You have worked hard to get where you are.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, in The Myths of Happiness, suggests that “life circumstances” (such as education levels, marital status, wealth, etc.) contribute only about 10% to one’s happiness, with the rest coming from one’s genetic make-up (about 50%) and one’s values, attitudes and habits (about 40%). Lyubomirsky argues that we have been given false promises—myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognising the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognising our own growth potential.
When I was at university my vision of a great life was having a great career, being recognised for what I do and having enough money to have a great home, car and all the trappings of success. Fast forward to 2015, I had all of this and my life fell apart – you call it a midlife crisis, I call it a wake-up call! I have seen many successful women get this wake-up call at the peak of their careers. Their life may not be falling apart but the signs are there – you feel unfulfilled with your work (but you are doing it well); You feel disconnected from your purpose (what inspires me?); you are not taking care of your mental and physical health (because you are too busy working); and you feel disconnected from people who mean a lot to you (because you don’t have time).
It is tragic that it is often only when we are in, or approaching our 40s that we realise that the life we have lived (with all its trappings of “success”) is not the life we want. I learnt this the hard way, but I am eternally grateful for the lessons. The primary lesson – I can stand in my own way or I can consciously act change my destiny. Here are 3 valuable practices that can help you take the next positive step:
Awareness is the foundational driver of change. In this age of “busyness” and technology, we spend our lives operating like robots, falling from one thing to the next – being busy, busy, busy. Like a hamster in a wheel, we spin around aimlessly, doing what needs to be done – being busy, busy, busy. At the end of it all, you are exhausted, ill, depressed, etc.
When last did you sit down, quietly, no social media, no phone, no TV, no laptop, and just connected with yourself? Many of us are scared of going there because we fear what we will discover. If you live in awareness you are able to constantly tap into your deepest desires and act to change that which is bringing you down. Deepak Chopra says that everyone who feels stuck or in pain is suffering from the same underlying problem: a state of contracted awareness. From this place of fear and constriction, every step forward feels like a battle. You keep doing more of what never worked in the first place, and as frustration mounts, you feel more and more exhausted.
On the other hand, when your awareness expands, you no longer feel fearful, and love and fresh ideas have space to grow. In this expanded state, spiritual solutions spontaneously emerge. Chopra advised that instead of trying to rely on the limited resources of the ego-mind, you let yourself be guided by your true self, which is the source of all peace, clarity, and wisdom. With clearer vision, you no longer feel confused and conflicted. As you continue to evolve, you enter the level of pure awareness. At this level, no problems exist. You are aligned with the infinite field of all possibilities.
Chopra suggests the following actions to awaken a deeper awareness:
So how can you nurture this sense of deeper awareness? There are many ways, but you should find those that work for you. Here are some practical tips:
A significant aspect of living with deep awareness is, living mindfully. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Some people measure success by the wealth they have accumulated, the power they have attained, or the status they may have achieved. Yet, even though they’ve reached success beyond their wildest dreams, they still have an empty feeling — something is missing from their life. Sound familiar?
Why is purpose so important? A purpose sets the entire context of our lives. Without a clearly defined purpose, we are just a haphazard combination of goals and non-goals and actions and non-actions meandering through space and time. A purpose is a master plan for our life. Knowing our purpose helps us define our goals. It helps us avoid getting lost in the minutia of daily life by keeping our eyes on the target. It can make life much more enjoyable and effortless. Purpose is not something that others choose for us; rather, it is something we must choose for ourselves. It emerges from an exploration of what we value most. When we are defining our purpose in life, it is important to not worry about how we will go about achieving it.
In order to fill that void and be completely fulfilled in life, your soul may be searching for something more. Although everyone is different, there are common threads that bind a life with purpose. Frank Sonnenberg suggests the following actions to help you live with purpose:
When we identify and commit to our intentions, the opportunities and methods for achieving our purpose will begin to show up. In fact, they are often already in our lives, but we may not have noticed them because we were not paying attention. Defining your purpose helps you to focus on what matters most.
In recent times, we have become sceptical about words like “self-love” and “self-care” because they are said to have become the buzzwords of a superficial society that focuses on things like manicures and ombre hair colours. But there is so much more to it. What is self-love, then? Is it something you can buy in a beauty makeover or a new set of clothing? Can you get more of it by reading something inspirational? Or, can a new relationship make you love yourself more? The answer to all of these questions is No! Although they feel good and are gratifying, you can’t grow in self-love through these types of activities. Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good.
Psychology Today defines self-love as a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths and have less of a need to explain away our shortcomings. We grow compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centred in our life purpose and values, and expect fulfilment through our own efforts.
Dr Deborah Khoshaba suggests the following 7 step Prescription for Self-Love.
There are always steps you can take to change your life. Sometimes you need help to do it, but you can do it. I chose to work with a Coach to help me on my journey to living with purpose. The benefits of working with a Coach is that the coaching process provides you with a safe space to unravel the deep-seated limiting beliefs and destructive habits and behaviours that have been holding you back. The Coach is there to hold, support, challenge and comfort you to get to the other side in one, whole, happy piece.