Do you ever feel stuck? Like a rat in maze hitting your head on the same damn wall? If you ever feel like this, join the club! it’s really common to feel stagnant in life, as if you are in limbo. The good news is that there are simple ways to move forward in your life.
Focus on what’s good
It’s natural to have a negative mental filter at times. The ‘negativity goggles” come out and we overwhelm ourselves with what is not going well for us. This tendency creates barriers that don’t help you move forward in your life. This tendency is actually a survival mechanism from our early ancestors – we had to be aware of any threat (for instance, a lion or other predator) in order to survive.
This early ‘wiring’ still exists within us (known as the “lizard brain“). Our brains have thankfully evolved in many ways. We now have the frontal cortex to help us experience empathy and understand the feelings of other (Theory of Mind) and this evolution’s newest contribution to our updated biology but there are still large parts that respond as if we were still cavemen.
The result of this is that sometimes we feel anxious but it’s modern-day stress (bills, taxes, deadlines etc) but the same neural messages are sent and the lizard brain reacts as if there’s a lion was in the room. This is when you need to take a few deep breaths and say to yourself. “I am safe”. Stress is not a life-or-death experience for the majority of us. It can feel like it though!
If you have to- force yourself to focus on what’s good in your life. Start a gratitude journal. What is good? You may think nothing is going well but consider these things:
- Your strengths
- Your options/choices
If you look, you WILL find some good – FOCUS on the good!
Be hopeful and keep the faith
Never give up on hope. The future has yet to be written and everything is possible. See possibilities and take your opportunities. Don’t be one of those people that looks back on their life and wonders “What if?”. Failure is giving up, success is trying and learning from mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of life. Pat yourself on the back every time you fail. It may not be the outcome you wanted but you are living life – you’re in the thick of it taking your opportunities. That’s just fantastic. keep it up! You are making the most of your life instead of avoiding life (SO MANY people choose the avoidance route). When you avoid, the anxiety and fear stay with you – push out of your comfort zone and you gain confidence.
It’s this simple when it comes to the way you move forward in your life. We often overestimate the threat (failure, rejection, humiliation ) and underestimate our ability to cope. You will cope – you will get in your bed at night. The people that matter will still be there. it’s not that bad. See life as an adventure.
Create positive associations
Our brains constantly make associations and these links are stronger when we are younger and affect the way our brain develops. If you had a bad experience as a child, that link/association will stay with you. The issue emerges when we are older and that association (brain short cut, as I like to refer to it) can be triggered, and sometimes that negative experience can limit us as an adult.
If you had a difficult childhood, the trauma you experienced will still exist within you. As an adult, a similar experience can trigger those earlier associations and you may react in a way that surprises you. Our brain develops in response to our experiences. We are born a ‘blank slate’ and learn through experiences as we go through life.
You can reinforce ‘positive pathways’ and associations by focusing on experiences that inspire you and make you feel happy. Another way to increase these positive associations is to create a soothe box (sometimes referred to as a first aid kit).
Get a shoebox (or something similar), cover it as you wish with paper that you love or a photo collage – whatever makes you happy. Fill the box with things that make you feel happy. It could be a postcard from a place that you loved visiting, a card from someone you care. You could out your favourite perfume in there – a smell that creates a positive association. Think about visual associations, smell, touch (velvet, lace, a leaf from a magical place, a pebble from a beach for example. Use the soothe box as a reminder of great memories or people, places, and experiences that make you feel good. This process of linking to positive experiences is known as anchoring and it can help you to feel stable when you feel lost. It really works!
The more you focus on the good things and experience a positive mood state, the more likely you will be to move forward in your life.
Don’t dwell or overthink
It’s common to check-in with all our fears and insecurities when we have too much time on our hands and this works against our opportunities to move forward. Our inner bully gets a hold and frightens us with all sorts of scary possibilities. Remember that what your mind tells you is highly dependant on what you fear. Overthinking can be a way to try a feel safe about the future and uncertainty. Worry is wasted emotional energy and it’s VERY different to problem-solving.
Humans naturally dislike and resist uncertainty but worry only increases the anxiety. Problem-solve, focus on what you can and can’t control, and then let go. Becoming accustomed to embracing uncertainty will be a huge leap for you in terms of moving forward in your life.
Problem solve – take action
Use the worry tree below to help you deal with your worry:
Be true to yourself
The key to freedom is being yourself. If you try to be something else, you teach yourself that you aren’t good enough as you are. The more you work to be different the more anxiety you will experience. Of course, we are all slightly different with people we don’t know but don’t go out of your way to suppress who you really are. The more you are true to yourself, the more you will grow in confidence. We all wish to be accepted as we are but this can’t happen if you continually put up a fake facade.
Do what you love
Your essential self is the real you. The person you were when you were born before society got hold of you and moulded you into what’s acceptable by society. This results in disconnection from our essential self and we begin to identify with our social self. Your essential self may have natural tendencies towards nature and simplicity but your social self has been moulded into believing a career as a doctor is the acceptable option. This leads to incongruence and unhappiness. I have had many clients come to see me and tell me they are successful but still feel unfulfilled and this is usually due to a great rift between their essential and social self.
If you feel confused about what really makes you happy, think about what you loved as a child. Think about activities that absorb you, where the time flies. This is a clue to where your natural aptitude lies.
ACE – achievement, closeness and enjoyment
In the day-to-day, consider what gives you a sense of achievement, what helps you to feel close to others (pets included) and what brings enjoyment.
Focusing on these aspects will lift your mood and support positive mental health. The final element is activity – exercise and keeping active.
Consider the above in your efforts to move forward in your life. Approach instead of avoiding and you will definitely be on the right track.