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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 get real and deal with your denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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