The Key to Pretty Much Your Whole Life (Oh yes)
You make sure you get to work on time so that your boss will give you a good reference. You try really hard with your coursework so that you’ll get good marks. You volunteer in your spare time, and your position on a sports team shows that you work well with others.
Your CV is looking good, and you know you’re setting yourself up for a good career. You’re consciously working to better yourself, to give yourself the best chance in life.
That’s what all the sensible people do, right?
But what if there was a whole other level of looking after and improving yourself?
What if all these things you do, the things you work so hard on, should just be the tip of the iceberg?
What if you’re just improving the external you, and ignoring the internal you – the you that drives the external you?
At school, we’re taught to present our work neatly.
Ambitious parents get us involved in all kinds of hobbies and sports. We need to do all these ‘good’ things to do well in life, so we do. Sometimes they stress us out, and we need to remember why we’re doing them, but mainly we just keep moving forward towards success.
We’re always working on these outside bits of us:
Our careers, the way we look, who we hang round with, what our records look like, what we own.
Not many of us work on the inside bits.
We don’t have lessons at school in figuring out what puts us into bad moods. We don’t spend time getting inspired about the day ahead. We don’t take courses in being grateful. Our parents don’t boast to other parents that we’ve figured out why we love our favourite hobbies.
We’re not taught to care about the inside bits, as long as we look peachy on the outside. As long as you’re getting good marks, and have a few hobbies on the go, you’re considered to be doing pretty well.
Then why do so many of us grow up to be miserable, or disillusioned, or depressed?
If winning medals, getting tonnes of experience, and being offered scholarships are what matter, why do most of us wonder if they’re all there is?
It’s because what’s going on inside is more important.
What’s going on in our heads not only determines how we feel; it also directly impacts on the external stuff.
This is being recognised more and more, as people become more aware of things like mental health, wellness and meditation, but ‘in our head’ stuff is still far from being seen as the most important part of a person, and everything they do.
The most important part of your life is you.
Even if you live for hockey, it’s the way hockey makes you feel that’s key. Even if you don’t do anything for yourself because you’re a full time carer, you wouldn’t be able to care for anyone if you didn’t exist.
So you need to take care of you.
You can do this by getting to know yourself, working out what makes you feel good, liking yourself, understanding what makes you do stuff, and so on.
And how do you do that?
Seriously, we rarely just think.
If we have a spare five minutes, we pull out our phones. If we do try and just sit, someone will ask us to do the washing up. We never just are.
Now, I know this sounds like it could get a bit wishy washy, and it could, but there are some practical things you could do to start working on the internal you.
- You could answer the questions in Becca’s guide to figuring out what you live for. From answering these myself, I learnt that learning is a really big thing for me.
- You could go through Scott’s 27 Questions to Find Your Passion and Find Your Why workbooks (though you have to subscribe to his site to get access to these). From these, I spotted themes running through several of my ambitions and goals, and began to see the bigger picture that I’m working towards.
- You could find your why. Your why is what drives you, what motivates you, the reason you do the things you do. If you can dig deep to really understand where you’re coming from, and then record your answer, you can use it to motivate you when you just don’t want to get out of bed or finish that piece of work. Whether you write it down, record yourself talking about it or make a collage, you’ll be able to remind yourself what all the effort is for. If it helps, here’s my first attempt at working out my why:
I want to be like the people who inspire me, and who I look up to, because I need to be proud of myself, of the things I do, and of my lifestyle. I need to have the freedom to pursue whatever excites me at any time because that excitement is my favourite feeling, and I want it to be a regular part of my life. I have to know that I am living a fantastic life that only I could live, because doing well is what I do, and because no one else is like me.
- You could write out your vision for your ideal life. My friend Kate inspired me to do this, and to revise my vision once a week, to really get clear on what I’m aiming for. Your vision might mention how your day goes, what types of relationships you have, what work you do, what you believe, where you spend your time, what’s important to you, what you are achieving, and how you feel. You can go crazy with this, and create your life the way you would make it if no one else had a say. Write it as if it’s your life now, to make it seem more real. And then read it whenever you need a boost. Here is one paragraph of my ideal life vision to help you out:
I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to get on with whatever project I’m working on at the time, and I am excited about all of my projects. There is a lot that I still want to do and achieve, and I am always thinking of new ideas. However, I focus on only a few projects at a time, and record the rest in my ideas book. I work hard on my projects, learning and challenging myself as I go, and I always end up knowing or being able to do more after starting a new project. I believe that I can do anything I want, and that I can do most things well. Because I am in charge of my own life, I can pick and choose projects as and when I want, and do exciting things with passionate people every now and then. I travel several times a year.
- You could just think. Seriously. When you get mad, figure out why. Does that happen often? What happens on the days when you get a lot done, or go to bed feeling proud of yourself? What could you argue about all day? If you could do anything and not fail, what would you do? Just get to know yourself.
I can’t claim to be an expert on internal work, because I’m fairly new to it, and haven’t put much effort into it until recently, but it makes complete sense to me that working on the internal stuff will have a much bigger impact than just working on the external stuff.
You’ll probably find that things click every now and then, and that, as you go along, you’ll piece more and more things together. I love those clicky moments because I know I’m making progress in understanding myself and what I want to make of my life. You don’t need to work out everything right now, just get started.
Go on. Get to know yourself.
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