Happy New Year my friends! A promising time for change... for some. Many people start the year determined. Determined to make lasting resolutions: lose weight, exercise regularly, eat better, be a better person, etc. But how many of us find those resolutions fizzling out by the third week of January and before we know it we're right back to old habits. Part of it is comfort, but part of it is not asking ourselves the right questions.
I'm not one for resolutions. Personally, I think they're overrated. What I am about is reflection and growth and guiding others towards their own transformation. So as we begin a new year, what has the last year taught us and how can we grow from it? What can we leave behind and what will we carry over?
As humans we want to grow - growth is part of life. "Always have something to look forward to," said Tony Robbins. This doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the moment, but we should always have something to work towards. What often holds us back is fear. Fear of failure, fear it will be too much work, fear of change, fear we're insignificant. FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.
So as an exercise to start the year off right (and to let go of certain fears), I've compiled a list of the top 10 questions I've asked myself (and continue to ask myself) on my own journey. (Suggestion: grab a journal or a piece of paper where you can write out these questions and answers. I would also suggest keeping these notes somewhere safe where you can read them whenever you feel yourself slipping back into old habits. Trust me it will happen).
1. Am I grateful for what I have? I like to think of gratitude as the key to happiness. It's ok to want more, it's ok to crave excellence. What's not ok is not appreciating all the things we have as we work towards better things. Have you ever seen Happy by Roko Belic? It's a documentary that interviews people from many different walks of life from India to Japan. Some have much less than most of us in the developed world, yet their level of happiness is often much higher. Why? They appreciate and are happy with what they have. Start focusing on this and you're already on your way to a healthier, happier 2018.
Tip: buy a little notebook and keep it on your nightstand. Each night before bed jot down at least three things you're grateful for (your health, your job, your family, a nice warm bed to crawl into, that hot, comforting cup of coffee you enjoyed on your way to work, the sunshine... I could go on :) I do this every night and even when I haven't had the best day, I go to sleep grateful. There's always something to be grateful for.
"If we can't feel gratitude, we're locking ourselves out of one of the most important and uplifting aspects of wellbeing." - Jason Wachob
2. Who do I admire and why? Write down the names of 3-5 people you admire and the reasons why you do. I'm not saying I want you to become them, but what about them makes you want to become a better version of yourself? Are they kind? Patient? Positive? Motivated? Don't focus on their physical traits but rather parts of their personalities that make them great! I'm lucky to have so many people in my life that I look up to, some who might not even be aware of it.
3. Are the relationships I have fulfilling or draining? This might be a tough one to answer honestly but remember, no one needs to see these answers but you. While it might be hard to admit this to ourselves, sometimes some of our closest relationships can be some of our most draining - parents, spouses, life-long friends, co-workers. People grow and change and if someone's been in your life for a long time and they haven't changed alongside you, then it might be time to reassess the relationship and either talk about it or risk growing apart. We gain strength by feeling supported by others. If you can't seem to find any positivity in your life, pay attention to your closest relationships. They could be the ones dragging you down physically, mentally and especially spiritually. "Learn to walk away from people and situations that threaten your peace of mind, self-respect, values, morals or self-worth." (Quotling.com) Which ties into the next question:
4. Am I relying too much on others for my own happiness/confidence/fulfillment? This is common and I used to be in this trap too. When I moved to Sussex in 2007 I hardly knew a soul, so I depended on Jeremy for a lot of my happiness. He'd go out golfing with friends (he also used to work away for the week and was only home on weekends) and I'd stay home, by myself, bored and unhappy. It was in those first few months that I really learned to rely on myself for my own happiness and fulfillment and I think that's why I love my own company now. I was so bored during those first few months, and that boredom forced me to find something to do. I started running, cycling and met my own friends. It was an extremely liberating feeling. Now, 10 years later, I feel like I've lived here my whole life.
5. What am I good at? aka what are my talents, what goodness can I bring to those around me? And am I using those talents to bring myself happiness and to bring others happiness?
Most of us tend to to undervalue our worth, which is a damn shame if you ask me. How many people reading this aren't sharing their talents with the world because they're afraid. Afraid they'll fail, afraid they won't be supported, afraid of what people will think, afraid their "art form" isn't good enough. What would you accomplish if you knew you couldn't fail? There's your answer.
