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When You Don’t Have a Plan, You Just Have to Trust Life

Lessons from years spent journeying without a clear destination

I felt so adrift. So lost. I could barely string sentences together, let alone thoughts. But I did know one thing. I had to get out of town. Fast.

My mother had died a few weeks earlier. Amid the relief that she was no longer burdened by the disease that had ravaged her body was something else. A profound sense of loneliness. You see, I was alone. The term orphan tends to be associated with children. But I felt orphaned at 51.

I had to get out of town. It almost didn’t matter where, as long as there were mountains. Somehow mountains felt comforting. They reminded me of childhood years spent in Switzerland. So I decided to move out west, to British Columbia. I had no real connections there. I kind of knew a couple of people in BC, and had some good friends down the coast in the US. That was it. I sold or gave away half of my possessions, and shipped the rest out west. To start my new life.

My loved ones thought I was nuts. They understood my decision in one sense  – they knew I was devastated. But not in another.

“Why are you going somewhere you know no one?” they asked.

I had no answer that eased their concerns. I just had my instinct that this was the right thing to do.

This wasn’t the first time I’d pressed the fear buttons in my loved ones. I’d been moving home, city and country for much of my adult life, so they knew this was my MO. This one worried them more, though, fast on the heels of my mum’s death. They were worried that I was isolating myself at a time when I needed comfort. I couldn’t fault their logic, but it was still something I had to do.

My new life — phase one

I arrived in Vancouver, and moved into an apartment in the most exquisite location. Across the road from the ocean, and right next to Stanley Park. The latter is a 400-hectare, natural West Coast rainforest, surrounded by ocean. It was such a relief to be there. I spent much of my time walking beside the ocean, and in the park. The wet sand and forest grounded me. And I REALLY needed to get grounded. I’d spent the previous seven years on high alert. Caregiving for my ailing mother. Working full-time to keep us afloat. Dealing with my father’s death. Dealing with a volatile family member. Dealing with my dog’s death (he’d been my anchor for many years). Dealing with my mum’s death. It had been a lot. And it left me reeling.

The water and trees helped me in other ways, too. They helped me start living some important spiritual concepts I’d long understood. It’s one thing understanding a concept. And quite another living it. Being in the moment had always made sense to me. I could see how much easier it would make life. But I’d never managed to stay in the moment for any length of time. And this despite a daily meditation practice.

As I sat and watched the waves come and go, I noticed how every wave was different. Yet the same. Different in their force, their colour, their direction. The same in their essence. Water. No matter what was going on to and around the waves, water remained water. If you touched it, you got wet. I saw that water was what it was, and changed from moment to moment. What did this mean to me? It meant that I, too, was what I was. A human. And that everything about me changed from moment to moment. So, the present me wasn’t inevitably the past me. Nor was the future me inevitably the present me.

Spending time in Stanley Park with old-growth trees made me more aware of myself, and my energy. The majestic beauties that surrounded me, some over 600 years old, gave far more than they took. They shared their lives with everything and everyone within their range. They cleaned the air around them, and provided oxygen. They cooled the temperature. The most positive energy emanated from them. As I stood with them, they accepted me as one of them. I could feel their wonderful energy washing over me. And wanted to send them the same in return. I found I couldn’t do this right away. My energy had to vibrate at the right frequency for them to receive it. When, at last, I succeeded in sharing my energy with them, I was overjoyed. I thought I’d “cracked it”. I hadn’t. There were days when I had nothing to offer the beautiful trees. So I pushed aside my ego, and did what I felt drawn to do. Deeper meditation, and allowing myself to clear out my grief as it arose. This worked. And from then on, I shared my more youthful energy with the old-growth trees to give them a boost.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I’d taken myself off on my own to heal. To heal from the years of loss, and being on high alert. My cortisol had got stuck in the ‘on’ position from it all, making it hard for me to sleep for any length of time. I had to take the time to decompress. But had no idea what that looked like, or how long it would take.

After a year in BC, I started to notice that something was afoot. It felt as though another new beginning was coming my way. Which made no sense at all, given the recent start of my new life. I put this feeling down to another phase of grieving, and thought no more of it. Until I started to notice something else. That I kept on running into European holiday-makers everywhere I went. We’d always have a good conversation. Somehow, our chat turned to what we each liked about different countries we’d visited or lived in. One day, a German couple asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

“You seem to like much more about Europe. Why are you living here?”

A month or so later, I found myself sitting in front of a travel agent, who asked me another question.

