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How to Spend Less Time on Autopilot and More Time Living

The art and science of conscious living.

When times get tough, I have a habit of going into autopilot mode. I learned to do this long ago – it was a way of making sure I got things done, even if all hell was breaking loose around me. So I guess you could say it works for me. Except when it doesn’t.

The trouble with autopilot mode is that it has no heart. You do everything by rote, without putting any of yourself into it. This is because you care more about getting things done than about how you do them. Or why you’re doing them. And when you do things without heart, your heart shuts off… a bit, at first, and a lot if your autopilot state persists.

Once you start to shut off your heart to get tasks done, you also start to shut it off for everything else. You see, you can’t selectively shut your heart off – hearts don’t work like that. They’re either open, or they’re not. So while you may be efficient on autopilot, you’re not effective. Effectiveness has a level of complexity that requires heart. Chances are, when you’re on autopilot, you’re not being as compassionate, either. Compassion comes from the heart.

When your heart shuts off, your groove is another casualty. I describe my ‘groove’ as a combination of my particular rhythm – my essence and how it manifests – and my routine.

It took me years to find my groove. I was subjected to such a dominant nurture environment as a child that my groove was silenced. What I thought was my groove wasn’t mine at all – it belonged to my nurturers. Being groove-less for all those years had a huge impact on me. I became very task-orientated – it was my way of feeling more in control of my life. I had little resilience. I wasn’t very happy. I tended to overreact to challenging situations. I was a stress-head. I got sick with an autoimmune disease. I hid behind my autopilot efficiency. Yet, my innate personality often came to my rescue, enabling me to build an amazing network of friends, and a successful career.

Once I found my groove, life got much easier. And happier. I became more productive and my creativity started to come to the fore. I became much more resilient to whatever life threw at me. I got the autoimmune disease I’d developed into remission, without medication. All was good.

Except when my groove disappeared. It did this when I became overwhelmed by or disinterested in what I was doing. Then I’d default to my old autopilot behaviour pattern. And stay there for a while, because I wouldn’t notice that I was in autopilot mode. Autopilot is, after all, a subconscious behaviour. Some time later, I’d notice that my joie de vivre was missing. The minute that happened, I could switch out of it – action follows awareness.

Nowadays, my autopilot moments are few and far between, and not as long-lasting. I am, for the most part, in my groove – and here’s what that looks like:

  • I have a clear life vision.

  • I have a comprehensive list of all the components that will bring me to this vision. Knowing your life’s purpose is the starting place.

  • I set 90-day/monthly/weekly goals for all these components and take action on them, every day.

  • I act consciously on a daily basis, doing only those things that bring me towards my vision.

  • I create healthy habits out of as many of my desired behaviours as possible. That way, they move into my subconscious mind and free up space in my conscious mind for things that arise. Many of my healthy habits are daily ones – these have become as automatic to me as brushing my teeth.

My younger self would laugh at my planning, process and routines. “How stifling this all must be!”, she’d say.

But she’d be wrong.

Being in my groove keeps me anchored. Instead of limiting my life with goals and plans, being in my groove has liberated me. It has allowed me to live with limitless wholeness.

 

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 move past fear & into action in 8 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is yours.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know you. Because that was me, too.

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

When you stop playing it small, you are enough.

Here’s how I stopped playing it small.

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

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

I’m living large. Will you join me?

 

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

 

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6 actions that will change your life forever

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

Feeling good about yourself.

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

You name it, you’ve done it.

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

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

Is This It?

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

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

Merely experiencing these things doesn’t create lasting change.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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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).

 

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

How to take action when life hits us hard

When we’re in a bad place, we have a choice.

We can distract ourselves to lessen the pain. Temporarily.

Or we can take action to alleviate the pain. Permanently.

Most of us choose to distract ourselves. In a shopping mall, with shiny new things we don’t need. With food, usually unhealthy salty and sugary snacks. With drink, whatever takes our fancy. With drugs, ‘legal’ and otherwise. With work, the longer the hours, the better. With sex, not intimacy.

I used to be a master of self-distraction. Work was my chosen poison. I would take on complex projects with impossible deadlines and bury myself in them. The more hours I spent at and on work, the fewer there were left to do anything other than eat and sleep.

This approach worked for me for years… until, one winter’s day, I imploded. There was simply no more space inside me to bury the pain. I knew I had to make a decision.

I could either choose to distract myself more effectively and deeply (drugs and booze, anyone?).

Or I could choose to start alleviating the pain.

I chose the latter. I knew this was my only real choice if I wanted to be healthy and happy. Which I did.

I looked at EVERY aspect of my life to see what needed to change to get to the root cause of the pain.

I took action, and started to make the changes in my life that needed to be made.

I found my path out of the pain. And continue to work on it, every day.

Here are some things that have helped me and others work through our pain.

