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How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Let Your Life Shine

Shining Heart

“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” ~Hafiz of Shiraz

I have been on a quest to be happy for as long as I can remember.

I thought I had looked everywhere. I tried relationships, work, adventure travels, and a life filled with friends and activity, but still I felt anxious. I was disenchanted with life. Years of therapy attempting to work out my problems didn’t give me the sense of peace I somehow thought was possible.

I knew there had to be more, and I am delighted to tell you that I found it when I learned to get out of the way.

The Power of Habits

Without my realizing it, I had been caught up in habitual ways of thinking and feeling that dominated my everyday life. My mind went on endlessly with judgments, expectations, worries, resentments, and stories about what should and shouldn’t happen.

And I had overlooked the feelings of fear and uneasiness that were running beneath the surface almost nonstop.

Life was happening, but with a constant inner commentary about how things weren’t quite right. No wonder I wasn’t happy.

Fast forward to now, and things are very different. No more useless worrying, regret, or getting caught in mental stories about other people or myself. Even my body has relaxed without that lurking agitation. Everything is so open, so fresh!

And here’s what I discovered.

Finding Freedom

Getting out of the way means becoming very familiar with your inner world. You discover what you do that makes you suffer so you can choose peace instead.

Amazingly, you realize that you can press pause in any moment and step back from the momentum of old, recycled habits.

When you do, you see what is actually happening: the pain of being stuck in an old resentment that has been dragging you down, the constricting effect of believing your thoughts, and the chaos that comes from letting your feelings rule.

With your eyes wide open, you are primed to live in ways that are intelligent, affirming, and aligned with your deepest desires. Finally, clarity arrives.

Getting out of the way looks like this:

Ask yourself, “In this moment, what do I really want to feel?”

The answer connects you with your true intention to be happy, peaceful, and clear. Already, you are halfway to being free.

Notice the thoughts and feelings that grab your attention.

See how you get in the way of happiness. Do you live in a belief that you are inadequate? Do you tell yourself you are a victim of your past? Do you define yourself by sadness or fear? This is why you suffer.

Befriend your experience by noting what is present, but know that it doesn’t have to control you.

Just for now, don’t hold onto your stressful stories. Let your feelings be without acting on them. This is the most loving way you can be with yourself.

Experience the space that remains when you are no longer hooked by thoughts and feelings.

Even if only for a moment, you’ve discovered what it’s like to get out of the way. Here you are—whole and relaxed, ripe to enjoy yourself, to make wise decisions that come from love, not fear and limitation. You see that life can be so beautifully simple. You touch into the living possibility of happiness for you.

There is no need to change your thoughts or get rid of any emotions to get out of the way. Just become aware of your inner experience. Realize how defining yourself by it constrains you.

Notice that you can make the choice to live fully now, beyond any self-imposed boundaries, with a clear mind and open heart.

It is the effortless, practical way to happiness available in each moment.

How to Do It: An Example

Let’s take worry as an example. I used to worry about everything; I was full of “what if’s”—what if my plans didn’t pan out, what if I made the wrong decision, what if I didn’t fit in, what if I couldn’t cope. It was endless.

I remember worrying years ago about whether or not I should attend a work-related social function. By that time, I knew that I could actually get out of the way, so I stopped and felt a moment of gratitude—this was my golden opportunity for freedom. I tapped into what I really wanted, which was to be peaceful, present, and clear.

Rather than being consumed by worry, I chose to be curious instead.

I noticed that my attention was completely taken up by negative projections about what might happen in the future. What if I don’t know anyone? What if I feel uneasy there? What if it’s a waste of time?

My mind was flooded with these anxious thoughts. And when I stepped back to observe them, I saw that they squashed my enthusiasm, closed me down to opportunities, and inhibited me from going outside my comfort zone (which wasn’t so comfortable, anyway).

Bringing attention to my feelings, I realized I was locked up in fear, with tension everywhere in my body. It was a light bulb moment when I saw how powerful these feelings were, even though they hadn’t been conscious to me before.

As I noticed these anxious thoughts and feelings, I took a breath. I shifted my attention away from them and returned to simply being present and aware. There was an immediate sense of relief.

No longer feeding worrying thoughts, the tension subsided, and I found the clarity to make a sane, calm decision about whether or not to go. I saw that the unfolding of life right now was just fine. It was amazing to realize that worry was optional.

It took some time, but as I became more aware whenever worry started to grip, I began to see the opening of possibility. Instead of needing to figure everything out, I could relax and trust. Instead of being limited by fear, there was space for wonder, creativity, appreciation, and ease of living.

I was shocked to realize how profoundly this pattern of worry had infiltrated my life.

At first, only a tiny crack in the tsunami of worry appeared, but eventually, the whole thing collapsed. It just didn’t make sense anymore.

