I went to a workshop at the Center for Women in Enterprise a couple weeks ago. And this question was asked. I mean not EXACTLY in this way but I figured I would throw in a little Bostonian your way, as that’s how I do it. The presenter was a life coach and she asked us to list our top ten peak experiences and why they were important. We then had to comb through them looking for themes of core values that were in each. What I came up with in the end was that each wicked awesome moment included creativity, connection, community, adventure, love, and freedom to be authentic. Not exactly surprising or rocket science. But she then had us think about where we either were or are now and whether these wicked awesome values were being included. Ok, so here was the light bulb moment, previous to the last few months, they were not all there. Bits and pieces were, but definitely not all of it. So that’s why what I wasn’t doing wasn’t working…ahhhhh.I get it. See this is what happens when you get clear, I mean really clear, about what is important to you and whether or not you are living in a way that is in line with your core values.
Living in alignment with core values isn’t always easy. But why isn’t it so? It seems so simple. If something feels right, do it, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. So what is so complicated about that? Well one thing that complicates it is fear. Fear is often triggered in the limbic system which is the mid brain and is where emotions are derived. A move towards fear and away from core values often happens very slowly, like sinking in quicksand. You don’t always know it’s happening when it’s happening and when you do, you are so far in it’s hard to dig your way out. When fear sets in it can start to paralyze you. We get all up in our heads with thoughts of ….but what if? but what about this or that? I can’t….. It will never work out….and the negative feedback loop is endless right? The ole hamster in a wheel. Sometimes you just have to say STOP! (that’s actually a cognitive restructuring skill…I have tried it…out loud…in public….it works, sometimes:) The first step in becoming fearless is awareness. The next step is getting real with yourself. The question that often comes to mind is “how is that working for you?” How is living life the way you are living it working for you and for those you love. If you are stuck in quicksand it probably isn’t working too well. Ya the bills are getting paid, people are being clothed and fed but that attitude problem, that resentment you have towards yourself and those around is helping no one. I know, I was there. Unhappiness can spread like the common cold. Just like the defense against the cold is bolstering your immune system, the same holds true for guarding against being dragged down by someones’ negativity or your own. There are very real, and not funny reasons why we get stuck, bills need to get paid, people need to be fed and clothed, shelter is key as winter is coming and it’s no joke to be homeless. But maybe there is a middle ground. A place where you can meet these real life issues AND be happy. One way that we can find our middle path is by working towards not responding to the emotions as they arise. We can see our fear but not react to it. We talked about this in my previous post How Hungry Are Your Ghosts?. Practicing deep breathing and other methods of managing emotions in the moment can help to bring that emotional reactivity down and help you make a more balanced decision.
To begin excavating your path out of the cave, I would suggest taking the challenge of answering the questions I did two weeks ago. When were you your best? What ten moments of your life were in effect the bomb? Why were they important? Who were the key players? Just free style write. And then take a look at what you wrote. What themes to you see that run like a stream through the experiences? The next phase of the exercise is to look at how you are presently living. Do those values show up in your present job, relationships, home, lifestyle? If not fully, the final stage is to begin to make an action plan to create steps to moving closer to your core. This is an exercise you may want to go back to periodically. I did a mini check in yesterday on some things and decided to make some changes today. An analogy that is used in treatment for addictions at times is that there is an angel and devil on either shoulder and you get to choose each moment of each day which one you feed. Recently I fed the devil, today the angel won. After practicing for a while you will begin to easily feel when you are slipping away from your core and there will be a voice inside that says…”come back, come back.” Each moment will be different, my wish for all of us is that the return will become easier and easier over time:)