Why sometimes you need to say “no” to others (in order to say YES to yourself)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(This post is the second one in a series of posts that I will be publishing over the next 8 weeks on the twin topics of self worth and self compassion. In the first post I had broached the subject of the perils of "doing it all" and the high price associated with it. You can read it HERE.)

We have all been taught to be there for others and take care of those who love and need our help and support. We also know that we need to take care and support each other in order to grow and thrive as a part of a family, community or country. As social animals, we have been hardwired over time during the course of our evolution to get along with each other since our very survival depended on it. Hence, it is very natural that we just the thought of saying no brings us physical discomfort and do not like to hurt or disappoint others. As a result, we often end up saying yes to avoid feeling guilty, uncomfortable and even to avoid the physical discomfort of saying no.

How many times have you said YES lately where you immediately regretted your decision?

(I have written about the positive aspects of being a part of a community in my earlier post, you can read it HERE)

What usually ends up happening in our busy, modern world as a result of this is that we are often overcommitted and overscheduled. Our instinct of saying yes when we really wanted to say no to a request or a task can often leave us resentful, frustrated and burnt out in the long run. If we are honest enough, being asked to help and do things for others also makes us feel good in many ways. However, these emotions can often interfere with our clarity.

As a result, we can end up regretting our acquiescense for days, months and years which can ultimately prevent us from achieving what had we set out to do in terms of our own goals. And it certainly takes a toll on our health if this becomes a way of life. But we need to keep in mind that for each of us not our energy, but rather the TIME that we have in this world is actually the most non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

Our time on this earth is the most valuable and non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

And once a second, minute or an hour is gone, it is lost forever never to come back. Our energy and other resources can be renewed with enough rest and planning but not our time. This means that in order to live a life where we feel that we are able to contribute, achieve our goals and at the same time enjoy our time with our friends and families, we need to be clear about setting limits and putting boundaries in place.

Healthy boundaries give us the freedom to be involved in activities and causes that are aligned with our purpose and give meaning to our lives. It helps us avoid burnout, frustration and stress to a large extent by avoiding overscheduling and overcommitment. It frees up our time to spend time with those who really matter to us and to pursue hobbies and interests that we are passionate about.

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others"

-Brene Brown

However, for any sensitive and caring individual, it takes courage to stand up and say no to others. Women are usually much more concerned about what others think of them and even have what is called the "good girl" (and even "good boy") syndrome and have a hard time saying "no". I have realised much later that I have been dealing with this ever since I was a child. And it has only been in the past few years that I have had to learn to say "no" at times as a part of my self-care so that I could do what was needed to be done for my family without feeling burnt out, frustrated or resentful.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts on self care or have been through my self care challenge that I did recently for my Facebook Group, know that I strongly believe that as primary caregivers of most families, a woman's primary responsibility is towards her own health and wellbeing.

Only when a woman takes care of herself lovingly and willingly can she do the same for others without feeling deprived, resentful or ultimately sacrificing her own health. I also believe that those of us who have daughters have an added responsibility and need to teach our daughters by setting an example of this by practising this ourselves and ending this legacy of deprivation and burnout.

How many times have you agreed to....

do something even though there was a distinct tension in what you felt was right and what someone was pressurising you to do?

be a part of something that you really didn't have time for but you felt that would make those people like you?

a request from a family member, coworker or a friend simply because you did not want to disappoint or anger them?

Every single day people make all kinds of decisions based on what others want even as they know that on some level they may be also committing an act of self betrayal. That they are forever playing the role of a "good girl" (or even "good boy") which is hard to let go of. But at what cost?

What would happen if you did start saying YES to yourself? 

There would most likely be some kind of fall out at the beginning, especially if you have been used to overgiving without setting healthy boundaries.  This would likely have trained people around you to expect you to be there for them whenever they may need you. It takes courage to be honest and open with yourself and to stand up for yourself.  Indeed, this is a critical component of self care. And while you may feel guilty and selfish for a while and face social awkwardness, boundaries are essential for your own mental and emotional well being as well as for the health of your relationships.

