This is a guest post by By Shawn Haywood, Ph.RD
Do you have the necessary ingredients to be completely in love with your life?
The five tips laid out below can support you in building or adding the necessary piece to become totally and madly in love with your life. I can tell you from my own practical experience, as well as that of dozens upon dozens of clients over the past 18 years, that life can be as joyful, meaningful and enriching as you CHOOSE, and then create.
Life can be filled with increasing amounts of curiosity, creativity, adventure, depth, connection and emotional/mental freedom.
As a result of living a life you are completely in love with, pain, suffering, myriad problems and hurt gradually fall away naturally and materialize less and less frequently. Honestly, I experience so little suffering or turmoil that it seems virtually non-existent.
On top of which, as you fall in love with the whole of your life, you will stop holding on to resentments, anger, frustration, irritation, anxiety and the like.
I’m thankful to understand what it means to be in love with all facets of my life, as it allows me to effortlessly live authentically and from my heart. I’m still learning of course. I still fail at times (though much, much less).
But overall, life is easy. And yours can be as well…
Over time, I have learned to unhook from destructive mental patterns and other habits that were harmful to my body, mind and spirit, while replacing them with gorgeous rituals, habits and practices that keep my life aligned with deep, meaningful values and on a course that feels deeply authentic to me.
Below are five key ways for you, too, to fall madly in love with your life. You can add to or expand upon any tools you might already use to ensure your own beautifully authentic, joyful and easy life. Each tip will singularly, and collectively, add a great deal of meaning, joy and ease to your daily experience, while at the same time naturally reducing stress, anxiety, depression and many forms of escaping, like alcohol, shopping, internet porn/social media, frantic busyness or obsessive thinking!
1) Cultivate Deep Connections
So how can you have a life you adore without feeling connected to others? Um, you can’t…
And I don’t mean by way of spending time gossiping, complaining or venting to others; I mean CONNECTING DEEPLY in totally transparent and vulnerable ways. And, unless you have been transparent and vulnerable, ways that scare the complete shit out of you, then you still have some practicing to do in this category!
Humans are meant to feel a deep sense of belonging: to engage, feel close, be touched and feel included. In fact, without this, we become increasingly isolated, anxious and depressed, while at the same time, an inevitable turn toward escape behaviors unfolds. Soon, food addiction, alcohol, shopping, internet, pornography, social media, obsessive thinking and chronic busyness can take the place of the genuine connection and sense of belonging that all humans require and crave!
If you’re missing deep connection with your lover, friends, family or even co-workers, begin practicing vulnerable, transparent connection ASAP. I know it’s not always easy, but your happiness and overall life fulfillment will strengthen as you do.
If you’re anything like I used to be, you may need to take off your “everything is great” or “I’m just fine” masks, put down defense mechanisms (like perfectionism, blaming, anger, emotional shut down, etc.) and peel away your emotional armor (anger, blaming, lashing out, resentment, silent treatments and so on) so you can let people into your heart and so you can breach theirs.
We all NEED to belong. Belonging could mean feeling connected to just one person whom you can trust and be open with and who will be honest, open and compassionate with you. Or, belonging might mean being connected to a close-knit group of like-minded and like-hearted people (likely both!).
Even if it takes five years to seek out your “peeps” and community, or to build strong bonds, don’t give up on this one. And no more excuses like, ‘It’s so hard to meet people in ______ city.”
Because we all want to belong and feel connected, AND this experience is at an all-time LOW in American culture, it is actually easier than ever, in a sense, to find people who want this, too. Be brave and put yourself out there bit by bit. Test the waters slowly, build compounding trust and emotional safety and soon…you will advance several steps toward being completely in love with life!
P.S. Meetup.com is an excellent resource for meeting people with any and every interest or hobby imaginable! Be brave!
2) Hocus Pocus, Laser Focus
Laser focus might seem like an odd prerequisite for leading a life you adore, but it is quite necessary. Let me explain.
In the absence of deliberate focus on exactly what we want or don’t want, value or don’t value, choose to spend time or not…we simply don’t or won’t set boundaries, create meaningful goals, hold others accountable or practice value-driven decisions and actions.
Instead, we navigate life haphazardly, from one fire-fight, emergency or shiny object to the next.
When focus is misplaced, absent or even lazy, we don’t say “no” when necessary, and perhaps we say “yes” far too much!
We’re inclined to talk about “ideal values,” yet practicing them is another thing entirely. We say, “My family is the most important thing in the world,” yet can be found too often missing important school events, working nights and weekends or ignoring a spouse’s wants, words, heart, desires and needs.
This is NOT a judgment or an effort to inflict shame, just an illumination of the gap that often exists between words and actions. It is a gap that intentional laser focus can quickly bridge.
This gap is where discontent, resentment and most of life’s upset and suffering lives.
It’s so easy to become swept up in the temptation to keep up with the Jones’ or the frantically busy lifestyle that America has oddly embraced. In fact, now more than ever, we work to please people we don’t really like, buy things to impress people we don’t even know and ignore, avoid or bite at those we actually want to love and connect with.
A shift toward dedicating life and time to that which we genuinely find deeply and truly useful, meaningful and wonderful IS in order!
A great exercise to reel in your focus is as follows:
1) Determine the most important categories of your life (ex: spouse, children, health, yoga, travel, play, creative expression, career, etc.) Around three to five categories will suffice - too many will become overwhelming and distract your laser focus!
2) Then add one to three weekly actions to each category that, when focused and insisted upon, will add richness, calm and joy to all areas of life, while at the same time mentally, emotionally and physically de-cluttering it.
Here’s an example:
Possible weekly actions could answer this question: “What weekly actions would ensure a connected, intimate and playful relationship with my partner?”
