By Maggie Balbaa
In this very unique experience we are enduring together in 2020, our lives have changed drastically in so many ways. The pandemic, the home-stay and all of the related stress, if anything, has made us realize some deep truths we might have been otherwise “asleep” to.
We’ve been following unconscious patterns of repetitive thoughts, emotions and behaviors, over and over again. Just like a guinea pig, trapped in a wheel, exerting so much effort, thinking the world revolves around that little circuit of his. When the lockdown hit, the little fellow had to step down off his habitual daily routine… and suddenly he could see the hoop.
Maybe it was a surprise, maybe not. But in all cases, when forced to take an observer position of the hoop, to see it from the outside, and discover what we call in coaching “the personal autopilot”, it is pretty shocking to the whole system. That little fellow represents each one of us drowning in our daily routines, being sucked up by our self-created “comfort zone”, that is, in reality most of the time more of a “suffering zone”. In that space lies a golden opportunity to activate real personal change by reflecting on what really matters in life and seeing in which areas we want to grow. Here are some tips that can help in that shift:
- Assess your current state.
This will help you see what is serving you and what is not serving you anymore. Real change starts when space is made for it after the process of letting go of the unnecessary to allow space for the new… A ‘new you’ that brings you a sense of fulfilment, achievement and ignites your self-worth light.
This can be simply done by truly observing your current state and where difficulties and struggles are situated for you. You will even discover some areas where you wish to grow such as hobbies that you have left behind, things that you want to learn or some needed self-development.
- Set new outcomes for yourself.
I prefer the word “outcome” to goal. For one, because it is more used in the Neuro Linguistic Programming world, and two, because it signifies more that the outcome you get is based on the planning and effort that you do to reach it. For an outcome to become achievable, it needs to be personal, to be Owned by YOU. It also needs to be Specific which will give you more details and more insight into what you are hoping to accomplish. You can help yourself in that by answering these 5 key questions about your outcome: What? When? Where? How? And with whom?
For the outcome to be fulfilling, it needs to be matching with your values and beliefs. This is what is called an ecological/ethical check for your outcome, where you make sure nothing about it is negating one of your top values. For example: if you want to study a diploma abroad but this will require that you travel a lot, which will not fit with your family demands. It will also likely collide with your “family” value, which could be one of your top values. A good solution would be to find an alternative for the travelling so as to make your outcome more satisfactory and ease the fulfilment sense that the outcome in itself is supposed to bring you.
- ALWAYS find room for yourself.
One of the most important teachings I received was to “Remember yourself, always”. We are all on a journey of self-discovery and growth. The key to doing that is by first knowing yourself. Consider it a trip that is very much worth taking. A deep dive into your own values, beliefs, life strategy, personal patterns and systemic view will be of great benefit regardless of where you are currently in your life. It is never too late and it is never too early when it comes to this type of observing that generates a lot of change.
Do you remember the guinea pig example? Meditation can give you the opportunity to step down off the wheel and observe what is going on with you and your life. This mental break does wonders to your hyper active brain, giving it room to break the thoughts cycle and allow what is commonly called, “out of the box” thinking throughout your day.
Meditation is like a sport, the more you train your whole system on it, the more the muscles grow and the more you start to feel the benefits in your daily life. The ideal dose is 20 minutes a day, but even a small exercise of breathing for 5 minutes will make a difference.
- Seek help.
Whenever you need to, seek professional help. The word help here varies from help in the work-place, to help with tasks you procrastinate, to the kind of help you need when you feel stuck in the same spot in your life, this constitutes a main stressor. Finding what pleases you and charges your soul is something you can seek help with. A lot of that help is now offered online, especially with the pandemic phase that we are going through. Help is literally one zoom call away.
- Move on with your lessons-learnt.
During those traumatic experiences that bare sudden changes, we tend to also rediscover what truly gives meaning to our lives. You might have been able to identify a thing or two that were taken for granted before, like those friends you have been wanting to see but didn’t make time for, or those hugs you missed because you sat in front of your TV and missed that gathering. Remind yourself of all of that and take it with you while you are moving on with your life. Hard times always hide buried hidden gems.