Since I’ve gone back to graduate school to be a therapist, I’ve been challenged to choose my preferred “theoretical orientation.” This is a fancy way of saying ‘approach to life and effective problem solving.’ While there are numerous paths that all lead to creating a better life, certain notions in particular seem to be jumping out very strongly for me. If you currently find yourself in an unhappy position, maybe this perspective will help you to sort through the confusion and take your first steps on a healthier and happier path – so I thought I would share. Here’s wishing you freedom!
Ground level is cognitive therapy – because what we think really does affect how we feel – which affects what we do. I call this stage emotional triage or first aid. You have to first stop the bleeding. When we can understand our thinking patterns and stop irrational thoughts (which are hurting us) we can begin to change our lives immediately. It’s extremely powerful.
But humans are complicated, multi-dimensional beings and there are other layers to us that must be addressed in order to create the rich and fulfilling life that we all dream of. The next step in the journey is to stop being simply reactionary to everything that happens to us. Many of us get stuck here – constantly juggling the small and even insignificant issues that present themselves every day. We’re essentially busying ourselves putting out fires. The only way to stop this vicious, energy draining pattern is to consciously decide to shift to an empowered mindset – and the only way to do that is to embrace personal responsibility.
Embracing personal responsibility is scary because that means taking ownership of where your current life has led you and not falling back on tried-and-true excuses. There may be no doubt that you had an awful childhood, that you were mistreated, neglected or abused. Unfortunately these things happen all the time. But to continue to be stuck living that life of oppression and baggage is to allow yourself to be victimized even today – years after those influences may have left your life. In these moments, the mantra to save you is this, “The decisions I make today, create the life I live tomorrow.” No truer words have ever been spoken. While we may have some inherent limitations, the right to make our own choices is not one them – at least in this country. It’s a right that we should embrace and honor. Another powerful way of looking at it, is through this affirmation, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” While it may not be grammatically pretty, it is true none-the-less. We are integral players in our life story – and if we’ve given our power away to others then it is time to take that power back.
Once we’ve owned where we’re at and decided that we are the only ones that can initiate and bring about positive change, then the next step is to examine the bigger picture. In counseling, there is something called the “wheel of wellness” and it addresses each and every part of your life. Categories include: financial, environmental, social, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Our happiest lives are created through making a thorough examination of each of these – and addressing areas of lack. In doing that, we are not simply allowing ourselves to be distracted by the problem of the moment but instead taking action to create the life that we desire – instead of simply just accepting the life that we’ve been given.
It’s a powerful realization and one that is truly life changing. As human beings we are the only species on earth that has been given the intellectual ability to grasp these deeper issues, think for ourselves and enact a plan of action to aid in our survival. To choose not to use this ability really just reverts us to animalistic status, similar to running from predators and foraging for sustenance. It’s time to take back our innate human right to improvise, create solutions and problem solve.
Even the forces of nature offer us reminders of new opportunities to begin again – with renewed purpose. With each sunset were are offered the chance to lay down our burdens, close our eyes and receive rest and rejuvenation from the day’s events – and with each sunrise we are offered a fresh, new beginning. It is up to us to open our eyes to the possibilities and seize the opportunities.
Life is hard, no doubt, but it can also be beautiful. We each have approximately 80 years to get it right. That’s 29,200 days to greet the sunrise with renewed spirit. 29,200 opportunities to make today better than yesterday. Nobody said it was going to be easy – but then anything worthwhile never is, is it?
Copyright © 2015 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address. Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose, finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards.