What to Do When Life Isn't Turning Out Like You Hoped
Even though discovering areas where you are not in alignment is part of gaining more self-awareness, it still takes me by surprise when I learn a new place of misalignment in my life. Some things have become so automatic, so ingrained, so unlabeled, that I simply don’t know that I’m living in accordance with ideas that I don’t actually believe in anymore. Yet I still keep living as if I do. Until it hits me.
It happened to me on a random Tuesday. I was not being as productive as I usually am and I this was bugging me. Really bugging me. Soon I was questioning what the heck I was doing with my life.
As some of you know, I’ve been in the process of transitioning careers from health informatics to art & wellness (as well as recovering from being a workaholic). The transition hasn’t been easy. When people ask me about it, I say it’s been a little like an albatross landing…
Despite the bumpy arrival and mental barriers (heelllloooo imposter syndrome), I’ve continued to want to pursue this path. But on that Tuesday, I really questioned my situation. And I made a bitter statement to myself: “Ugh, this day was so wasted, I haven’t done anything”. Anything = I haven’t worked for the last 16 hours till extreme exhaustion.
Right after this thought, something shifted and I questioned that statement: Is accomplishing an extraordinary amount of work really the way I value my day?
Then came a flood of questions: Why can’t my day be “accomplished” if I was nice to someone that day? If I went outside? If I savored a meal? If I played with my cat? If I smelled a flower?
My next flood of thoughts went like this:
What do I actually value out of my day?
And if I don’t value or believe in working at that crazy level, why do I feel bad when I don’t meet that mark even if I don’t think it’s healthy?
Why am I not living my days according to my actual values?
And how come my actual values are not the values ingrained in me?
Don’t get me wrong - working is good. Perfectionism and workaholism is not. My workaholic tendencies definitely come from an original need to survive but perfectionism sure fueled the fire, to the point that I was working wayyyyy past the benefit. Eventually that was my norm, regardless of the effect it had on my health. I was hooked. So when I pulled the emergency brake and started moving away from that, no wonder I felt as if I wasn’t doing anything of value if I didn’t meet my previous standards. Unbeknownst to me, my values had become aligned with workaholism and perfectionism.
What I’ve found is that it’s not too late to redefine my values. To change what a purposeful/accomplished day looks like.
Under my new values, exploring a free park thirty minutes from my house (and finding this gem of a bridge!) made that day purposeful.
It starts with acknowledging that the old values were there - for better or worse. And that it’s okay that it’s taken me time to recognize them. That it’s taken me time to re-evaluate my situation. To see that I’m no longer in the same position that I was 10 or even 5 years ago, when those values were needed as a mental and physical survival technique.
It’s taking me time but slowly, I’m making an accomplished day be defined by the following values, in no specific order:
Spending time outside (even if for 5 minutes to just stand and look at the sky)
Meditating (anywhere from 1 minute to 30 minutes)
Reading a physical book (for at least 10 minutes)
Connecting with friends and family (anything from a [non-chore related topics] text messages to having dinner together)
Doing a max of 7 productive things for work
Playing an instrument (for at least 10 minutes)
I could add 10,000 more items to this list. But even this list is too long for some days, and I need to start somewhere. But it guides me. Anytime I feel that I’ve wasted my day because I haven’t worked till a mind-numbing state, I go to this list and do an item that truly defines a productive day for me.
This change in perspective has been eye-opening. Our lives happen in the small moments, in the day-to-day things that we do. Check in with yourself, are your daily activities in line with your values? You can list out what you consciously value and see if you are doing those activities in your everyday life.
Then take 9 minutes to give yourself some Loving Kindness using this UCLA meditation.
Till next time.
Wishing you joy, safety and ease.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.