The Only Question You Need To Ask Before Making Major Life Changes
Even though we haven't reached the end of the year, the fitness commercials have taken over the airwaves. Ads for new diet plans creep their way across social media. Magazines tell us how to de-clutter, detoxify, reset, unearth our personal mojo. The first of the year is like a starting line waiting to spur us on to a whole new direction. Right?
Sure. But we also need to recognize what other kinds of messages this resolution-obsession sends. With all the inspiration this time of year also comes a subtle but still clear message: there is something wrong, insufficient, or at the very least, worthy of great change — which is why resolutions should be made. It might be what's wrong with your waistline, your bank balance, your skin or your relationship, but clearly there are things that must be fixed. And your job is to assess the problem and do something about it.
The human brain understands and deals with problems in a very particular way. It comes from evolution. As soon as we're looking for "what is wrong," our minds move out of Creative Brain and into Reactive Brain. This shift has ensured our survival over the millennia: "Oh no — there's something moving in the bushes. Is it the wind or a hungry wild animal?" In other words, as soon as we detect threat, our focus narrows and our body tightens as we instantly and automatically create a plan to handle that threat.
While this whole set-up is amazingly efficient, there are drawbacks. Once we're in the narrow focus of Reactive Brain, it can be pretty tough to shift out of it. We find the thing that's wrong, and then we notice another, and another, and another. Narrow focus leads to simply tuning into what in our environment needs fixing.
So once we notice one thing that is wrong in our lives, it's hard to stop there: those rolls of flab, the skin imperfections, how we still drink diet soda, our bad posture, our activity on Facebook, our aches and pains, the fact that we never did start using that budget. The list becomes endless (and let's not even get started on what's wrong with our partners).
But the end of the year is a great time to ask one important question — at least before you start listing your resolutions: what have you created this year that you really love? It's essential to celebrate yourself and your life before you resolve to make changes.
I would like to offer you an antidote to the tyranny of the narrow focus of Reactive Brain. I don't know if doing this will help you get any closer to your New Year's resolutions, but it will bridge you back to the peace and possibility of Creative Brain.
Before you sit down to resolve all the ways you'll solve yourself in 2015, take a few minutes to celebrate who you are and what you have accomplished in 2014. Here's how to do that. Actually get out a piece of paper (or create a nourishing space with a friend or loved one) and answer the golden question I asked above. Here, I'll ask it again:
What have you created that you really love?
NOTE: This is NOT another gratitude list. Nor is this about noticing all the gifts from others or the universe (though these are both wonderful practices, but for another time). Now it's about you ... and the results you create every day.
You might have items on your list like:
- I have people in my life who love me.
- I hold down a job and I get myself there.
- I finished that project that was challenging for me.
- I figured out how to use my new smartphone.
- I got outside and soaked in the sun.
- I found PJs that are soft and warm.
- I made sure my dog/cat/guinea pig/other pet was always well-fed.
- I told a joke and everyone in the room laughed.
- I put together a playlist that makes me happy.
- I took risks.
- I noticed beauty.
Making this list isn't about scraping the bottom of the barrel and pretending that you've done something amazing. Quite the opposite, really. It's letting your Creative Brain come back on line and remind you that, actually, you're doing just fine.
It's stepping back and surveying all that you do every day that makes your life, and that of those around you, actually work. It's taking the time to notice and celebrate and take time to love what you're up to — flab and all.