Sunday, 01 April 2012 00:00

Your Life Diet

Article as it appeared in Wellness magazine. By Natasha Liviero

Discovering what you really want in life, or how indeed to achive it, is not always easy. It may even evade you.

The first rule to a fulfilled life is to make time for what you enjoy most. Those who manage to make a living from their passions may be one step ahead, but even they don't necessarily have it all worked out! We ask the experts how to overcome four obstacles that plague us all!

"Help! I have no direction"

If you meander through your days with no clear direction, you are not alone. Many people drift through life with no sense of real meaning or purpose. One way to address this is to ask the question, 'what are my dreams?' "Most people don't spend time thinking about their own dreams. They just take on society's dreams – to have lots of money, a sports car or a villa on the beach," says Claire Newton, Psychologist, speaker and trainer. "Think about what YOU really want. Ask yourself, 'what inspires me?' Look for pictures of these things and put them up where you can see them. This keeps them on your mind and helps steer you towards them," suggests Claire.

"Most people don't spend time thinking about their own dreams. They just take on society's dreams" Psychologist, Claire Newton

People tend to be quite rigid in their outlook and put pressure on themselves to be in control of everything. This can make facing crossroads extra challenging. Living in an evolving world means we need to learn to be more adaptable and accept that our direction may change, including career paths and goals. In other words, while a sense of direction is important, we similarly need to be more flexible in seeing the opportunity change provides.

"Two common obstacles I encounter in my practice is the sense of no purpose, and not setting or struggling to set goals for ones future," says Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist and Director of PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre. Struggling with a solid self-esteem or having an underlying disorder such as depression or anxiety may also impact our emotional capacity to make decisions, as well as affect our ability to focus on clear paths, notes Joanna.

So, what can I do? "It's important to recognize that you are living aimlessly and that you can do something about it," says Joanna, who offers this seven step guide to help get your life back on track:

1. You cannot get what you want or move forward if you do not know what you want. If you struggle to address this on your own, a therapist can assist you.

2. Define your short and longer-term goals.

3. Focus your daily actions and energy on getting close to these goals.

4. Become the person that attracts happiness and success, and life will mirror back to you what you are putting your energy into.

5. Do what you love and love what you do on a daily basis, even if it is unrelated to your life dilemma.

6. Work on your self-esteem and sense of worth by identifying your limiting beliefs.

7. De-clutter parts of your life that are holding you back – whether it is getting rid of things or working on emotions and thinking patterns that weigh heavy.

"Become the person that attracts happiness and success, and life will mirror back to you what you are putting your energy into" Joanna Kleovoulou, Psychologist

"Help! I lack assertiveness"

Assertiveness is a far-reaching life skill. It facilitates the ability to freely express feelings and ask for what you want (or what you don't want) in a clear, respectful manner that does not offend others. This enables open and healthy relationships, both at home and in the work place. "I find that many people lack this skill," says Claire. "Instead they get what they want by using tactics that are ultimately destructive. For example, they may be aggressive - frightening or threatening others into doing what they want, or they may be manipulative – making others feel sorry for them or feel obliged to do what they want. Some people are submissive, agreeing with everything and not asking for what they want at all. It is a major obstacle in life."

So, what can I do? Claire suggests making a commitment to learning how to be assertive. Read books on communication skills (especially on being assertive) and do an assertiveness course - you may find it easier to learn the skills when seeing them in practice and then trying them out under supervision. "Become aware of your own communication style and ask others if you are clear and respectful. Don't be upset if they are not as positive as you thought they would be!"

"Help! I have no self-confidence"

This affects everyone from time to time. The problem arises when it becomes entrenched, preventing us from moving forward. Life coach, Brett Shuttleworth, feels that in most cases there is a negative train of thought that has taken over the person's life; a conditioning. "We are born perfect, that fact never changes. What changes is our perception of ourselves," says Brett. "As we grow up, we are conditioned by our parents, teachers and society at large that there is somehow something to be gained, achieved, conquered. When we succeed, we temporarily feel good, though it doesn't last, so we are further driven to success. When we fail, we lose self-confidence."

"At the depth of a broken heart is where the gold-dust lies. Most of us, though, don't dive deep enough to retrieve the treasure" Life Coach, Brett Shuttleworth

So, what can I do? Brett sees every obstacle as an opportunity to learn, grow and connect to what's inside, beyond the conditioning. "In a sense it's not the 'story' that matters, but how you respond to it. At the depth of a broken heart is where the gold-dust lies. Most of us, though, don't dive deep enough to retrieve the treasure!" Explains Brett. With a lack of self-confidence, the first step is to realize that there is nothing outside of us that will, in the long term, make us feel better. It has to come from with-in. "As we start accessing the love that we already are inside and stop depending on the outside for validation, this shifts our level of self-confidence from being dependent on external factors to make us feel good. What if it is true, that you are already more complete and beautiful than your wildest dreams could ever imagine? Would you then drop all fear of rejection and wake up to the beautiful you and start shining?"

"Help! I fear failure"

Fear is a distressing emotion that prevents us from living life to the fullest. In fact, the fear of failure is a common obstacle that stops us from living our dreams and reaching our goals. "The paradox of success is that the only way to reach your dreams is to fail," says Donna McCullum aka the Fairy Godmother, author and renowned personal and business coach. "When you have a goal as your target, failure is merely feedback to adjust course or change some things. Success is feedback that you are on course and that you should continue what you are currently doing. Failure and success are life's mechanisms for keeping you on the right path towards your dreams and goals. When you think failure means you are bad or wrong, it may develop into a fear that stops you from taking action," says Donna. This means you must alter your perception about failure and view it as correction mechanism that guides you along your journey.

"The paradox of success is that the only way to reach your dreams is to fail" Donna McCullum aka The Fairy Godmother

So what can I do? Donna says the first step is awareness. Once you realize and accept that fear is preventing you from moving forward, she suggests the written exercise below (Be warned, it must be written or your mind will tell you that your fear is perfectly justifiable!):

1.What is the underlying fear/s?

2.What action am I not taking?

3.What is the best thing that can happen if I take this action?

4. What is the worst thing that can happen if I take this action?

"Once you have completed the exercise, you will notice that the worst thing that can happen is never as bad as the fear you feel, and often the worst thing is the current status quo," says Donna.

Sources: Joanna Kleovoulou www.psychmatters.co.za; Claire Newton www.clairenewton.co.za; Brett Shuttleworth www.brettshuttleworth.com; Donna McCallum www.fairygodmother.co.za;