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How to Live Life on Your Terms

And stop living it on someone else’s

If I asked you whether you live life on your terms, you’d probably say yes.

But do you? Are they YOUR terms? Or are they your family’s, and/or society’s terms?

As an independent soul and a bit of a rebel, I used to think that I lived on my own terms. I was wrong. I did a lot of things that were expected of me, things that weren’t me at all. As a child, I’d tried so hard to fit in that I’d started doing what others wanted me to do. Even if it wasn’t what I’d have done myself.

At first, it wasn’t a big deal. Giving in a little here, a little there. But after years of this behaviour going unchecked, my own terms for living had been eroded away. Not that I was aware they had. The terms on which I was living had become so familiar, they felt like mine.

The fit became less comfortable as the years went by. I still wasn’t aware that this was behind the unsettled feeling I had. But I couldn’t escape the fact that I did feel unsettled. Something didn’t feel right inside. The best way to describe what I felt is that there was a void inside. A certain emptiness.

It was decades later that I finally understood why I felt that void. I was missing from my own life. Through not living life on my terms, I had lost myself, bit by bit, along the way.

30 years spent rediscovering myself taught me much. About me. About others. About what it means to be fully alive. Today, I live life on my terms. How do I know? Because I dance to the beat of a very different drum. Different from the beat I used to dance to. And different from the beat I see everyone around me dancing to. I’m told I’m an outlier with such frequency that I know people experience me as different. People I know very well, and people I’ve just met.

I love being an outlier, being different. You know why? Because I AM different. I’m unique, the only me in town. You’re unique, too.

How to rediscover yourself

Rediscovering yourself requires you to answer two simple questions. “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?”. The questions may be simple. But answering them isn’t.

Who are you? Who is beneath all those layers of conditioning?

And if you think you have no layers of conditioning, think again. We ALL emerge from our families and school with conditioning. Remember those rules you had to follow? Do you still follow them, even though you don’t have to? That’s conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, not all conditioning is bad for you. It’s only bad for you if it goes against your own conditioning.

Your own conditioning is your belief system.

Your belief system is one part of what you have to figure out to rediscover yourself. The other part is to understand what lights you up. What lights you up is a combination of what you love doing and what you’re naturally good at.

One way to get at all this information is to answer these three questions.

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What are you truly good at?

What’s important to you? is all about the principles upon which you wish to build your life. Which personal qualities do you want to be known for? You know, things like honesty, kindness, resilience, openness, respect. If you find this hard to answer, think about the qualities you see in people you admire. Which types of behaviour are you not prepared to engage in? Are you prepared to use fear to get what you want? Are you prepared to be dishonest? Are you prepared to harm others through what you’re doing/buying? Which causes or issues are closest to your heart? Do you care about the environment? Human rights? Child labour? Income inequality?

To answer What do you love doing? properly, you’re going to need to go back in time to when you were a young child. From your earliest memories till when you were about eight years old. It’s best to stop at eight, because that’s when you started being moulded by others. With the best will in the world, your parents and those close to you started to direct you. To be a certain way. To go down a certain path. The trouble with this is that you are not them. Either as an individual. Or as part of your generation. So, the life for which you were groomed may not fit the real you. Mine didn’t at all. To answer this question, close your eyes and think about the young child version of you. What did you spend your time doing, when it was up to you? Think about this in detail. Note how you liked to play — alone or with others. Whether you were more introverted or extraverted. Whether you tended to lead, or follow. That kind of detail.

What are you truly good at? If you’re like me, you may not have a great sense of this any more. You may be accomplished at a lot of things, which is great. Some, you’ve learned to do well, and some, you’re naturally good at. All these things will serve you well, but you’ll get more joy from what comes naturally. Get a little outside help with this one, from people who know you well. Make sure you choose people who are impartial. This may rule out your immediate family as there can often be a lot of baggage in those relationships! Sift through their responses and note down those that resonate most with you.

Putting yourself back in your life

You now have the raw material you need to get clear on who you are, and why you’re here. The next step is to start to make sense of it.

From your answers, craft a short paragraph that captures your essence. It should talk about your values, your beliefs, and your skills. It’s your personal statement. Think about it as an elegant paragraph containing your personal keywords. Anyone reading it should be clear about who you are as a person.

Next comes what you plan to do with your life. I call this your Life Vision. Take your essence — the real you. Add what you love doing, and then the unique contribution you want to make in the world. This combination forms your Life Vision.

Living on your terms

You know who you are. You know why you’re here. Now it’s time to start living it. To start living on your terms.

Dreaming about your personal statement and Life Vision won’t make them come to life. It takes planning and action to move you from where you are to where you want to be. First, you need to break your journey down into steps. Make sure the steps are large enough to be interesting, and small enough to be achievable. Then, you need to plan how you’re going to take action. Plan no more than 90 days out, and then get more granular. Into months, weeks, and days. Don’t get into the daily detail too far ahead, or it won’t be relevant. I lay out next week’s daily plan at the end of the previous week.

