So she described, in very gory detail, what I’d look like if I fell and went splat.

One day a few years ago, I knew it was time to make a change in my life. To overcome this fear of heights. As a result of my daily meditation practice, I’d realized my fear was all in mind. That it was more imagined than real. So I set about moving past it. I started by improving my balance, walking along as many low walls as I could find. Then I started choosing higher walls. And finally, I chose something that had always added an increased level of fear. Walking on a higher wall above water. I was living in Vancouver at the time, right by the seawall. And this proved perfect as the final step to overcoming my fear of heights. With an ease that surprised me, I walked along long stretches of the seawall every day. Fear of heights gone. Comfort zone expanded.

By starting small, I’d allowed myself to get comfortable every step of the way.

What can you take on that will allow you to get comfortable with change as you move towards your fear? What’s your equivalent of my fear of heights?

Lesson four: you are more powerful than you realize.

Once you start expanding your comfort zone, something amazing happens. You feel more powerful. Your fear subsides with every boundary shift you make. And this allows your true self — your powerful self — to emerge.

You start to feel more alive. More vibrant. More in control of things than before. More comfortable. All because you were willing to go outside your comfort zone. You feel more comfortable because you’re more comfortable doing more things. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

Expanding your comfort zone makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin. And that’s what real comfort is all about.

The course of my life was changed at three by my being pushed outside my comfort zone. When I was younger, I understood that change was good, that I’d be fine if I did things that scared me.

Now I’m older, I understand that living outside my comfort zone has been the making of me. I am who I am today because of my constantly expanding comfort zone. Because I’m comfortable in my skin.

 

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).

 

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).

 

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

How to create more happiness in your life

And why it’s an inside job

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

When I hear comments like this, it makes me sad. You see, it’s a sign that someone has given away his power. And that he doesn’t understand what life is about.

Giving away your power is something you do all too readily these days. It’s not your fault. You’re encouraged to. No, it’s worse than that. You’re rewarded for giving away your power.

Rewards come from meeting criteria

Whenever you’re rewarded for doing something, it’s because you’ve met certain criteria. Other people’s criteria, not yours. The rewards can come in many forms. A pay increase, or a promotion. A kiss, or a date. An invitation, or a gift.

You’re human, so you like rewards. They feel good.

But that good feeling they generate is fleeting. And is all too quickly replaced by a request to meet more criteria.

Hamster wheel, anyone?

The power game

No one means to give her power away. It just happens. That’s because there’s a power game in play. All the time. It’s the nature of modern society – and not-so-modern ones, too.

Those in power demand obedience. How? Via those rewards you like so much. Rewards come from meeting their criteria; agreeing to meet them is a sign of obedience.

See what I mean?

The meaning of life

Living like this is not living.

It’s more like existing. Existing to please others.

When you believe things like:

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

it’s a sure sign that you’re spending more time pleasing others than living fully. It’s a sure sign that you’re settling in some way. Dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum. And that’s not where happiness lives.

The truth about happiness

Happiness lives within each of us. Yes, even you.

You don’t get happiness from other people or things. You find happiness in yourself. And if you can’t find it, you need to create it.

There’s a wealth of research available proving that you can create happiness yourself. “Create” is an important word, because your brain isn’t designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make you survive. So you have to do the job yourself. You have to take control of your thoughts – and your life – and create your own happiness.

That’s why happiness is an inside job.

How to create more happiness in your life

Here are eight practices to re-wire your brain to be happier. They’re even scientifically-proven*. Stick with them until they become habits – that makes them much easier to maintain.

  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 their three things.
  3. Perform a daily random act of kindness/generosity. There are so many ways to do this. Writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Paying something forward. Helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  4. Re-live 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. Holding onto grudges is bad for your happiness and health. Your nervous system gets triggered into stress mode every time it recognizes something in the present that hurt you in the past.
  6. Strengthen your social connections. In all research, meaningful relationships are the single most important contributor to happiness. Warning: you may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one. Being stressed out doesn’t make you a lot of fun to be around.
  7. Practice mindfulness daily. I recommend meditation – even two minutes morning and night makes a difference. A daily meditation practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. It also gives you more control over your response to everything, including stressful situations.
  8. Find the meaning in your life and live it. Have a life vision that reflects who you are and what you’re here to do, and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

Start working on your happiness today. Trust me, it’s the best job ever.