"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not."
6. Am I being myself, or am I being who others want me to be? Another way to phrase this question would be "Do I care too much what people think"? This question took me years to answer honestly. If you read my blog post on perfectionism last summer, I touched on that briefly. In a nutshell I grew up thinking that I had to be perfect. That I had to hide my excitement, not cause a scene, keep calm, not show too much emotion. It made me feel like a prisoner and it caused a wicked amount of anxiety for most of my life.
In the last couple of years I'm learning to make peace with who I am and I'm doing my best to celebrate that and what I bring to others. There are traits about myself that I like, but there are some that I tend to be somewhat embarrassed about. I'm kindhearted, positive and really quite happy for the most part. But I can be bullheaded, quick-tempered and impatient and I'm trying really hard to filter that energy into something useful and positive.
Which brings me to our next question:
7. Am I being too hard on myself? Did I just hear a resounding "YES!"? It's normal for us to be hard on ourselves, but that doesn't help us grow, especially if it causes stress. Would you ever sit across from a 3-year-old version of yourself and speak to him or her the same way you treat yourself now? Just the other day we had made bacon on the George Foreman grill. Usually I let the drippings solidify before I dump them in the compost, but for some reason I thought I could transfer them when they were still liquid. Needless to say it didn't work that way and I spilled them all over the counter. The first words out of my mouth? "Way to go, idiot!" I quickly caught myself and corrected the negative behaviour and realized it wasn't really that big of a deal. "Life isn't as serious as my mind makes it out to be", the saying goes.
8. Am I living in the past? Actually, let's take this question one step further. There's a saying that goes something like this: if you are living in the past you will feel guilt. If you are living in the future you will feel anxious. But if you are living in the moment you will feel peace. How many of us can relate to this? While it's very normal to reference the past (as in "Hey! I've been faced with this situation before, I remember handling it a certain way, did that work for me or do I need to change the way I handle it this time?) and look to the future (to schedule a trip, an appointment, etc.), some of us tend to toggle between the past and the future and we're never fully present and before we know it, our entire life has passed us by.
9. What do I need to change? Write down a couple of bad habits and press further. Do you make excuses? Why is that? Are you scared? If so what are you scared of? Do you smoke? Why do you smoke? What does it give you? What can you replace that bad habit with? Yoga? Deep breathing exercises? Be open to asking yourself these tough questions. At the end, ask yourself what will happen if you don't change? Will your life expectancy be shorter? Does your risk of cancer become higher? Do you risk missing moments in your life like seeing your kids get married, have children of their own?
Get rid of the "I'll change later", I've got the rest of my life to work on this" mentality. Stop procrastinating because before you know it it's going to be too late. We're not going to live forever.
10. Finally, what's more important to me: Comfort or Growth? I remember the first year I had Simply For Life, this kind man walked in and said "so, my doctor tells me I need to come here or I'm going to die". He was overweight, had diabetes and didn't take care of himself. He was a long-haul truck driver and wasn't very active. We chatted, he said he'd think about coming in for a consultation and joining our program, and I never saw him again. I often think of him, wondering if he's still around and if he is, did he decide to change any of his unhealthy habits?
He knew he had to change, his doctor warned him, but for him the idea of change was too frightening at the time. I've met many clients like him in the past. They so desperately want to change their ways and become healthier versions of themselves, but doing that requires a period of discomfort. Some are ok with this discomfort as they know it will be temporary and the reward will be worth it. They give themselves time to learn and adapt, they roll with it and they don't try to be too perfect along the way. Those are the people that succeed. The ones who are in a hurry to change are the ones that usually fail. They're looking for a quick fix, are impatient with themselves and with me and they would rather stay stuck where they are than risk failure and discomfort, because it's what they know and are certain of. Certainty isn't always positive you know.
The one constant in our lives is change. Nothing stays the same for a second, a minute, an hour or a day. So embrace change, embrace some discomfort and ask yourself some tougher questions. You'll be surprised at the answers that come to light.
Cheers to a new year!
PS. If you would like more information on these and other topics, or would like to arrange a chat with me, feel free to contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 506-433-5911. I'd be happy to chat with you.