“So where would you like to go, and when?”

This time, an answer came right out.

“I’d like a one-way ticket to London. And I’ve no idea when.”

“What do you mean you don’t know when?”, he replied, with a confused look on his face.

“Well, let’s say three months from now. That’ll give me enough time to sell all my stuff.”

“OK”, he replied, still looking confused.

I hadn’t planned to go to a travel agent. I found myself there one day. I’d been walking down a street, and caught a red sign out of the corner of my eye. I carried on walking. 30 seconds later, I turned around, walked back to the red sign, and walked in the door beneath it. It was a travel agency. So I just went with the flow.

Three months later, I had sold or given away almost everything I owned. I was 53, and heading off on another adventure. This time with only four cartons and two suitcases in tow.

My new life — phase two

I arrived in the UK knowing two things. That it was great to back amongst friends I hadn’t seen in a while. And that I didn’t want to live there.

The UK was a stopover so I could catch up with people, and get organized. I needed to update my British ID so I could wander freely around continental Europe. I also need wheels to facilitate the wandering. I had no firm plan, other than to start by meeting up with a friend who was travelling in Germany, and go from there. After five months in the UK, I headed off one sunny winter’s morning across the Channel.

I wasn’t drawn to spend more than a week in Germany. The language barrier was a real issue for me, despite having university-level German. I couldn’t communicate with ease, and that wasn’t what I wanted at the time. That piece of understanding ruled out a lot of places I’d been interested in exploring. Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for starters. It also ruled in two countries. France and Switzerland.

My years spent in Switzerland as a child had left me pretty fluent in French. I knew I’d be able to understand and be understood in either country. I was drawn to France, in particular. This was odd as I knew no one there. When I left Germany, a destination had come to mind. Lyon, the second biggest city in France. This, too, was odd because I didn’t want to live in a big city. But I went with my instinct.

I loved Lyon. It was beautiful to look at, and welcoming. It had a very strong sense of itself, which I found compelling. I sub-letted an apartment in La Croix-Rousse area of town. This sweet neighbourhood atop one of Lyon’s two hills was wonderful. My apartment was in the eaves of an old building from Lyon’s silk-making heyday. It was a space where the silk was manufactured, and the silk-workers also lived. All the ceilings were high enough to accommodate the Jacquard looms… except for my attic space. There, the low beams threatened my six-foot tall frame, often getting the better of my head.

Lyon helped me get a clearer sense of who I was. I guess that’s why this city with such a strong sense of itself had called me. Living my life in French contributed to my self-understanding. When I talked with the locals, the person they saw standing before them wasn’t the one I saw. On hearing my slight accent, the conversation always turned to where I was from, and what I was doing there. When I told them my story, their responses always contained the same word. Courageous. Standing before them was a courageous 54 year-old woman.

After nine happy months in Lyon, I moved on. I’d reconnected with my childhood friend in Switzerland, and wanted to live closer to her. So I moved to Gex, a small French town near Geneva. The scenery there was so beautiful. Gex was nestled in the foothills of the Jura mountains, and opposite the French Alps. And Mont Blanc. This snow-capped peak rose with such majesty across Lake Geneva. Especially when made pink by the rising sun.

Yet it was the Jura mountains that had a special place in my heart. They were lower, and full of rolling green hills, lakes and rivers. As a child, I’d spent many happy times in the Jura, hiking, and picnicking by lakes. My childhood bedroom window also looked out on them. They were the last sight I saw before sleeping, and the first upon waking.

Gex and I were not a match made in heaven. I left there after a couple of months, and moved in with my friend in Nyon, Switzerland. Nyon had been a lovely town when I lived there before, but had now grown. It was also full of ex-pats. In the couple of months I spent there, I heard French spoken only a handful of times. English — and ex-pats — had taken over. Without a work permit, I couldn’t stay for more than a few months in Switzerland, so I knew I’d have to move on. Again.

Switzerland gave me another piece of my puzzle. Because I’d loved living there as a child, I’d always thought of returning, and settling there. But, just as the child was gone, so was that Switzerland. The past is the past. The present is the present. And this present didn’t marry up with that past.

My love of the Jura drove me to seek my next location within its terrain. I opened Google Maps, and randomly picked a town. Salins-les-Bains. When I looked at photos of it, I was hooked. It seemed perfect. A few days later, I visited it on a snowy day with my friend’s son. As we descended towards the town, we rounded a bend, and our jaws dropped open. It was in the most exquisite setting. And I had found my next stop.

