What should you do to start living the life you want?

By Damilola Adenaike

Too many of us live our lives based on what others think we’re supposed to do or should be doing. Without realizing it, we’ve let others’ beliefs become our own. That’s fine when those thoughts leverage our strengths and passions and move us toward our dreams. But all too often, these internalized assumptions lead us in the wrong direction and cause us to make choices that are inconsistent with who we are and what we want. So, we take the job that fills the wallet but not the heart. We over commit and are plagued with guilt and resentment. We give and give and never get back what we want. And we wonder how we got here and what to do about it.

Here are some ideas to help you let go of your own setbacks:

1. Yes also means no:

Wishful thinking aside, we have a limited amount of time and energy. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. So, before you agree to take on that high-profile project at work, consider what you are saying no to; is it the time with your family; your time for sleep; your time to volunteer for some humanitarian assignments, or just the time to relax? The benefits may be worth the sacrifice, but understand the tradeoff before you decide.

2. Remember that it’s almost never about you:

All too often we get caught up in self-doubt and assume that people’s reactions are a reflection of our character or behavior: “She didn’t call me back, I must have offended her. No one responded to my suggestion at that meeting, May be I did not know what I’m talking about.” Most of the time, you are not the cause, they are probably distracted, busy or having a bad day. If you really need to know, then you should ask, “Is everything okay? I was worried when you didn’t call me back.” If you learn that it really was about you, then you should corrects the situation. But most often, you’ll find out that it is something entirely different from what you assume.

3. Take time to reflect:

It’s easy to get caught up in the swirl of everyday lives. Taking time out of the daily routine to reflect can bring new perspectives. Reflect on the day, the month, or the year and give yourself kudos for your accomplishments.

4. Take time to visualize:

Think about your unique talents and capabilities: Have you been using them? Then, visualize the future: What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to spend your time and energy? As you gain clarity on who you are and what you want, you’ll start making choices that move you in the right direction.

5. Pay attention:

Sometimes we don’t know what we want. One way to figure it out is to pay attention to how different experiences make you feel. Does this new assignment excite you, petrify you, or both? Did that conversation with your boss make you angry, or motivated? Do you feel guilty about not spending more time with your family? Each situation and interaction is an opportunity to learn about you. Which activities energize you? What makes you feel afraid, or happy, or angry? If you have trouble deciphering your feelings, then pay attention to your body. Our physical reactions are a window into our emotions. Closed posture, high-pitched voice, churning stomach, tears, these are signs of anger, resentment, and fear. Smiling, laughing, a spring in your step, these are signs of joy, contentment, and enthusiasm. Start paying attention to your feelings to discover what they tell you about who you are and what you want.

6. Learn to trust yourself:

We often hesitate because we’re afraid we’ll make the wrong choice, or we worry about things that might happen. Should I take that new position? What if I fail? What if I get pregnant and want to take time off? Should I stay in this relationship? What if it doesn’t work out?

We never have all of the answers; life is full of unexpected events. The key to living the life you want is to make the best decision you can, based on the information you have at that time and then to trust yourself. Trust that you will find a way to be successful. Trust that you will be able to handle whatever happens.

Note, very few decisions are beyond your control. So, make the choice that works best for you, and trust that it will be okay.

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