No, this is not a kumbaya story. Understanding ourselves and honoring others is one of the toughest things we are called to do in life. That’s why it is a value at The Restoration Project. We need a constant reminder of the importance of leaning in. It’s a big job and takes radical courage. Not often does an event that rocks the entire world come about to give us the opportunity to wake up and do this work, but we had that opportunity in 2020. Were you willing to face the big questions or did you run away or shove them down like we usually do?
Most of us are coasting through life completely unaware of who we are. We have accepted the labels and judgments of others, and let them define who we are. We have accepted cultural and societal messages about our value and what we need. We have even allowed others to determine the choices we make about who we marry, what kind of job we have, and other commitments or tradeoffs we make around our time, energy and money. In other words, we are actually coasting instead of living and we don’t even know it.
How do you know if this is you? There are two typical indicators. One is that you blame others for what happens to you. You choose victimhood because you firmly believe that you do not have ownership over your life. I know…I lived the first 30 years of my life in this state. I blamed my dad and the abuse I suffered for all the bad things that happened to me and all the bad decisions I made. The second indicator is you have a restlessness inside you that won’t go away. I know…because me too. I took a good job with a great company and climbed that corporate ladder nearly to the top only to wake up one day with everything everyone said would make me happy feeling empty, confused and wondering, “Is this all there is?”
Another way to evaluate whether you are coasting through life or actively living it is to reflect on where you spend your time, energy and money. Is it intentional or does it just happen by the way you are pushed and pulled in the world? Consider the wellness wheel and all its pieces: occupational, spiritual, emotional, physical, environmental, financial, social. Where are you spending your resources? Many of us put 80+% of our resources into the occupational bucket. We build our identity around what we do. When things don’t go well at work or God forbid we lose our job, it’s as if we lose ourselves. We are way more than what we do. It’s better to proactively realize that and make deposits in the other buckets than wake up one day without a job and try to recover from it.
Why is this even important? Because we only get one life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we are on a mission to save people from experiencing the top regret of the dying, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Coasting through life and blaming others will get you to that end. I don’t want that for you. You don’t want that for you. So what now?
We have to break some bad habits around avoiding hard things and making excuses. This has become even more difficult as the pace of life and number of distractions continues to increase. Breaking habits requires time for silence and stillness to explore, discover, reflect, and evaluate. A small way to start is using the SNAP process. Stop – Notice – Ask – Pivot. When you start to feel uncomfortable, frustrated, sad, angry…any emotion or situation you typically avoid, literally stop. Shut off autopilot and come to the present moment. Notice what’s happening around and inside you. How are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are you doing? Ask yourself questions like: What do I know for sure? What am I believing right now? Are these beliefs true? How would things change if I let go of that belief? These three steps gives you the space to pivot…to change those thought and action patterns and make better choices.
As you continue to practice coming into the present moment, making space to notice and ask questions, you will naturally become better at this in the moment and it will become more of a habit you can work into your morning or evening routine to deepen your learning and growth. This practice of being mindful will bring peace and it will grant others grace. Trust me, you will be closer to the human you want to be if you just get disciplined about slowing down. It’s hard and scary to step off that hamster wheel, but if you want to get intentional about your life, it is a requirement.
As we get better at acknowledging and accepting our reality instead of avoiding and excusing it, we can move into a space to learn and grow instead of carry and bury things. This is the practice that allows us to be more tolerant, compassionate, and loving. We have space to realize what we can and cannot control. What’s worth hanging onto and what we need to let go. In this place we can release old wounds and stories of who we are and what we’ve done so we can live more fully into the person we were meant to be. We start to realize that the beliefs we have drive the thoughts we think which influence our actions and our words…and that peace in the outer world starts with peace in our inner world.
If we want the world to be better to us, we have to be better to ourselves. The peace we are seeking does not come from others changing the way they treat us, it comes from us changing the way we treat ourselves. When you start to take ownership of your life instead of coasting, when you acknowledge and accept reality instead of avoiding it or making excuses, when you let go of what you are carrying and burying so you can learn and grow…that’s when it all shifts. That’s when you start your journey to your full potential. That’s when you move closer to the person you want to be. It’s a never ending journey and takes consistent work and practice, but it’s worth it because it’s the only way we create a better world.
Understand yourself and honor others friends. It’s the most important work you will do.