There are always times in life when it feels like everything is working against you and everything is going wrong, or you feel stuck in a situation you don’t want to be in. It can be work related, or a relationship or a friendship. Sometimes things that are completely outside of our control happen. We lose people we love, we go through break ups, illness, we have a hard time with a friend... I know I have gone through all of the above and it sucks at the time.
Fairly recently I had 6 years when before I could get over something the next bad thing was happening. It was relentless and I felt so powerless. I’ve always considered myself a positive and optimistic person and I was almost embarrassed to be this person always suffering and going through something traumatic. When the dust settled I had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted lots of good stuff in my life: good experiences, good people,... It kind of became my mission to make them happen and to my surprise, they actually started happening!
I don’t think there is a recipe that will work for everyone, but after thinking about it a lot there are definitely a few tips that I think work universally:
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
The very first step is to work out what is really important to you. Professor Steve Peters talks about this in The Chimp Paradox. He calls it defining your Stone of Life. It is formed by three things:
- Values, what matters to you
- Your truths of life, what you believe to be true (i.e. you never know what people are going through, or life is short, or the world is full of great people)
- Your life force, what you would tell yourself if you were on your dying bed.
Another great way to look at this is to think about your values and then develop value based intentions. This is the foundation of Jess Lively's work that you can find on her podcast, The Lively Show, or her website, which has some very useful tools to identify what your values are and develop your intentions from there.
Sometimes it takes a bit of time and an exercise or a tool like the ones I mentioned to see for yourself what is inside you. When I was reading The Chimp Paradox a few months ago I sat down to do this exercise and I was so surprised at how easily and effortlessly it came out. My driving force is to never stop learning, from people, places and experiences. I had never articulated it before, I had never even thought about it that way, but when I asked myself what I would say to myself if it was my last day on earth it was clear: Travel, experience new things, never stop learning! And then I looked back at situations that had made me unhappy and frustrated and the common theme was that I was not learning. Equally, the moments where I had been at my happiest in recent years where those when I was exploring somewhere different, or trying something new, or learning something. Sometimes all of them at the same time!
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN YOUR LIFE?
Based on what really matters to you, what would your life to look like? How would you like to feel? Do you want to feel healthy and strong? Do you want to be in a loving relationship? Do you want to have a job that challenges you? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to go on lots of lovely holidays?
Write all these intentions or wishes down.
There is a great post on The Chalkboard Mag called Setting Intentions: How to manifest your vision step by step, that will give you some guidelines to do it.
WANT IT WITH ALL YOUR HEART
When something really matters to you, when it is something you want from the pit of your stomach, from the bottom of your heart, you will find a way to make it happen. Allow yourself to feel how much you want it.
MAKE A PLAN
Of course you won’t make anything happen just by wanting it, so have a good think about what it will take. What can you do? What obstacles might you find? What changes will you need to make in your life to see it becoming a reality?
I usually break it down into small bites. I write down all the things that I can do to get closer to what you want. Sometimes they are very small things like dropping someone an email asking about dates for a course, or spending an hour looking at different jobs, researching a holiday or a coffee with someone who works in a field you might be interested in.
Make time for them and stay focused. A mentor once told me to spend 5 minutes each day thinking about one thing I was going to do that day to get closer to achieving a goal I had set myself, and then doing it, no matter how small it seemed. It is super important to keep the momentum and keep making progress. When you feel like you’re flagging, go back to your list from step 2. For me that always reminds me that I am working towards something I really want, something lovely that is going to make me feel amazing, and that keeps me going!
Personally I don’t track any progress or reward myself when I hit milestones because for me the prize is seeing it happen and the happiness it will bring me, but if just that thought fails to motivate you, it might be a good idea to set milestones and rewards.
BE CURIOUS AND EXPLORE WITH ABANDON
I used to have a tendency to tell myself the million reasons why something might not work. My default mindset was: and what if it doesn't work? I've mentioned before that yoga has made me a much more curious person and it has made me approach most things with a different attitude, with a more open mind because, what if it worked? You just won't know til you try.
BE PREPARED TO BE VULNERABLE
It is inevitable that you will occasionally put yourself way outside of your comfort zone, so expect feeling vulnerable every now and then. The first time it will be excruciating, or at least it was for me, but as I put myself out there I am becoming much more fearless.
Things don’t always work out the way we want them to even when we give it our all, so be ready to lick your wounds every now and then and don’t feel discouraged by it. The more you put yourself out there the better chances you have. Yes, you will have a couple of things that won’t work out straight away, but so many good things will happen that these will be just a drop in the ocean.