There are different ways of saying "no" gracefully and it starts with separating the person from the relationship that we have with them. In other words, when we say no to a request from a person, it does not mean that we are saying no to that person. Once we are clear on this, it becomes much easier to remain strong and at the same time communicate with others in a graceful manner. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you say "no"-

Focus on what you are getting in return and remind yourself that setting certain boundaries are essential in self care

There are a variety of ways of saying no without using the word, For e.g. "I don't have the bandwidth right now", "I would like to, but I am overcommitted right now"

Give alternative suggestions and buy some time to respond to the request when possible

Check in with yourself and ask yourself  "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I really want to do this?" or "If I knew this person would not be angry or upset, would I still say no?"

Think about how this request would make YOU feel- would it bring joy, pleasure or satisfaction? Or is it only about fulfilling obligations and responsibilities?

Being first honest with yourself and then with the people in our lives in a compassionate and authentic manner prevents a sense of betrayal and guilt towards ourselves as well as others.  At the same time, being open in a warm and caring manner strengthens our relationships with others and makes them respect us in the long run. In any case, you simply cannot control how others will react if you disappoint them (which happens inevitably at times) while setting your boundaries. However, you can certainly control how you feel and how you choose to communicate.

At the end of the day, our boundaries reflect our sense of self worth. We practice both self care and self respect when we set healthy boundaries.

We are all unique individuals and healthy boundaries help us to maintain our uniqueness and protect our identities. Many women, in particular, find that somewhere along the way while taking care of their families and bringing up their children lose their sense of who they used to be and their voice. I see this in my Health Coaching practice. Most women who have various chronic health issues are a result of years and even decades of neglecting their own needs and wants.

We are rarely taught why we need to set healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives. As a result, our sense of self worth gets eroded slowly over the years until we reach a stage where we can no longer tune in to what our body needs from us. At times, we need to do less and take proper rest but we can no longer heed the messages our bodies are constantly sending us. We simply choose to ignore the occasional headache, digestive troubles, constipation, tiredness which are merely symptoms of underlying imbalances. Until we can no longer ignore them.

In Functional Medicine we often say "a headache is a blessing" and it is true!

So the next time you are about to say "yes" to a request, check in with yourself. Remind yourself that you are much more than simply a mother, wife, daughter or employee. See how you feel about it and take your time in responding with grace and compassion in a clear and honest manner.

As Anne Taylor said so well

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept."

Are you “doing it all” in order to “have it all” (there is a hidden price that you pay)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(This is the second in a series of 8 posts that I am writing on the intertwined topics of self worth and self compassion. If you have not read the first post, you can read it HERE. And once again as you go through this series, you can use journaling as a tool to get to reap the full benefit)

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.
―Maya Angelou, author, speaker, poet

Many of us have an aversion towards asking for help. Usually, we end up doing this only we when are in desperate need for it. For most men and women, this is usually when we have reached the end of our rope, feeling burned out and overwhelmed. How much less painful it would be if we had started paying attention to our needs before we reached this stage? Also, in many ways, women are worse off in this respect than men.

In fact, according to a recent UN report, modern women carry out at least two and a half times unpaid and household and care work than men. However, this is rarely recognised as "work". Things have definitely changed with well-intentioned men taking on more work at home, but it is clearly not enough. And this is not just because of sexism on the part of men, it also due to conditioning of both men and women while growing up. Inevitably, for most women, an impeccable home and well groomed children often become linked to their sense of self-worth. 

I confess that I am struggling with this at this very moment as I am trying to set up my coaching practice. I see myself struggling to reach my goals at work and at the same time manage the homefront according to the standards that I have set for myself a long time ago. However, whenever my well-intentioned husband tries to do his fair share of work or help me out, my ingrained conditioning gets in the way. My idea of getting things done properly is and always will be very different from his and this makes things really frustrating for both of us. Simply accepting our differences with regards to our approach towards housework has been really hard for me. I have chosen to work on this not just because of my own sanity but also because I want my children (a daughter and a son) to have a different kind of conditioning towards this type of "invisible" work irrespective of gender.

In most urban family settings across the world, women are the primary caregivers in their families as they take care of their children, family members and home. This is on top of the work that they may also be doing outside the house as a bread earner. This kind of pressure leaves little time for most women to tend to their own needs and practice self care. Thus today, even though many more women enjoy financial freedom, they often grapple with a feeling of frustration, a sense of hopelessness and end up living in chronic survival mode.

However, the focus of this post is not on the economic price that the society at large pays for this kind of hidden inequality but rather the price that most women end up paying in terms of their health and peace of mind. Since most of my coaching clients are women, I see this playing out all the time with them and this is true even for my friends and family members who are women. Many women are perpetually overwhelmed, with a sense of a never ending to-do list of responsibilities of things to do both at work and at home.

We are all a little broken. But last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same

-Trent Shelton

Women are often under the impression that they need to "do it all" in order to "have it all". There are many ways that modern society has benefited women, however, it masks a dirty secret. As mentioned earlier, while a division of labour did take place in the workplace as many more women have joined the workforce, housework, cooking and/or planning meals and looking after children are still very much under a woman's purview. And in today's world, this is in addition to the workload that women have simply by being a part of the workforce.

This poses an enormous amount of pressure in terms of the expectations that many women inadvertently have of themselves in terms of how childcare and housecare should look like at all times. Can you relate in some way to this kind of thinking? 

Do you find yourself measuring your self worth in terms of

how your house should look at all times?

what your idea is of a "perfect" YOU and a "perfect" family?

how your child behaves or looks like especially in public?

what kind of nutritious foods you are able to whip up (or have your cook make for you) in your kitchen?

There are countless other such examples!

I am guilty of having very high expectations of myself when it comes to the last one. While healthy and nourishing foods have been a part of our meals for a number of years now, I was driving myself and my family crazy by trying to ensure that each and every meal in our house meets my high "nutrition" standards. I realised that I was doing more disservice than helping by forcing my younger son to have each and every meal that met my standards in terms of both variety and quality. It ended up making our meal times very stressful for all of us and became self-defeating in nature. Instead, I have taken a slightly different approach of involving him in respecting the food that is served in a more healthy manner and at the same time teaching him to understand how food affects his body. But, I digress...

Take a moment to reflect on the ways that you may be similarly linking your own identity and indeed your own worth at times to very high standards that you may be intentionally or unintentionally setting for yourself. Be gentle with yourself as you do this as you may have grown up believing that this is the only way.

Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself (and preferably write down in a journal) to help bring some clarity.

What kind of price (in terms of your health) are you paying for not reaching out for timely support from your partner/spouse or others?

What measure of "success" is worth your health? In other words, are you setting up your life to support the "success" that you want with intention so that it does not cost you in terms of your health in the long run?

Are you clear about what you really want in terms of your life - personal freedom, happiness, more personal time to pursue creative work/hobbies, emotional and physical health to name a few?

Are you willing to give yourself permission let go of your need to link your sense of worth to your house/family's health/children's achievements etc?

While it would certainly help to have our partners/spouses take more responsibility and initiative in terms of helping us, we need to start reaching out to them and find other forms of support in a constructive manner. There is certainly no one right way of doing this that will work for all women and their families.

Given below are some of the things that you can keep in mind while you do this-

 

Reach out when you feel the need to without guilt or shame- either to your spouse or a family member or a friend

Let go of any shame or guilt and the flawed notion that you need to "keep it together" at ALL times

Tend and befriend- connect with a friend or do something social as a part of a community

Give yourself permission to pause and practice "self care" in whichever way you deem fit

Learn the art of saying "no" and be comfortable in disappointing others as you learn to choose yourself over others when required

(I have written a few posts earlier on the topic of self care you can read them here and here.)

Infact, this last point is the topic for my next post but you will have to wait for it till next week!

I leave you with this beautiful poem on self worth by the young poet Erin Hanson

 "NOT"

You are not your age, nor the size of clothes you wear,

You are not a weight, or the colour of your hair

You are not your name, or the dimples in your cheeks.

You are all the books you read, and all the words you speak.

You are your croaky morning voice, and the smiles you try to hide.

