If you do nothing else for yourself today, commit to challenging - and getting out of the way of - those self-limiting stories of the past that you allow yourself to repeat and believe in.
Step 1: Figure out how theses stories are serving you even as they restrict you. Because even when we engage in self-limiting (and in many cases self-destructive) behavior, we generally think there is something "in it" for us. Something that is protecting us, comforting us, saving us from pain and sadness and illness and failure.
So, how do you identify one of these little (or big) self-saboteurs? I've found that they tend to have a few common elements:
- They often begin with phrases like
- I always
- I never
- I can't
- I have to/I must
- I should/I shouldn't
- I need
- I won't
- I don't
- We often feel a sense of discomfort even as we are engaging in them, a sort of "I know I shouldn't eat this food" or "I always end up in self-destructive relationships." Yet we pursue them anyway. Because there is some thing that we believe we are getting from them. Think about that. See if you can identify a few of these "faux rewards" and think about other, less self-limiting ways to achieve them (without what you have come to see as "just the price I pay for happiness.")
Most of us have people in our lives who are willing - and often eager - to share their opinions about all the "unhealthy/destructive/incorrect" things we do, from our choice in careers and partners to where and how we live. But think about the people in your life whose opinions you trust, who seem like sound, reasonable friends/family members, and (here's the catch) who don't routinely offer unsolicited opinions or advice, but who are generally willing to share their thoughts when asked (and who don't use the "You always/You never/You can't/You have to" phrases in the process.) Certainly don't act on their advice, no matter how well-intentioned, but listen to it. Log it. Refer to it often as you examine some of your choices and behaviors. Don't have people like this in your life? What about spiritual leaders, writers, historical figures whose lives appeal to you or whose words resonate deeply? Read a passage or listen to a speech or interview, and really pay attention to the words and their meaning. I actually enjoyed Gretchen Reuben's book The Happiness Project as a practical guide to self-evaluation and to a gradual, realistic pursuit of personal happiness.
Finally, sit down in a quiet place (ideally a beautiful room with a burning fireplace and soft music and unlimited time to think and write - but realistically a coffee shop, your car, a bathroom stall, wherever you can steal a few minutes with just yourself) and finish the following Happiness Statement
"I would be happiest if ______________________"
As you answer this, I strongly encourage you not to censor yourself. You can answer this in one sentence or fifty + pages. Don't consider money, time, current or past obligations and schedules and lifestyle. Yes, those are all considerations, but for now, to determine your happiness goal, just write. And think. And write some more. In other words, don't limit. Not just yet. And remember, "Happiness" is not a goal we reach, but a never-ending journey we walk, twisting and turning, changing direction, speeding up and slowing down, not so much eager to arrive as we are content to remain on the path.
Care to share your sentence here?
Til next time,
For more about happiness (and to help you write your own happiness statement):