Can you tell me the areas of your life that most need improvement right now? Can you tell me the things you need to do, the things you would like to buy, the experiences you would like to have?
I’m going to guess that you can. Can you also tell me the areas of your life that are just rocking right now, and the awesome things you’ve already done, bought, and experienced?
If you are like me, it’s way easier to answer the questions about what needs to change than what already works. Which isn’t a bad thing – as humans, we’re fantastic problem solvers and thrive on challenges and creating new things. Focusing on what needs to change fuels our thirst for creation.
It becomes a problem (to solve!) when it is our only area of focus, and we lose sight of all the amazing things we have already created and all of the problems we have solved to get where we are today.
This week, I’m inviting you to join me in doing something that might feel a little bit radical: love your life right now, exactly as it is, in all areas. The key to doing this is appreciating exactly where you are, even if you want things to change.
Simple, right? It is, but it takes a certain mindset shift to get there. To help, I have a step by step process for you to get started. To do this, you’re going to need a pen/paper or Google doc or whatever you normally use to capture ideas, and probably 20 minutes.
Step #1: Gather Your Complaints
Write out a list of everything you complain about on a regular basis. This can be radically different for each person; a sample one might look like this:
“My boss sucks and doesn’t appreciate anything I do and doesn’t back me up and I’m bored at work.”
“I hate my wardrobe and I don’t like shopping and I look too fat in my clothes and I am not going to buy anything until I lose weight because it’s pointless.”
“I think Cadbury is deliberately creating scarcity with their Mini-Eggs so I have to hoard them during the Easter season and pay so much money for them!” (Okay, so this one is actually my compliant!!!)
“She is so annoying, she never stops talking and I wish my friends would stop inviting her to lunch.”
Include your internal complaints in this, not just the ones you are willing to say aloud to another person.
Kinda disturbing, right? Whenever I start deluding myself into thinking I’m “spiritually evolved”, a quick look at my internal complaint list brings me right back to reality.
Step #2: Gather Your Shame
Write out a list of everything you feel ashamed of – the large stuff, yes, but also the small, silly-seeming stuff. (You might find that they are all tied together with an underlying theme.) I think shame examples are more powerful when they are real, so here are mine:
“I am not a good enough friend. I don’t have the social energy to show up and be present with my friends as much as they would like. Same with my family.” (None of them have ever said or implied this – shame is not a logical thing.)
“I should be participating more in my awesome Facebook communities. They give so much support and I’m not doing enough to be there for them.”
“I have such a small number of Facebook likes for my business page; I should have 1000 or more. People will think I’m not a good coach because I don’t have ‘enough’ likes.”
This shame script is reflecting one of my core wound identity thoughts, “I’m not enough.” Core wound thoughts are way too big of an idea for this post, and I will cover them in a later series. For now, just notice your shame thoughts and their theme.
I find that this theme will show up for me like a hydra – once I “cut off” one head, another one sprouts in its place. Right now this theme comes through with ludicrous Facebook shame – in prior years, I have not been “enough” for my cat, Lulu.
Highly Recommended Bonus Step: Shake It Off
I’ll be forever grateful to Taylor Swift for giving the world a shaking anthem. After the last couple of steps, you might be feeling some serious ick. It helps more than you can imagine to physically shake that crap out. If you can, blast music and do a whole body shake. If you’re stealthily reading this while pretending to work, stretch your arms and give them a shake at the end.
Step #3: Gather Your Goals
I have nothing against goals – I think they are great and I have many myself. However, they also indicate areas of my life that I’m not appreciating right now, as is. Some sample goals might look like this:
“Create an investment portfolio.”
“Run a half marathon.”
“Lose 10 lbs.”
“Meditate more often.”
Step #4: Gather Your Wants
These are things you want to buy, do, have, etc. Again, I’m all for these things and am even developing a program to help you be more aware of these desires. But they are still things that can block your focus on what you already have, have done, and experienced (or are experiencing right now.) I know you know what these are, no samples needed.
Step #5: Notice
Take a look at the whole giant list you have created in the last four steps and just spend a moment or two noticing what you are missing by focusing on these items. For example, one of my “wants” is a beautiful chandelier lampshade (and accompanying lamp) for my living room. Every time I look at my living room and want this lampshade, I’m not noticing the gorgeous walls, the furniture that is so perfect for me, the cool art glass candle holder that I found in a shop on a fun trip with my sister, etc. Basically, I’m 98% happy with this room, but focusing on wanting a chandelier lampshade to ‘complete’ it makes me miss the joy of what I have right now.
Step #6: Switch Your Story
For some items, like the lampshade, it’s easy to flip my focus to appreciating what I have. For some of the other items, this can take a little bit more effort. What I invite you to do is pick one that bugs you and try to bathe it in appreciation instead. If your goal is to create an investment portfolio, maybe appreciate all the research you have already done, or the availability of information online. If it’s something that is emotionally painful, like shame, try retelling the story.
For example, here’s a combo complaint/shame/goal story that I sometimes tell myself (about the ultimate first world non-problem):
“I have such a small number of Facebook likes for my business page; I should have 1000 or more. People will think I’m not a good coach because I don’t have ‘enough’ likes. I’m going to research how I can get more Facebook likes and make this a priority. Ugh! Facebook is like a horrific adult version of high school! I can’t believe I feel like a loser over how many ‘likes’ I have!”
See, I even added in some bonus self-judgement to complete the picture – five sentences designed to make me feel like complete crap over something that is pretty much meaningless. I’m going to guess you do things like this too, though your subject matter might be different.
To retell the story, bathe it in appreciation. See where you can flip your viewpoint to a new story that makes you feel gratitude instead of shame/ick/fear. The only “rule” is that is has to be true to you.
“48 likes – holy crap I could fill a small restaurant with people who like my work and want to be connected with me! It’s so awesome that I’m able to share my work with so many more people than just the people who I work with one on one. And to top it off, this is all just incredible free marketing – I didn’t have to pay Facebook anything, and they are letting me use their huge, amazing network of millions of people to showcase my own work and let even more people find me!”
Step #7: Rinse & Repeat Steps 5-6
Whenever you remember this week, or when you start thinking of something you want to buy or complain about or strive for or beat yourself up over, repeat steps five and six as needed. Continue for the whole week (or the rest of your life, if you’d like!)
What did you learn from trying this out? Leave a comment and let us know!