You are the sweetness in your laughter, and every tear you've cried

You are the songs you sing so loudly when you know you are all alone.

You are the places that you've been to, and the one you call home.

You are the things that you believe in, and the people whom you love.

You are the photos in your bedroom, and the future you dream of.

You are made of so much beauty, but it seems that you forgot.

When you decided that you were defined by all the things you're not. 

 

5 simple morning habits for a calmer, brighter day

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This is the THIRD in a series of 6 weekly posts that I am writing about self care- if you have not done so already you can check out the first part "Do you know your WHY?" and the second part "Rocks, pebbles and sand...the key to knowing what is important in your life".

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver (from the poem "The summer day")

Take some and reflect upon your answers to the following questions

What do I want from life?

What am I doing that really counts?

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?

What is the unique gift that I can share with the world so that I can contribute and make a difference?

For many of us, somewhere deep inside we have this niggling feeling that what we are doing is not contributing to what really matters to us and what is important in our lives. Taking the time out to reflect on the questions shared in all the three posts should give you some clarity and inspire you to think about what you need to change in order to move towards your goals and focus on what is important to you. As you do this, you will be able to take out the time to listen more, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy and indulge in your hobbies, relax more and get to know yourself through meditation and self reflection. It would then be much easier to identify those areas of your life that need an overhaul or some tweaking in order to become the best version of yourself.

However, sometimes even when we have the clarity and the inclination to make changes in our lives, the external world can get in the way. Without realising it, we can start and end our day on autopilot merely reacting to circumstances and people, fulfilling their agendas and not ours. For many of us, as soon as the alarm wakes us up, our habitual thoughts take over and our mental playlist of activities, worries and to-do list fill our every waking moment. Each day turns into a month, then months turn into years and pretty soon we have lost decades of our lives simply by remaining on autopilot. We may also feel that because of our circumstances- financial, personal, professional we do not really have any choice but to live like this on autopilot.

This is simply not true

At each moment we have a choice. You chose to read this article today. You choose the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the activities that you indulge in. You choose to be angry or to forgive people. You choose to be happy or to remain sad. You choose to be grateful for what you have or to focus on the things you lack in your life. You choose all these things and much more. BUT what you need to keep in mind is that this power to choose resides only in this present moment. In time, it is what we do every single day that matters much more than the profound decisions that we may make once in a while.

Once we are clear about what we need to do, we need to rise above excuses and do what is important and needs to be done. And one of the best things that we can do to increase productivity and get things done is to have a well thought out morning routine. Having a consistent morning routine is infact a common and recurring theme amongst many successful people. It helps to counteract the pull of distractions and overcome daily obstacles that can and do pop up. You can and should harness the power of an empowering morning routine as well. And in time, it can literally transform your life.

Whether it is the Olympic winner Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Ratan Tata, Indira Nooyi or countless other successful people, crafting a sacred space in the morning has made all the difference in their productivity and achieving their dreams. It has enabled them to start their day with intention and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. In other words, an empowering morning can set you up for 'wins' and motivate you to keep going with a calm and productive frame of mind.

Now that the power of morning routines is clear, let us see what it would look like for you. The first thing to note is that it is NOT and SHOULD NOT be the same for everyone. It is not about waking up at a particular time OR doing the same things that everyone else is doing. It is about finding, creating and then sticking to a routine that is right for YOU.

Remember, your mornings are a blank slate and it is up to you to fill it in with what work for you

What is a morning routine?

It is a set of activities that you do upon waking up in the morning. It can and does vary from person to person and includes activities like exercise, meditation, brushing teeth, prayer, journaling, writing and reading.

Take some time today and think about how you usually start your day. Simply start by making a list of all the things that you do upon waking up. The next step would be to identify what is important right now. (This becomes easier if you have already reflected upon this as I have mentioned in my earlier post) Once you know that you are doing the RIGHT thing you can get started crafting out a routine that works for YOU.