 

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).

* Sources: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor; Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert; Dave Asprey’s “Science of Happiness” video.

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

How to survive a toxic environment

Run. Fast.

You’ve been off work sick for a week. Stress-related sick leave. You felt tender spots on your body that you were sure were lumps. They weren’t, thank god. Your mind went straight to the worst case scenario, because that’s what it tends to do. And, because the person you’ve replaced in this job ignored signs that something was up. She’s spent the last year in treatment for cancer.

The phone rings. You see who’s calling and don’t answer. You wait till he’s left a voicemail and listen to it. As you hear his voice, you feel the fear rising in you.

He wants to have a meeting with you the next day. He doesn’t say why. The fear rises even higher, and your mind goes into overdrive.

“Does he want to fire me?”

“Does he want to reduce my hours?”

“What will I say if he says this?”

“What will I say if he says that?”

After a panicked hour or so, you have it all figured out. You have an answer for all the ifs and buts you can think of. Your answers tread that fine line — the one between standing up for yourself, and making sure you don’t get fired. You need this job — the longer you can stay in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be when he does fire you. Which he will. He made that crystal clear in your last conversation. The “you’re just plugging holes until I find good people” one. That’s the one that pushed you into the arms of your doctor.

You’re dreading the next day.

•  •  •

Still feeling shook some time later, you call me for moral support. And to ask why I think hearing his voice made you feel so scared. “Maybe it’s my subconscious protecting me”, you say. “What do you think?”

“I think you should get the hell out of there, that’s what I think,” is my reply. “You feel scared around him, because he’s toxic. Your not-so-sub-conscious is telling you to get away from him.”

“But if I quit, I won’t get unemployment insurance. I’ll only get that if he fires me,” you reply.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get fired,” I say.

•  •  •
It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation. We’ve had it many times before — or one just like it. You’ve talked yourself down from it each time. Because you need this job — the longer you’re in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be.

Yeah, I know.

But I don’t care about that. I really don’t.

Here’s what I care about.

I care about you. About having you around for as long as possible. About your health. But I feel like a stuck record, because I’m the only one talking about this.

Everyone else is talking about how lucky you are to have a job, especially ‘at your age’. You believe this, too.

I call bullshit on this way of thinking. Because this way of thinking will be the death of you. Really. Every minute you spend in that job, near that toxic man, is at least one minute off your life expectancy. You think you can take it, that you’re strong. But I call bullshit on that, too. No one walks away from toxic people unscathed. You might be fine on the surface, but that toxicity is eating away at you, somewhere. That’s what toxicity does. But you know that, don’t you. It ate away at the last person in your job. The one who’s been in cancer treatment for the last year.

So I beg you, please, please, please do whatever you need to do to get fired. Get away from that toxic man and his fear-based workplace. You don’t need that job — no one needs that job. You need something quite different.

You need to believe that your health is worth more than any job. That you’re worth more than the way you’re being treated. You need to believe that you deserve health and happiness.

I believe this. So can you believe it, too?

 

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

What I Learned from My Long Journey to Self-Worth

How the journey of a lifetime had an unknown destination.

I was 25 and unhappy. And I had no right to be. After all, I had everything anyone could want — a great job, a great education, somewhere to live, amazing friends. Yet, I was unhappy. Which also made me feel guilty and ungrateful.

As soon as I realised that I was unhappy, I promised myself I’d get to the bottom of it. That I would set out on a journey of discovery, which wouldn’t end until I understood why I, someone with everything, wasn’t deliriously happy.

My journey started with a bang. I imposed a ‘do not contact me’ order on a few people in my life who I instinctively recognised were toxic. Two were close family members. From this point on, I knew my journey wasn’t going to make me popular or meet with approval. But that didn’t matter — my promise to myself took precedence over all else.

The bang continued in the form of constant change, much of it, major. I changed jobs a couple of times, then moved 3,500 miles away from my hometown — I really felt I needed the space. For the next 18 years, I carried on changing jobs and moving endlessly. After each change, I’d get another piece of the puzzle and feel happier as a result, but, pretty soon, the unhappiness would return. Sometimes less intensely than before; sometimes more intensely.

