When marketers target us with ads, talking about ‘our busy lifestyle’, I sometimes think we’re supposed to feel flattered. They assume we’re busy 21st century multi-taskers, running successful businesses, raising well-rounded children, engaging in stimulating relationships, and in our spare time, baking dinky macaroons.
Or maybe they want us to think that’s what other people are doing, and consequently ask ourselves ‘why aren’t we?’ Of course we can aspire to this desirable state, and pretend we’ve made it, by buying their ready to cook meals, the latest 5-door hatchback or a designer handbag (complete with pockets for all the iPhones, iPads and assorted devices that are clamouring for our attention).
But this pressure can be a contributing factor to making you feel as though your life has turned toxic: there’s not enough time; too much to do; people in your life who drain your spirit rather than nurture it; a sense that somewhere along the line, you missed your true purpose; the dread that you’ll get to the end of your life and wonder what you did with it.
Of course we’re all more or less busy and need help from time to time but helping us is not, I feel, the marketer’s primary motivation.
So, rather than take expensive shortcuts without providing a long-term solution to the problem, why not let’s look at what we can do to ease the strain and stress permanently and cheaply?
Picture your mind as a suitcase
It starts off empty and has things shoved into it, sometimes neatly folded and carefully arranged, and sometimes just crammed into any available corner. After a while, there are things at the bottom that you haven’t seen or needed for some time and you’ve forgotten they’re there. You just go into it for the things that are easily to hand at the top, and anything new has to be squashed in willy-nilly. The case starts to bulge and creak and you have to put tapes around it to keep it closed.
The moment has arrived when the best solution is to get everything out, sort through the contents and get it into some sort of order. There’ll be things that you definitely need and value, things that you’ll want to be able to access easily, and things that have passed their use-by date which can be turfed out to make space for new, more attractive items.
Just so with your mind
All the things you’ve learned, all the impressions you’ve received, all the ideas, dreams and decisions your fertile brain has created are packed away. And they sit there, sometimes contributing usefully, sometimes festering and contaminating what’s around them.
You wake up one day and think “What if I’ve left it too late?” Too late to find out what my purpose truly is. Too late to choose a more exciting direction. Too late to live the kind of life you can look back on with a feeling of accomplishment.
Guess what? – it’s NOT too late. It’s never too late. You could go under a bus tomorrow and, if you’ve taken action today to make a difference, if nothing else you’ll be able to conk out thinking “Well, at least I made the choice to start doing what I love.”
So, what to do?
First of all, you need to change the way you think. It’s not easy but it is easier than it sounds. The way you think is just the product of habits and beliefs you’ve acquired over the years, and these are the things you need to change. Unfortunately, that’s the tricky bit – especially when habits and beliefs are so ingrained; you don’t even notice them.
Whether you got certain impressions and beliefs from your parents, teachers, friends, school bullies, TV or whatever, and whether you were aware that they had crept into your mind or not, you’re carrying with you the accumulated baggage of all those years. Ask yourself where your beliefs came from and decide which ones are serving you now, and which ones are holding you back?
A good clear-out will work wonders!
Whose priorities govern your life?
This is the next question. If you’re not clear on what’s truly important to you, it’s easy to be steamrolled by someone else’s agenda. We all have values (and live by them) but we’re seldom conscious of them, so reviewing them is the first step to making sure they’re honoured.
Do you arrive at decisions that you trust? Do you go with your gut instinct and then worry you’ve missed something? There’s nothing wrong with gut feelings – they’re often justified, whether we can explain them or not. It does help though, to have a systematic process that you can call on to help you make choices you can have confidence in.
And, right up there with all of these, is the need to be clear about where you’re going: how else will you know whether or not you’re heading in the right direction and whether you’ve reached your carefully selected destination?
Sadly, we’ve often been schooled to choose on the basis of being ‘realistic’, which is usually just another word for what someone else thinks is worthwhile and achievable. I would wager a bet that Mick Jagger’s teacher wouldn’t have rated his ambitions very high on the ‘realism’ chart.
Yes, being realistic is important but not until we’ve dreamed up the best possible scenario and worked out what elements we want to extract and implement for ourselves.
Once you’ve got these areas of your life in the best possible shape, once you’ve flushed the toxins out of your system, you will be refreshed and revitalised – ready to create opportunities and make the most of all of them!
What do you think – have you gone through a detox process? Let me know what you think in the comments below!