Ever had a friend give you sound advice to be slow in choosing, but even slower in changing?
This month, I am sharing with you lessons I have learned over the past decade that have impacted my life. Recently I discovered advantages for being born in January.
Having just celebrated my birthday, I can outline so many reasons to love this month. It sets the stage for the year ahead like a fresh crisp page. Dawns the beginning of not only a brand new chapter but decade, where I collected a totally different mind-set from the lessons life has extended to me.
If you are born in this month, then you will share my practicalness and romantic streak. Though your birthday falls in the aftermath of all the holiday season, there is nothing that can mute a hardy go-getter.
Can you relate to a time in your life where you leaped before you looked?
You may not have thought of the consequences of your actions or counted the cost. Omitting the vital point of calculating your decision before you made a commitment until it was well… too late.
Do you remember Aesop’s Fables? Famously the one of the fox and the goat is about looking before you leap.
In order to acquire rules to a life that lives against the grain, what can we learn so that we do not end up like the goat finding himself in such a foolish position?
1| Track your actions
There are many benefits from continuously self-tracking your actions. Compared to what you did last month or, perhaps a difficult area of your life. How these related to your goals and how you aligned your priorities accordingly. With numerous apps to track our activities from fitness to sleep, we can quantify almost everything. There needs to be a balance where you choose not to turn tracking yourself from becoming overwhelming or frustrating without going crazy. But simply manage your time better, so that you naturally become more organised. Keep the big picture in mind, so that you can use that as your alignment base. To live every day with direction and motivation. Become accountable to another person, someone you trust or a life coach, to raise your awareness in how you react.
2| Be aware of your reactions
Ever wondered how you did something?
At times our routines and habits are set to autopilot that we are no longer in control of our reactions. When you develop self-awareness, you will learn how to figure things out. To become more emotionally intelligent and stop being an emotional wreck when situations appear where you have no idea why you reverted back to a bad habit you were trying to quit! By increasing your self-awareness to situations; you consider exactly what you are doing.
- Are you only in that relationship because you feel lonely?
- Are you unproductive because you have an unhealthy lifestyle and bad sleep habits?
3| It’s never too late to begin
Most of us avoid pain, by finding a means of distraction. To another place that seems safe and insulated from reality. If you always obsess about what happened or what hasn’t happened. Make plans and then never keep them. Or simply do everything to forget. You will never be aware that all these distractions are choices you choose to spend your time… but not effectively.
- The quest is to learn how to rein in distractions so that you are not compulsively engaging in social circles, activities and events that trigger emotions that also become a distraction because you block everything rather than deal with it.
- To identify your ‘blind spots’. Do your reactions in a moment become about how you feel? Perhaps about that difficult situation you had to deal with at work today. And now you are home but cannot switch off, so you turn everything into a dispute or argument.
We all have weaknesses but the bottom line is, we need to brace these patterns and reject distractions as a downward spiral.
4| You won’t always know what to do
It all goes back to self-acceptance where we begin to make conscious choices not unconscious ones. Where we embrace empathy and compassion to others and ourselves. Because how can you love another if you don’t even love yourself? If you have had extensive psychological or physical suffering, then you might need to find a therapist who can help you work through your issues. We may realise that we have flaws, but we need to handle these in fluctuating and conflicting situations. By not choosing to find ways to distract ourselves, numb our senses, manipulate others or believe that the problem is everyone else but me. You won’t always know what to do, but if you don’t feel peace within, then you should trust your instinct. Ask a trusted friend for advice. Give things time, sleep on decisions.
- What are your values?
- Is this best or right or neither?
- Do you feel uncertain or anxious? Sometimes all you need is to adopt a common sense approach to situations. And pray about it.
5| Concentrate mindfully
There are numerous resources to manage your time. From audits to time deadlines. However, I believe when you become conscious of what you are doing and more importantly why, you will become more sensible and careful in the way you manage your time. Because your attention will be focused on what you are doing rather than racing ahead to the next task or tomorrow.
- If you get easily distracted, use prompts to remind you. Practice this when someone is talking to you. Mindfully listen to them, not abstractly agreeing but carefully listening to every word they are speaking.
- What are your priorities today? How you direct your attention will become central to what you find meaning and purpose in. Things you can delay until tomorrow or say no to. Or ways you can find uninterrupted space.
6| Stop comparing
How many times have you set off on a trip but forgot how to enjoy the journey? Because you were too consumed by the planning matters.
Most times, social comparisons are subconsciously made when we look at others and think. If I were you, my life would be perfect. Stop right there.
- Have you counted your own blessings?
- Realised the progress you made from this time last year?
- Noted your growing strengths?
It’s ok to be imperfect instead of knocking others down. All comparing does is steal your joy, for the beauty of this moment. We are all individual, from our shape and size to our personality and traits. There is no need to look at ourselves through the filter of other people’s lives. Or constantly beat ourselves up. Simply because this is a game you will never win at!
- When was the last time you boosted your self-esteem with self-enhancement?
- If you waiting for someone to praise you, you might wait forever. But if you discarded your distorted view of yourself and instead see yourself as desirable and strong and don’t need to wait for someone to tell you what you are – because you already know you are. You will begin to be happy and start flourishing all because you enfold your life with gratitude instead of comparison.
7| Eliminate complaining
Life is never predictable. Nothing remains the same from one day to another. Unfortunately, some circumstances are out of our control. Do you walk into the room and as soon as anyone asks, ‘how are you?’ You vent out the last hour, day, week and month to them without a pause. Making others cringe and wish they could vanish into thin air.
Science has confirmed that the reason why we complain is because we tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. With research studies showing the percentage of complaining as high as 85%. We are always highlighting what is wrong instead of noticing the subtle hints of what may be right. Like comparing, it’s time to stop!
Take action and adopt new habits. Next time someone asks you, ‘how are you?’ Think of the one thing that went right today. And if you have a valid complaint, why not seek out a solution to your grievance. Because this annoying trait may just be repelling everyone from you.
8| Pay attention to the small details
- Are there days where you are juggling so many balls, that you feel like every curve ball is being hurled at you?
- Has your schedule not quite worked today and you’ve lost your to do list?
Take a break! 5 minutes! Have a cup of tea and refocus. Other ideas include some gentle stretching or high impact exercise such jump rope, skipping or star jumps to rouse your circulation and help you refocus. You might be saying I’m insanely busy; I don’t have time for this. Maybe you only pay attention to the small details at work. But have you noticed that it’s always the small glitches that throw us off course even in our personal lives. When we ignore small details we often can end up with big problems. Like trying to multi-task instead of focusing on one task at a time.
- There are ample benefits from flipping our direction from the fast to the slow lane. To increase our mindfulness, attention and physical presence to tasks and situations.
- Instead of always pressing the fast forward button. Something I need to deliberately prompt myself to do as I embrace every single moment life throws at me (good and bad).
The commonality in every lesson recognised in this four week series comes back to our awareness. I hope you are being inspired to embrace a focus word for 2020.
- To introduce brand new ways of thinking and steps towards improving.
- Additionally your key word could encourage you and become an anchor so you become decisive about the things you want more or less of in your life. A challenge I have recently seen, is choosing an uplifting word that begins with the first letter of your name.
How would you like to live against the grain?
Maybe not something drastic like changing your profession, but learning that skill you always wanted to. Or where you live in the moment right now, enveloping the beauty you see around you. That can illuminate your soul, light up a blissful life as well as embrace pain that could break your heart.
Share your thoughts…
I would love to hear your tips where you chose to do something that was different.