Sometimes in life, we do things, quite unintentionally, that cause us to struggle. We buy a house that seemed to fit the bill only to realize soon after moving in, it wasn’t the right one or we continue to date someone we know isn’t right for us long after we have this epiphany, in order to avoid being alone. The fallout from these actions can make us feel angry, annoyed, frustrated, or helpless, despite our best attempts to do those things that we think will free us from this drama and stress. Then we can get so caught up in these negative emotions that it’s hard to figure out what to do next. The result is often that we do nothing or that we act rashly to fix what we feel is not working. Either path can lead us to further frustration, anxiety, self-doubt, despair, and struggle. Taking us further away from what we want to experience in our lives.
So what can you do the next time you are faced with one of these dilemmas? Here is what I have found to be helpful. The first thing I do is to center myself by inhaling deeply for a count of three and exhaling for a count of six. I do this at least three times. This creates space around the situation at hand. Once I’ve grounded myself, the next thing I do is I ask myself, what it is I want to experience. When I do this, I oftentimes find myself responding with material solutions, like a new car or a new home. Or sometimes I find myself wanting more resources, such as time or money. When this happens, I go deeper by asking myself, What will having a new home or more time do for me?
Once I have another answer, I assess it. Does the answer that comes to mind hit on the feeling I want to experience? Or, am I still skimming the surface of my emotions with material or practical solutions? If the latter is the case, I ask myself again, If I have this thing or create this new situation that I want, what will it afford me? What will having more time allow me to do? What will having a new car grant me? I ask these questions as many times as necessary until I get to that emotion that is buried inside of me. The one that tells me I want to feel competent, accepted, safe, or any number of positive feelings that issue in a sense of wellbeing and contentment.
At this point, I begin to explore other solutions to get to this end result by asking, what else, in addition to my initial answers, can I do to bring about this feeling I desire? I write them down in a notebook. This provides me with a variety of alternatives to consider. Then, when I’m ready I can select the one that is best suited for me and take deliberate, confident action in that direction. Taking these steps always gives me a greater sense of certainty about my next actions.
Here are the steps in a simple list:
- Center yourself by taking three deep breaths.
- Ask yourself, what it is you want to experience or feel?
- Go deeper, by asking yourself, what will this material item or additional resource allow me to do? Ask yourself this question until you have landed on the positive emotion(s) or feeling(s) you want to experience.
Once you have hit on a feeling (this is your why) you can begin to explore other ways, in addition to the one material thing or resource you focused on at first, to solve the issue. The options could be ways to get that material thing or resource that came to mind initially, or they may be ways do manage without them, and still help to produce the end emotion that you desire.
With multiple options to solve your issue, you can select the best one(s) for you. You might even find that your issue has transformed into a grand opportunity with one of your options as the key.
This exercise, though seemingly simple, is powerful when you allow yourself to go deep. It is always helpful to write out your responses so that you are not trying to keep track of them in your head, which can cause them to get jumbled and create anxiety. This also allows you to be able to refer to the list when the initial incident is not so hot. This will give you further clarity and insight into the situation at a later point.
Try this process out and see if you don’t feel more positive the next time you find yourself considering your next right move.
Photo Credit: Richard Masoner