Take at least one 30-minute walk plus conversation (to ensure engagement and connection)
Have one weekly date (to demonstrate importance and priority of one another, keep romance alive, have fun and play together, provide a good relational role modeling for children, etc.)
Hold a weekly “relationship business meeting” that is scheduled as religiously as your Monday morning meeting at work! (To discuss children, family direction and goals, weekly/monthly activities, important commitments vs. time stealers, travel, financial planning and alignment, value alignment, etc.)
Read together. Chris and I begin each day by listening to a great spiritual, personal development or business/marketing book for about an hour as we get our day rolling. WE LOVE this ritual, and it has changed our life! It ignites fantastic conversation and serves as a very inspiring start to each day.
Now it’s your turn. Start SMALL and add on as useful habits take root. When you have pinpointed the most valuable, useful and authentic actions for each compartment of life, falling madly in love with the whole of your life will become easier and easier, as will the growing ease of saying NO to extraneous commitments.
3) A Fun and Fulfilling Career
Crafting a fun and rewarding career probably seems like a no brainer in the grand scheme of building a completely rocking life! BUT oddly, more than 80 percent of Americans are, to some degree, dissatisfied with their career.
I know, that is staggering!
Because we share vast hours of life with our career, it must be mostly a happy and fulfilling place to be, serve, add value and receive equitable reward and compensation. Otherwise, anxiety, depression, frustration, resentment and suffering WILL take root and give the illusion of diminishing all facets of life.
The whole idea of compartmentalizing is a sham. People don’t leave work at work. Some people may be less affected than others, but we all bring work home - the good, the bad and the ugly. Some may do a better job resisting dumping work problems on their loved ones. But, essentially, all people have an emotional investment in their career, if for no other reason than because of how much time they spend there. Thus, we are impacted greatly when dissatisfaction, dread or upset is associated with our work life.
Work-life fulfillment can shift in many ways if you are willing to be happy at work or to dedicate yourself to creating a career, business or personal situation that serves you well and adds joy to your life.
Whatever you decide, do not settle for feeling in the doldrums about your career, as the far-reaching consequences are simply too great.
4) Create, Create, Create
People need to EXPRESS creativity to be optimally happy. Creative expression allows people to feel free…beautifully and wonderfully free…
Creativity often becomes non-existent or shrouded in and smothered by things like perfectionism, comparing or time constraints.
It is important to carve out weekly chunks of time to dedicate to being creative. If you are saying something like, “Shawn, I can’t paint or draw or sing,” to that I say, who cares! I assure you, no one would want to purchase or even display my artsy goods, but I love making them anyway! And for sure, my pup is the only one who truly seems to enjoy my singing, yet I LOVE to sing and dance along to every song I love -70’s, 80’s, 90’s, love songs, rock songs…If I know the words, others’ ears are suffering!
Creativity can be anything you can dream up. Writing (work related or freestyle), coloring (one of my favs), origami (another favorite of mine), singing, painting, playing guitar...If you feel like it, take a photography, singing, painting, sculpting, glass blowing or pottery class! The important thing is to dedicate the time and have fun with this idea of creative expression.
In my experience, people who add creative time blocks to each week have a naturally dwindling desire or craving for escapes (like alcohol, shopping, social media, pornography, etc.). Obviously, adding one or more forms of creative expression to your life may not solve a particular addiction or your habits of “numbing,” BUT the fuller and more authentically YOU your life becomes, the less people depend upon external habits to check out or numb pain and boredom.
Creativity comes in as many forms, as unique as the humans on this planet. Isn’t that cool? No two people create in the exact same way, so just pick a couple of areas and give it a whirl! And DON’T worry about being perfect or even good at it, that’s not the point. Fun and play is the point (psst, you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to!)
I’ve saved the best for last (though I alluded to it already!)
I often get an array of facial expressions, groans, and “oh geez” when I speak to organizations or talk to clients about vulnerability…at first that is!
Once men and women understand that learning to become vulnerable is not for wussies or wimps, nor will one lose his or her feminism or masculinity, nor will anyone DIE when he or she removes masks to reveal their most authentic self…
Vulnerability is a beautiful process. I will never forget the day, the moment, I dedicated my life to becoming transparent, vulnerable and authentically ME! It was relieving and seriously terrifying all in one!
Initially, the most difficult aspect of this bold new practice…was opening the most raw parts of myself, my heart and my story to my hubby. Why you ask? Well, he literally stared blankly back in the face of my raw, splayed-open heart!! Don’t get down on him: this whole vulnerability thing was all new to him too!
It was rough in the beginning, but he, too, has since dedicated himself to becoming transparent, vulnerable and authentic - whew!
This practice IS by far the best piece of our marriage. And it has allowed our marriage to become completely, seriously, completely devoid of anger, resentment, blaming, criticism, conflict and the like.
I’ve witnessed over the years, as the most amazing, strong and courageous women hire me for coaching, that we nearly always address vulnerability within the first couple of months, though this is not why they hire me initially! And along the way, their husbands/partners see the gorgeous transformations they make, and they want in on the action too!! What a gift! What a really, really cool cycle that I am so fortunate to be a part of!
Of course, you’ll want to ease into vulnerability to make sure the person or people you’re being vulnerable with are a safe haven for your heart, dreams and past. Dip a toe in and then a foot before you throw a full-on belly flop!
Embracing vulnerability is tricky and can be quite frightening, but take courage: the reward is unmatched in its ability to help you craft a life that you are madly, profoundly in love with.
Have a fantastic time using your new tools for creating a life you love! Reach out if you have questions or comments.
Cheers to authentic living!