Every action in your plans should take you one step closer to your Life Vision. It’s that simple. This level of focus is what it takes to live on your own terms. You may think it’s a lot of effort, that your current life is easier on you. You’re right about the first part, but wrong about the second.

Living on your terms feels better than any other way of living, and is worth every scrap of effort it takes to get there. You feel more alive than ever before. You feel more clarity than ever before. You feel more fulfilled than ever before. You feel happier than ever before.

And you’re worth every scrap of effort it takes to get there.

 

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 create positive beliefs about yourself

Even though you’ve accomplished a lot in your life so far and have been successful, you still have those nagging doubts. You’re not sure if you can have more happiness or self-fulfilment – if you deserve more happiness or self-fulfilment.

At home when you were a child, the environment was more negative than positive. Something – or someone – was always wrong. There were a lot of ‘conditions’: if only ____________ were like this, if only you behaved better, if only my boss _____________ me more, if only I had more time I would ____________, if only you didn’t make mistakes, if only you were more ________________-, etc. You developed a very strong sense of what you couldn’t do, especially that you couldn’t do enough in most situations.

As an adult, you entered a society that was also more negative than positive. A society with a fast-everything mentality, a celebrity culture and a new level of ‘wrongness’: not enough time to do what’s expected, not enough energy, not _____________ enough to be successful, be like ___________ and you’ll be successful, etc. A society with the viewpoint that your genes determine everything in your life – your health, your happiness, your well-being – rendering you effectively powerless. And, as if you needed more negativity, you’re constantly bombarded by death and disaster in the media.

It’s clear you come by your negative self-beliefs honestly!

Then there’s the fact that your wonderful human brain is wired to have a negativity bias. This bias dates back to prehistoric times when your forebears were constantly on high alert for predators – they faced real external threats to their lives. Despite the huge changes in society, your brain still has this bias, constantly scanning for possible threats. Your senses read the environment around you, sending back information to your cells, which then direct your body to act and behave in response to your environment.

The problem with negative self-beliefs

How you view the environment determines what your cells do in response.

If you view the environment negatively, as if everything is a potential threat, then your body will respond accordingly, putting you in fight or flight mode – in stress mode. Being in stress mode for more than a short period is bad for your health. It shuts down your immune system and sends more resources to your limbs for fight or flight, squeezing the resources from the rest of your body and making you less intelligent and incapable of rational thinking. If, however, you view the environment positively, as if you’re safe, then your body will respond by putting you in regular mode, able to think logically, make complex decisions, be creative and protect yourself from disease via your immune system.

Your perceptions control your cells, including your genes.

Your perceptions control your behaviour.

Your perceptions rewrite your cells (and genes).

Your perceptions rewrite your behaviour.

Your life is the result of your perceptions.

The solutions to negative thinking lie inside you

You are incredibly powerful.

You are not powerless, despite what society, old scientific knowledge and your home environment told you. With negative self-beliefs, you have the power to limit yourself and harm your health and well-being. With positive self-beliefs, you have the power to be limitless – to be healthy, happy, self-fulfilled and to do anything that your limitless self sees for you.

How to change your belief system:

  1. Acknowledge and accept that your current belief systems are negative and that you want to change this. You can’t change what isn’t true!
  2. Believe and commit. Start believing that you can change your beliefs and commit 100% to doing it. If you doubt that you can, you won’t succeed. As Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
  3. Increase your happiness and positivity. There are a number of exercises that, if practiced daily, are scientifically proven to increase your positivity levels and happiness. Here are five*:
    1. Daily gratitude practice. Every evening, write down three new things you were grateful for that day. After a week, you’ll have 21 reasons to be grateful!
    2. Daily generosity. Do an act of kindness – give an extra large tip, write a work colleague an email praising her work, thank a loved one for something. Being generous makes you feel good!
    3. Daily meditation. Mediation is an amazing way to rewire your brain for happiness. Even closing your eyes and focussing on your breath for two minutes a day has an effect! Find the type of meditation that works for you and start practicing today.
    4. Replay positive memories. Every day, replay something positive that happened in your past – a success, a happy event. You’re great at constantly replaying negative memories so change it up for positive ones!
    5. Fun exercise. Dance around to your favourite music or walk in your favourite park for 15 minutes every day. A fun cardio boost improves your mood!
  4. Deepen social connections. The quality of your social connections is the most important factor in having a happy, successful life. Deep, meaningful connections deliver positive energy – when times are good and bad. Choose wisely and go deep!
  5. Physical activity. Moderate exercise like walking and hiking for 30 minutes every day improves your mood. And vigorous exercise for 20 minutes three times a week boosts your happiness. Be active and you can’t go wrong!
  6. Mental activity. Deep learning about something you’re interested in is great for your self-esteem. When you master something you care about, it’s very powerful. Self-esteem is essential for positivity so hit those podcasts / videos / books today!
  7. High quality nourishment. You are what you eat. You can’t expect to have a high performance system if you nourish it with junk.

Create new, positive habits and change your negative self-beliefs into positive self-belief. Change the way you view the world from negative to positive, and make yourself healthier, happier and more self-fulfilled.

You are what you believe. Believe the best.

 

* Source: Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage

 

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).