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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).

 

real-love-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What Is Love?

Answering the one question that unites us all

Most years, “What is love?” is the top global Google search query. A quick search using this phrase yielded a staggering 402,000,000 results in .08 seconds.

I didn’t look at any of the answers. I didn’t need to.

I know what love is.

Love is a sacred union between two beings. Parent and child. Person and tree. Life partners. Close friends. Person and animal. What makes the union sacred is that it’s unconditional, and divine.

When I talk of unconditional love, I mean that there is nothing about the other you want to change. Ever. You accept the other exactly as presented in every moment. You see the other, apparent imperfections, and all, and love her anyway.

And when I talk about love being divine, I mean that its sole purpose is to elevate each being. To help the other realize her full potential. The potential that reflects her true self, and not the self we may want her to be. You remove all that limits your love. You give of yourself fully and freely.

This love is real love.

Does knowing what love is make it easier to find? Does it make it drop into your lap, as if by magic?

I also know the answer to this. No, it doesn’t. But it does make this kind of love easier to recognize if you do find it.

It’s easy to mistake other kinds of love for real love. At first, anyway. In the honeymoon period, when love is so new and fresh, there’s no place for conditions. Everything about the other is so wonderful, so perfect. Conditions start to creep in soon enough. Your eyes go from seeing the perfection to seeing the flaws.

“That tree is so beautiful! I’m so lucky to have it in my garden!!” ==> “That tree is blocking my light. It would be better without those branches!”
“I love his creativity! He can see beauty in chaos!” ==> “I wish he’d tidy his home, it’s so haphazard! The mess drives me nuts!”
“I love how independent and free-spirited she is!” ==> “I need her to be around me all the time. If she loved me, she wouldn’t want to be so independent.”
“I love you so much, I’ll support you, no matter what!” ==> “I want what’s best for you, so you need to do this, not that.”

Conditions don’t creep in consciously. They start to appear when your insecurities do. And insecurities arise when old, unresolved wounds get re-opened.

They, too, get re-opened without your knowing it. It happens when something you’re experiencing today triggers a memory in you. An unpleasant memory. This old hurt gets activated and feels so real in the moment that you react to it. Even though the present situation doesn’t warrant it. You believe you’re reacting to what’s going on today. But you’re not.

The minute things start to get conditional, real love goes out the window. That’s because unconditional love it the starting place for real love. Love needs to be unconditional before it can become divine.

The path to unconditional love

To misquote The Beatles, the path to unconditional love is a long and winding road that leads to your door. Your own door, not the door of another being.

Unconditional love starts with you.

If your love for yourself is conditional, then your love for others will be the same. The conditions might even be the same, because they’re all about you. Your conditions reflect what you believe you need to feel worthy of love. All those “If only I/he was more…, then I would feel more…” thoughts flying around your head are your conditions.

I get this. I spent much of my life in the conditional, only to discover one truth. That the conditions never filled the void inside. You see, the void can’t be filled by things, be they conditions, endless pairs of shoes, or binge eating sessions.

The void can only be filled by love. Self-love.

The foundation for unconditional love is self-love. Truth is, this kind of love is NOT selfish — it doesn’t spring from your ego. It springs from your caring for your own well-being, and happiness. It springs from your taking responsibility for your own life. (If you’d like to understand this concept better, you can read my article on it.)

How you get to a place of self-love is personal. There are as many different routes as there are people. What they all have in common is this. They demand an unrelenting focus, and courage. The focus keeps the prize in mind — the prize of a happy, worthy you. The courage keeps you moving forward, one step at a time, no matter what gets thrown at you along the way.

My own path to self-love was a very long and winding one. It took 30 years of relentless focus and courage. But the prize was worth every ounce of effort, and more.

The path to divine love

This path is both harder, and easier, than the path to unconditional love. Harder, because it involves two beings. And easier, because it involves two beings.

