It took me years to realise that my life wasn’t where I thought it would be. How had I gone so far off track? My relationships weren’t getting better, in actuality they had probably started to plateau, or worse, go backwards. My health was so far from where I wanted it to be I struggled to consider how to get it back on track. My career looked good from the outside, a successful ‘dream job’ running a restaurant that was winning a lot of awards. And yet if you asked me at the time if I was happy, I’d have said ‘no’. Yet this was what I thought I wanted.
Now, looking back I can see that it wasn’t one event, one moment that had me so unhappy and bored in my life. There were so many small things that had built up over time. I’d been used to making decisions in the moment based on how I was feeling, or how I wanted to feel. I’d eat foods to make me happy in the moment which over time led to overeating and being overweight.
How did I let life get like this?
I’d stay home in the comfort of my known surroundings; comfy couch, TV entertainment, wearing my trackies, rather than going out. It wasn’t just that I was shy and didn’t know how to meet new people, I felt so insecure around my friends that I didn’t know how to connect with them and would stay home instead of call or hang out with them. My partner was lovely, caring, fun but I was asking him to be with me all the time. I wanted, no actually it was more like I needed his companionship, needed him near me to feel safe. I don’t think I knew what love really meant, I just wanted the fairytale version of love, which I thought was you do everything together and don’t really have your own interests or your own friends.
It was like I was leaving everything to the universe, to chance, to luck
If I’m lucky something will happen today and I’ll feel happy, loved, appreciated. If I’m lucky I’ll get a raise, have fun at my job, keep my relationship, get married, meet a new friend. I read books that talked about the law of attraction and if you think it, you can create what you want. Part of the problem was I didn’t really know what I wanted. The other part of the problem was, as I’ve now learned, there’s more to it than just thinking about what you want.
There are many people out there who talk about how we can create all that we desire, and it’s true. A lot of what I have in my life now is because I thought of it, however, there was more to it than that.
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Our mind is like a super-computer. It sits at the back of all we do and processes so much information every second of every day. To ensure we get the same results again and again, it follows specific guidelines so that it can be both efficient and effective in getting us what we want. When we think of something that we want, we create a picture in our mind so that we can recognise when we get what we want.
You may have noticed that when you focus on something, or when something is brought into your awareness suddenly you see it everywhere. When you or someone you know buys a new car, in the moment you may say that you’ve never seen one before. Then over the coming hours, days and weeks you see them more and more. The same happens when we really consider what we want, a new job, a raise, a relationship, a new place to live. However, we are also really good at getting in our own way.
Once you know exactly what you want, you can start to create it
I used to think of the things I wanted but not recognise when I had them. I wanted to have a great group of friends I was really close to, people I could show up to their place for anytime for a coffee, or if I was struggling, to have someone I could talk to. I had great friends, however, I didn’t realise that I needed to actively build and contribute to the relationship to create the connection I wanted. I didn’t initiate hanging out, I didn’t share my worries or celebrate my successes. I sat back and waited for the great friendship to appear!
The not so funny thing was that I did this in all areas of my life. Health, I did every diet and even tried exercising but underneath it all I didn’t want to do the work and wanted great health and a perfect body to just happen. In my relationship I thought that just being there, just showing up, making dinner, hanging out was all I had to do.
In my career I’d been ‘lucky’ and promoted, and at the same time I felt like at some point I’d be caught and they would notice that I wasn’t all that great at my job, that they would realise I didn’t know what I was doing and I’d be ‘found out’.
Getting on track took some work. It started with recognising that there was a problem, I even mapped it out & wrote down all that I was not happy with. Then I turned the page and started writing everything I thought I wanted in every area of life.
It was much harder than I thought, coming up with things that I wanted in Health, Career, Relationship, Friends, Growth, Contribution. To begin with it looked like a wish list. Then I thought about my grandma who is amazing, thoughtful, funny and loving. I thought about what it would be like when I’m 98 looking back on my life? What would I have liked to have experienced, where would I really like to go, who would I like to have shared those experiences with, what kind of health would I need to achieve all of these things, what kind of career would I like to have and thought about all that is possible. Of course there are some things that were not possible (like turning back time to when I was 19 and making different decisions based on what I knew now!).
I looked at the different pages. It felt like I was at the base of a mountain. That I’d never get to what I wanted in life because I’d let it get so off track. I made myself move beyond that thought though, it wasn’t going to help me to think it wasn’t possible so I started to look at what was possible. If little things, little behaviours and decisions got me into this mess then little things could get me out.
Be smart – start by thinking small
I started thinking small while having my sights set on a big outcome (an incredible life). I looked at all that I wanted and made notes next to a few of the more achievable goals. I asked myself what are the baby steps, the little things I could do to get moving now. I noticed that I was really good at seeing the things that were not working and not the things that were working in my life so I started there, making a list each morning of 5 things/people/moments I appreciated in my life, being aware to find something different each day. Then before I went to bed in the evening I made a list of 5 things I could celebrate about the day. What had gone well, a conversation that I’d started, a healthy food choice I’d made, a phone call I’d made. Anything big or small that I could celebrate.
It wasn’t always easy to do it every day, but I did and days become weeks, weeks became months and months is now years. When I started appreciating the good things, and celebrating the little things, I noticed that there was a knock on effect to how I approached my life. I got more focussed on what I wanted, finding solutions to what wasn’t working and actively worked on myself towards all that I wanted.
There’s still a mountain ahead (I’ve come to realise there will always be challenges and growth) and that’s ok, actually it’s as exciting as when I look back now on how far I’ve come. I’ve achieved more in the last 10 years from ages 30 to 40 than in the 30 years it took me to get to that initial tipping point in my life.
Our life is made up of little moments, small decisions and choices. Baby steps may seem too small sometimes, every step counts and I appreciated that when it came to the point of deciding who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do about it. I didn’t back down. I faced the problem and did something (small) over and over again to be here now. It’s going to be difficult sometimes which is why I love to hear from people who have been where I’m going and can call back down the mountain and remind me to keep the faith in myself, in what I am capable of and to keep going.
Maybe start small with an appreciation list and a celebration list each day, and see what happens next.