We all experience our fair share of ups and downs throughout our lives. Some of those downs though are significantly worse than others.
Whether it's a death of someone close to you, relationship breakdown, loss of a job, illness there are situations in life that will be very difficult to deal with.
When these major trauma's happen I have personally found and seen two common things occur - a sense of spiraling out of control and or living on auto pilot.
The net result is not feeling in control of your life and just being a passenger.
This recently happened for me when my marriage ended. It sent me into a 6 month spiral and then on auto pilot for a good three months.
The auto pilot was very regimented...working, eating, sleeping and going to the gym. Nothing much else. I was staying with my nan so she was the only person I saw regularly.
This kept me surviving for around 3 months at which point I had to move out, thank goodness for some difficult person complaining about me living there, without that complaint who knows how long I would have stayed on auto pilot.
Now, I have to be honest... it wasn't just a case of flicking a switch and turning off auto pilot. It was a process that happened over time.
Very quickly I realised I didn't know what I wanted, where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be with or in fact who I really was.
Over the next 12 months my life was a mix of raw emotions, ups, downs, spiraling and just figuring out who I wanted to become.
But in TIME I took back control of my life.
In a previous post I shared 5 Small Changes That Transformed My Life, those small changes gave me a foundation to improving my life, but in many ways I still didn't feel fully in control. I was still coming off the auto pilot mode.
And so I started to do things which gave me a real sense of control, things that really empowered me to move forward and live my life for myself and which ultimately helped me turn off the auto pilot.
Below I've shared three short stories covering unusual things I did that helped me take back control of my life.
All my life my hair had been a key part of my identity. I wanted to look cool and be liked. Looking back I now know why. I didn't think anyone would like me without my hair. I thought having stylish hair would get people liking me.
Which is why I would spend time daily meticulously doing it, adjusting it, worrying about it, planning the next style, spending money on products etc etc.
During 2018 I got more and more frustrated with my hair. I was fed up of all the time and effort needed to do it. I was fed up of worrying about seeing the first signs of a receding hair line.
At some point I thought about shaving it all off, just removing this thing from my life that was not serving me at the time. Then around 6 months after the initial idea of shaving my head, I just sat down in my bathroom and did it.
No more worrying about doing my hair, no more worrying about losing my hair, no more spending time daily doing it. It was so liberating to do this. The freedom from not worrying about my hair has been so enjoyable.
It was such a statement to myself, that if something feels right to you just do it and who cares what reactions people have.
While I had made lots of progress in various other areas it was the first real step I took that showed myself I could do whatever I wanted.
Having removed the negativity my hair was bringing I found a new sense of freedom, confidence and happiness in my life just by doing this one thing.
In January 2018 while driving to Sheffield, I can vividly remember telling my mum I thought I might go vegetarian at some point.
I'd heard a statement that I could see was going to grow into an underlying value I held which would ultimately change my diet.
I didn't go vegan over night. I didn't watch any horror stories about animal cruelty. I wasn't persuaded by a vegan. I simply let the statement develop in my mind.
I challenged all the marketing messages I'd heard, done my own research and come to my own conclusions. This process changed my underlying values over time. I now had new beliefs and values revolving around food.
I wanted to eat an ethically healthy diet.
These new values changed my diet with relative ease. Bacon! I never thought I'd stop eating bacon, but I have, and very easily too.
Again this change felt right to me. It felt like I had for the first time ever taken time to consciously decide what I should be eating.
This was yet another big step that showed me I could choose to do whatever I wanted.
This was a really tough thing for me to do. Looking back I have certainly struggled with the idea of death. I have resisted it in any way I could.
But all it really took was a cup of tea and a piece of cake...
I was at the seaside at one of my favourite walking spots, the Bluebird Cafe in Ferring, I'd finished a lovely walk and had a cuppa and a piece of victoria sponge.
I sat there looking at the waves lapping in and out. A memory popped into my head of when my brother and I would try build sandcastles walls to stop the tide coming in. It was always a losing battle and the tide would always ultimately win. But we had fun trying.
With this memory my brain made a connection and asked... is that not the same for death? The tide comes in, just as I am alive. But because the tide comes in it must also go out, and so must I.
But - and this is the key for me, just like my brother and I had fun trying I can do exactly the same in life. I can make the most of the time that I have and enjoy it as much as possible.
I pondered this connection I had made while I drank my tea and my cake. And then I left for home. Ever since I have had an acceptance of death like I've never had before.
I used to have mini panic attacks at night where I would shake and try get the fear out of me. I would be overwhelmed with worry about what happens after death.
All of this has gone, I have stopped resisting death and instead accepted that it will happen. This acceptance really helped me take control of my life in many ways.
Firstly, it helped me to realise that there are some things you can't change and resisting them is pointless.
Secondly, it helped take stock and want to live as fuller life as I could. I wanted to imagine an ideal life and strive towards it. I wanted to squeeze out every ounce of this one life I could. I want to be like my brother and I on those sunny beaches simply enjoying the time that we had.
Each time I do something like the examples above I feel a real sense of being empowered that I can do whatever I want. That I am the architect of my life. That I can choose what my ideal life is and go for it.
Each experience adds something, helps me discover new things, pushes my boundaries and so much more.
You can do the same.
Start to ponder what would be really empowering for you. And just ask yourself what would make you feel more in control of your life?
Choose one thing, then do it. And remember...
"It's the things you don't do that you regret the most." (unknown)
Paul is the founder of Your Virtual Mentors. He facilitates the various systems and programmes available at YVM. He is living his ideal life traveling the UK house sitting with his dog Button while working on his one big goal of establishing YVMU.
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