The challenge lies in finding another being who is on the same page as you about love. Especially another human being. I first explored the whole notion of divine love with a tree. I felt much safer with this tree — a cedar — than with another person. Trees are unconditional and divine by nature. So I knew that any resistance to our shared love was coming from me. At first, I had some good days when I’d connect deeply with it. But I had far more bad days. Luckily for me, trees are endlessly patient — especially my tree.
Over time, it got easier. I found that I could love my tree unconditionally, and give of myself fully and freely. I wanted nothing less for my tree than to help it achieve its highest purpose. Which was being the tree it was destined to be, not the tree I wanted it to be.

At this point, I knew I was ready for divine love with a human. One who was one the same page as I about the nature of real love. The 30 years I spent getting ready for divine love were hard. But this is when the challenge really began.

It’s easy to see why finding someone with the same view of love is such a challenge. Real love is not what society values. You can tell, because of how society rewards conditional love. If you do x, you’ll get y. Even worse, if you don’t do x, not only won’t you get y, but you’ll also get punished in some way. Life today is about compliance. And compliance, by its very nature, is loaded with conditions.

The starting place for me was to get clear on some prerequisites for real love. For this, I had to write a list of my relationship non-negotiables*. These are the characteristics that must be present in another for us to be on the same page about life in general. After I’d written my list, I realized why so much had gone wrong in all my previous relationships. My partners and I were miles apart on most items on my list. This meant we were miles apart on everything that mattered to me. I couldn’t see any of them as the perfect beings they were, because they were far from perfect for me.

This is a crucial point. Unconditional love depends on your being able to see and accept the other as perfect, just as he is. This won’t happen if what matters most to each of you is very different. You won’t feel comfortable enough with him. And this will make it easy to find fault with him — as a way of explaining your discomfort.

With your list of non-negotiables in hand, it’s much easier to navigate the choppy waters of dating. There’s a yes or a no answer to every item on your list. An answer to whether this person has the same worldview as you, for example. It removes all subjectivity from the dating equation.

If you find someone who meets all your non-negotiables, then the fun can begin. I say ‘can begin’, not ‘will begin’, because what follows depends on other things. Like timing. Are you in the same place at the same time? Like connection — emotional, mental, spiritual and physical.

You’re worth it

If you do get to a place of real love, life gets easier. Much easier. Because divine love ‘à deux’ is love on steroids. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Getting to a place of real love isn’t for the faint-hearted. The focus and courage it requires knocks many people off-course. But the prize when you get there makes it worthwhile. It makes it beyond worthwhile, to be honest.

And you’re worth it, you perfect human being. You may not believe this right now, in this moment, but you are. You are worth making the effort for. You are worthy of real love. You are worthy of being your best self. You are worthy of giving of yourself — and receiving of the other — freely and fully.

You are worth it.

* I’m grateful to SARK and John Waddell for making this easier via their book, Succulent Wild Love: Six Powerful Habits for Feeling More Love More Often

 

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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My Life As a Dog

And how it made me happier

Let’s face it. Dogs make amazing companions. That delighted-to-see-you greeting when you come home — even if you’ve only been gone for a few minutes. The look of pure love in their eyes as they gaze at you. That sense of their knowing when you’re upset, and in need of their comfort.

I was late to the dog-loving game. You see, I grew up in a cat family. I rarely came across dogs — they were much less common as pets back then. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I first fell in love with a dog. Oggie Doggie was anything but average. Physically, he was very tall and hairy for a Jack Russell. And his personality was larger than life. He was very cute (and knew it), very smart and very funny. Oggie had my heart at first sight, and knew that, too.

