Life is so fleeting. If you live it fully and with intention, you’re more likely to live a life you’re personally proud of. In order to do so we need to be expansive, flexible and open ourselves to challenges, vulnerability and discomfort.
There are 8 skills you can learn to open yourself up toward expansion and personal growth:
1. Always consider how your stuckness is benefitting you. We develop patterns of behavior, coping skills and adaptations typically from childhood. These are the behaviors we adopted in order to cope with or “survive” whatever we were experiencing that was challenging for us. We all developed these coping skills, some of which are adaptive (e.g., being resourceful and communicating needs) and others of which are maladaptive (e.g., repressing feelings and avoiding situations) as we were attempting to navigate through our emotional, physical and/or social needs.
We carry forth these behaviors throughout our development into adulthood, whether or not they’re helpful and productive. They tend to be familiar, comfortable and habituated. Consider how those behaviors served you and what you may be fearful of or reluctant to let go of and why that may be so.
2. When you have a challenging time making a decision, assess your opposing values.In general, when we’re conflicted, we’re inevitably having a values conflict. Consider that two values that are formative for you are competing against one another in your decision-makingprocess. Because both values are important to you, it’s going to make decision making challenging in those given situations. That’s positive and says something favorable about you.
Reframe your thinking and consider which value needs take precedence in that given situation. Take note that it doesn’t say anything negative about you because you chose one value over the other in that circumstance. It also doesn’t dictate that one value is generally more important to you than the other. But rather that every circumstance is different and requires a reevaluation of your formative needs, and consequently, your values say a lot about what’s important to you and how truly wonderful you are.
3. Consider how you perceive things. We all view ourselves, others and the world around us myopically and prescriptively. It’s influenced by so many factors that form us into the human beings that we currently are. Our neurobiology and physiology can hamper our desire and ability to shift and transition because of the propensity to gravitate toward the familiar and avoid perceived danger or discomfort.
To move out of your comfort zone, continually ask yourself questions such as, “How else can I see this?” “Is this decision/action helping me to increase my confidence and helping me to grow?” and “What’s the worst thing that could happen, what’s the best thing that could happen, and what’s most likely to happen in this situation?”
4. Decide how you want to represent yourself and who you want to be. What we put energy into just grows stronger over time. If we’re consistently asserting our anger and contempt, that’s what we’re strengthening. Contemplate the behaviors you need to explicitly exhibit in order for you to represent being your best self. Take action each day to lean into these behaviors and continually evaluate how you see yourself and whether you feel personally proud.
5. Never try, just do it. Trying isn’t doing, it’s how we respond when we want an out or don’t trust ourselves enough that we’ll follow through on a given task. Hold yourself accountable and don’t allow your mind to explain and rationalize why you won’t succeed or thrive. Notice and name it when it gets evoked, rather than automatically and impulsively giving into your fears, doubts and rationalizations.
Your mind will try desperately to talk you out of doing something unfamiliar and challenging. It will resist or withdraw from facilitating tasks that are laden with negative or uncomfortable emotions and situations where you’re at risk of “failing” or being “rejected.” Do it anyway because you’re giving yourself the opportunity to change your neural pathways and nervous system and evolve and grow in ways that will lead to greater contentment and personal satisfaction.
6. Recognize that considerable change intrinsically comes along with negative emotions. Negative emotions get a bad rap. Societally we’re encouraged to ignore or avoid our uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. Consider all the positive benefits we get from tapping into these emotions. We’re reminded of what’s important to us and what values are coveted, and this provides insight into how we want to think about or respond to a given situation.
When you are looking toward change and growth, work toward accepting, being curious about, and better understanding your negative and uncomfortable emotions. Assess if you’re willing, open and proactive, irrespective of whether negative emotions get evoked or not. Your taking action is contingent upon your wanting to evolve no matter what comes up because you matter and are worthy.
7. Never act from your thoughts and feelings but rather from your values. Because our thoughts and feelings can be irrational, overreactive and fleeting, we can’t take them at face value. Our mind is wired to protect us from “danger” and discomfort. It can sometimes be overprotective or encourage us to avoid things and situations that can help us to grow. Think about your core values and ground your decision making and actions based on the formative values that are important to you and represent who you are and want to be.
8. Notice it all with intent. We miss out on so much because we’re constantly distracted, worried and get caught up on inconsequential things that probably won’t matter in a year from now, let alone two days from now. Notice yourself in the present moment in your connections, communication and actions. There are so many relational opportunities we miss out on because we lose sight of how we’re feeling in someone’s presence in a given moment. We miss out on opportunities to express ourselves, connect and forge stronger intimacy in our relationships. Seize precious moments that can enhance your life through your relationships and the way you perceive yourself internally and interpersonally.
There is much you can proactively do to live a life that makes you feel personally proud and brings you personal satisfaction. You deserve to give yourself that chance by being mindful and intentional in your behaviors and actions.
Blog as published in Psychology Today.