In this post, I have shared with you 5 simple habits that you can intentionally develop for a calmer and brighter morning

(It is up to you to incorporate as many of these that you want in your own routine)

Setting intention

Set the tone for the day by finding out what your intention is. The questions below can help you bring some clarity as you think about your activities for the day and set an intention-

How can I show up today that is in line with what I want to achieve today?

What do I want to see more of today? (good news, wonder, acts of kindness, joy)

What is my heart's desire at this moment?

How do I want to feel?

A few examples are "Today I will take care of myself better, show compassion to others and myself, remain calm, be more open to joy".

Journaling, meditation and reflection 

Prayer, meditation and journaling are all beautiful ways that you can use to ground and connect with yourself. There is no one right way to meditate or write in a journal, you simply need to find what works for you.

If writing free form is difficult, you can use the prompts given below (from the book "The Mindful Day by Laurie Cameron")

What I appreciate most in my life right now is....

 I am at my best when I am....

What brings me alive is.....

What I really need right now is....

What gets in the way of me being present is....

My next best action is.... 

Even if you do not have a formal meditation practice, the simple act of paying attention or being more mindful in how you start your day can have a profound effect. The beauty is that you can be more mindful with regards to any activity that you do already. The simple act of paying attention while having a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, showering, exercise will help you to bring awareness to that particular moment and replenish and rejuvenate you.

Related image

Reading

Another way of connecting with yourself and the world in the morning is to read a book (and I don't mean the news). This will be different for each of us as we choose to read something that inspires and motivates us. I find that I prefer to read about other people whom I respect and who inspire me to grow and live a better life. Books like The four things that matter most by Dr Ira Byock, First things first by Stephen Covey, Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, The power of habit by Charles Duhigg, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Mindset By Carol Dweck, The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann are just some of the books I have read over time.

Spending time with family

Spending time with your family is one of the best ways to start your day. It helps to connect with what is truly important for each of us on a daily basis. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, it is the quality of the time spent that matters more than how much time you actually get to spend with your family in the morning.

Since there is always a rush in the morning during school days (I have two school going children), I try and wake my children up around 10 minutes earlier and spend some time with them, giving them a hug or a cuddle and sometimes switching on their favourite music to get them started on the right note. My husband and I also make sure that we savour our quiet time together over our cup of tea and newspaper before we start preparing for our day.

Exercise and mindful movement

Research shows us that moving our bodies first thing in the morning whether it is through exercise (cardio, aerobic, strength training etc) or mindful movements like tai chi and yoga have a profound beneficial and positive effect on our health and how we deal with the rest of our day. By doing this first thing in the morning we have the opportunity to harness the benefits of exercise and movement throughout the remainder of our day. Schedule a workout or activity that you like doing already and then stick to it.

However, the key to having a successful and consistent routine is to PLAN for it and REMOVE anything that might get in the way

A few things that ensure that I stick to my routine are

  • preparing the night before by keeping my journal, workout clothes ready; preferably somewhere I can see them immediately as I wake up
  • using an app to make sure that I cannot access my emails and social media first thing in the morning (I will be covering this topic in details in one of my later posts)
  • having a simple structure that I can follow in terms of activities and time for the first couple of hours
  • setting an intention for the day; sometimes I set one for the entire week
  • complete my workout in the morning so that unexpected work or family issues do not come in the way later during the day
  • lastly, creating an environment that is conducive to self reflection and gives a peaceful start to my day; I love playing music and lighting incense to awaken my senses

My own routine is very much a work-in-progress and is not something that you need to emulate as is. The whole point is to find what works for YOU and then stick to it. It should be something that you enjoy doing and feel good about doing on a regular basis.

So take a pen and paper and start creating an empowering morning routine for yourself. Every day that you stick to it treat as a small "win". It is only when we pause to celebrate each step that we take in the right direction that we can stick to it and achieve what we set out to do no matter how long it takes.