Salins-les-Bains had been an important town for hundreds and hundreds of years. You could see this in the buildings. It was a key religious centre, located as it was on the pilgrim route between Rome and the UK. And it had salt. Salt was so valuable back then, it was called white gold. The salt also had healing powers. Salins became a spa town, frequented by people from all over France taking cures. It was still a spa town, but an economically-depressed one. Much of its once-glorious architecture was falling into disrepair.

This small town was good to me. Its healing powers went beyond the spa. The landscape was so beautiful, it filled me with joy every time I set foot outside. I spent much time walking, hiking, and taking photos. The air smelled sweet, and was full of more butterflies than I’ve ever seen before. Everywhere I looked was bursting with beauty. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the cost of living was inexpensive. I started thinking that I’d found my home.

Then, one morning shortly after my 55th birthday, everything changed. I’d woken up to a new world. A world in which I finally understood who I was, and why I’d been the way I’d been. My life finally made sense to me.

And I knew who I was in the world without my mother by my side.

You see, this had been the purpose of my journey. Figuring out who I was in a world without my mum. We’d been extraordinarily close my whole life, but not in a mother/daughter way. We’d been the closest of friends. Life partners, in a sense. We spoke to each other more than we spoke to anyone else. We shared a sense of nonsense that no one else understood. We had a lot of fun together, and a lot of tears. When she died, I was adrift, stuck in a small boat in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by fog. Until I wasn’t any more.

My destination was never a place. It was knowing who I was, and loving myself unconditionally. That’s why I didn’t have a destination in mind when I set out on my adventure. How could I see a destination that I didn’t know existed?

Once I understood this, my self-imposed isolation ended. I started to miss my loved ones, and wanted to be around them once more. And, given where the largest concentration of them lived, that meant another move. Back to Canada. Back to Toronto, the city I’d fled from when my mum died.

My new life — phase three

I arrived back in Toronto at the end of last year, almost four years after I left. I knew immediately I’d made the right decision. It felt right, and I loved having so many of my friends around me. I settled into a new neighbourhood, and reconnected with the city in a new way.

Old city, new outlook. Old city, new life.

Much has happened since my return. My new life — phase four is on the horizon. This phase is the ‘happily ever after’ one.

But that’s a story for another day.

 

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).

 

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

Want to be Happier and More Self-Fulfilled? Get Serious About Your Personal Boundaries.

Boundaries are not walls.

Walls keep people out. Boundaries let people in, but in a deliberate and intentional way. It’s important to understand the difference.

You build walls from a place of fear. This is true for literal walls, and figurative ones. You build walls around YOUR HOME to keep people out, because you fear what they’ll do to you if you let them in. You fear that they’ll steal or damage your things. You fear that they’ll harm you and your loved ones. You fear that they’ll see you ‘off-duty’ and at your most vulnerable. You build walls around your property to protect yourself and your loved ones.

And you also build walls around YOURSELF to keep people out, because you fear what they’ll do to you if you let them in. You fear that they’ll steal or damage parts of you. You fear that they’ll harm you. You fear that they’ll see you at your most vulnerable. You build walls around yourself to protect yourself.

A wall says: “I’m scared of you. Stay away! I don’t want to know anything about you, or for you to know anything about me.”

Boundaries are also about protection, but aren’t created from a place of fear. Boundaries exist to show where something begins and ends. Where a country begins and ends. Where you begin and end.

A boundary says: “This is me. Welcome! Know me as I am, and accept me as I am. And I look forward to doing the same with you.”

Personal boundaries

Very few people have clearly defined personal boundaries. Why? Because you have walls, instead. You don’t start out with walls, you build them as you go through life.

When you’re a young child, you’re trusting and open. You’re curious about the world. You’re excited by everything there is to explore. You see the world around you as a place of wonder. If something hurts you, you cry. Then you dust yourself off, and get back to your exploring. Fear has no role in your life. Yet.

Fear starts to appear in your life the day your loved ones start to mould you. They start to turn you into the person they believe you need to be. To fit in. To be successful in life. To do this, they use fear. “Don’t do this, or you’ll…”. “Do this, or you won’t…”. “Learn this, so you’ll…”. It all seems to make perfect sense. Except that it doesn’t.

It never makes sense to mould someone. Because if you’re moulding people, you’re stopping them from being themselves. You’re saying: “You’re no good as you are. You need to be like this.” This kind of message erodes your sense of self-worth.