For the first few years, Oggie and I were inseparable. It’s true to say that my ex-husband was envious of the relationship I had with that dog. You see, life with Oggie was uncomplicated. We adored each other. It’s so easy to adore — and be adored by — a dog. My idyllic relationship with Oggie lasted for five years. And came to a crashing halt the day I left the marriage. I paid a high price for my freedom — my ex-husband got Oggie. He also got the other dog we had. He was “his” dog, just as Oggie was “my” dog. Oggie and I were separated for about 18 months. The moment our separation ended will stay with me forever. After much discussion, my ex had finally agreed to give me my dog back. When I went to the house to collect Oggie, both dogs rushed to the door to check out the visitor. The other dog walked away after one sniff, but not Oggie. He sniffed me, started to turn away, then rushed forward, and sniffed me again. He looked up, his eyes shining bright, and leaped into my arms. licking me. The look on his face said: “It’s HER. She’s BACK!”, and he ran out of the house without looking back.

It was at this point in our relationship that I started to learn from Oggie. A lot. This timing had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with him. He’d always had much to teach me, but I’d not been ready. It took a couple of major life challenges to get me ready to receive Oggie’s wisdom. The divorce, and my getting very sick with an autoimmune disease. These ground me down to the point where I had to do some serious self-work. Or go completely under. The decision to take a long, hard look at myself and how I was living opened me up. It gave me the self-awareness I needed to see the gifts Oggie had to offer.

The gift of unconditional love

The first gift was his unconditional love for me. I’d always known that the love I got from him felt different from all other love I’d experienced. But I had no idea why. His love felt liberating. I could be the real me with him at all times — no matter what that looked like in any moment — and it was fine with him. He didn’t judge me or my behaviour. He just loved me. And that felt so good.

It felt so good, because it’s not what I was used to. I’m guessing it’s not what you’re used to, either. Truth is, most of the love between people is conditional. You don’t mean it to be that way, but it’s what happens. It’s not your fault, it’s how society trained you to be. The conditions are subtle.

  • You praise someone for getting top marks, but not for failing.
  • You reward success, not the effort.
  • You think or say things like this. “If you really loved me, you would […]”, or “This is in your best interests…”, or “I wish he were […]”, or “You must/should […]”.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know you do this to others. And that it’s done to you, too. In fact, you’ve spent your life trying to fit in to receive love, even conditional love. It’s true for me. Or it used to be true.

Stepping away from this conditional form of love takes awareness, and courage. It starts with your noticing when you do any of these conditional things, and when they’re done to you. Once you start to see this behaviour in yourself and others, you can’t un-see it. Over time, you’ll start to catch your behaviour when it’s still a thought, and will have time to change it.

With every interaction, ask yourself if you deliver love that feels like Oggie’s love did for me. Love that says: “You’re perfect, just as you are. There is nothing I would change about you or this moment.”

The gift of living in the moment

The second gift Oggie gave me was understanding the power of living in the moment. I would often take him out for walks along exactly the same route, day after day. Whilst I tired of this route and routine, he never did. He treated every minute of every walk as if it were his first time experiencing it. He stepped out into his walks full of excitement and joy.

I could see WHY Oggie lived like this — it was an exhilarating! But it took me a good while to figure out HOW he did it. I wondered how he could get so excited about experiencing the same thing again and again. Many years later, I understood.

Oggie didn’t experience the same thing again and again. He knew that nothing is constant, that everything changes from second to second. And he noticed every single nuance of every single change.

He noticed that:

  • Different dogs had gone by, leaving different scents.
  • The weather was different, and this affected every sense. How things looked, smelled, how tasted, and felt. It affected the sounds that were about.
  • He was different, and was experiencing the walk through a different lens.
  • I was different, and was giving off different energy.
  • Everything along our path was different. Every blade of grass, every flower, every shrub, every tree. Different people were walking by. The garbage strewn around was different.
  • The cars going by were different.
  • Our rate of movement was different, and this affected how long we spent in one place.

These are but some of the things he noticed. When I finally started looking at the world like Oggie, it felt amazing. I was a young child once more, viewing everything with such wonder. What happened to enable me to be in the moment? I started a daily meditation practice… and kept it up.

