“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~Brene Brown
Even though I’m a psychologist who has been working in the field of development and assessment for the last thirteen years, sometimes it still takes more than reading a theory in a book, or even seeing something work with a client, to make it real for me.
Here are three of the moments that have had the most impact on me and the way I live my life.
1. Each of us has the power to change our situation.
I worked for ten years at a company I mostly loved, in a job I mostly loved, but it was a job that didn’t really love me. It was long hours, hard and stressful work.
I thought I thrived on it for a long time, until I slowly came to realize I didn’t have much of a life outside of work.
I had some health issues that didn’t seem to be improving, but I was hoping, year after year, that things would somehow get better. But it seemed things never did.
My breakthrough moment was realizing that I had the power within me to change the situation. Sometimes a choice might be a hard choice, but it’s still a choice.
So instead of going for the next promotion, I resigned. I moved to SE Asia, where I’ve been living and working freelance for a year now. My life still has work as part of it, but also coffee shops, blogging, friends, fun, travel, and yoga. And passion and purpose in a way it didn’t before.
I had the power to change the situation all along, and eventually, I did.
Consider your own life.
Is there anything that you want to change?
Are you waiting for someone else to make it happen?
Take the power back and take a step toward change yourself.
Change can be hard, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. And if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
2. Act to ensure you feel like you’ve done your best by the relationships in your life at any given moment.
My dad died six years ago, and after the worst of the grieving was done, it gave me another breakthrough moment.
He died suddenly from a heart attack with no warning at fifty-five. It was a terrible shock for all of us. But through the sadness, I was very grateful that I had no regrets about the way our relationship had been. I’d loved him unreservedly, I’d spent time with him, I’d laughed with him, and I’d shared my life with him.
The situation made clear to me that anyone can be taken from us at any time.
And that, even though it sounds a bit macabre, I should live my relationships as though the person could die at any minute.
It’s ensured I respond in a different way to situations that previously could have been blown out of proportion. It’s helped me to avoid many arguments, but also speak up and be honest about my own feelings.
It’s helped me to have the best possible relationship I can with the people I love. And, in fact, some I don’t. I no longer waste time, as I know that time is finite.
How are your relationships right now? With family, with friends?
How would you feel if someone you loved died today? Is there anything you would change about the way you contributed to the relationship?
Remember that while it’s not possible to change how other people respond, it is possible to work on your own responses. Sometimes that can take time and effort, but better now than when it’s too late.
3. What’s right for others isn’t necessarily right for you.
Another breakthrough moment was in the last couple of months, as I’ve been living a very different life in Thailand to the life of the corporate businesswoman I was in the UK.
The study of personality and individual differences is a core part of my training, and something I work with all the time.
I’ve viewed the success of Susan Cain’s book about introverts, Quiet, with interest, as I’m a definite introvert myself, but one who’s always adapted her behavior to demonstrate extrovert behaviors, at work and even with friends.
Recently, my very extrovert mum visited Thailand to spend a month working on our blog and website. This prompted me to realize that I no longer adjust my behaviour as much as I used to.
I spend a lot of time alone, I work in coffee shops with people buzzing around me, but in my own little bubble. But more importantly, I’m okay with that life. I accept that this is the right life for me at the moment, and is giving me the kind of nourishment I need.
And I don’t need to worry about making lots of new friends and doing lots of social activities, as some people suggest to me. I’m okay living the life that’s right for me.
Whilst it’s good to listen to other points of view, I know that what’s right for others isn’t necessarily right for me. And I have the strength to follow my own path.
Are there any aspects of your life that you are living according to what others think is right, rather than what’s right for you?
We are all, every one of the billions of us alive right now, different, and we need different things to grow and develop into our “best self.”
Give yourself the best possible chance at this by creating an environment that nurtures you, rather than what others think should nurture you, or what you think should nurture you.
You Own Your Story
All of these three breakthrough moments—taking back the power to make my own choices, ensuring my relationships are in the best possible state, and following my own path despite others’ opinions—had at their core me owning my own story.
If there’s one overarching lesson I would like to share with you, whispering it gently, kindly, but persistently in your ear, it’s that you own your own story.
No one else is writing it for you.
So write with a loving hand, reflecting on your own breakthrough moments, but don’t sit around passively waiting for the story to just happen.
Take a step toward a more nourishing, powerful, and loving life right now.
Photo by Chris Parker