And it never makes sense to use fear to get someone to do something. Using it like this teaches children to fear things that aren’t even there. It’s one thing to teach children that real things like fire, cars and bears can be dangerous. It’s another to use fear as a stick to get children to do what you want. All you’re doing there is teaching children to fear the imagined.

Walls are a by-product of fear. They’re inevitable because you don’t trust yourself to protect yourself. When you feel unprotected, you feel threatened. And when you feel threatened, you build walls.

Trouble is, the walls don’t change anything. Sure, they may keep out the unwanted. But they don’t help you deal with your fear. That’s because no wall can ever be high enough to keep out the unwanted 100% of the time. If someone wants to get in, it will happen. Deep inside, you know this, which is why your fear never goes away. In fact, I’ve found that the higher your walls, the more fearful you get. Pretty ironic, don’t you think?

Walls also prevent you from feeling lasting happiness and self-fulfilment. These states of being are only possible when fear has no hold on your life.

Your walls make you feel less secure, more threatened, less happy, and less fulfilled. So, what’s the alternative? Creating clear personal boundaries. And maintaining them.

How to create personal boundaries

With your personal boundaries, you want to let people in. But on your terms.

Letting in people on your terms is a good thing if your terms aren’t about controlling others. Controlling others is about fear. This is different. Here, your terms are those things that allow you to remain yourself. And being yourself is the key to happiness and self-fulfilment.

Your boundaries exist to enable you to be YOU. To enable you to live YOUR life based on YOUR principles and YOUR belief system. You shouldn’t want to live any other way. Because then you’re living from someone else’s principles and belief system, not yours.

Your starting place for creating personal boundaries is with you. With who you are and why you’re here. To figure out how to answer these questions, you might find this post of mine helpful.

Once you know yourself deeply, you can start to get clear on your personal boundaries.

Boundaries state how you want to be in the world. What you’re prepared to engage in, and not. What actions are yours to do, and not. What behaviours are for you, and not. Your boundaries determine your side of things. And the environment and people you surround yourself with.

You might find it easier to think about personal boundaries like this. Which aspects of your life MUST be maintained to enable you to be you? I call these your non-negotiables.

For example, do you have non-negotiables for:

  • Your own behaviour (e.g. love guiding all your actions)?
  • How you live (e.g. minimizing your environmental footprint)?
  • Your health and well-being (e.g. never eating food you know is bad for you)?
  • Your intimate relationships (e.g. having the same worldview)?
  • The behaviour of those you spend time with (e.g. not being around toxic people)?
  • What you spend your money on (e.g. not buying from companies whose ethics aren’t aligned with yours)?

There should be no judgement attached to your non-negotiables. There aren’t ‘correct’ non-negotiables. There are only YOUR non-negotiables. They’re not for other people to see or comment on, they’re for you. You may choose to share them with those close to you. Or you may choose to keep them to yourself. It doesn’t matter.

All that matters is that you have clearly defined personal boundaries.

How personal boundaries work in practice

Personal boundaries are liberating. They free up your mind because they take the hard work out of decision-making.

Personal boundaries act as a lens through which you view the world. A filter through which you pass things before engaging.

How?

Imagine that one of your non-negotiables is never eating food you know is bad for you. When you’re offered such food, what happens? You decline, politely. That’s it. You don’t need to justify your decision with an explanation. It’s your right to decline, just as it’s the other’s right to offer.

Imagine that another is having the same worldview as your intimate partner. A couple of coffee dates would reveal this. If you’re not a risk-taker and your date likes to risk everything on a hunch, you have a different worldview. If you’re a people person and your date has no friends, you have a different worldview. If you’re fit and active and your date is a couch potato, you have a different worldview.

Do you see how much more simple your boundaries make your life?

Being yourself is the route to happiness and self-fulfilment. So anything that helps you with this is well worth doing. Creating personal boundaries is a big help. Don’t be deterred by the amount of time and a lot of effort it takes to create your boundaries. The first time you do it will be the most labour-intensive. All subsequent reviews of your boundaries will get easier. And you should review them annually to make sure they’re still right for you.

One day, when humankind is more enlightened — ruled by love, not fear — we won’t need boundaries. But for now, we do. We need boundaries, not walls.

Are you ready to get serious about 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-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

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).

 

say-n.o.-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Learning how to say N.O.

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

When you’re a kid, saying N.O. comes easy. So easy, that there are times when all kids seem to say is N.O.. Kids do this to test their boundaries. To see what they can – and can’t – get away with.