Things didn’t change overnight, but with care and diligence to worrying—and every other confused habit—it became obvious that they were not serving happiness. Suffering was the tap on the shoulder that brought me back to peace.

When I saw that the habits were in my way, my interest in them waned until it disappeared entirely. Why? I am happy without them.

Finally Fully Living

When you get out of the way, you stop resisting life. The focus shifts from what you don’t have to what is here and available. No longer doubting everything, you receive what life offers you.

And rather than living in the mind-created past or future, you are available to the simplicity of this now moment.

Unclouded by mental noise, you become crystal clear about what to do next. You tell the truth about what is and isn’t working. And you take practical steps to begin truly living.

As I became aware of habits that were hijacking my happiness, I discovered why my relationships weren’t lasting and began making different choices. I realized how fear had been keeping me from living fully. I began seeing everything through the eyes of love.

Really, it’s true. When you get out of the way, your life will shine…endlessly.

Photo here

Profile photo of Gail Brenner

About Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author who joyfully shares insights about discovering that suffering is optional. Find Gail at GailBrenner.com, where she offers articles, conversation, and free guided audio meditations.

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  • I just loved author’s self expression in this article.
    One thing i would like to share regarding changing your focus – Ask yourself an positive question, instead of worrying.
    For example – If you are having trouble with dieting, ask yourself – “What is the best way to make myself eat healthy all the time and enjoy the process?” It will shift your focus from worrying to positive possibilities.

  • This is such a great article, Gail. Good for you for choosing curiosity! It really does change everything, doesn’t it?

    One thing that has helped me overcome worry and anxiety is to play out the worst case scenarios in my head. What could happen? How would I handle it if it did? Would it kill me? Then I ask myself, “Realistically, how likely is it that this will happen? What if it doesn’t? What are the chances that everything will be fine?”

    Bad things happen, but most of the time, things are fine. Remembering this helps me set aside the made up stories and fortune-telling inherent to worrying. I’m pretty darn relaxed now. 🙂

  • Hi Mani,

    Playing out those worst case scenarios challenges the truth of the fear-based thoughts. I’m glad that was to helpful for you. Yay! to being relaxed, and wonderful to know that it’s possible.

  • I love this suggestion, Vishal. Shifting your thoughts to something more positive gets you out of the rut of negative thinking. And asking honest, open questions can open worlds of possibilities. It’s all about getting unstuck and living free.

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post and message! Thank you so much! 🙂

  • You are most welcome, lv2terp! I’m so glad it resonated with you.

  • la la joe me

    my fear is that I can’t get a job / money at this point in my life, and that is a legitimate fear

  • Talya Price

    I am facing my fears everyday. I am going to Amsterdam next week. This will be my first time in that city. And I am trying to get a hotel with no credit card, since I do not have one. I ask The Universe to help me and guide me in the right direction. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I have no idea what is going to happen to me next week. But I cannot worry about that now, just live day by day. Who knows maybe something great will happen because of this. I have change my view of money. Money works for me, not the other way around. I am money, so I will always attract it. The Universe will always help me. Thank you for this article.

  • I love that you are just picking up and going, Talya! It’s freeing to have your life not ruled by money. That doesn’t mean you don’t experience fear. You just keep returning to what is true for you. Enjoy your travels!

  • This is a legitimate fear, la la. And even while the fear is there, you can take practical steps to do what’s needed so you have money. This way fear can be present, but it doesn’t get in your way.

  • ScottS

    I want to thank you (and the one that forwarded this to me) for the article as I am able to identify almost everything.

  • Wonderful, Scott. It helps so much when we identify the truth in our own experience.

  • This was such a great article! I’ve suffered from anxiety and fear as a result of experiences in childhood my entire life. I only recently began to realize the full extent of which I let them control me. I’m finally taking the MCAT this friday after years of putting it off because I was too afraid and thought I wasn’t good enough to take it. Only this week did these negative feelings really start to poke their head up again as it gets close. This post reminded me that those feelings are there, but they’re only optional to listen to. Thank you for writing this! Just reading it has made me feel so much better. 🙂

  • I’m so glad the timing was perfect for you, Amelia. I’m happy for you that you aren’t letting the fear deter you from going for your dreams. Now you know that fear can be present, but you don’t need to give it power. Best of luck on the MCAT!

  • This article is amazing, it totally made me realize that you have to stop for a minute, breath and notice that you can find your inner peace all by yourself. You just have to search a little , maybe it won’t last too long but with practice it will help a lot.
    I am feeling like you when you “started”. I am constantly worrying about everything. My body feels this worrying all day long and this is terribly not healthy for my mental and physical health. Thank you very much Gail.