The control this has given me over my thoughts and behaviour is mind-blowing. Take it from me when I say that a daily meditation practice will change your life. If you want more proof, this article from The Art of Living summarizes the benefits well.

The gift of acceptance

The third gift Oggie gave me was to accept what is. Completely. By the time he offered me this gift, I was already down the path to understanding acceptance. That had started when I got sick. After raging about my fate for a couple of years, I finally accepted it. In that moment, I took responsibility for my health, and took action to fix it. With great success. So I understood acceptance. Or thought I did.

My real understanding of acceptance didn’t happen until Oggie got sick. He’d developed a tumour in his neck that caused him constant pain. And it was inoperable. All I could do for him was to attempt to manage the pain via meds. This worked for a few months, then it became clear that his pain was getting worse. I kept on going back to the vet for more painkillers, but there was a limit to what they could do. I knew I had to make a decision, but the thought of being without Oggie was too much for me to contemplate. So I put my head in the sand and carried on.

Oggie made it clear that he knew I was struggling with his impending demise. He’d look at me in a way that said: “It’s OK, I’ll bear the pain for as long as you need”. He’d accepted his situation and his fate. I hadn’t.

I did make the right decision for him in the end, but it was two or three months later than it should have been. When I stopped feeling so raw from his death, I took stock of what had happened. And started understanding what acceptance really looks like.

Acceptance works on two levels. There’s accepting hard realities about yourself. And then there’s accepting hard realities about someone else. One is harder to do (the latter), but they both demand the same thing of you. That you step back and observe what’s there. That you see what is. Not what should be true, or could be true, or you’d like to be true. What is. And act based on that, and that alone.

I’ve not had another dog since Oggie. Partly, because I wasn’t emotionally ready for another. Partly, because I’ve been moving around a lot. I will get a dog, one day. And I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life for the gifts that scruffy little white dog with the big heart gave me.

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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).

 

life-is-waiting-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

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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What would it look like if it were easy?

You listen to – and believe – all of the lies about yourself, especially the ones you hear on repeat in your head. The lies that tell you you’re not [______________] enough or not as [______________] as her/him; that you have to be perfect; that people will only like you if you do what they ask you to do and behave like they want you to behave; that you have to over-achieve in order to be accepted.

You’re afraid to try or start something, because you’re sure you’ll fail at it. You lack the self-confidence to go for it, so you play it safe. You get overwhelmed and stuck, unable to move forward even if it’s something you want to complete.

You feel useless, empty and scared – and then numb your feelings so you can make it through every day. You judge your every action – and those of others – harshly, constantly using “I/you should…”, “I/you must…”, “I/you always…” and “if only..”. You take things personally and hold onto grudges. You are competitive off the sports field, needing to be the best or always right.

You say one thing, and do another, and worry about the past AND the future. You feel the need to be the centre of attention, thriving on drama to such an extent that you unintentionally create it. You spend time around toxic people and in toxic places.

You live hard and fast, sacrificing your own health and well-being to get ahead. You make assumptions about everything around you, preferring this to looking stupid by asking questions for clarification.

You believe that you aren’t enough. You aren’t compassionate with yourself, so you can’t be with others, and don’t live in a way that nourishes you. You prioritize success over happiness, thinking that success leads to happiness, which it obviously doesn’t, because you start chasing a new success the minute you’ve achieved the last one.

You fight situations and people if they’re not how you want them to be, and cling onto everything, even if it no longer serves you. You NEVER forgive – your indignation at how you were treated feels much more satisfying. You say what others want you to say, believe what they want you to believe, follow their rules and have no idea how you spend your time.

You’re terrified of failure so keep on doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result – which never comes. You don’t bother having life dreams any more, because you know they’ll never come true. You never ask for help as you think it makes you look weak. You try to control everything, because you secretly believe that you can’t control anything.