I still had no real idea why I was unhappy, but was peeling back the layers of ignorance, one by one. Every now and then, I’d think I’d found the answer. This would manifest as my feeling lighter and happier for a longer period of time than usual. But then something would happen to knock me back down to earth.

After 18 years of being away, I returned to my hometown to look after an ailing parent. The minute I arrived, I knew that my journey was far from over. Every unhappiness button of mine was being pushed by what I was experiencing. This continued for seven long years, fuelled by intense stress and loss.

During that time, I flailed about, not knowing how to make my life feel any better. Until one cold winter’s day when I completely fell apart. I started crying and couldn’t stop. For hours. I had no control over it. When I finally did stop crying, I knew how to make my life feel better. I needed help.

I hated having to ask for help. After all, wasn’t I always the one who did the helping? Someone asked me why I found it so hard to ask for help when I clearly needed it. I, who is never lost for words, was lost for words. That intrigued me.

When I probed this further with people close to me, the question of ‘worth’ came up. “Maybe you don’t ask for help, because you don’t think you deserve to be helped,” observed a friend. “Of course I deserve help! Look at what I’m having to deal with on my own!” was my quick-fire reply. “Of course you deserve help! But do you think you’re deserving of help? Do you believe that you’re worthy of help?” was my friend’s considered response.

Stunned silence was my response this time.

This notion of worthiness sent me down a whole new path on my journey. “What is worthiness?” I pondered. “Is it confidence?”

I didn’t think so. Confidence seemed less deep — it was something you could fake ‘till you made it’. Yet, it was important — it seemed to hold your life together. I noticed — in myself and others — that when you had self-confidence, you were productive. You were both effective and efficient. I also noticed that productivity fed your self-confidence — like begat like. And that self-confidence was fragile.

Relentless stress or a sudden increase in stress levels seemed to be responsible for self-confidence’s fragility. It was as if stress tipped you over an edge into free fall. In free fall, you felt overwhelmed — you were no longer productive — and stuck. You didn’t know how to move forward — how to take yourself back to a place of self-confidence.

I noticed something bigger, too. That when your self-confidence took a hit for any length of time, a deeper part of you also took a hit.

My instinct told me that experiencing this feeling in the deeper place was more serious. It seemed as though poor self-confidence undermined your external self — whereas damage to this deeper place undermined your core self.

Damage to your self-confidence affected your productivity. Damage to your deeper self affected what you thought about yourself.

I could see that this deeper place clearly held the key to what had pushed me on my journey all those years ago. And, over time, I came to understand what it was — and why it was so important.

That deep place was my self-worth.

Your sense of self-worth is at the root of all of your belief systems. And your belief systems drive your behaviour and feelings.

So if you have great self-worth, then you’ll be a largely happy, “I can do anything I set my mind to” kind of person. If you have poor self-worth, you’ll be a largely unhappy, “I have no control over my life” kind of person.

The self-worth spectrum contains endless points, from ‘zero’ at one end to ‘true’ at the other. Building your self-worth takes a strong desire and relentless effort — no matter where you lie on its spectrum. Even if you start out with strong self-worth, it can be eroded by life’s challenges and your response to them.

But once you reach the ‘true self-worth’ end of the spectrum, you stay there. You stay there, because every cell in your body believes you are worthy. That you are worthy of love.

My journey led me to the discovery that love holds the key to everything. Because love is at the root of self-worth. If you believe you are loveable — worthy of receiving love — then you are worthy of receiving everything else. Of receiving help, of receiving remuneration in keeping with the value you add, of receiving kindness. And of truly giving love. Everything flows from love.

With love at its core, true self-worth is humble — it has nothing to prove. True self-worth is limitless — nothing holds it back. True self-worth is full of gratitude and joy. True self-worth is resilient to all of life’s challenges.

I promised myself over 30 years ago to find out why I was unhappy. And I kept my promise.

Because I am worth it.

 

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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How to get real and deal with your denial

“I know I feel tired all the time, but my life really is good.”

“I know my life is super busy, but so is everyone’s.”

“I know this little voice in me keeps on wondering if there’s more to life than I’m experiencing, but I have everything, I really do.”

“I know s/he did that, but s/he’s really a good person inside.”

