In your 20s, it’s important to pause periodically and reassess your life to make sure you’re living it to its full potential,’ says Durban psychologist and life coach Claire Newton. COSMO asked her and other experts to compile questions to help you do just that - and to reboot and realign your life.
1. ‘Who am I?’
In your 20s, the growth of emotional independence is crucial, says Jo’burg psychologist, coach and consultant Dr Caren Scheepers. ‘This is when essential decisions have to be taken about relationships and career, so you need to know who you are - what’s important to you, rather than what your parents or society dictate.’
REBOOT Spend time with yourself, she says. ‘Ask yourself what key things happened in your childhood. What was the setup into which you were born?’ For example, you may have had to grow up quickly to take care of young siblings because of absent parents. This could create abilities to care for others and take responsibility, which, in turn, could create a role that the adult you feels comfortable playing, says Scheepers. ‘Understanding early events and their impact can help you decide whether this predetermined role is one you want to play for the rest of your life. It’s vital to realise why you make certain choices or would be drawn to certain careers or roles in relationships, and decide whether they still work for you.’
2. ‘What values drive me?’
Your values are a part of who you are. You can’t be ‘authentic, genuine and totally true to you’ unless you know what these are, says Newton. ‘Values are a compass - you need to know where your true north is to stay true to your best path in life.’
REBOOT Ask yourself which three values you want to live by and be known for, Newton says. (See ‘Step- by-step values guide’.) Limit yourself to three to focus your thinking. ‘Don’t just accept someone else’s values: even those you were told to have as a child may no longer be yours. Perhaps they never really were!’
3 ‘Why am I here?’
We’re meant to live lives that are more than just existing, and about more than seeking pleasure or power, Newton says. Bling gear and a corner office may bring satisfaction but they don’t bring self-actualisation. For that you need selfless goals. ‘Your purpose must be greater than personal gain - it’s about making a difference in other people’s lives,’ she says.
REBOOT See what you can do to make a difference - what gifts and talents you have that you can use for the benefit of others. If your job fulfils your idea of purpose - whether you’re a nurse healing people, a teacher educating them or a performer entertaining them - you’re in the best place possible, Newton says. If it doesn’t, volunteer for an organisation where you can use your skills to help others. ‘When you are “on purpose”, the satisfaction and joy you get are immeasurable!’
4. ‘What do I really want?’
There’s a ‘cultural pandemic’ of blaming other people for not giving us what we want in life, says Jo’burg psychologist Maropeng Ralenala. ‘Your boyfriend buys you bad gifts, your boss sets impossible deadlines... But there’s little asking for what you want,’ she says. ‘More energy is invested in complaining than in sharing what your needs are. If you don’t know what makes you happy or ask for it, how can they give it to you?’
REBOOT ‘Get to know yourself,’ she says. Create daily quiet time: set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier, turn off the radio when you drive or unplug your iPod when you run. Let your thoughts run in your head or write them in a journal. Ask yourself what you need for your relationship, job or social life to be more satisfying. If you still don’t know, ask a life coach or psychologist to help. ‘Once you know what you want, be honest with yourself and others, and ask for it respectfully,’ says Ralenala. ‘You have no control over the response but learning to ask is the first step.’
5. ‘What grudges do I hold?’
You can’t control other people - and some can do you wrong, intentionally or not, says Ralenala. ‘But harbouring resentment will not teach your transgressor the lesson you’d like them to learn their genuine remorse can come only through their own internal processing. Holding a grudge doesn’t punish them - it punishes you!’
REBOOT Consciously decide to forgive them. Tell yourself how they made you feel, even though it may be best not to tell them. Write a letter to get it off your chest, print it out, then tear it up along with your anger and hurt. ‘Remind yourself that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting - it means allowing yourself to move forward,’ says Ralenala.
6. ‘Is this love or the idea of love?’
The pressure to find ‘the one’ leads many women in their 20s into relationships that are dysfunctional or insincere. ‘Receiving invitation after invitation to friends’ weddings can push your insecurities to desperation to find love and your own “plus one”,’ Ralenala says. ‘But any decision made out of fear or desperation is not love and not good for you.’
REBOOT Do a motive check on your relationships, Ralenala suggests. Is the idea of being with someone more thrilling than actually being with them? ‘When you’re more interested in him standing next to you in photos than in real life, be honest enough to walk away.’
7. ‘What are my regrets?’
Genuine regret is a healthy reaction to doing anything that harms or hinders others or yourself. It’s a sign of taking responsibility. But if regret persists, holding you back and keeping you stuck in the past, you need to rewire your thoughts, says Durban psychologist Dr Akashni Maharaj.
REBOOT Ask yourself whether you’ve done what you can to repair what you did, accepting that some things can’t be repaired. Also ask yourself what you’ve learnt and resolve to use this positively. Then forgive yourself and move on - with professional help if necessary. ‘Accept that no-one is perfect,’ Maharaj says. ‘And get over it!’
STEP-BY-STEP Values Guide
How to decide what values you want to live by, according to Durban psychologist Claire Newton
1. Read slowly through these: cooperation, diligence, justice, freedom, gratitude, honesty, integrity, power, moderation, rationality, respect, sincerity, love, status, tolerance, wealth.
2. Cross off those you immediately know are not important to you.
3. Circle those you know are important to you.
4. Write each of the circled values on a separate piece of paper.
5. Rank them in order of importance.
6. For a week, note every time you have any intense emotional reaction to something – it’s likely to be ‘touching’ your values.
7. Think about the value that was ‘touched’. Some questions to ask yourself:
Were you hurt because your boyfriend went out with his buddies instead of coming to dinner with your family? (Respect)
Were you shocked because a colleague who agrees with you in public was heard putting you down behind your back? (Sincerity)
Were you irritated by a friend’s emotional outburst while trying to make a decision? (Rationality)
8. These values are important to you in some way, so circle them on the values list as well and write each on a separate piece of paper.
9. Rank them with the others. Keep moving them around till you feel sure you have the three core values by which you want to live your life. The top value should be the one thing that, no matter what, you will not compromise.
10. Repeat this exercise periodically. Values aren’t static and your current circumstances will influence your priorities. Go with the process – don’t try to judge it or make it ‘right’. You’ll probably find that some values are consistently at the top and others shift in priority based on life events.
You’ll probably find that some values are consistently at the top and others shift in priority based on life events. For more information visit www.clairenewton.co.za.
Cosmopolitan – July 2013