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Do you find yourself just trying to get through the day? As much as I talk about living in the present, I don’t always practice what I preach. These last few weeks, I’ve been operating purely in reaction mode. My ever-growing list of obligations looms over me like a tidal wave, and I don’t see it abating any time soon. My definition of a “good” day is one in which I meet my deadlines and show up to my classes with a lesson actually prepared. It’s times like this when I realize I’m settling for second best.
Are you “really” happy?
A couple of years ago, I was talking to my grandma when she asked me, out of the blue, if I was happy. The question took me by surprise. Did I look like I was unhappy?
I said I was, either because I wasn’t prepared for the conversation if the answer was “no” or maybe I tricked myself into thinking I was. But my grandma was a very perceptive woman. I’m sure she saw through my answer.
I’ve been thinking about this moment a lot, as my grandma died recently. She lived not only a long life (95 years) but also a rich and full life. She maintained a close relationship with her daughter (my mom), read extensively, and was a superb conversationalist with a great sense of humor. She certainly set the bar when it comes to living a fulfilling life.
Thriving or just surviving?
So often, we make it our goal in life to avoid disease, debt, and despair. Or when we do experience problems, to exit out as quickly as possible.
But what about creating genuine, lasting joy?
In this interview with Kara Loewentheil of the UnF*ck Your Brain life coaching podcast, she explains that with her clients, “the first round of coaching” focused on getting “out of pain, and the second round of coaching focused on getting into pleasure, joy, and excitement.”
This was key for me because so often many of us, myself included, turn to self-work when we’re low, but we stop as soon as we feel better. We forget that living a fulfilling life isn’t just about being problem-free, but about connecting to your passion and purpose.
Otherwise, you’re just living on autopilot.
Luckily, each day is a new day to get back on track. One of the reasons I write this blog is to help myself stay accountable and help you stay accountable, too. Here’s how you can course-correct when you find yourself slipping into survival mode.
3 Ways to Stop Settling for Second Best and Start Truly Living
1. Seek Spiritual Guidance
Meditation is the best method I’ve found for tapping into Beingness.
I know, know. When you’re crazy busy, meditation seems like a luxury you just don’t have.
Trust me, though, taking an extra few minutes out of your day makes a huge difference. Even looking at it from a purely pragmatic view, it gives you the tools to cope when things DO go wrong, saving you time and energy in the long run.
In particular, I enjoy guided meditations on YouTube (as long as I don’t “cheat” by checking my emails at the same time!). My favorite is Kris Dillard. His latest video addresses some of the same issues I discuss here: that we only meditate when we’re having problems or when we feel like we have the time (in other words, never), which hurts our momentum.
Other times, I’ll say a short prayer in the woods after my jog. I imagine that I’m taking the issue and handing it over to God.
Sometimes I’ll get clear guidance, sometimes not. I’m still new at this. But either way, I’ll feel lighter afterwards, like a burden has lifted.
2. Be Intentional
In Debbie Ford’s 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse, which I review here, each day involves a different theme: surrender, forgiveness, etc. In the morning, you set an intention to embody that quality throughout the day.
Debbie knew, though, that many of us would “fall off the wagon” after finishing the program. So she recommended that each morning, we decide what state of consciousness we’re going to inhabit and identify three actions that will help us maintain that state.
This is such a novel concept because otherwise, we end up being pulled by the winds of whatever happens that day. This doesn’t mean that if live intentionally, we won’t ever get sad or frustrated. But at least we’ll have a “home base” to turn to, giving us a chance to change direction!
I’d recommend putting your intention in writing (and yes, this recommendation extends to myself because I haven’t been doing this consistently). Which brings me to my next point.
3. Write It Out
I’d never been into journaling. The idea of writing for no particular purpose or audience didn’t appeal to me.
But part of Debbie’s book involved daily journaling. I really got into it because the writing was targeted and focused. Something about writing down my long-repressed memories and emotions as well as my deepest desires has been incredibly powerful.
As Trisha Traughber writes in The Real Reason You Should Capture Your Moments, journaling allows you to catch those slippery moments that may otherwise pass you by.
Journaling, I’ve found, can be a powerful tool for both reflection and for designing your future — long-term and short-term.
Also, many people report feeling happier and more content as a result of keeping a gratitude journal.
In Tim Ferris’s interview with A.J. Jacobs, author of Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, Jacobs describes how he takes the concept of gratitude to a whole new level. He gives thanks to the unsung heroes of our modern society, from those who make the cardboard sleeve that goes around our coffee cup to those responsible for spraying the lines on the freeway that prevent us from driving into oncoming traffic.
He explains that this practice reminds us how we’re a part of something bigger. We all have a valuable contribution to make to the larger whole, no matter how seemingly small.
As Madonna says in Express Yourself, don’t go for second best. This doesn’t just apply to romance, but to your whole existence. And you don’t need a man (or woman) to make things right.
Where in your life do you feel like you’re settling for less? What will you do to amend this?