When you’ve done your due diligence with the first three steps to reclaiming empowerment in life, the final one is without a doubt the most underrated: celebrating! As much stress and anxiety as you suffer in self-doubt and anticipation of doing something unknown, new or avoided, you’d think you’d allow yourself at least as much energy by way of relief, enthusiasm and celebration.
Yet, when was the last time you took real pause to acknowledge getting something crossed off the to do list? How often in a week or month do you invite people to listen as witnesses and cheerleaders to crossing another threshold in the pursuit of your dreams?
Most of us hardly ever do. Our productivity-driven brains tell us that’s silly, a waste of time, and maybe even selfish or too egocentric, so at nearly the same moment we get one thing done, our consciousness is redirected to focusing on the next with little to no fanfare in between.
Yet think about when children learn something new—to walk, read, ride a bike— those endeavors are going to require courage and risk. Mistakes and falls are going to happen, a lot of them in fact, so it’s intuitively understood that they need people to cheer them on at each and every turn. “Hooray!” is cried when they start to stand up on their own, generous loving encouragement is heard when they fall down to ensure they have the nerve to get back up, and everyone near and dear is notified when the first steps are finally taken! It’s exhilarating to watch children grow and develop into each evolution of who they are, and the children who have people wholeheartedly witnessing and honoring all the chapters of life grow up to be some of the most loved and sincerely confident.
It’s not any different when we’re adults, except that now we are the ones responsible for keeping watch, for celebrating, and for letting those we trust know what next thing we’ve just had the nerve to try. This practice of holding sacred space for our growth builds the confidence for taking risks, anchors us in our true power and potential, and replenishes vital energy stores for next steps… just the same as it does for children and puppies and probably plants and all other living things.
Procrastination takes a toll on both your energy levels and your spirit. Negative self-talk inevitable in putting things off for tomorrow subtly erodes your self-confidence and belief in your ability to take charge of life. Consider a handful of things you’ve been putting off. Odds are the avoidance is driven by one of three things:
1. You don’t want to—Honestly, this is the easiest dynamic to resolve. If you don’t want to do something, don’t. There’s nothing you HAVE to do. Truly. Of course there’ll be consequences for action and inaction, but you’re in charge of what you take on or let go. If giving yourself permission to say no and delete it from the list feels liberating, do it! If you feel it still needs to be addressed but preferably not by you, outsource it. You don’t have to navigate this journey of life by yourself. Call on your friends and family or hire someone. Often there’ll be something someone you know doesn’t want to do either, and you can share your skillsets and trade energy in a win-win.
2. You don’t believe it’s worth being a priority—If something is “important enough” to write down as a to-do, goal or dream but never enough to get around to, it’s time to get real. Talk is cheap. Actions tell the truth. Dig in to determine whether this actually isn’t a priority (in which case, you have permission to move on) or if it IS a true priority but gets lost in other competing calls for your time and energy (in which case, it’s time for soul searching on who/what you want driving your life (see step 2)).
3. You’re too scared —The biggest beast for sure, when you finally grasp your heart and soul’s true priorities, but your fear-based ego paralyzes you with what-if’s and who-do-you-think-you-are’s. Ugh. There’s so much to say about this. I probably write about the soul-ego tug-of-war more than anything else, but here’s a quick tool to have at the ready: The ego is most scared of the BIG picture, goal, change, thing. If you just limit your focus to the next baby step, ego won’t roar as loud or squeeze as hard. You can always do one small next thing.
Refocus your mind on your power and capacity by promising that today you’ll do one tiny-itty-bitty thing you’ve been putting off: make that naturopath/chiropractor/doctor’s appointment you’ve been thinking about, send a text to that long lost friend that’s been on your mind, google how to travel to your dream destination, unsubscribe to junk mail that overwhelms you, cook that recipe you saved on Pinterest… whatever the THING, don’t think about it for one more minute, just do it and watch it build confidence and momentum for the next step.
The untrained mind depletes itself of so much energy needlessly. The machine of fear-based thinking relentlessly grinds through anxieties, what-if’s, reliving the past, and trying to micromanage the future. The mental fatigue caused by this only amplifies any feelings of overwhelm or helplessness.
Mindfulness practices anchoring the mind in the safety and peace of the present are the best protection against these energetic leaks, but most of us haven’t built enough neurological wherewithal for this to be our only line of defense. Which is why ultimately it’s much easier to clean house (literally and figuratively) every now and again so there aren’t as many mental and emotional demands to ward against.
Consider taking notes for an entire day (a week for the most diligent and committed). Catalogue each stressful thought, feeling, and interaction, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. Cringing every time you open your inbox to find an onslaught of promotional emails? Continually procrastinating a coffee date? Loathing some to-do more than the others? Annoyed by clothes in your closet that haven’t been worn in years? Smacked with guilt every time you pass by a struggling houseplant?
Write these observations down without judgment. When the list is compiled, go back through and indentify the underlying reasons each neutral stimulus is being experienced as stressful. You’ll likely find that often it’s connected to some form of avoidance. Ask yourself, what are you choosing to not face at the expense of these chronic debits to your energy?
Is it a fear of confronting limited beliefs about abundance (what if you NEED that t-shirt from 1998 someday); a fear of facing narratives about inadequacy (what would people think if you asked for help); a fear of setting boundaries (would everyone hate you if you admitted you didn’t want to _______)?
These persistent drains on your wellbeing are easier to ignore than the screaming stressors, but they add up and take a toll all the same. Avoiding them, either because you minimize their impact or because you’re scared to resolve the underlying issue, isn’t serving you.
By decluttering your mind of these “minor” annoyances, you reconnect to your empowerment and free your energetic reserves to tackle more inspired and fulfilling challenges
(Part 1 of 4) For all the rejuvenation inferred in a “new year” (which is mostly nonsense), I for one felt like I dragged myself through January as sluggishly as ever. There were many contributing factors, not the least of which included turbulent national times and a relentlessly cold and gray Montana winter.
Here’s the shorthand guide I’m using to try to grab the helm once again:
However, whatever the reasons, when the course of life starts to feel more like bracing against a crashing tide and less like steering a course deliberately, it’s time to regroup.
1. Accept the limitations of your influence and remember the mind’s default is to focus on dynamics that exacerbate the feeling of struggle.
In the primitive brain’s endeavor to keep us safe, it’s on high alert for what feels dangerous (note: not necessarily what IS dangerous). Therefore, the things that are beyond our control will be what the mind wants to perseverate on the most, including what’s to come personally or professionally, what the people we love do or don’t do, or what others say or think about us or our lives.
Despite our mind’s preoccupation with these, we can’t control ANY of them. We can attempt to INFLUENCE them, but we cannot control them. This distinction is imperative to understand.
Attempts to control are premised on the attachment to a conclusion… on others’ interpretations and perceptions or on how end results play out or are assessed, but these outcomes are affected by influences well beyond what we as individuals can impact.
Before getting frustrated with the futility of this fear-based thinking, remember that fear exists as a guide, waking you up to realize that happiness, freedom and peace only come from within and never from trying to control a single thing outside of yourself.
You’re an adult now, which means you’re the boss of you, and while you can’t dictate all the details of how life unfolds, you’re absolutely empowered to decide how you perceive it and what you make of it. Once the focus shifts from rigidly believing it’s your need or responsibility to figure out how to MAKE things outside of you turn out a specific way, you instantly release yourself from gridlock of the ego and liberate your soul for greater truths and action.