What’s your definition of a purposeful life?
For me, it’s being able to live my life without the inner conflict that stops me from sharing my personal and professional strengths. It’s the confidence to shine, have some spark and stand up for what’s important. Ending the habits that put me last on the ‘to do’ list, last on the ‘care’ list.
Are you sick and tired of the persistent inner struggle between the life you want and dream of and the persistent inner voice that tells you: “No you can’t really have that!” Yes? Then, read on.
Here are 7 really practical steps you can use to really liberate yourself from feeling trapped by self-defeating inner conversations.
While we all face doubts and fears that stop us from stepping up and out into the spotlight, with these 7 simple and reliable practices you can start to experience more confidence. More trust in yourself and others. More clarity in your relationships.
1. Practice listening to your negative self-talk as an Observer, not a Believer.
YOU are the person listening to yourself think. These are just thoughts. Not reality. Not a series of ‘facts’. Just thoughts. You probably learnt a lot of this self-talk as you grew up, went to school, and in your family. Negative ‘self-talk’ is usually based on what someone has said to you at some time when you were young, that was inaccurate, hurtful or just plain wrong. YOU are listening to history, perhaps someone else’s ideas about who you are. You are never trapped by your past.
2. Recognise a lot of your thoughts are really a waste of your time.
A lot of thinking is really routine, predictable, well-rehearsed sentences that you repeat to yourself over and over again. Negative thoughts run like a well-worn groove in our minds. It really is okay to stop thinking so much, so often. Most of us could do with more space between the rush of thoughts, worries, and to do lists, etc.
Pause and take notice of your breathing, your body, the environment. Look up and around you, rather than getting lost in your internal world. The goal is to have some really interesting new thoughts that describe your optimistic future that is outward focused.
3. Practice becoming a ‘Thought Detective’.
Track those negative thoughts and find out when and where your Inner Critic wants to take over! Driving the car home from work is a really common time to zone out, and your Inner Critic runs a commentary of arguments and disagreements. Then 20 minutes into the drive, you realise you’ve been arguing with yourself, or somebody else, there in the back of your mind. This just sets you up for feeling irritable or moody. Certainly not optimistic. Perhaps there are people that you interact with that really trigger you into negative thoughts and a downward mood spiral.
4. Stay alert for clues!
Notice when you are most vulnerable and when you feel more in control and positive. Treat any sentence with the words Should, Can’t, Must, or Have to with suspicion. These are words your Inner Critic loves to use! They will lead you astray. You’ll often end up feeling frustrated, guilty or look at a situation trying to find who’s at fault or to blame. And you’ll miss opportunities that are right there in front of you to be creative, curious and confident.
Write down your Inner Critic’s favourite thought lines: the ‘should’ and ‘have to’ moments that crop up most frequently, and that trip you up and take your confidence or creativity away. Take a good look long at these.
5. Practice disputing the negative!
Interrupt and challenge repetitive negative thoughts, rather than using distraction, avoidance or giving in to feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes you just have to say “No!” or Stop!” or “I’m just not going to listen to you” to that Inner Critic. Sometimes you need to just say “Shhhh” to yourself and breathe slowly, be a little gentler and all kinder in the moment when things are difficult.
6. Practice appreciating what you are doing well.
Start to notice what you are doing that works well, rather than aiming for perfection. That Inner Critic just loves the perfectionistic whip. Ouch! Practice ‘good enough’. Practice a little self-forgiveness often. You could even say to yourself “Well done”, “I like that”, “I’m going in the right direction”.
Practice appreciating the compliments you receive from others. Don’t throw them away whether automatic, predictable response that dismisses what other people seeing you and ultimately dismisses your own value to yourself. Pause, breathe and say “Thank you”. Smile, breath again, take in another person’s appreciation and let it settle right into your body, rolling down your spine and allowing yourself feel good! Oh, and go back to Step 5 when your inner critic interrupts to tell you that it’s not true.
7. Invest in yourself and take a long-term view.
When you want quick, immediate results it’s often fear-based thinking, and lead you into ‘either/or’ problem-solving. Don’t cut yourself short by trying to find the quick fix. The result is that you can end up feeling trapped with limited choices that you don’t really want, and are leading you away from your real goals.
It’s not unusual to overestimate what you can achieve in the short term, and underestimate where you might be more patience, practice and support. This means learning to live with discomfort, disappointment, mistakes, and misunderstandings. See these difficulties as opportunities to challenges, first your negativity and secondly, as opportunities for curiosity rather than fatalism. Don’t settle for less. Learn to ask for you want. Reach out and ask for support and share your struggle. You’ll probably find the person you’re speaking to has more understanding than you thought.
These 7 simple steps can work for you, but they may take a little time and put in some commitment.
You may also benefit from support through counselling or coaching to help stay focused and manage the ups and downs that creating positive change inevitably brings.
For more information and resources about realising your potential and your purpose, contact Elizabeth Williamson Solutions, for expert counselling, coaching and conflict resolution services.
To discuss further, book a FREE 15 minute consultation now with Elizabeth Williamson