You beat yourself up so badly that it makes you want to beat up others, too – to deflect the attention of your inner critics away from you for a few minutes. You bottle up everything you feel until it erupts uncontrollably when you least want it to.  You  feel hard done by, as if life has dealt you a bad hand.

You don’t want to stand out from the crowd, you want to fit in and do things the way others do them. Fitting in is so important, you’ve become a people-pleaser, doing whatever is asked of you. This makes you feel used – but you feel even worse when they don’t ask you for help. You spend more time trying to fit in than you do with the people who truly value and love you.

 

What would it look like if it were easy?

It would look nothing like this. 

 

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 turn struggling to your advantage

You’re so strong and competent. You take change in your stride. You know that change is good for you – after all, change is growth.

Struggle isn’t a word you use. Competent people like you don’t struggle. They succeed. There may be bumps, even hurdles along the way. But no struggle. Struggling is for people who aren’t strong.

On the outside, everything looks fine, even though people ask you repeatedly if you’re OK, if you need help. They know you’re going through a lot right now, hence their questions. You say you’re good, even though things don’t feel quite so good on the inside.

You may not realise it, but you’re pretending to be fine. You don’t want to admit that you’re struggling, because, if you do, you’re afraid that you’ll collapse.

You’re right to be afraid of collapsing, but not for the reason you think.

You won’t collapse because you’re struggling. You’ll collapse because you’re DENYING that you’re struggling.

Change IS hard. Change IS painful. When you don’t acknowledge and accept this, your feelings of pain and fear go deep inside you. Just because you don’t appear to be struggling with change, it doesn’t mean that you’re omnipotent. It just means that you’re in denial.

There’s only so long you can remain in denial about how hard something you’re doing is. Eventually, your pain and fear will find a way of expressing themselves – how and when THEY want, not how and when you choose to let them. Your pain and fear may express themselves as tears, as anger, or by making you sick. Tears and getting sick are how mine usually come out – whenever the auto-immune disease I have gets active, I know I’m denying something.

When you’re struggling with changes you’re making in your life, you have a choice.

You can allow yourself to express your feelings of pain, as and when they arise. You can admit to your friends when they ask how you’re doing that you’re struggling. If you do this, your feelings will pass and you can continue to move forward with your changes.

Or you can save face and continue to deny them, pretending to your friends that all well. You can get well and truly stuck, unable to move forward with your life changes. And become more sick.

Feeling and expressing the pain and fear behind your struggle is good. It allows you to keep moving forward, to keep growing, to become even stronger. This is how you turn struggling to your advantage.

Everyone feels pain and fear when they’re making changes – even I do, and I’ve changed enough in my life for three lifetimes. But not everyone admits it. If you weren’t allowed to make mistakes or to show your emotions in the past, you’ll find it hard to acknowledge your fear and pain. That’s because they feel like failure to you. Admitting that you’re struggling with change feels like you’re admitting that you’re weak. My way of denying that I’m struggling is to focus on all the good that’s coming from the change, and to ignore the rest. Sure, there IS good coming from the change. But there IS also pain.

Struggle is strength. It’s a sign of growth, that you’re making some important changes to your life.

Accept and embrace ALL of the feelings that come with this – the joy, the gratitude, the fear, the pain. And you’ll come to love how struggling makes you stronger.

 

 

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 live with greater ease

I live about 500 metres up a VERY steep hill, at the start of which is a sharp bend in the single-track road. This morning, as I was driving home, I started up the hill and thought to myself: “Ah, here’s that bend I hate! I’d better turn the steering wheel the right amount or I’ll hit the wall!!!”. The minute that thought came to me, I had to act quickly so I didn’t hit the wall.

You see, that thought itself almost caused me to hit the wall.

Over-thinking almost caused me to hit the wall.

Usually, I drive up the road with no problem. I don’t love that bend, but my instincts make sure I take it correctly. My instincts know exactly how much I have to turn the steering wheel to make that bend.