  • Find solace in nature. Nature just allows you to be, with no judgement and no expectations. It gives unconditionally. There is such peace to be found in nature that it can only help you to find the peace within you. Nature is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in friends. Your true friends are a bit like nature. You feel held and supported when you are with them. If you don’t feel this, they are not true friends.
  • Find solace in meditation. A meditation practice helps you get out of your head and into your heart. And your heart is a much kinder place to be! When you find the type of meditation that works for you, it’s another gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in animals. Animals have much to teach us about how to live fully in the moment. And this is the secret of happiness. You can walk a dog along the same route every day and he will never get bored. For him, the route is new every day, it’s full of experiences (smells, tastes, sights, sounds, sensations) that weren’t there the day before.
  • Find solace in therapy. Therapy can really help some people get to the point where these other forms of solace really work. The key is finding a therapist who fully resonates with you.

Distracting ourselves is NEVER the answer to feelings of pain. Distraction is denial and ALWAYS leads to more and deeper pain.

We should choose to grow, to alleviate the pain permanently. This is the ONLY route to happiness. Such personal growth isn’t easy. It takes courage, diligence and patience.

And you’re worth it.

Image credit: Sarah Blick

 

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 stay grounded during times of change

I’ve been going through a lot of change of late and have been feeling a bit lost. Not because the change is unwelcome. Not because I haven’t known how to move forward.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost because I’ve not been very anchored.

Anchoring yourself is hard at the best of times. But when you’re moving a lot, like I am, it becomes much harder. I was recently talking to two dear friends of mine who are travelling around Asia right now and they confirmed this. After a couple of months on the road, they’re feeling in strong need of some anchoring.

As a concept, anchoring is hard to explain. It’s not about staying still and putting down roots – although that IS anchoring.

It’s more about finding some constancy when you’re constantly moving.

It helps if you think of a boat. It anchors to stay safe and secure when briefly stopping somewhere before moving on again. A house, on the other hand, roots itself to one place and stays put. Its rootedness also helps keep you safe and secure, but in a different way.

So, how do you anchor yourself?

Here are some possible ways:

  • By creating a routine. Routines can help you feel connected to a place, even if you’re there for a short time. My travelling friends eat in the same restaurant for most meals, that anchors them.
  • By spending time in nature. Nature is grounding, it anchors you just by being itself. I get maximum anchoring from walking barefoot on wet sand, dewy grass or forest floors.
  • By creating a ritual. No matter where I am, I start the day with a cup of mega strong, black tea. The tea reminds me that, even if everything around me is constantly changing, some things in my life remains the same.
  • By meditating. A regular meditation practice can really help keep you grounded. In itself, and as a ritual.
  • By making time to connect with loved ones. There is nothing that connecting with our loved ones can’t help resolve! Deeply, not superficially.

If you’re feeling really unanchored, you may need to do all of these. A lot. It’s worth taking time to do this, even if you’re busy. You might find that some of these work better than others at a given moment. I recently found myself creating more and more routines in response to my unanchoredness, and that started to feel too rigid. I finally realised that I’ve not been spending enough time in nature – I’ve been living in cities for the last 18 months. So I’m amping up my nature time.

We humans are community-oriented creatures at heart. So when we stray from that life, even for something exciting like exploring new places and people, we often feel a little lost. Then we feel guilty for feeling lost, for not appreciating the new experiences we’re having.

Instead of feeling lost or guilty, anchor yourself and those new experiences will again start to feel wonderful.

 

photo credit: Final Anchorage 2 via photopin (license)

 

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).

 

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Take action to make fear your friend

We humans spend an awful lot of our time stuck in fear mode. So much so that we don’t really recognize it as fear any more.

To us, it’s security.

That’s right, fear is disguised as security. When we feel comforted by security, it’s actually that we fear the alternative. Think about job security for a moment. That’s just fear of not having a job.

We’ve channelled our fear into security.

“What’s wrong with that?” I hear you cry. “It stops us from being afraid.”

That’s true, it does stop us from being afraid. But it also makes us stuck. As in not moving forward. As in not growing and developing. Stuck.

Being stuck is a slow death. It’s actually worse than feeling fear, because when you feel fear, at least you know you’re alive. When you’re stuck, you feel dead. You know something’s not quite right, but you don’t know what. On the surface, all is well – after all, you have your security. Inside, you know all isn’t well. At all.

Why do we get so stuck? Because turning fear into security has made us afraid of change. And without change, we’re stuck where we are.

But we don’t have to live in a perpetual state of fear, nor do we have to channel our fear into security. We can choose to channel our fear into something else – into something productive, something that gets us unstuck.

We can channel our fear into action.

This is what happens automatically in the wild. Fear triggers action – either fight or flight. Without it, you’re dead. In the wild, fear is our best friend. It’s what gives us the chance to continue living.

Fear can do the same for us in our everyday, domesticated lives. Channelled into action, fear can help us move forward, help us make the changes we need to make in our lives in order to grow. It can give us the chance to start living more fully, and with a greater sense of personal fulfilment. And when we live more fully and feel self-fulfilled, we’re happier.

So make fear your friend by channelling it into action. Use it to take steps forward in your life.

By turning your fear into action, you start making life changes and stop being stuck. And once you’ve done this a few times, you stop fearing change so much and start living with greater ease.

Make fear your friend. You’ll end up feeling more alive than 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).