As I sat in the surgical waiting room this morning, I picked up an old issue of Women’s Day Magazine (April 2012, so not super duper old). It featured a small story called “De-Clutter Your Life,” on the cover, so I paged through and found it. I love things like that. Sometimes, I feel as though I get so caught up in life that I lose sight of who I am, so I re-visit some of my favorite books (“The Four Agreements” is a great one) to reconnect with myself. Sometimes, I happen upon something that clarifies things ~ sort of puts life back in perspective. Those are such refreshing moments. The article from this morning felt like that ~ a little surprise to help me remember myself.
But let me rewind a little to come full circle.
A few days ago, as Lucy and I meandered through the woods on our morning walk, my brain was whirring a mile a minute. I was frustrated about some things, and often times, when I walk or run all my mixed-up muddled emotions come into focus ~ I figure out what I’m upset about specifically, I address it, and I figure out how to get my brain around it and move on.
That morning, I realized the following ~ when a person has low self-esteem, it’s hard to decipher real friends from faux friends. Faux friends seem real, because they reinforce all the things that ‘insecure you’ already focuses on ~ your faults, your flaws, your short-comings. It’s easy to mistake this person for a friend, because their ‘honesty’ is played off as ‘support.’ Real friends aren’t like that. And as a person’s self-esteem builds, growing pains exist in the faux friendships. All of a sudden, that ‘honesty’ about all your ‘short-comings’ feels a lot less supportive and a lot more judgemental. I’ve had my fair share of faux friends. Realizing it is like tasting a bitter pill. But the truth is this ~ I don’t want people in my life who stress me out, magnify negative parts of who I am, or bring nothing positive to the table. Friendships are tough, and being honest about them is hard ~ but it has to be done. That, or you just suck it up and endure the misery of a friendship that is no longer nourishing. That prospect is a little bleak.
So I had all those thoughts, and the more I distilled it down, and peeled away all the layers, the more I was certain that I was unhappy about some of my relationships.
Fast forward to this morning and this little blip of an article.
The seven tips were as follows:
1. Re-frame your ‘to-do’ list. Think of it as “What I get to do today!” My mother has a quote that hangs beside her bed ~ ‘Change your thoughts, and you will change your world.’ It’s amazing how changing the way you address something can change your whole perspective.
2. Figure out your goals. I loved the explanation under this one ~ it was about physically writing down goals, then figuring out the most attainable and starting there. The author also suggested imagining what people would say about you after you died. Would you want to be the person who always hated their job but never did anything to change it? I used to have a list of things I wanted (written in 2008 when I was re-building my life). I wanted to own a Mini Cooper -check!- have a dog -check!- live in a townhome (I don’t know why but I have always loved them … I didn’t want to own, because I didn’t, and still don’t, want to be tied to a single location) and have a job I liked -95% check!. Considering I have met most of those goals, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, and dream bigger. But I also want to do what I do with integrity and passion, because I would like to think that when I go, those left behind could look at my life in a positive way. It’s an interesting perspective and worth exploring.
3. Purge toxic friendships. How relevant. The author suggested recognizing which friends serve which kind of purpose in your life and keeping expectations for each friendship within those ‘niches.’ It also suggested having a conversation with friends you may feel aren’t supportive, or are too ‘needy’ ~ allowing those friends to respond to how you are feeling before writing the friendship off. All good advice. What I think is important to remember (personally) is the idea that if a person’s influence in your life is unbalanced toward the negative, how much does that affect your daily existence/perspective, etc. I find that when I am around negative people, it’s much easier to slip into negativity/judgement of others, etc versus being around positive people discussing ideas and theories instead of other people.
4. Fight fatigue. Loved this. Did you know that losing an hour of sleep a night (aka not getting in the minimum of 7 -8 hours) ages your brain seven years over a short period of time, and adversely affects memory? Didn’t think not sleeping could have such an impact, huh? The article also suggested setting a bedtime routine to help ease into sleep and have a more restful night ~ I’ve read that in a few different places, so it warrants heeding the advice!
5. Let go of grudges. Forgiveness has everything to do with you, and very little to do with the person/people you are forgiving. It takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge and be angry. It’s not good for you, period. Forgiving someone allows you to move on and forget. My favorite piece of advice? Write down what angered you and how you felt about it ~ it allows you to release it and stop carrying it around. It also allows you to clarify your emotions, and ultimately, forgive.
6. Break bad habits. So fascinating. A study was done about eating popcorn at the movies. Groups were given fresh popcorn, and then stale popcorn. Those who habitually ate popcorn at the movies ate the stale popcorn, but when presented with stale popcorn at a conference table, declined it. This study linked habitual behaviour situationally, which makes perfect sense. Also fascinating? When the popcorn eaters tried using their non-dominant hand, they were also deterred from eating the stale popcorn. It amazed me that such a small change in the routine or habit could be enough of a trigger to make people think before engaging in a habit. I definitely want to put this theory into practice. Need to curb my Starbucks addiction!
7. Add ‘me’ moments. We all need to re-charge ~ like batteries. I don’t think this idea needs any selling ~ but it does need scheduling. A suggestion by this article? Take three to five minutes throughout the work day to close you eyes and breath deeply. Sounds silly but I’m going to give it a try. I have nothing to lose!
I also love to remember the Four Agreements ~
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word. Do you have any idea how difficult this is to keep? So challenging. It also reminds me how often I say things that are negative. Words are powerful and they cannot be taken back. I still remember some particularly harsh words that were directed at me, and how much they stung. It’s never a bad idea to think before speaking. It will benefit everyone.
2. Don’t Take Things Personally. I think this is the agreement that affects me the most obviously. It’s hard not to take things personally ~ especially if you are sensitive or insecure. But the truth is, most people are so wrapped up in themselves (as you are for thinking everything is about you) that their anger/harsh words/judgement/etc are about what’s going on with them, and has nothing to do with you. Tough one to remember when your feelings are hurt but definitely worth it.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions. Oy. This is difficult as well, but goes hand in hand with not taking things personally. It’s easy to think there are hidden reasons and motivations for other’s actions/inactions, but making assumptions really only sets us up for disappointment. How can someone do something without knowing you are expecting it? People can’t usually read each other’s minds, so making assumptions can leave us all in dangerous territory. Just sayin’!
4. Always Do Your Best. This rule is great ~ it pretty much says ~ ‘yes, the first three agreements are hard, and you aren’t always going to be able to maintain them, but just do your best, and then you haven’t left anything on the table and you can feel as though you are constantly and actively trying to be the very best version of you that you can be.’ I love this rule because it immediately implies that no one is perfect, and we will all struggle. That’s a huge weight off the ole shoulders.