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Lessons From a Lifetime Spent Living Outside My Comfort Zone

I still remember the terror I felt the first time I went outside my comfort zone.

I was three years old.

I hadn’t gone there intentionally. I was pushed. The fact that the pushing wasn’t intentional, either, didn’t matter. I was still terrified. That moment forever changed me. And changed the course of my life.

First things first. What is a comfort zone? It’s a place where things are familiar to you. A place that feels comfortable to you. No two comfort zones are the same. One person’s comfort zone might be another person’s greatest fear. I know this to be true. My comfort zone — what’s familiar to me — often elicits a fear response from people. How I choose to live makes most of my loved ones scared for me.

There’s a question that begs here. If comfortable feels good, what’s wrong with feeling comfortable? Well, nothing, in one sense. And everything in another. It’s great to feel comfortable. But not all the time, and not in everything in your life.

You see, feeling comfortable can become a problem. Or, more precisely, feeling TOO comfortable can. It makes you take things for granted. It makes you stop exploring yourself, what you’re capable of. It makes you afraid the minute you stop feeling comfortable. It limits you.

I’m making you feel uncomfortable right now. By talking about it. But, bear with me while I illustrate what I’m talking about.

Think about the early days in your serious intimate relationships. When you first started getting serious, you were pushed outside your comfort zone. Way outside. You felt so open, and vulnerable. Your guard was down. But you were OK with it because it felt SO good there. The exhilaration you felt from falling in love with someone was stronger than any fear you felt. Your fear was on hold. For a while. Then, one day, you started to feel uncomfortable. You might not have known why, but you knew how to respond to this feeling. You pulled back in some way. Your discomfort at being outside your vulnerability comfort zone made you afraid.

How did you pull back when afraid? By taking the other for granted, choosing to see the flaws, instead of the wonder. By not exploring your vulnerable self, choosing to shut down, instead of opening more. By putting up your guard, choosing to limit yourself, instead of growing.

You’re squirming now.

Lesson one: get to know your comfort zone

If you want to move outside it, you need to get to know your comfort zone. Intimately. To know its core rules, and its more nuanced ones.

My comfort zone is a place where making changes is routine. So to go outside my comfort zone, I have to get very deliberate. And go big. Things that happen on a daily basis rarely send me there, such is my comfort with change. I also have to be interested in an area before I’m willing to extend my comfort zone in it. Extreme sports, for example, have never interested me, so I put in no effort there. But I’m drawn to push my physical activity boundaries in other ways. This is one of the more nuanced rules.

Over the years, I discovered that if I decided to explore a new facet of my life, nothing got in my way. Except for in one area. I did everything to avoid pushing out my boundaries in one area for 30 years.

Love.

Going to that place of real, deep, unconditional love with a significant other. Love terrified me because being vulnerable terrified me. Being open to scrutiny at such a deep level was too far outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t go there. At least not until I did the necessary self-work. Considerable effort later, love no longer has me running scared. Love has me opening up more and more every day. Unconditional. Vulnerable. And it’s wonderful.

Time for you to examine your own comfort zone. Thinking back over your adult life so far, ask yourself:

  • Which things feel easy to you? Easy in the sense that they provoke little or no fear in you?
  • Which things make you feel scared? Scared when you’ve done them, or scared when you think or hear about them?
  • What have you instinctively tended to avoid doing? And why? (Like me and extreme sports.)
  • Are there people in your life who live in ways that make you feel uncomfortable? This may manifest in different ways. By your making judging comments about decisions they make. By your rolling your eyes when they tell you what they’re going to do next. By your telling them why they’re wrong to be doing whatever.

Have a look at your answers, looking for common themes. Take a step back, and see what it tells you about your comfort zone. You should have a picture of what it looks like.

Lesson two: change is good

I’m not saying this because making changes is within MY comfort zone. I’m saying it because making changes is how you grow. Moving beyond your comfort zone is how you grow.

I’d go so far as to say that beyond your comfort zone is where all personal growth lives.

If you do the same thing you’ve always done, day in, day out, you won’t grow. In fact, you barely think when you do this. Yet an astoundingly large number of people live like this. Because they don’t like change. Because they fear change.

Instead of fearing change, you should fear not changing. The things you fear about change are imagined. The things that happen when you avoid change are real.

