So as I sat in yoga for the first time in a while, I had a realization. I spend a lot of time worrying about what I think I should be doing to be the person I want to be, and in turn, feel worse when I don’t live up to these standards. I compare myself to other successful people around and think- what are they doing that I’m not? I should do more of that. For example- I want to be reading the bible daily, going to yoga more often, going on hikes, traveling, going to fun events, enjoying the summer with outdoor activities, writing more blogs, spending time with friends and family. What do all of these things have in common? They represent what will make me “a better person”. If I’m doing all of those things, I will be the person that I want to be. Or so I think. Then I start to feel guilty when I’m not doing these things.
As humans, we use language to conceptualize our lives. We want to understand and “fix” whats wrong, so that we can be the people we want to be and live the life we have imagined. While this is a good goal to have, there lies a trap which many of us fall into, including myself. This works well on the outside (if something is not working in your house, you can problem solve and fix it), however, does not work as well with our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, beliefs etc.). In the moments when we are doing something enjoyable, instead of being fully present and enjoying it, our mind takes over. There is a part of us that will chime in during these times and say “ohh yes, this is nice, I need to do more of this” and then you drift off into fantasizing what it would look like if you could do this all the time- how you would feel, what your life would be like, and what sort of person you would be.
This is a natural part of survival that has been ingrained since our ancestors- the basic need is to increase pleasure and decrease pain. However, they applied this survival instinct to external triggers (such as, lets stay on this part of the land as it is ripe with harvest or lets avoid that part as there are bears and it is not safe). As humanity has evolved, we utilize this same survival instinct, but apply it to our internal experience (thoughts, feelings, beliefs). So when we feel good, we associate that feeling with our action and want to do more of it. While this may be partly true (as our behaviors/actions do influence how we feel and vice a versa), it can be detrimental when its sets us up for black and white thinking. So it’s either all or nothing, I need to do yoga everyday or not at all to “feel like a better person, or to truly enjoy it”. Where is the room for flexibility? And when we feel a negative feeling (hurt, pain, shame, lonely etc)- we want to do everything we can to avoid it.
So we turn to fixing our external world (the things we do) to fix our internal world (how we feel). These two worlds are incredibly intertwined, but the freedom, joy, peace, authenticity and congruence we all long for requires a different approach. It is very hard to get there when you are stuck in this trap. Instead, I wonder if you could just start to be mindful of each activity that you are doing as you do it. And enjoy it. Notice the part of you that will chime in and try and analyze what you are doing and how it fits with the picture you have of who you want to be and what you want to be doing. Notice and just allow that to come and go, while you return your focus and attention to what you are doing right in this moment. This is freedom. This allows for much richer and fulfilling experiences, which in turn, will lead to a much richer and fulfilling life.
Call me today to explore how you are getting caught in this trap and can break free to live inspired!
If you would like to read more about this, please check out “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life”- by Steven Hayes.