As it is in this story, so it is in life.

Over-thinking is a curse that plagues many of us.

Until recently, I was a habitual over-thinker. If there was a way I could over-think and over-complicate things, I would. It wasn’t intentional. It was a habit I learned very young from my father, who was a life-long over-thinker.

Most people believe all thinking is good and that there’s no such thing as over-thinking.

I hold a very different opinion. I believe that there’s a time and a place for thinking, that only certain, very specific tasks are suited to thinking. And I believe that the rest are suited to instinct.

Take driving. When I was learning to drive, I used my mind – thinking – to learn how a car works and the rules of the road. Now that I know these things, it’s my instincts that keep me safe. By staying fully present when I drive, I’m alert to everything that arises. If, however, I fail to stay present whilst I’m driving and start thinking – about how to stay safe or anything else at all – I put myself and others at risk. Driving is not a task for which our minds are suited.

Our minds are amazing at analysing, storing and retrieving information.

Our instincts are amazing at reading, seeing, hearing, sensing and feeling information.

When I was an over-thinker, my mind was mostly in control. It would do all my work and make all my decisions for me. It NEVER assigned any tasks to my instincts, because the mind ALWAYS thinks it knows best. So, I ended up doing a lot of bad work and making a lot of bad decisions.

These days, my instincts are mostly in control. They are very generous and share out tasks according to competence. My instincts give my mind ALL tasks that involve information analysis, storage and retrieval. And keep the rest for themselves. Since I’ve been operating this way, my life has been going much more smoothly. I still do make mistakes, of course, but less often, and I recover from them more quickly.

I made the change from mind to instincts by learning to stay present. The present is the place from which all correct actions and thoughts take place. Here’s how I learned to stay present and stop over-thinking:

  • Meditation. I’ve been meditating for at least 30-60 minutes a day for some years, and on-and-off before then. It’s my best tool for learning presence… and for staying present. I highly recommend you look into it for yourself.
  • Acceptance. Accepting things EXACTLY as they are is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do for yourself. Acceptance means not fighting or denying the existence of a reality we don’t like. For example, I don’t like that I have ulcerative colitis, but I accept that I do. Acceptance allows me to take action around it, it allows me to be highly functional with what is for many a debilitating disease.
  • Letting go. Of the past. Of decisions taken. Of actions taken. Of your baggage. Of your views on how your life is supposed to have been. Of your Inner Critics’ views on all of this. Letting go doesn’t mean that you agree with or approve of difficult situations or people. It just means that you are letting go of the control ALL of this has over you. It is not an angry notion. I like to think of letting go as releasing something / someone into a flow of love, and respectfully keeping your distance.
  • Deep focus on the matter at hand. I devote myself fully to whatever it is I’m doing. I remove all distractions and make sure I give myself regular breaks to refresh myself. For me, this means moving around – I love the Move app, which gives me exercises to do!

Take action to end your curse of over-thinking today. You won’t regret 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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The surprising truth about self-confidence

And how to regain yours in 10 steps

The more I talk to my friends and clients, the more I realize a sad truth.

That most of us often lack self-confidence.

Yet, if you ask people if they lack self-confidence, especially strong, accomplished people, they’ll probably answer no. Not because they’re in denial about it. But because they can’t see it.

You don’t often see that you’ve lost your self-confidence, as this loss manifests as something else. You see that you’re overwhelmed, that you’re stuck, that you’re a bit lost. You don’t realise that these are just symptoms. And that the problem behind them is a loss of self-confidence.

Lack of self-confidence is at the root of all feelings of being overwhelmed and stuck.

If you are full of self-confidence, you know what you can and can’t handle. You do what you can yourself, and hand off the rest to someone else. There’s no loss of face, you’re just being efficient.

If, however, you lack self-confidence, what you can’t handle overshadows everything, and it’s this that causes overwhelm. When you’re overwhelmed, you can’t see a way forward, so you get stuck. Being stuck for any length of time affects how you view yourself. You start to feel that you’re good for nothing, and this makes you feel even more overwhelmed, even more stuck.