Here’s what’s real about them. And why avoiding change will cause you trouble down the road. First, you won’t grow as a person. You won’t live up to your amazing potential. And I know your potential is truly amazing. Second, you’ll get bored. When you’re bored, you’ll distract yourself to avoid feeling that way. And your distractions won’t be good for you. Sugary treats, alcohol, binge watching TV shows, shopping for things you don’t need. Being bored for any length of time stresses you out. So you go into autopilot mode to deal with that. And autopilot mode numbs your feelings. All of them.

It’s time to make a choice. Do you want your life to be defined by fear? Or defined by personal growth?

Lesson three: how to get more comfortable doing more things

Moving the boundaries of your comfort zone takes effort. A whole lot of it. But, here’s the truth. If I can learn to embrace unconditional love after 30 years of avoiding it, you can learn to embrace anything!

I’m going to share with you the secret to making changes in your life. Start small. Start with something that is low on your scariness scale. And that won’t take too long to complete.

I used to be afraid of heights. So terrified of them that, as a kid, I’d rather face the ridicule of my peers than jump off anything high. My mother, a nurse, had put the fear of god in me when I was four. I’d been found walking across the parapet of a bridge with a 200-foot drop on one side. So she described, in very gory detail, what I’d look like if I fell and went splat.

One day a few years ago, I knew it was time to make a change in my life. To overcome this fear of heights. As a result of my daily meditation practice, I’d realized my fear was all in mind. That it was more imagined than real. So I set about moving past it. I started by improving my balance, walking along as many low walls as I could find. Then I started choosing higher walls. And finally, I chose something that had always added an increased level of fear. Walking on a higher wall above water. I was living in Vancouver at the time, right by the seawall. And this proved perfect as the final step to overcoming my fear of heights. With an ease that surprised me, I walked along long stretches of the seawall every day. Fear of heights gone. Comfort zone expanded.

By starting small, I’d allowed myself to get comfortable every step of the way.

What can you take on that will allow you to get comfortable with change as you move towards your fear? What’s your equivalent of my fear of heights?

Lesson four: you are more powerful than you realize.

Once you start expanding your comfort zone, something amazing happens. You feel more powerful. Your fear subsides with every boundary shift you make. And this allows your true self — your powerful self — to emerge.

You start to feel more alive. More vibrant. More in control of things than before. More comfortable. All because you were willing to go outside your comfort zone. You feel more comfortable because you’re more comfortable doing more things. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

Expanding your comfort zone makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin. And that’s what real comfort is all about.

The course of my life was changed at three by my being pushed outside my comfort zone. When I was younger, I understood that change was good, that I’d be fine if I did things that scared me.

Now I’m older, I understand that living outside my comfort zone has been the making of me. I am who I am today because of my constantly expanding comfort zone. Because I’m comfortable in my skin.

 

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 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 I learned to go forward boldly into the unknown

And channel fear’s powerful energy.

I’m 55. And I’ve just got braces.

Turns out, I need them. Without braces, there’s a healthy risk that my teeth will become unanchored. As in, they’ll get looser (yes, they already are a touch). As in, they’ll fall out.

It’s not my fault. I inherited my mum’s mega-deep bite and my dad’s super thin gums. As one of my specialists implied, this rich genetic heritage was an accident waiting to happen.

This makes me laugh, and think of my dear mum. She had a very dry sense of humour, and disliked discord. One of her favourite sayings to diffuse tense situations was: “I blame the parents. Every time.” It always made people laugh, coming, as it did, somewhat out of the blue and from an aged parent.

Besides the genetic misfortune going on in my mouth, there’s something else. I spent my teen years in the UK, a place renowned at the time for orthodontic neglect. Strike two to my parents…

But I digress. Fast forward to today, and the braces. Plus the associated dental and periodontal treatment required alongside these metal delights. One thing about all this dental excitement triggered fear in me. Not the braces themselves, despite the fact that they hurt. And get in the way of some of life’s more pleasurable pursuits.

It’s the cost.

I’m self-employed, and have no dental insurance. So it’s all on me. I have to earn about twice the cost in extra income to cover it. I know this is doable, but it still scares me. A lot. Yet, despite being scared, I moved forward with the treatment. I didn’t have to. I could have pretended my problem didn’t exist, or hoped that what three dentists have said isn’t true. I’m still scared about it all as I write.

Fear. It can make or break you.

Why fear can be a problem

Fear has a tendency to stop people dead in their tracks. And hold them there.

The stopping part isn’t an issue. It’s healthy to take a moment to feel the fear, and whatever emotions are arising with it. But the holding part is. This is where you get — and stay — stuck.

