2015 is wrapping up. Family and friends are getting together to celebrate the end of the year and the coming of the next. It’s a joyous time that seems to get everyone in the spirit of giving and reflection. Now is also the time when people, myself included begin to re-evaluate their lives… The internal clock of “change” is ticking with what seems like a very short and eager timer.
Not where you thought you would be at this stage of your life? Maybe your dream job turned out to be more like a nightmare, or maybe you just ended a long-term relationship with a person you thought was the one. Well, no matter how significant those life happenings are, know that you’re not alone… most everyone I know has these thoughts.
Now is the time that people are rooted in change- they either want to shake things up innovatively, start a new project, explore different passions OR they’re reacting to an unexpected change- health issues, a break up, a job loss.
The good news? Great things can stem from such thoughts.
The “should be” mentality of life is exhausting… take it from the person that definitely tries to live the most ideal lifestyle all the time. It’s completely and utterly 100% not possible. Not only is striving for your idea of the perfect life not possible, but it’s extremely wasteful and tiresome. The great news is that now is a great time to channel those feelings on what it is you really want. It’s time to reassess your goals, and to be a little selfish.
When I began doing this, I started with asking myself some simple, yet fulfilling questions: “What does success look like to me?” “What brings me true joy?” When answering these questions try not to indulge in what you think you “should” want. If you can truthfully look inward at what happiness means for you, it can be the most liberating feeling.
Here are 3 steps that will change your “should” mindset to a lifestyle by design:
- Give yourself a break!
- Too often we focus on the negative aspects of our lives. Once this habit begins, it’s hard to see the positive parts and too break this habit of reflection. Don’t have a great romantic life? Focus on the love you share with friends and family. Not enjoying your job? Continually remind yourself that it’s a stepping stone to build your resume. Yes, certain circumstances shape the person you are, but don’t let them harden you into someone you don’t know.
- Tell a different story.
- Nothing is more unproductive then living a life in the past filled with negative stories: “I never have enough money” “I’ll never loose that weight” “I have the worst luck with love.” I agree that breaking free from these habitual reminders takes a great deal of self-awareness. Take all of the negativity and honestly think about why you believe those things… Have you had a lot of bad relationships? What is the reason you feel that way. It can be hard, but the beauty of your thoughts are that they are yours to control.
- Get busy.
- As much as we all want it to be, life will never be 100% under your control. Consider these factors, traffic, weather, other people (parents specifically;), job promotions, loosing someone close to you, etc.) I once heard we can truly only control about 20% of our lives, leaving 80% (a very large percentage) to trust. It’s like the old saying our parents would tell when you would go through a nasty break up, “everything happens for a reason, you’ll get through this.” Don’t take this lightly because I’ve found, as I’m sure all of you have, that this couldn’t be more true! Life is going to happen, whether ideal or not, but how you handle it will determine the control you are capable of having over your life. For instance, you can control what you eat and drink. You can control whom you spend time with. You can control how much effort you put into your career. You can decided where you want to live. You can control who you date or choose not to date. Don’t loose sight of this control- take pride in how you choose to live.
Check out this TED Talk where Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and author of “stumbling on happiness” discusses the science behind happiness and why sometimes too much freedom hinders our ability to be synthetically happy.
“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from overrating the difference between one permanent situation and another… some of those situations may, no doubt, be deserve to be preferred to others; but none of them deserve to pursued with that passionate ardor which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.”- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
- Gilbert goes on to explain this quote by saying, that yes, we should have preference that will lead us on a path of happiness. BUT if we overrate the difference between a “bad” path and a “good” path, that is when we loose our control on our happiness.
Take this mindset with you into 2016 and you will find what truly matters to you and what direction you should take confidently. Remember that at some point you have to let go of what “should” happen and embrace what is happening.