When you reach this place, your self-esteem takes a beating. People often use self-confidence and self-esteem interchangeably, but, for me, there’s an important distinction between the two.

Self-confidence is your outer layer of self-reliance. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is your internal sense of worth.

When you can’t keep up your external self-confidence, external things can start to fall apart – you miss deadlines, you let people down, you limit your activities. But, when you don’t feel your internal worth any more, when you have no self-esteem, YOU start to fall apart.

Self-confidence is the cornerstone of self-esteem. That’s why it’s so important to deal with the self-confidence crisis whenever it strikes.

What can you do?

Here are 10 steps to help you start regaining your self-confidence.

  1. The minute you feel overwhelmed, stop. Don’t make any important decisions. Don’t take on any more change. (I wrote this post about overwhelm.)
  2. Dig deep into your feelings of overwhelm. When did they start? What triggered them?
  3. Dig deep into what triggered them. Was your behaviour behind it? Was someone else’s reaction to you behind it?
  4. Accept what happened (the trigger). This doesn’t mean you have to be happy about what happened. You just have to accept that it did actually happen. And then you have to acknowledge any feelings that you may have about it, and allow yourself to express them, when you are somewhere safe and secure. That may involve punching pillows, if one of your feelings is anger. Or crying until you have no more tears, if one of your feelings is grief or sadness. Fully expressed feelings dissipate. Unexpressed feelings get stronger and stronger, until one day, they erupt uncontrollably.
  5. Let the trigger incident go. Like acceptance, letting go is an important behaviour to understand and adopt. And, like acceptance, it’s a hard behaviour to understand and adopt! Letting go of something or someone doesn’t mean that you are OK with the situation or person. It just means that you are letting go of the control ALL of this has over you. It’s not an angry notion. I like to think of letting go as releasing something/someone into a flow of love, and respectfully keeping your distance. Practice really does make perfect, and it’s well worth the effort.
  6. Know exactly what you have to get done. Make a detailed list of everything that was causing you to feel overwhelmed. This is your TO DO list.
  7. Prioritise what you have to do. Review all items on your TO DO list, and prioritize them according to their importance. I like to have three categories: Must Do, Maybe Do and Nice To Do.
  8. Do your Must Dos every day. You should start to notice you feel better about yourself after successfully ticking off these for a few days.
  9. Add your Maybe Dos to your weekly routine. Do this whenever you’re feeling in a good place, with some energy to spare.
  10. Add your Nice To Dos to your monthly routine. By the time you have the energy to get to these, your self-confidence and self-esteem will be much healthier.

The sense of self-reliance that goes with self-confidence is essential to our ability to function, day in, day out. The sense of self-worth that goes with self-esteem is essential to our happiness.

Let’s make nurturing these in ourselves our top priority! Because without them, we are no good to ourselves or others.

 

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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10 steps to help you take action when you’ve hit rock bottom

This is where a lot of life changes begin. At rock bottom.

Rock bottom is a deeply personal place – no two rock bottoms are alike. It doesn’t matter how you got there, just that you did. Many of us don’t take action until we hit rock bottom. We’re willing to put up with a lot of discomfort, even pain, rather than face up to what’s right there in front of us.

That something is wrong with how we’re living.

And that we need to do something about it.

Here are 10 steps to help you take action when you know you’ve hit rock bottom.

1.    Thank yourself for realizing it

Change cannot happen until you realize something’s wrong. Most people are unwilling to face up to this, and, with their heads down, carry on as they have been for years. You, on the other hand, have been courageous enough to realize that something’s wrong. So take a moment to thank yourself for this – it can do a lot for your self-esteem.

