How much time do you spend worrying, fretting, obsessing, stressing about your life? All the things you’re not doing that you think you should be doing (or that someone else thinks you should be doing). All the ways you can - or should - improve your behaviors or your results. All the things you should be doing to be more productive, to show you’re capable of doing more or doing better.
I’ve found that if there’s a “should” in front of whatever I’m doing, whether in my personal or professional life, then it’s pretty likely my efforts are tinged with fear. Ugh! Whenever I find myself even the least bit anxious or stressed about deadlines or having a finished product or what someone else expects from me, it’s a good bet I’ve lost my connection with what inspired me to take action in the first place. It doesn’t take long to notice I’m being tangled up in thought that tells me I’m not enough or don’t have enough of whatever it takes. In common parlance, that’s called living in a lack or scarcity mindset. The delight of my original inspiration is lost and I end up feeling an energy that’s definitely not conducive to creativity or enjoyment. I have many clients and friends who've had this experience as well.
Many of us are sensitive to the needs and expectations of others who are under pressure or heavy demands. Without some awareness of what’s going on, we unwittingly find ourselves taking on their beliefs (and their energy) about what needs to be done and when. Other times, it’s just a matter of how we’ve been conditioned to react: if others are feeling a certain way (clearly, for some important reason), shouldn’t I feel that way too? So what may have started as a labor of love (or at least a well intentioned effort) turns into a strained and head-down push to finish the darn thing and be done with it. Fear can twist us into a pretzel and we struggle to get untwisted. Meanwhile our time and energy have been spent in a way that has kept us small and tight rather than expansive and open. Who wants to live that way?
But what I’ve found is this: we only need to take one step to get ourselves out of the fear or anxiety or worry or stress or having to prove something or whatever it is that we’re feeling. And that one step is based on remembering our own desire to live our lives with as much enjoyment, exploration, discovery, satisfaction, even love, as we can. When we do remember that’s what we really want, everything changes.
That desire kicks in and we’ll be able to stop and ask ourselves, wait a minute! who’s driving the bus? Fear or love? Our feelings will always tell us; we all recognize the unpleasant feelings that cause tension or tightness in our bodies. And when we know that those feelings have been triggered by thoughts (often unrecognized) - especially thoughts that contain words like should, have to, can’t, supposed to. And this is where that one step I mentioned comes in.
So here’s that one step: stop paying attention to the thoughts that make you fall out of love with your life. That's it. You know how we play certain thoughts over and over again in our heads? It’s not mandatory. Thoughts are like clouds - they come and go and they’re constantly changing. But if we believe we really do see a monster in the clouds and then let our thoughts make that monster real, we’ll continue to suffer with the consequences of our fearful thinking. We can either be caught up by the thoughts that go through our heads or we can let the thoughts we want to dwell on come into our awareness. Without having to control our thoughts or make them go away - they'll do that on their own.
Pay less attention to the thoughts that make you unhappy or insecure and you'll find yourself pursuing your goals and dreams in a way that reconnects you with what you really want for yourself: happiness, ease, curiosity and full engagement with your one precious life.