  • I know that worrying so well, Emma. It was a starting place for me because I did not accept that that was it forever. You can see through the worrying thoughts and meet your feelings with kindness. This is the end of resistance, the beginning of peace. Yes, the only place you find inner peace is within you.

  • Zita

    Hello Gail,
    For a moment, reading your article felt like It was written for me. It’s beautiful and truly insightful. Thank you for sharing your years of work. I have been struggling with worrying myself for years now, my “what ifs ” do keep me in a rut of my sometimes pointless and draining fears. In your post you mentioned that “There is no need to change your thoughts or get rid of any emotions to get out of the way. Just become aware of your inner experience”. Personally I find, rewiring your brain is a work of a lifetime. The more I resist a thought the more it persist. It’s like asking a person to ” not imagine an elephant” the more likely case is, he will image it. How do you become conscious of your feelings without wanting to change them when you know all they bring you is sorrow and frustration. Not being able to just Stop ! Is definitely frustrating. Rewriting a whole network of neurons that have been transmitting same information over and over , just by being aware that they are doing that ? And not changing anything . Even if I am aware of it, the hard part is doing something about it. Anything that will bring peace of mind and allow me to breathe for sometime. I would love to hear your input on this.

  • Hi Zita,
    There’s a lot to your question, so I’m going to give you a few pointers. If you look closely, you will see that a feeling is a story line (thoughts) in your mind with physical sensations that go along with the story. “What ifs” and judgments about feelings (they are frustrating and sorrowful) are part of the story, and repeating these and living as if they are real will lead to an anxious, frustrating, and sorrowful experience, as you already know.

    So when you experience a feeling, be disinterested in the story, and instead bring your attention to the physical sensations in your body. Create an open, friendly, loving field of awareness, and simply let the sensations be. Take the position of open awareness, just being, and notice that it has no problem with anything that arises in it. This is where peace lies. Doing this over and over, de-emphasizes the story (the mental part) and invites your present moment experience to be as it is. As you continue to be this accepting awareness, the healing of the brain happens naturally. This might be the work of a lifetime, but every moment of being with things as they are is a moment of peace. And that’s where we can live – fully accepting in this precious moment.

  • Julie

    Gail, your article spoke straight to my heart and struck a chord in me. I am one of those people who feel consumed by worry and the simple way you explain to dissipate that worry is truly empowering. Thank you.

  • sarthaki

    It’s awesome

  • sarthaki

    Please simplify it

  • Cierra Blue

    how did the trip go?

  • Talya Price

    my trip was very good. Now I am planning a long journey to Italy and to Spain.

  • Cierra Blue

    how did you end up getting money for it?

  • Talya Price

    Funny enough, when I thought all was lost, my agent called me and a booked a photoshoot and the money I got from that helped me finance my trip.

  • Jessica

    Wow. I absolutely loved your post. It was so touching to me. I never respond on anyone’s blog post. So for me to sit here and respond tells me that your post really resonates with me. For so long I am always paralyzed with fear. I am the one with all the what if’s. It was great for me to see that I’m not the only one with this problem because sometimes we can look at others from the outside and think that they have no internal conflict. I thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing how you overcame the conflict you felt you was battling on the inside. I want to cry so bad but I can’t because I’m out in public. Lol. But I have a feeling that when I get home tears will be rolling down my face. Your story was that touching to me. Thank you once again.

  • Erza Senpai

    Just following the way of life is truthfully hard for me to fully understand. I am currently 21 years of age but, I still don’t know how to truly cope with my own feelings, thoughts, or worries. I am in a current relationship where she’s telling me to change how I treat her as a person, as well as become an adult as she says. I am always putting myself down as a victim and giving up on things quickly. I ask myself so many time “am I really happy or am I actually a lost pup?” I want to change my ways so I can treat her better as well as me being happy at the same time what can I do? Please I need help 🙁

  • judy russo

    How do I get unstuck with so many people attacking my life and my family constantly? It is a constant reminder of the very same people who attacked my life by their insanities. I went on a date recently for example. He did not get the hint that I wasn’t into him. He proceeded to try to kiss me. I had to pull away from him and cancel all future dates. At least he wasn’t obsessed with me and finally recognized the facts. There are constant reminders.

  • Thank you for your question, Judy. We can’t control what other people do or say. What we can control is how we respond. And it sounds like you responded with grace and intelligence to the man you went on a date with. He showed you that he wasn’t the guy for you. I’ve learned a phrase that I’ve found to be very helpful – “Oh, this.” Something happens and you say, “Oh, this is happening now” without a lot of emotional reaction. Not that you don’t care, but you take the drama out of it. Then you’re in a place to be clear about how you want to respond. People may attack your life by their insanities, but you don’t have to take that on. Stay grounded and clear so you can act according to what is most important to you. Let your inner knowing navigate your path forward.