It’s not your fault you get stuck. I blame your parents. Every time. OK, so they share the blame with all your forebears. The truth is, your human brain is hot-wired to minimize threats in your vicinity. This causes you to spend your time scanning the world around you for threats. You do this unconsciously and non-stop.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between real, tangible threats, and imagined ones. Tangible, as in sabre-toothed tigers. Imagined, as in the ‘what ifs’ associated with change (“What if x happens?”, “What if a does b?”). Your brain interprets them in the same way, because, for you, the same thing is at risk each time.

Your safety and security is.

Your risk alarm is set off by the prospect of your becoming a sabre-toothed tiger’s Dish of the Day. And by the prospect of your having to make life changes. So you’ve adopted a no-risk policy in most of your decisions.

It’s this no-risk policy that keeps you stuck.

Fear itself isn’t the problem. Your response to it is.

Changing your response to fear

If you want to change your response to fear, you have to start by changing your understanding of risk. Then, by changing your understanding of change itself.

There’s a reason why your brain views change like it views a sabre-toothed tiger. Change represents the unfamiliar. And the unfamiliar doesn’t feel safe and secure, so it’s a threat.

Change doesn’t start off life as a threat. It starts as one of the choices present when you’re trying to reach a certain outcome. The different choices facing you are different ways of achieving this outcome. Each choice comes with its own level of risk. Some of the risk is real. Some is perceived.

Let me use a trip to the restaurant to illustrate this point. You’re going out to eat because you’re hungry. The outcome you desire is a full belly. The choices facing you are the items on the menu. Many people believe there’s a risk associated with ordering. “What if I don’t like it?”, they wail. But unless you have an unenviable list of food allergies, any risk is perceived. Actual risk only exists for people with food allergies.

Actual risk must come into the equation when you make a decision. Perceived risk has no place in decision-making.

Yet, here’s the kicker. Perceived risk is what’s behind most of your decisions. I say this, because much of the time you decide to do nothing rather than make changes. You choose doing nothing, because it feels better – safer – than the alternative. The alternative being the picture you’ve dreamed up from all the change-related ‘What ifs’ flying around your head. You choose to favour the imaginary over the real. The real being the actual risk you face from not making changes you know you need to make. In my braces example, the real risk is having my teeth fall out. The imaginary one is finding myself broke, unable to pay my bills.

Which brings me to the first thing you have to change. This tendency to favour perceived risk over actual risk.

Now, let’s get back to change itself. Specifically, to your very human view of change as a threat to your safety and security.

Change brings with it the unfamiliar, which you see as disruptive. More than the anticipated disruption, what you’re really reacting to is this. That change takes you outside your comfort zone. And you don’t like how that feels.

But, here’s the truth. Change isn’t a real threat. It’s an imaginary one, conjured up in your mind, because you don’t like being outside your comfort zone. This imaginary threat stops you in your tracks, which, as I said earlier, is OK. It’s what you do next that’s the important part.

Do you stay stuck in threat mode, and follow the path of least resistance?

Or do you overcome your resistance to being outside your comfort zone, and advance into the unknown?

If you choose to stay stuck — and this is a choice — one thing is guaranteed. You will not grow as a person.

If you choose to move forward into the unknown, you will open yourself up to personal growth. The further outside your comfort zone you go, the greater the growth.

“One can choose to go back towards safety or forward toward growth.” ~ Abraham Maslow

How to use fear to move forward

I learned about the duality of fear when I was very young. That fear could stop you in your tracks. And propel you forward.

Fear was a pretty common feature in my life. It stopped me in my tracks plenty of times, but I also found I was able to use it to propel me forward. It felt natural to me to do so. It was almost as though my survival instinct had come with personal growth factored in. As in “Get me the hell out of here, fast, and help me learn from the experience.”

Putting my physical self at risk was never part of my game plans. I always had a healthy respect for actual danger. But putting my emotional and mental self at risk? Game on!

Change became my vice. Changing where I lived, changing jobs, even changing my handwriting. If it wasn’t nailed down, I changed it. Over the years, I’ve changed things up in my life with such regularity that my loved ones live on high alert on my behalf. My actions seem to press their fear buttons more than they press mine. My loved ones have also gone through more address books than they’d like.

People around me say that it’s easy for me to change things, because I’m fearless. I’m not fearless. I get scared every time I move outside my comfort zone. Yet, I keep doing it.

