Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with yourself, like you’re stuck in a funk? Like you’re going through the motions, getting things done but wondering who is getting things done?
Is life going by so fast that you feel like you’re only skimming the surface, never having the time to delve deeper to truly investigate or understand?
I know how you feel. As last month began, I felt like a machine working too much, feeling and simply being far too little. Knowing this wouldn’t magically fix itself, I took a couple weeks off from work to slow down and connect with myself again.
As I reflected on the past year, I realized how my busyness was preventing me from accomplishing anything of true importance. It was burning me out, sucking my energy and moving me further from my heart’s desires.
I looked back at the goals I set for myself last year and realized that I hadn’t accomplished any of them. Very disheartening. Then I asked myself why.
The answer to my problems? Daily habits.
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
The People Pleaser
Over the past couple years, I’ve tried the time management tool of scheduling everything I want to accomplish in a day (taking breaks, exercising, journaling, meditation, writing, etc.) in addition to the meetings and phone calls for my job and to-do’s for other people.
I’ve noticed that I will do everything on the schedule for other people, regardless of how tired I am, while consistently blowing off the things I’ve scheduled for myself. Result: Burned out and unfulfilled.
I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, which has helped me to understand this phenomenon. In the book, she has four categories for us: the Upholder (meets internal and external expectations), the Questioner (meets internal expectations but questions external ones), the Obliger (meets external expectations but resists internal ones) and the Rebel (resists both internal and external expectations).
Each type utilizes different approaches for sticking with new habits. She explains why one size does not fit all when it comes to creating and maintaining habits.
I’m an Obliger. I’ll go out of my way to get things done for everyone around me (a people pleaser) while rarely taking the time to do things that are beneficial for me.
The key for turning this around is creating methods of accountability that will work for me. I’m still working on that one since I’ve been consistently challenged to find ways for others to hold me accountable for things that are only important to me. I’d love to hear your ideas in this area!
Now I’m thinking: How can I use my natural instinct to meet outer expectations to serve my inner desires? How can I use people pleasing to drive my practices and daily habits (yoga, journaling, meditation, writing, growing the community here)? How can I alter my daily habits to serve my goals and dreams? How can I change how I do one thing so it spills into everything else in my life?
Many people have discovered how regular exercise improves their energy, gets them in better shape, motivates them to eat healthier, improves self-confidence and self-esteem which boosts their performance in all other areas of their life. Yoga is like that for me. My mental, emotional and physical sides all feel when it’s been too long since my last session (three days is about as long as I can go without beginning to feel out of sorts).
Reconnecting with Your True Self
Yoga reconnects me with my body which is where emotions are stored. Despite practicing the almost identical series of poses regularly for about fifteen years, every session is new and different. Some days I feel strong and flexible. Other days everything hurts, and I have to be more gentle with myself. Some days that tweak in my lower back that I’ve had off and on since I was fifteen wakes up to speak to me.
When I listen to my body and ask what it needs, the answer from my True Self isn’t about what poses to do. The answers are usually about what I need to address the deeper emotions. And the whispers from the True Self are always right.
Your True Self is the best teacher you’ll ever have.
As I’ve been pondering all this ‘inner work,’ I was gifted a copy of Brian Leaf’s new book, The Teacher Appears (funny how the Universe works). I reviewed his hilarious book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, and was eager to read more from Brian.
Although the subtitle is ‘108 Prompts to Power Your Yoga Practice,’ it’s less about yoga and more about reconnecting with your True Self (although the yogis out there will certainly appreciate the many ideas for deepening your practice).
In addition to his own ideas for seeing the world a little differently, the book includes contributions from many of the big names in personal development and yoga.
Here are a few examples:
Ask yourself: In this moment, what is lacking? What is keeping me from feeling completely at ease? Explore. Look within. The answer might surprise you. ~Rachel Brathen
No lies today. See how it feels. Rip this page out and tuck it in your pocket so you’ll remember. ~Brian Leaf
Look up at the sky. Notice the colors, the clouds, the quality of the light, perhaps the leaves and buildings against the sky. Really look. In the space below, describe what you see – in words or images. ~Gretchen Rubin
The erroneous belief that genuine happiness comes only from pleasant feelings can become a strong motivation to stay closed to anything unpleasant. But by staying closed to all unpleasantness, we also stay closed to our own wellspring of compassion. Can you mindfully open today to one unpleasantness that you typically avoid? ~Joseph Goldstein
The harder you are on anything, the faster you wear it out. Be gentle. ~Brian Kest
Just for today, no complaining about anything. Speak only gratitude. Keep this book with you so you’ll remember. ~Brian Leaf
My plan is to create a new habit of picking up this book and implementing whatever it says on the page I serendipitously open to and being open to whatever happens. No ‘re-do’s’ if I don’t like what it says. Like my yoga practice, this exercise can reveal much to me about what I’m not seeing in myself. It also helps to get me out of my funk by getting me out of my comfort zone and trying new things.
Mindful Time Management
I’m also setting a strong intention to be more mindful of the choices I make in each moment regarding how I spend my time.
We all have the same 168 hours each week. How consciously do you choose how to spend each one of those?
I tend to start each day with the best of intentions until life happens and things don’t go quite as planned (almost every day). I’ll get wrapped up in doing lots of things that allow me to check off all the to-do’s on the sticky notes on my desk without stepping back to consider how all that stuff relates to what’s really important. I’ve noticed this subconscious need/addiction to check things off lists and delete completed emails (which both create a big dopamine rush).
This tells me that I’m not being discerning enough (mindful enough) to notice whether those things I’m crossing off are for my greater good.
It’s time to use my powers of mindfulness on my time management the same way I’ve done with what I eat.
Years ago, I loved bread and pasta and ate both almost every day. I wanted to lose some weight but was unsuccessful with almost every diet I tried. Then I went on a very low carb diet (back when they were new) which eliminated all my beloved breads and pastas.
Losing weight was more important to me at that point than eating those foods, so they were completely off my list. Cheating wasn’t an option.
After eating like this for a few months and losing the weight, I found myself in a restaurant that offered that delicious basket of freshly baked homemade bread. I thought, “That’s looks and smells amazing! I’m no longer on a diet so one piece wouldn’t hurt.” And I ate some.
While it tasted amazing while I was eating it, the joy was fleeting. By the end of the meal, that piece of bread felt like a lead weight in my gut. That did it! I never wanted to eat bread again if that’s how it made me feel.
I rewired my brain to recreate that awful feeling in my gut every time I looked at breads and pastas. With this rewiring, my old desires were gone. Poof!
Now I’m examining how I can reprogram my brain to change how I make decisions about how I spend my time and the habits I’m creating.
Just like the relationship of ‘bad food = feeling sick,’ I’m programming ‘unimportant use of time = lost life, ideal lifestyle pushed further away, deep sadness.’
If I prioritize my daily to-do list by whether the items add joy or sadness to my life (adding a happy face 🙂 or a sad face 🙁 next to every item), the choices are much easier. And I can feel them in my heart. They’re no longer just things to check off a list with equivalent meanings. Every moment and every choice truly matters.
What ideas do you have to get out of a funk and add more happiness to your life?
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