As you get older, boundary testing loses some of its lustre. Not because of the testing per se, which can still be a lot of fun. But because of the response you get to it, which isn’t much fun at all.

You see, by the time you’re an adult, you’re expected to know the rules. The rules of what you can and can’t do, of the behaviour expected of you. The boundaries are set. So when you’re asked to do something – even something you might not want to do – saying N.O. becomes harder. That’s the start of the slippery slope towards saying Y.E.S. to everything.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything seems pretty awesome. It makes you appear very accommodating, very obliging. Kind even. But appearances can be deceptive.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything is anything but awesome. It’s disrespectful. To you. To others.

Why saying Y.E.S. to everything is disrespectful

The boundaries that are set in stone by the time you’re an adult are the problem. Because they’re not your boundaries. They’re society’s boundaries, an attempt at one-size-fits-all rules for behaviour. But the notion of one-size-fits-all is fallacious. It fails to take into account that you’re unique. As am I. 

How can one size fit a collection of unique beings?

Before we touch on the complex world of personalities, let’s look at a simpler example. How one-size-fits-all works in the fashion world. One-size-fits-all is typically a medium size. There’s the rub. Medium isn’t the average size of all women. The average size is larger than a medium. So one size fits few. I’ve always known this. As a 6ft tall, slender woman, I’ve long been a vital statistics outlier.

So, if one-size-fits-all fails to work for clothing, you can imagine how big a fail it is for boundaries.

When you say Y.E.S. to everything, you’re saying Y.E.S. to things that aren’t yours to do. Just because someone asks you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

Your own behaviour rules should be your guide. Not society’s or someone else’s. That’s where the disrespect comes in. By not following your own rules, you’re disrespecting them. In favour of someone else’s rules.

What does this look like in practice?

Imagine you’re at home on the weekend, working through your never-ending To Do list. A friend calls. She needs some help with something on her To Do list. Do you say Y.E.S. or N.O.?

If you say N.O., you’ll feel guilty for letting her down. But are you letting her down? No! If you backed out after she’d booked your time days ahead, that’s one thing. But when she asks last minute, and you have things of your own planned? No!

But if you say Y.E.S., you’ll be letting yourself down. You’re saying that your To Do list is less important than your friend’s. That you are less important than she is.

That’s how you’re being disrespectful to yourself.

Then there’s being disrespectful to others by saying Y.E.S.. If you say Y.E.S. to helping someone with something very specific, and that’s all you do, no problem. But if you go beyond that, doing extra things that are easy for you to do at the same time, then that’s not OK. It’s not OK, because your actions are implying: “I can do this better/faster than you.”

And that’s how you’re being disrespectful to others.

Learning how to say N.O.

Unlearning long-practiced behaviour – habits – can be hard. Especially if you try to go cold turkey.

It’s much easier if you replace one habit with another. Replace saying Y.E.S. with saying N.O. But, before you can do that, you need to get clear on what your own boundaries are.

Your boundaries are the lines that define you. What you will, and won’t do. What’s for you to do, and what’s for others to do. They’re your personal rules for living.

You determine your boundaries from the keystones of your life. So, if you don’t know what your keystones are, you’ll have to start there. My keystones are those things in my life that are non-negotiable. Like not doing anything that goes against my values. Like spending my time in pursuit of my own goals, ones that come from my life vision. Like not eating anything I know is harmful to my health. Like getting enough sleep. Like not helping others to fill a need in myself. Like using love to guide my interactions with others. Like daily physical activity. Like living in the moment. Like learning new things every day. Things like that.

Knowing what my boundaries are has made it much easier to say N.O. Anything that sits outside my boundaries gets a N.O. Deciding whether to say Y.E.S. or N.O. has become a no-brainer.

The other thing I had to learn about saying N.O. was to do with its delivery. How to make sure my N.O. didn’t sound like a F*** You. This, too, was helped by my having boundaries. Boundaries mean the N.O. never comes with baggage attached to it. Today’s N.O.s come from a place of peace – of knowing what’s for me, and not. Before I got clear on my boundaries, my N.O.s were always triggered by something. That could be stress, an old memory, unfairness – there were a lot of potential triggers. And that made N.O.s tumble out of my mouth like F*** Yous.

Know thyself, and life gets much easier

Learning how to say N.O. is all about knowing yourself. Who you are. What you stand for. When you’re clear on this, everything else falls into place. Decisions get easier to make. Life feels more comfortable. Because you’re living it on your terms, not someone else’s.