Finally, take this magical time to connect with your body, breath and spirit to give yourself the best possible start to your day and to your life

As Marcus Aurelius said, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love" 

(As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down the questions that I ask along the way. You may end up getting to know yourself better and even surprise yourself with your answers. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)

 

Rocks, pebbles and sand…the key to knowing what is important in your life

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(You may have read my earlier post "Do you know your WHY?" that I had written recently on finding our true purpose in life. I am writing a series of 6 weekly posts on various interrelated topics where the goal is to infuse our life with purpose, clarity and calm. As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down answers to the questions that I ask along the way. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)

In this SECOND post, I am focussing on the fact that we need to always be clear on what is truly IMPORTANT to us not only in terms of work but in life as a whole. Sometimes we forget that our life is an indivisible whole and that just like a spider's web when we pull at one end there is bound to be an impact at the other end. We may not realise that each time we choose to do or NOT do something, we have already made a decision and that this decision has an impact on our lives. We may also not realise that we are making CHOICES all the time- what food to eat, what clothes to wear, whether to let go of anger or a grudge, forgive, become grateful/remain ungrateful and even how we respond to unfavourable circumstances. The problem for most of us is not whether we have a choice or not, the issue is that we may not be clear on what we want.

Why is it that some people...

achieve what they set out to do where many others give up on their hopes and dreams?

seem to have it "ALL" while so many others are just busy "keeping it all together"?

know exactly how to maintain their physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as the health of their family, relationships while others "let go"?

What is it that makes them different?

The difference is that they know what they want from life as much as they know what they do not want. 

This is quite evident in observing those people who have achieved what they set out to do with passion and enthusiasm. This clarity allows them to take decisions on a daily basis from a place that is aligned to their values and goals. These decisions have a snowballing effect that ultimately over time culminates into the life they wanted to create for themselves in the first place. This is not to say that things will not and do not go wrong in their lives, it is just that these people have the ability to bounce back much earlier from their setbacks than do most others.

The thing is, if we are not clear about what we want, how can we make the right choices?

In my own life, as I have become clearer and clearer on what I want and why it has become much easier to make decisions that are leading to a well-balanced and harmonious life. It has become easier to say "NO" to the opportunities/activities and people when I need to that are not aligned with my values AND at the same time focus on what is important to me.

Once again, I come back to a question I had asked you in my earlier post

"What do I want from life?"

(Reflect upon this and revisit it from time to time, it may give you a sense of direction)

As someone wise had said, "The way you do one thing is the way you do everything"

Even if we are clear on what we want from life, due to our modern way of living we are being constantly distracted and sidetracked from what we set out to do. While growing up each of one of us had certain dreams that we aspired to fulfil when we were older. Yes, some of these may have been hopelessly idealistic and impractical. Also true that circumstances in life can AND do get in the way at times. Yet it is also true that many people who inspire us by doing amazing and previously unthinkable and/or unachievable work did so because they did not let impossible stand in their way. They were brave enough to stick their neck out and stand apart from the crowd as they reached for their goals. Can you find ways to do the same?

Take some time out to ponder and reflect upon the questions below-

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Would you do anything differently than what you are doing now?

What is the ONE thing that you would change and the FIRST step you would take towards it?

(Do take the time and write down the answers to these questions- the answers may surprise you and bring you some clarity that you seek)

We are actually not at all different when we are born but somewhere along the way our conditioning (mostly subconscious) takes over and keeps us from doing the best that we can to become the "best version of ourselves" (courtesy Matthey Kelly in his book "The rhythm of life"). Fear takes over and shackles us whether we ever realise it or not. But mostly, we forget that we have the power to CHOOSE.

And as a result, as we grow older we lose the gift of knowing what needs to be done and of making healthy decisions. We start worrying about what to feed our child, which 'diet' to follow, how to parent, which exercise regime to follow and so on and so forth....you get the idea! We start relying on "experts" to tell us what to do. We lose sight of what is important to us and feel disoriented or confused as we move from activity to another living on automatic pilot. It often takes a wake up call like a health or financial crisis to wake us up from our stupor and start making changes. However, if we know what we stand for and what we want it makes much easier to make decisions that are good for us.

Image result for urgency

This also translates into the activities that we do on a daily basis as well. Due to the frenetic pace of modern life, many of us are affected by an "urgency addiction". Rather than doing the things that matter to us and which will propel us towards our goals, we end up spending the majority of our time putting out mini fires that feed this addiction. That is not to say that we should not be focussing on those things that need to be tended to on an urgent basis.