Why do I keep moving outside my comfort zone?

Because I’ve done it enough times to know that outside my comfort zone is where the growth is. To know that any discomfort I feel is temporary. This, too, shall pass. Everything does, in the end.

How do I keep managing to move forward?

Whenever I feel the fear rising within me, I sit with it. I allow myself to feel it fully. Doing this is essential for two reasons. First, it lets me know that I’m doing the right thing. That I’m pursuing the path of greatest resistance, and greatest growth. Second, fear makes me feel very alive. And I channel this energy into action.

You see, when I’m scared, yet energized, I start planning. This is when I have my greatest focus. When I can see all that needs to happen to deliver the outcome I want. And it’s this planning that leads to successful action. Without planning, action becomes difficult, and outcomes fail to materialize.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over the course of my life, my success at achieving the outcomes I want has resulted from one thing. Never shying away from making whatever changes were needed. Going forward boldly into the unknown is my modus operandi. And will remain so for the rest of my days.

Will it become your MO, too?

Postscript to my mum

When I look at my dental bills and stress out, you know what I’ll be thinking…

 

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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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).

 

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Why you should fill your life with things that matter

And not distract yourself from them

When something is removed from your life, its value to you increases. You miss it. Its absence hurts. This is true even when it’s your own decision to remove that something.

It’s human nature to feel like this. You’re hot-wired not to like change, to view it as a threat. This is why it’s so hard to make changes that last.

It’s also human nature to do everything possible not to feel this hurt.

Such is this dislike of hurting – of feeling pain – that you do anything you can to avoid it. You can’t avoid it by preventing it from happening – so much pain is beyond your control. But you do have something very effective up your sleeve.

Distraction.

Distraction is an amazing way not to feel pain. And it’s never been a better time to find ways of distracting yourself. Social media, busyness, gaming, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, Netflix. It’s distraction nirvana out there.

Distractions are interesting things. In one sense, they don’t matter to us at all, because they’re meaningless – and replaceable – time fillers. In another, they matter to us enormously, because they enable our pain-avoidance habit.

I guess it’s the process of distracting that matters to us, not the actual distractions.

But, here’s the thing. What we’re distracting ourselves from matters even more. We humans are supposed to feel pain. It’s part of our humanness. So distracting ourselves from pain is a problem.

It’s a problem in two ways. First, the pain doesn’t go away when we distract ourselves from it. It gets buried. Deep. Second, you cannot distract yourself from one emotion – pain – and not others – joy, love, happiness. When you numb one, you numb them all.

 

I learned this the hard way.

When I was young, I became a master of distraction. I’d use whatever was to hand to distract myself from feelings I couldn’t deal with. I used physical distractions, like having TV and radio playing in the background. And I used mental ones, like escapism, busyness, perfectionism and being in control.

My distraction skills enabled me to handle whatever was thrown at me. I stayed responsible, dependable and productive at all times. In myself, I was neither low, nor high. I was ‘fine’.

I remained ‘fine’ until one day in my 40s, when everything fell apart. No distraction in the world could take my attention away from the deep pain I felt. It wasn’t as though I wanted to feel the pain – I didn’t. It was more that my body had no nowhere left to bury it. The pain came bursting out from every cell. The recent pain overload I’d experienced had pushed me over the edge.

I was forced, kicking and screaming, to sit with the pain. It came up from my recent past, and my distant past. It was so intense that I stopped cycling and driving for a few weeks – I knew it wasn’t safe to do so.

After working through the worst of it, a few things happened. I felt a lightness I’d never sensed before. I felt real joy for the first time in my life. And I vowed never to distract myself from my emotions again.

My pain taught me a lot. About me. About life.

About what’s NOT important in life — what doesn’t matter:

  • Busyness doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the past doesn’t matter.
  • Perfection doesn’t matter.
  • Possessions don’t matter.
  • Being right doesn’t matter.
  • Distracting yourself doesn’t matter.
  • Faking it doesn’t matter.
  • Bingeing doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the future doesn’t matter.
  • Status doesn’t matter.
  • Being in control doesn’t matter.
  • Pretence doesn’t matter.
  • Hierarchy doesn’t matter.