“I know I don’t have the time for myself that I need, but who does these days?”

“I know the hours are long and the work is boring, but it’s a good job.”

“I know I get overwhelmed from time to time, but it’s expected – I have a lot on my plate.”

“I know I shouldn’t have eaten that tub of ice cream, but it did make me feel less stressed for a bit.”

“I know I’m just going through the motions and not putting anything of myself into what I do, but it’s an efficient way of getting things done.”

There are many, many ways in which denial can play out in your life – the list above represents a handful of them. Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking any of these?

A sure sign that you’re in denial about something is that use of the word “but”. It says that you feel you have to justify something you’re doing. You should NEVER feel as though you have to justify anything in your life – either it’s right for you, or it’s not. End.Of.Story.

So, why do you deny what’s going on in your life? You deny it, because you’re not ready to face the reality of it.

I get it. Denial seems like the path of least resistance. Denial allows you to carry on living your life as is – all you have to do is push those feelings and voices aside. But, here’s the thing. The truth is actually quite different.

Denial is a path of MAXIMUM resistance – it just takes a while for that to become clear. It’s a path of maximum resistance, because the feelings you have that niggle way at you and the little voice inside your head that questions what you’re doing don’t disappear when you push them aside. They go deeper inside you, intensify and then erupt some time later when you’re not expecting it. The MORE you push them aside, the STRONGER and more disruptive they get – all they’re trying to do is get your attention so you deal with whatever reality you’re denying. And you know what? Your feelings and little voice telling you something is WRONG won’t give up – they’re your intuition trying to protect you from yourself. Their last resort to get your attention is to do some serious damage to you, usually in the form of an illness or disease. Your health gets hit, because, although you mightn’t realise it, maintaining your state of denial causes you a lot of stress – and stress causes your immune system to shut down.

I learned how destructive denial can be the hard way – a lifetime of it eventually caught up with me and left me with a debilitating disease*.

Getting ill is how denial affects your physical health. It also affects your emotional, mental and spiritual health. When you’re stressed, even at a low level, your relationships suffer. In order to keep up your denial, you suppress the feelings you don’t like, but you also suppress the rest of your feelings – you cannot selectively suppress feelings. So you become emotionally distant – you feel and express less joy, and you’re less aware of nuances in the emotions of those around you. The stress of maintaining denial makes you less smart, less creative and less able to problem solve – in addition to shutting down your immune system, stress reduces the flow of blood to your brain, sending it to your limbs instead (in readiness for fight or flight). And you’re less able to access your alpha waves when stressed, making it hard for you to meditate, pray or be mindful.

So, instead of being the path of least resistance, denial is actually the path of much destruction.

How do you get out of denial and ready to deal with your reality? Here are 8 steps to take.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that you’ve been denying something. This step is essential to get you to FLIP THAT SWITCH in your mind that makes you stop denying that reality.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to deal with the reality you’ve been denying. Without commitment, nothing will change, because change isn’t easy – it requires you to STICK AT IT, through thick and thin.
  3. Review the reality you’ve been denying. What is the DETAIL of this reality? When did it start? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your life? What will happen to your life when you deal with it?
  4. Dream up different ways to deal with this reality. Let’s say your reality is a boring job, you can: find a new job in a new company; create a new job in the same company; change the way you look at the job; start your own business on the side. And then choose the ONE that feels right to you.
  5. Prepare for what you want to do. Do you need any new skills to deal with this reality? Do you need any new habits? Do you need any other TOOLS?
  6. Make an action plan. You need a plan so you know how to achieve the result you want. Make sure each step along the way is ACHIEVABLE – big enough to be interesting and motivating, but small enough to guarantee success.
  7. Take action daily. NOTHING will change in your life if you don’t take action every day. Ask yourself at the end of every day what you did today to take you closer to your goal.
  8. Celebrate your small wins along the way to the big win. Regular celebration gives you the momentum you need to keep going, even when things are tough. Find a way that works for you – I high five myself!

Keeping your head in the sand is sabotaging your health and well-being. Start dealing with your reality today and feel more alive and self-fulfilled ! Your relationships will thank you.

 

* This disease is no longer debilitating for me as I transformed my lifestyle and am once again healthy and active.

 

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).