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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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Do you walk your talk?

If you stop and ask random people in town what they think about climate change, chances are each one has an opinion on it. They all have a set of beliefs about climate change that they hold to be true.

If you then ask the same people to describe how they live day-to-day, chances are their descriptions don’t match their beliefs.

They talk the talk, but don’t walk the talk.

What do I mean by this? Well, say two women, A and B, have the same strong belief – that climate change is a serious global problem, which demands our attention. We might imagine that they have the same day-to-day lives. But do they? Woman A sort of recycles, uses her car all the time, loves shopping and buys new everything. Woman B practices the 5 Rs (reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle), walks everywhere she can, only buys what she absolutely needs, and shops secondhand whenever possible. With woman A, there’s a lot of talk, and very little walk. And woman B is walking her talk.

I make this point NOT to be judgemental.

I make this point, because it’s impossible for us to feel whole if we don’t walk our talk.

When we don’t feel whole, it can play out in a number of ways.

  • We can feel discomfort deep inside, a sense that something is wrong, even if we’re not sure what.
  • We can feel a lack of authenticity when we talk about our beliefs.
  • We can protect ourselves by labelling those who actually do walk their talk as inflexible or rigid.
  • Our lack of wholeness can also affect others. Those around us can get confused by our behaviour – they hear us saying one thing, and see us doing another.

We can get away with not being whole for a while. We can say to ourselves that we pretty much walk our talk, but make exceptions at times – because we’re spontaneous human beings, not robots. But exceptions are just a convenient way of hiding the truth.

And this is the truth. That, in order for us to feel whole, something has to give. Either we need to change our beliefs, or we need to change our actions.

It’s perfectly OK for us to change our beliefs. As often as we like. Yet we tend to feel so uncomfortable doing this, because we fear it makes us seem weak and indecisive. But here’s the thing. Given that we constantly receive new information about our beliefs, shouldn’t we constantly update what we believe to be true?

It’s also perfectly OK to change our actions. As often as we need, to make sure they honour our beliefs.

Ask yourself the question: “Do I fully walk my talk?”

And if you can’t honestly answer “YES!” to it, then it might be time to review your beliefs and how you live day-to-day.

Wholeness is our natural state. It’s how we were as kids before society started conditioning us. Wholeness leads to happiness – real, internal happiness. Which is what we’re all looking for.

 

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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Why having personal goals sets you free

If I’d been shown this headline 25 years ago, I’d have laughed and made some sarcastic remark. You see, back then, I thought that the route to creativity and personal freedom was paved with blank sheets of paper. They had to be blank to leave room for anything that showed up.

I was wrong.

The route to creativity and personal freedom is paved with goals. Personal goals.

Not society’s goals. Not your parents’ goals. Not your partner’s goals.

YOUR goals.

It took me years to learn these two simple truths:

=> If you’re not consciously living your own goals, you’re unconsciously living someone else’s.

=> If how you spend your time isn’t fully aligned with your own goals, then you won’t ever feel self-fulfilled.

The way I thought about goals was also all wrong. It was very narrow, because I had my blinkers on, seeing only society’s view of goals. Society’s goals are all about its interpretation of success – your financial health, your career trajectory, home ownership, car ownership, that sort of thing. And those things never felt like motivating goals to me. I’ve just never been able to get excited about money, per se.

I now know what the problem was. The goals were about the basic me, and not about the whole me.

As Maslow described in his Hierarchy of Needs, our needs change according to our personal situation. Our basic selves have some basic needs. To survive (enough shelter, clothing, food, air, water), and to feel safe and secure (enough money, health, security). Once these are met, other needs kick in. From a place of safety, we seek relationships and feelings of accomplishment. And finally, from a place of love and self-respect, we seek self-fulfilment. We need to achieve our full potential.

Those of you reading this blog post are likely to have your basic needs met. You have somewhere safe to live, enough food on your table, and access to clean water and air. You have enough money to pay for this, and more, and have access to healthcare.

It’s at this point that things start to get less clear. Are your other needs being met?

To find out, ask yourself these questions and be as honest as you can with your answers.

  • Do you have deep, loving relationships in your life? Are you spending enough time with these people?
  • Do you feel connected to a community? Are you spending enough time with your community?
  • Are you learning new skills?
  • Are you deepening your existing knowledge?
  • Are you attending to your spiritual needs, whatever they may be?
  • Are you doing everything you can to keep yourself healthy?
  • Are you accomplishing things that make you feel good about yourself? Via your work? Via your personal life? Via volunteer work?
  • Are you having fun?
  • Are you giving your creative self a voice? What creative projects are you doing?

If you find yourself answering ‘NO’ to any of these questions, then you might want to spend some time digesting this, asking yourself why you have no answer, and pondering how to turn your ‘NOs’ into ‘YESes’.

And then, I strongly recommend that your create some personal goals, based on the whole you. Start with year-end goals, then break them down into quarterly, monthly and weekly goals.

Remember, the richer your personal goals, the more self-fulfilled you will be.

Finally, make sure you spend your time doing things that move you closer to achieving your personal goals. Commit to yourself to live consciously, to know that you’re focussing on what’s important to you.

Your whole self will thank you.

 

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).