Best of all, my pain taught me about what IS important in life. About the things that really do matter:

  • Feeling pain matters.
  • Feeling love matters.
  • Meaningful relationships matter.
  • Feeling joy matters.
  • Well-being matters.
  • Acceptance matters.
  • Feeling alive matters.
  • Giving freely matters.
  • Compassion matters.
  • Being healthy matters.
  • Forgiveness matters.
  • Living in the moment matters.
  • Feeling happiness matters.
  • Being loving matters.
  • Receiving graciously matters.
  • Letting go matters.
  • Community matters.
  • Being joyful matters.
  • Being authentic matters.
  • Being open matters.
  • Being respectful matters.
  • Wisdom matters.

You know what matters most of all? Putting everything you’ve got into what matters.

That’s how you honour what matters. That’s how you show your love. Because living, sentient beings are behind everything that matters.

And you and they deserve your best love.

 

 

 

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).

 

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

What happens when you trust with your whole heart?

The unimaginable does

I always tried to control everything. Life got so messy if I didn’t. Love. Work. Play. Everything.

I learned very young about control. I had to, it was an essential survival tactic. If I controlled what I thought, how I behaved, and how I felt, I got along just fine. On the rare occasion when my emotions got the better of me, they were smacked back down into their place.

That’s how things were.

In time, control became part of my persona. In truth, it became my protective shell. If I didn’t feel in control, things started to unravel inside me in ways that I couldn’t deal with. I can’t explain it, but not being in control opened a door to an awful mess that I wasn’t equipped to deal with at the time.

I became very task oriented, because tasks were something I could control. People, less so! I did my best not to hurt people… unless they stood between me and getting a task done. Then I would bulldoze their feelings off to the side and keeping moving forward. I wasn’t proud of my behaviour. That’s how it was.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, fear held me in its grip. I was afraid of the world – it had always felt such an unsafe place to me. And, because of that, I didn’t feel I could trust. Anyone. Anything. Myself included. So I had to control, to try to force things to happen.

And that was a total disaster.

I got more and more controlling, and more and more unhappy and stressed out. Until one day, when I imploded. I was so utterly exhausted from all the effort I was putting into controlling. I was so utterly empty inside from living without trust.

When you hit rock bottom, you have a choice. You can either numb the pain, hoping it will go away. Or you can make sure it goes away by making some changes in your life. I chose the latter, despite knowing that my changes had to be radical. And I knew exactly where to start.

With trust. I had to start trusting. Myself. Others. The universe.

My journey to trust

I started with my friends, by asking them for help when I needed it. This was me trusting that they wouldn’t drop me as a friend, thinking I was weak for needing help. Yeah, I know. Baby steps.

When this felt safe, I moved on to people in general. First, I stopped apologizing all the time. For saying things I believed. For being in someone’s way. For being unwilling to do things I didn’t want to do.

Next, I stopped being defensive. I had a right to hold an opinion, and it didn’t have to be the same as someone else’s. Other people also had a right to hold an opinion I didn’t share.

Then I started accepting compliments. Saying “Thank you”, and meaning it. That meant no more detracting from compliments by saying something to devalue them. Such as “In this old rag? I’ve had it for years!” or “Oh, this wasn’t really my work, X helped me with it.”

And then, I reached the point where I was OK with people I trusted being untrustworthy. By being OK with it, I mean it didn’t send me scurrying back into my protective control shell. I learned my lesson from each incident, but remained in trust mode. The overarching lesson I learned was that I wasn’t protecting myself well. By asking lots more questions before making decisions, I fixed that.

The final frontier was trusting myself. Trusting my instincts. Trusting my wisdom. Trusting my skills. Trusting that I am enough. Trusting that I am worthy… of happiness, of help, of trust, of love.

As I worked through this, I discovered something about trusting myself. That it’s entwined with trusting the universe. I couldn’t trust that the universe had my back unless I trusted that I deserved it.

You see it all goes back to love. Self-love.

You cannot trust with your whole heart unless you love with your whole heart.

And when you finally do trust – and love – with your whole heart, magic happens. Magic that you could never conjure up yourself.

The unimaginable happens.

The unimaginable

  Doors open that you didn’t even know were there.
  ‘Coincidences’ happen that confirm the direction you should take.
  Your tribe starts to form around you, united by the positive, not the negative.
  You feel energized by life, even when challenges come your way… which they always will.
  You feel compassion for people who aren’t like you – feelings of fear and judgement subside.
  You wake up excited about the day ahead.
  You go to sleep grateful for the day you had.
  Your heart sings.

Jump into the unknown and trust. Trust as if your whole life depended on it.

Because it does.

 

 

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).