The problem is that we fail to realise that many activities which are actually "important" to us gets overlooked and even ignored in this process. As we move from one "crisis" to another, we get so caught up in the "doing" that we never stop to reflect whether it really needs to be done in the first place.

How much more fulfilling life would be if we... 

did not wait for some kind of crisis or a wake-up call?

did not wait for our health to fail, our relationships to die or our children to grow up while we were too busy earning a living to start making changes and focussing on doing what really mattered most?

took out the time to understand what is truly IMPORTANT for us and then worked towards incorporating it in our lives?

silhouette of man holding two childrens on shore during daytime

Take out the time and write down YOUR answers to the questions

What’s important to you or what matters to you most?

Why is it important to you?

Lastly, I want to share with you a beautiful exercise that I came across in the book (I highly recommend this book if you would like to work on knowing what is important in your life and how to schedule your priorities rather than prioritise your schedule with endless to-do lists etc) "First things first" by Stephen Covey. You can buy the book HERE.

The story goes like this....

At a seminar, an instructor was teaching time management to a group of students and asked them to participate in a quiz. He pulled out an extremely large jar and set it on a table. He took out some fist sized rocks and asked " How many of these rocks do you think will fit into this jar?"

Once the students had made their guess, he placed them, one at a time, into the jar until the jar was full.

Then he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “Let’s see.” He took out some gravel and dumped them in. He shook the jar, causing the pieces to fall into the spaces between the big rocks. He asked the students again, “Is the jar full?”

His class was catching on. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied. He then brought out a bucket of sand. He dumped the sand in and it went into all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the class, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

“Excellent!” he replied. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

He then asked, “What is the point of all this?”

One student said, “You can always fit more things into your life if you really work at it.”

The instructor replied, “That’s true, but that's not the point.”

The point is if you hadn't put the big rocks in first…… would you ever have gotten any of them in?

What do YOU think your BIG ROCKS are? I would love to hear from you!

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing ∼ Stephen Covey

Do not miss out on our weekly newsletter and articles!

Do you know your ‘WHY” ? (And why you should)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(It has been a while since I wrote and I am really looking forward to getting in touch with you on a regular basis. This first post is a series of posts that I intend to write over the next six weeks on interrelated topics ranging from discovering your life's purpose; prioritising what is important in your life in your daily schedule; reconnecting with yourself; practising self-care in order to reach our health and wellness goals)

Why is it that...

so many of us live the majority of our lives wandering around in the wilderness with seemingly no direction and no sense of purpose?

so many of us climb the ladder of success only to find it perched up on the wrong wall?

instead of choosing to embody the "best version of ourselves" we choose to become a "mediocre" version at best?

These questions had never even been in my field of awareness until a few years back when we were struggling to deal with our daughter's health crisis. This was an extremely difficult period in my life which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and grow into the person I truly needed to become in order to be able to fully contribute towards my role as her primary caregiver. The reality of the circumstances at that time acted as a mirror that I had no choice but to look into and confront on a daily basis. I did not know it at that time, but this phase of our lives would end up changing all of us and lead me on a path to self-discovery and self-exploration. This journey was neither smooth nor comfortable and was filled with uncertainty. However, something deep inside made me decide to keep an open mind and continue on the path one step at a time- it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

At the end of this path, I found a way to heal my daughter, found my calling as Health Coach to help others like her who are suffering and set up the first Functional Medicine Health Coaching practice in India. Just like me, each one of us has our own life journey with innumerable forks in the road where we have to choose between one of the two paths ahead of us. And we need to choose wisely, as our choices eventually become our destiny. What I found is that as I got to know myself better, these choices became clearer and easier to make even though I never really knew what the actual outcome might be way down the line. But first I had to know myself well enough and trust myself in order to go with my own instinct to make the decisions that I felt was right at that time for me.

So the question you need to ask yourself is: What do I want from my life?

