No-one told us where to look
Never quite knowing what the rules are but desperate to stay in the game we call our lives, we spend much of our time and energy questioning our thoughts, emotions, choices and motives. Always on the lookout for the Truth, sometimes confident we know what we are looking for, other times doing the headless chicken thing, running aimlessly, but doing our best to give the impression that we know what we’re doing.
Like so many others, I spent much of my life in search of the ‘true’ job that I should be doing, the ‘true’ relationship I should be in, and the ‘true’ life that I was meant to be living. I knew it was somewhere out there, if only I could find it I would surely know it! Whenever I found a new job, a new relationship, a new country even, I thought I had it. Only to realise that wasn’t ‘it’ after all.
The way of your life is what you create
Sometimes during a coaching session I ask a client to imagine and describe a different life, a life they really want, where they are somebody they really want to be. Answers vary but many of them are along the lines of “but I. JUST. DON’T. KNOW.” or “what’s the point it’s not possible anyway” or “what, am I supposed to just make something up?”.
Exactly. You are!! Make it up, take some of what you have, create something new, and piece it all together as you very own personal puzzle of life. Make your life into whatever you want it to be!
If you’ve never considered it before, it may be an absurd, wild, weird thing to take in, but consider it for a moment.This is not about positive thinking (I ranted about that before). This is, as most things in life, about choice. And the choice is yours, and yours alone. Where will you start?
Stop looking. Listen
One of the things many of us were NOT taught as children is to trust our instincts, listen to ourselves, take a moment to consider what we really feel, want, desire. To know ourselves so that we can live our lives as ourselves. So now we’re grown up and it’s difficult to see the forest from the trees, let alone then inner truth from the never-ending self-talk that fills our heads, day and night.
Maybe you can find it in your day, in your crazy schedule that doesn’t need any more to-dos added, to take a brief moment and NOT DO ANYTHING. Just let your truth surface from the place within you where you hold curiosity, empathy, mercy. Let your truth fill you up, and listen to what it says.
- What is it that you now know about yourself that you didn’t know before?
- What are you going to do now in your life that is different than before?
- Who are you going to be in your life, and what impact will you have on the world?
Taking a slightly different approach to this age-old dilemma of saying Yes vs No, I’m inviting you to look into our tendency to match one with the other.
As human beings we have a habit of making up connections between things that happen to us, to make more sense of them. Amongst other things, we instantly make up a ‘No’ statement for each ‘Yes’.
For example, by accepting yet another ad hoc Saturday night gig offer or extra tour dates you might feel you are forever saying ‘No’ to quality time with your partner, family or friends, alienating yourself from your loved ones as a price you have to pay for making a decent living from the profession you have chosen.
Now consider this: The way you choose to divide your time of course has an impact on the time you have left to tend your relationships. But! It doesn’t have to define the quality of your relationships. The same is true for other seemingly ‘obvious’ cause & effect pairings.
So how do you know which connections are real?
Connecting the right Yes to the right No
It can seem like a jungle, sorting out the volumes of Yes & No and seeing the real connections. Here is a simple exercise that you can do on your own:
- Take a blank piece of paper & divide it into 2 columns. Title the columns ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
- On the ‘Yes’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying Yes to. What are you embracing, willingly or grudgingly?
- On the ‘No’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying No to. What are you avoiding, putting off, dreaming about?
- One at a time, pick something from your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ list and see if you can connect it with any of the items on the other column.
- Test out any connection that you think you find by writing it into a full sentence: When I say YES to ________ it means I am saying NO to ________. (or vice versa) Then ask yourself: ‘Can I prove this is true?’
If you find any statements that are verifiably true, congratulations! You are being honest and transparent about the impact of your actions, instead of leading yourself on to think that by saying ‘Yes’ to extra work you are saying ‘No’ to your family. You understand it’s never that straight forward. You can continue by considering how the two sides of the statement each support your wellbeing. Write down what thoughts emerge.
If you cannot find connections that seem water-proof between the two lists, it may mean you are consciously or subconsciously holding back and not allowing yourself to see the real impact of each ‘Yes’ and each ‘No’ to your life. Continue by re-writing the two lists, see if anything new emerges that you didn’t think of before. If you get stuck, take a break and come back to the exercise later.