You’re NOT SET YET!
You too are changing… All… THE… TIME. Though the difference between yourself today and yesterday may be unnoticeable, there is, nonetheless, a difference, it is small and might be classed as negligible but small, daily adjustments add up.
We can look at ourselves and not recognise the vitality within us. Thankfully, the wonders of science allow us to observe just how dynamic living tissue is. Every atom in our body vibrates with energy. These atoms link together to form all kinds of molecules which combine with other molecules to form tissue which is fed by the constant movement of nutrients held in ever-dynamic water-based solutions, such as blood. Life is never truly still.
Our mental processes (a term used by Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and cyberneticist, among other roles) are, much like our body, ever-changing. The mind is never still. We have developed strategies, such as meditation which sometimes aims to “still the mind” (not the aim of Mindfulness I must add;) but, the truth is, anyone who has meditated for any length of time will recognise that the movements of the mind can be influenced and calmed somewhat but they never stop. Movement is in the nature of mind (see my blog “What is Mind”).
The mind-stream continues to flow regardless of whether you are awake or asleep. As a consequence, thoughts and feelings flow too. Even as we sleep the mind processes events, emotions and thoughts via the incredible phenomenon of dreams.
Both the mind and body are always in a state of flux.
Embracing this fact – the truth that we are dynamic, energy-filled, vital creatures – gifts us with a great opportunity.
This is the way I see it: The vehicle is moving already, so we have a choice…
Steer or be a passenger.
Steering requires awareness, focus and effort.
The challenge, I believe, is choosing to continue to steer even when we FEEL stuck and feel like letting someone/something else determine our direction and progress. It’s not easy, but be we must steer through the tough times.
We have all felt stuck at some point in life, it is a very human experience but it’s a horrible place to be. The repeated failure to move from where you are to where you want to be can be frustrating and confusing.
It can happen in any and every area of life:
We can very quickly go from noticing something isn’t going well to believing that there is something wrong with us.
I have been there. I felt rudderless and tired after leaving my life as a minister. At one point, I believed I was called to be in that role for life. When it dawned on me that this was not the case, after spending years investing myself into that role, I went into a major slump. I was never diagnosed but I looking back, I think I was depressed. The love of my wife and kids a constant source of immense love and support.
I recall sitting in the bath year ago, feeling so crap that anything would have been better, honestly anything. I had never considered suicide before, it hadn’t even crossed my mind but at that moment, I recognised why it might appeal to someone who was feeling low for a long period; the appeal to not feel this bad anymore. I’m fortunate that this was a fleeting experience; it made me appreciate how hard others fight to stay connected to life and it was an insight that has since helped me to assist others.
Thinking there is something wrong with me a really easy conclusion to come to. You might have attempted to solve a particular life-problem in every way you know how. You may have drawn upon all of your experience and worked with all your physical might, only to be faced AGAIN with the same problem.
However, that conclusion (“there’s something wrong with me”) is just plain wrong, unless you have a genuine ailment. I believe we were born OK, it’s a fundamental of Transactional Analysis. It’s through our nurturing and formative experiences that the majority of us become fearful, doubtful and confused. Genetics and epigenetics play a part but when it comes to the nature, nurture argument, I think environment is the biggest player.
More often than not, we are unable to clear a particular life-hurdle because of what we don’t know. We have all the resources we need to make the leap but we simply haven’t been exposed yet to the information we need to break the pattern. We have not had the opportunity to learn.
And, as we all know…
“You don’t know what you don’t know, you know!”
What’s the answer to this predicament? As usual, there is no simple answer but despite that, we can still make decisions to progress. The aim is not to “fix” ourselves but to progress and grow.
So here are some very simple things we can do to facilitate growth…
1. INCREASE YOUR SCHEMA:
Draw knowledge and wisdom from a wider source than you have ever done previously. Find information from fields that are beyond your usual areas of interest.
Read – If you find reading difficult or painfully slow, sign up to audible and listen to books and make notes; not just books on psychology or self-help. Great works of art can inspire creativity (original and useful ideas) which may open the door to new ways of seeing the world and new ways of being in the world.
Podcasts – If you need to be time-efficient, this is a great way to use your time walking the dog (though not always – it’s good to be mindful of the beauty around you as well), commuting to work, whenever you have opportunity to double the effectiveness of your time. Like audible, keep a notebook handy to note the best bits.
Watch educational videos – there is a huge glut of amazing free material out there that could make a massive difference to how you behave and react and feel. YouTube is packed with the stuff – mindfulness, psychology, art, science… explore!
See a therapist, coach or counsellor – Find a professional who will be able to reflect, with you, on your situation. Their objective standpoint will offer you the opportunity to become aware of unhelpful thought patterns and alternative approaches to your situation.
2. PAY ATTENTION
The details around your patterns can go unnoticed. Journal or document what you do, what you think and how you feel. Analyse and use your powers of deduction to spot the way this pattern works. Ask the questions: “When?”, “How?” and “Who?” Working out the “Why?” can be more involved.
If you really want to understand “Why?”, seeing a psychotherapist is a good way to go. We are complex creatures and the reasons why we feel stuck and have unhelpful repeating patterns, such as thinking, feeling and behavioural patterns, are many and, in my humble opinion, should be explored with care and someone with expertise.
3. CHANGE YOUR ENERGY
What gets you energised? Whatever it is, do lots of it. I listen to music that stirs my soul. Music is an amazing thing, soundwaves bouncing against the delicate structures in our ears can change our emotional state. Use it, find that album or track or build a playlist.
Watch or listen to an inspirational talk or speech. TED.com is a great place to start. YouTube is packed full of inspirational and motivational material for all tastes. The effort spent finding what rings your bells will be paid back tenfold.
Move your body. The quickest way to change your mind is to change the way your body moves. It is now accepted, thanks to quality scientific research that holding and moving your body in a certain way will change your mood state. Search for Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language. We know this intuitively, we know what the posture of someone who feels low looks like compared to the posture of someone who is really confident and assured.
4. CREATE A MANTRA
Create a positive affirmation, mantra or cognition. It’s a phrase that you can say to yourself over and over which helps you to feel different. It might begin with a very positive “I AM …” statement and be followed by “AND I WILL…”
No one influences you more than you and so what you say to yourself matters. Choose to say something empowering throughout the day, allow it to evolve and develop. It can be life-changing.
5. CREATE A VISION
Create a mental picture of how you want things to be. Be realistic but ambitious at the same time. As Tony Robbins says “People overestimate what they can do in 1 year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years”. Create a vision of how you and your life will be in 10 years. Remind yourself of the vision every day. You can create a vision board with images which represent how you want things to be, goals to shoot for.
There are more tips I could share but if you’re feeling stuck, chances are that you’re not currently doing all of the above.
In summary, it’s OK to feel stuck. It’s entirely normal, a very human experience but it’s rarely true. The potential for growth and development is significant for everyone. You are a human changeling. Change is what you do, constantly.
So, embrace it, grab the steering wheel and begin to steer the changes. Refuse to be a passenger and guide your life in the direction you want to go.
You are NOT SET YET!
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Wellbeing… it means different things to different people but one thing is for certain, it means a lot to everyone. We all want to be well, healthy, full of vitality and joy. But life is sometimes tough and there is no such thing as a pain-free life.
Learning to live well, despite the tough times, is key to being happy and fulfilled. This is what this blog is all about.