And no, this NOT a rhetorical question. It is a question which deserves time and respect. It needs to be thought through and then written down in a quiet and clear frame of mind (do take some time out ponder and write down answers to this question preferably in a journal as this should give you some insight into which areas of your life is in alignment with your principles and which are not). However, this is just the beginning of your journey into self-exploration.

 

Research shows us that when we devote ourselves to a difficult but worthwhile task- think of your role as a parent, or as a caregiver for your loved one, taking care of your pet or even pursuing a noble cause or growing a plant- our lives feel more significant. Psychologists call this the "Ikea Effect"- i.e, putting together furniture makes people like it more and it is true even when we apply this to aspects of our lives.

German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’

The pervasive "busyness" of our adult lives can mask the lack of a sense of purpose, something that gives our lives meaning. This "purpose" is our first and foremost reason to get out of bed each and every morning knowing that we are making a difference in this world and leaving our mark. This feeling makes our struggles worthwhile and gives us the strength to push through even when there is no end in sight. This kind of purpose can also to help us to take risks and move beyond our comfort zone to GROW and maintain momentum over long periods of time. But all this is really hard to sustain when we are not clear on our life's purpose and what is most important to us.

Indeed, there is no one right way of doing this and no one person's purpose is bigger or better than someone else's. There is simply no comparison since we are all unique individuals with unique ways of thinking and circumstances. But no matter how different we all are, one thing is clear, as research (AND literature AND philosophy) shows us that true happiness is tied to having meaning in our lives since happiness without meaning usually leads to a shallow and even self- absorbed life. In fact, research also shows that when we have a convergence in a clear sense of purpose, (comprehension) being able to make sense of life experiences and (significance) perceiving one's life to be worthwhile we have a truly rich and meaningful life.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have found a way to be able to reach a place of convergence where various aspects of our life come together as a beautiful whole. I came across the word"Ikigai" a couple of years back and it has stayed with me ever since. It is a Japanese word/concept which means "a reason for being" and has a profound effect on longevity and the quality of life. To figure out your Ikigai, Dan Buettner (author of the book The Blue Zones) suggests making three lists- your values, things you like to do and things you are good at.

 

 

There are five basic pillars to Ikigai (based on the book Awakening your Ikigai by Ken Mogi)

  • Starting small
  • Releasing yourself
  • Harmony and sustainability
  • The joy of small things
  • Being in the here and now

Knowing that what we are doing with our life is at the intersection of our values, our passion and contribution to society gives us the strength and the conviction to carry on even during difficult and uncertain times and prevents burnout in long run. I am truly blessed to be one those fortunate few who is in the centre of this convergence and I urge you to make an effort to work towards your own beautiful whole.

If this concept appeals to you can delve deeper into this with the help of the book (you can buy it HERE).

Unfortunately, many of us end up with a lifetime of regret that is filled with a lot of "I wish I had..." and "If only..." instead of having loved and lived by being the "best version of ourselves". As a result, we may end up with a life filled with regret and unfulfilled dreams as we have waited until it was just too late.

Don't you think it would be a tragedy if we...

∼wait till the end of our lives to realise that we have lived our life not being true to ourselves and the way we truly wanted to?

∼never take the time out from our busy lives to reflect upon whether the path that we are on is the one we have chosen with intention?

∼leave this world with our gifts unopened, never having really shared them with the world?

In fact, the top 5 common regrets as recorded by a palliative nurse Bronnie Ware in her book "Top 5 regrets of the dying" are given below. Her patients had this to say as they were facing the end of their lives...

I wish...

I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

I hadn’t worked so hard

I’d had the courage to express my feelings

I had stayed in touch with my friends

that I had let myself be happier

So let us dream and let us take out the time to reflect on what is truly important for each of us. Let us find the courage to face up to reality and make the changes necessary to live in our TRUTH. To look at ourselves in the mirror every single day and be proud of who we are. At the same time be able to view life compassionately as we deal with our own pain and suffering and that of others.

Let us live our life knowing that we did our best to become the "best version of ourselves". 

If not, we may end up as the poet, Rabindranath Tagore said so eloquently-

The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.

 

Do not miss out on our weekly newsletter and articles!