2.    Accept that you can’t go on living like this

After thanking yourself for noticing that something’s wrong, you need to take another courageous step. You need to accept that this way of living has to stop. It’s one thing thinking that something has to stop; it’s another believing it with every cell in your body. This is what acceptance looks like.

3.    Figure out how you got to this place

Before you can move forward with purpose, you need to understand what you’re moving away from. So it’s worth spending time figuring out how you got here. How have you been living? What have your priorities been? Are you proud of what you’ve been focussing on? You need to answer these sorts of questions so you have a good idea of what lies behind the life that led you to rock bottom.

4.   Figure out who you really are

As adults, many of us believe we know who we are. We equate our age with our level of knowing, not realising that the discomfort we’ve felt for much of our adult life is caused by a disconnect between who we think we are and who we really are. In order to figure out who you really are, you need to ask yourself some questions, and some of the answers to these lie back in your childhood. These three questions have helped a lot of people figure out who they really are:

What’s important to you? Are there any personal qualities you want to be known for? What do you value above all else? What qualities in others do you admire?

What do you love doing? Go back to your childhood, from as far back as you can remember until you were about eight. During this time, you were really you. After this age, you were being moulded by society to be a certain person.

What are you truly good at? The things that come naturally to you, rather than the things you’ve learned to master.

5.    List the changes you want to make

When sitting at rock bottom, we may see a lot of things that we want to change about our lives. To exercise more. To eat healthier foods. To deepen a relationship. To drink less. To have more fun. To start a spiritual practice like meditation. To spend more time with loved ones. To work less. To learn to love ourselves. To declutter. To move house. To change job. To leave a relationship. Etc. Whatever your list is, make sure that you document it now, when you’re at rock bottom, so you don’t forget anything important.

6.   Prioritize your list of changes

In order to take action and make changes in your life, the changes must be manageable. Trying to do a list of 10 things at the same time is a recipe for failure, so you need to prioritize them. Start with the ONE thing that you want to change most. Then your top five things. Then the rest. And do them in that order, without starting a new one until you’ve fully succeeded in making the change above it..

7.   Make a plan of action

This is how you turn your fantasy – a changed life – into a reality. Most intentions to change fail because people are unable to take action, so this is a really important step. Take your number one change and decide how you’re going to make it happen. What specific things are you going to do? How often? With what goals in mind? For example, if your number one change is to exercise more, list the types of exercise you’re going to take, their frequency and where you want to get to in the end: hiking 5 km every weekend (goal: 20 km hikes); walking vigorously for 30 minutes every day; rowing twice a week (goal: racing every weekend); etc. Do this for every item on your change list, but only when you’ve succeeded in making the change above it. Be sure to keep your goals achievable – you don’t want them to discourage you.

8.   Be accountable

There’s nothing like monitoring your progress to keep you moving forward. Maybe you’d like to have someone with whom you check in every week to discuss how you’re getting on – someone who will lovingly kick your butt if you need it. Or maybe you’d like a tool like a change log where you document the specific things you’ve done every day to make your change happen. Or maybe you’d like to combine these two, showing your change log to your person every week. It doesn’t matter which accountability system you choose, just make sure you have one. It will dramatically increase your chances of success. (Check out stickK, which uses a Commitment Contract with a Referee or financial stakes to maximize success.)

9.   Have a support system

As you make changes in your life, you will have set backs. This is guaranteed (see this blog post for why). So you really need to have some people cheering you on from the sidelines – people who will be there for you, no matter what. It’s so easy to get knocked off course when things don’t go well. And, after all of the courage and effort it’s taken to get to this point, the last thing you want is to be knocked off course.

10.  Celebrate your successes

Every time you reach one of your goals, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back! One of the biggest momentum boosters comes from recognizing how much progress you’re making as you go along. Celebrate in any way you want – you might want to ‘phone someone who didn’t think you could do it to tell him/her that you succeeded, or to treat yourself to something you love, or to go away for the weekend. You’re rocking those changes, so acknowledge 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).