Remember, you are unique… wonderfully so. And that’s why it’s OK to say N.O. 

 

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

 

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

How to create more happiness in your life

And why it’s an inside job

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

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

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

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

Rewards come from meeting criteria

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

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

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

Hamster wheel, anyone?

The power game

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

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

See what I mean?

The meaning of life

Living like this is not living.

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

When you believe things like:

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

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

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

The truth about happiness

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

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

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

That’s why happiness is an inside job.

How to create more happiness in your life

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

  1. Exercise three times at week – 20 minutes of cardio training.
  2. Express your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones – each person sharing their three things.
  3. Perform a daily random act of kindness/generosity. There are so many ways to do this. Writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Paying something forward. Helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  4. Re-live a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this – you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  5. Practice forgiveness – of yourself and others – for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges is bad for your happiness and health. Your nervous system gets triggered into stress mode every time it recognizes something in the present that hurt you in the past.
  6. Strengthen your social connections. In all research, meaningful relationships are the single most important contributor to happiness. Warning: you may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one. Being stressed out doesn’t make you a lot of fun to be around.
  7. Practice mindfulness daily. I recommend meditation – even two minutes morning and night makes a difference. A daily meditation practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. It also gives you more control over your response to everything, including stressful situations.
  8. Find the meaning in your life and live it. Have a life vision that reflects who you are and what you’re here to do, and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

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

 

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

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

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

Service or self-sacrifice?

And why you need to know the difference.

You see pain and hardship all around you, and you want to help. People you know, people you don’t know. Your big heart is guiding you to do this.

Or is it?

There’s another part of you that could also be guiding you. Your ego. Your desire to be seen in a certain way, as a certain kind of person.

That’s how it was for me. I felt a strong desire to be of service to people in need. Part of that came from a true desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And part of it came from my own neediness.

I couldn’t see the neediness part for years. Even though I was sometimes aware of doing things to showcase the ‘good’ work I was doing. I wanted people to know that I, who had the skills and expertise to be earning a lot more money, had chosen not to. So I could ‘do good’.

Working on and off for non profits scratched that itch. But my real coup de grâce came when I left a happy, carefree life to look after my ageing mother who had Parkinson’s.

I can say in all honesty that my decision to become my mum’s caregiver didn’t come from my ego. It came from my heart. But my subsequent behaviour came from my ego a lot of the time. Too much of the time.

I found my new life as my mum’s caregiver overwhelming. I was devastated to see someone I loved so much crumbling away. I was flying solo and had no respite from my caregiving role for months at a time. I was stressed out trying to manage everything. I had to work full-time to support the two of us, and hire minders to keep my mum safe during the day. I was up a lot at night helping her. I spent my evenings and weekends minding my mum and doing household chores. It was a lot to deal with.

The more stressed out I got, the more my ego reared its ugly head. My ego wanted the world to see the ‘dutiful daughter’. And ‘superwoman’. And the ‘good person’. And a whole bunch of other personas.

All I could see was that my behaviour towards my mum was inconsistent. One moment I was snappish; the next, kind.

But I didn’t understand why.

Many years later, I understand my behaviour.

Snappish Sarah was ego-driven behaviour, whereas kind Sarah was heart-driven. These two co-existed — uncomfortably — for the seven years I was her caregiver.

Of greater consequence was this. That what started as service quickly became self-sacrifice.

Service and self-sacrifice may look the same from the outside, but, from the inside, they’re not. There’s a big difference between them. Service is enriching, and self-sacrifice is depleting. For everyone concerned.

Service feels loving to all. Self-sacrifice feels destructive to all. Service makes everyone feel grateful. Self-sacrifice makes everyone feel guilty.

 

I also understand what lay behind my behaviour.

What caused me to go from service to self-sacrifice was that I’d stopped putting myself first.

I’d stopped caring for myself — for my own needs. I’d stopped nourishing myself, other than in the most basic of ways. I’d become so depleted that I went into survival mode — a mode where fear is in charge. And when fear is in charge, there’s no place for love.

You see, if you want to give of yourself — to serve — you must have something to give. What you’re told every time you’re on a plane is true. You have to help yourself — put on your own oxygen mask — before you help others with theirs.

Self-care is the starting place for service, because if you want to give your best, you have to be your best. And being your best means your whole self must be nourished. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

So start putting yourself first today. With that big heart of yours, you’re hot-wired to serve. After all, service is what gives your life meaning.

Just make sure you don’t self-sacrifice instead. For everyone’s sake.

 

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).