“We’re a nation of exhausted and over-stressed adults raising over-scheduled children.” ~Brené Brown
You may think it’s easy to know what you want. But if you live your life rushing around, working non-stop and feeling stressed out, you probably don't. Chances are you're disconnected from your inner truth.
To reconnect to that truth each one of us possesses is not as easy as you think.
I've both lived it and seen it. I lived not knowing what I wanted. If you'd asked me ten years ago: “What is it that you want that brings you joy?", I would not have known the answer. I would have mumbled something along these lines: “I love to read and the days I don’t have to go to work." (note: I had my own business then, but didn't feel passionate about it.) And I turned to external sources to feel a bit of joy. Things like a new car, a “perfect" body, a facelift, winning the lottery and having a beautiful house. I would never have thought that I could find what I wanted by turning inside instead of outside.
That’s why I always felt discontent. Not to mention guilty because of feeling discontent.
When clients come to me, I spot this disconnection in an instant. When I ask them what they want if they could live their dream life, more often than not this provokes a deep silence.
F. was such a client. She couldn't by the life of her think of anything that brought her joy. Her list of priorities consisted of working hard, keeping her kids well-groomed. Teaching them to be the epitome of politeness. Making her husband happy, well fed and attended to at all times. And being considered the best possible mother and wife ever. But this striving for perfection took its toll on her.
“I only want to sleep, and sleep, and sleep”, she told me. “So that I don't have to face another day of shouting at my kids for them to behave. Of getting up at 5 am, so the house looks spic and span. Of cooking healthy meals for my husband. Of putting up my makeup and looking immaculate whenever I leave my house. Of never having time for myself. I wanna go days without make-up, I wanna be a slob, I don’t wanna do all this anymore…."
In her struggle to keep up the appearance of perfection to the outside world, she had lost herself. She only lived in function of her husband, her kids and her image to the outside world.
So to begin to bring her back to what it was she so longed for, I asked her to list the things she knew she didn’t want. And let me tell you when you ask a client to sum up what they don’t want, the list can be long. It's easier to know what you don’t want, what makes you feel sad, mad, scared, than it is to know what makes you feel content. What makes you feel at peace with yourself, the people around you, your life, the world.
Women who come to me and who live in function of other people's needs and wants, have a gigantic list of what they don’t want.
But they have one big problem.
They have a deep believe that they have to do all those things they don’t like. Or else the world as they and everyone around them knows it, will fall apart. And it will be their fault. They will get the blame. And they'll be judged by their husband, kids, family and the guy who drives the bus.
So they continue doing what they’ve been doing all along. Even if it is joyless, boring and depressing. These women often don’t know how to take one minute for themselves. They go on in their pursuit of “being perfect". A state they will never reach, as perfection doesn’t exist.
Are you in your own way striving for that “perfection" in your life, but you never quite seem to grasp it? Are you so far removed from your inner wisdom that you can’t even hear yourself scream with frustration?
Well, the answer lies in getting closer to that wise inner voice we all have and to get to know yourself better again. Which, I can tell you, may take some time.
The first, yet also the hardest things to do, is to learn to listen to your body. Eighty to ninety percent of the women that live what I call a false life, have physical ailments. These can be small things, such as regular headaches, lower back pains that come and go, bad digestion, bloating, PMS. But it can also be a chronic illness that starts to disrupt their lives.
Yet, our body is by far the wisest tool we have. Because our body has a direct line of communication to our inner wisdom. It will always let us know what is good for us — our real self— and what is not. The body will protest as soon as you are doing something because you have to or need to, but you don’t really want to.
So mind-body exercises is one of the first steps to get closer to your true inner self. But this has proven to be difficult as we have learned to ignore our bodies for so long. Reconnecting is not easy. Yet, it's an essential part of getting in touch with what brings you joy.
When F. tried to listen to her body reactions, she went all frantic. She couldn’t do it. And when I asked her to experiment at home with a guided meditation, she resisted doing it. She put it off until the day was over and she was no longer in the mood to do her “homework”.
This resistance came from fear. Fear of what she would discover if she got one small message from her body. You see, F’s body knew that what she was doing was very bad for her and her soul. Deep down, if she'd be honest with herself, she also knew that. The solution was right there within her. But F. wasn’t ready to listen. Yet.
So we needed a detour.
I made F. go back to her childhood. I asked her to tell me how her childhood was and what games she like to play. What she liked to eat. What her favourite book was. Her favourite things to watch on TV. She lighted up like a Christmas tree. And there was no stopping her. Just like there was no stopping her when she told me what she didn’t like.
She told me the wonderful stories of how her granddad had farm. She was talking straight from her soul, not her rational mind.
I asked her to journal about her childhood favourite things. And to come with ways to add some of this childhood joy to her day. Maybe she could to go the local petting zoo. Or maybe she needed to climb a tree and just sit there. Or maybe she needed get a bike and go explore nature, instead of driving her car everywhere.
She came back and told me she watched YouTube video’s of animals that made her laugh. She went to the local shelter and adopted a dog and a cat. This meant the house would no longer be immaculate, but she told me she was OK with a few hairs. And the pets' warm bodies in her lap when reading at night, was the biggest reward and it gave her comfort.
It was a double win, as her kids no longer spent so much time fighting. They loved taking care of the new critters and became more responsible.
She considered becoming a volunteer at the shelter so she could help abandoned dogs and cats and be of service.
I asked her to start noticing how her body felt when she was with the animals. To observe. And to write down what she discovered. I asked her whether her body felt relaxed or tense.
Now F. was getting the drift. By becoming the Observer of her body, she started to become aware of her body sensations. She observed how her body reacted when she was doing something she “had to” or “needed to” but which didn’t give her joy. And how it responded when she was doing what made her feel relaxed, at peace and joyful.
Over the next few weeks F. became very adept in reading her body compass, as we call it in coaching lingo. The things her Wise Inner Self loved made her feel like warm chocolate flowing through her chest and throat. While the things she abhorred would make her feel “as if a big rock is crushing me and making unable to breathe”.
Now it was time for some radical to-do-list-decluttering. We looked at all the things she truly hated. I made her think about:
1. what can you get rid of?
2. what can you barter or pay for - a cleaner maybe?
3. what do you still have to do and how can you make them better?
It took work. It required becoming the Observer. It took patience and insight in what her patterns were. But F. figured out what she wanted, by starting from what she didn’t want. She learned to read her body’s messages. She was willing to examine the things that made her feel bad, sad or mad and substitute them with things that brought her more joy and peace.
Now it’s your turn:
Make your to-do list for this week, in detail. Sit with each item, breathing into your body and observe. List the items that make you feel icky, irritated, tired. Or that make your body tense or feel pain. If you do get a "negative reading", decide what you want to do with this particular item: Bag it, barter it or better it. Also called the 3B's.
Repeat this for every item on your list. A positive “body reading” is a green light for you to go and do that thing for sure.
The better you become at observing your own body’s reactions to certain things, situations, and people, the better you'll get at the 3B's. And you'll know what is worth keeping and getting rid of in your life.
It will take time and practice. But I guarantee you it will make you chose more joy, peace and contentment in your life.
Want to Upgrade your life? Want to find out what you really want?
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