My life sucked. Really sucked!
That was until I discovered that how I respond to the world could change my life.
In this blog post I share the four mindset principles that are the foundation of my self care plan.
The Self Care Plan will guide your decisions and give you the tools to create your own strategy, so that you too can have a life with grace, purpose and strength.
How it started
If you’ve read My Story then you will know that I’ve come through some pretty big challenges in my 50s. I had achieved my childhood dream to own a business, but I was burnt out, exhausted and sad.
It was during my recovery that I started to review the way I looked at the world and how I made decisions.
Over a period of three years, I researched, tested and implemented a range of coping strategies. Some of these were passing phases but others have become the permanent foundations of my life.
As a result I am more accepting, less stressed and nicer to be with. I am still driven to be successful but not to the detriment of my health and the feelings of those around me.
So What’s Self Care?
Successful Self Care is not about WHAT you do with your life. It’s about HOW you do it.
That may sound a bit obscure. So let’s dig down and break these concepts into practical reality.
Over the past few years I have studied mindfulness and taken up a semi-regular meditation practice. I’d also read self-help books on Buddhism and other philosophies. Yes, you might say that for a while I was a self-improvement junkie.
All this reading, contemplation and meditation have had a lasting effect. But I didn’t understand how being kind to myself could have helped. Being kind and compassionate sounded like a weakness.
Maybe if I hadn’t been so compassionate on myself, I wouldn’t have ended up hiding at home with depression. Maybe I should have just toughened up?
Instead, I realised I needed to be compassion and kind to myself. It wasn’t about toughening up when life gets hard.
Then I decided it was time to change. It was time to stop beating myself up for every mistake I had ever made, or person I let down. We all screw up. It was time to ‘get over myself’!
Expectations are formed in response to our environment. As we grow up we adopt a belief system in response to our family, community and wider worldview. So there I was, in my late 30s, broke, divorced and no career.
Around this time my brother had taken pity on me and gave me a place to live for a few weeks while moving cities.
I was pretty down on myself at that time but one day as I was mowing the lawn, it suddenly became clear.
My expectations weren’t mine in the first place, so why should I hang onto them.
Why not throw them out and start again? I could create new expectations!
In that instant, I knew I could relax, reflect on my choices and sort out what really mattered.
Bang! Just like that. Not only had I mowed the lawn, I’d changed my life.
Change happens in an instant. (Tony Robbins)
Stop Making Judgements
I am blessed. I live in New Zealand, a wonderful little country at the bottom of the world. My childhood was happy and I had unconditional love from my parents and extended family.
But living a safe and privileged life didn’t mean I stopped judging others.
I don’t remember the exact day that I began to notice how much I judged others. But on reflection, it started because I found myself becoming more and more cynical.
Exhaustion from working long hours in the business, and other stresses, was clouding my judgement. I had begun to criticise my clients and complain about how they treated us.
I could hear myself complaining but I didn’t stop until I realised that being judgemental was only hurting myself and having a bad influence on others. That’s when I decided (to try) to stop judging others.
I have since learned that we have no idea of the hardships people are going through and it is easy to forget that people are usually doing the best they know how. Added to that life is complicated; things are never black and white, and we never know the whole story.
It’s still difficult to avoid passing a quick judgement on someone else. I often have to stop myself, mid-thought. I bet you’ve caught yourself from time-to-time?
It’s so easy to judge others. We do it all the time! Not judging often involves making a conscious effort.
The benefit, though is that I start to see another side of the situation and that means I learn more – especially about myself.
Vulnerability comes before courage. It’s only from showing my weakness that I realised how strong I am.
It was a slow process to admit to being less than perfect and that I didn’t need to justify my actions. But it was hardest when my mental health was bad.
Some days I couldn’t leave the house but once I was well enough to go out, I decided I wasn’t going to pretend everything was okay.
It would have been easier to lie, or not say anything, because when I did try to explain I felt extremely vulnerable.
As I struggled to express my situation, I could feel tears well up and I wanted to cry. At first, I didn’t know why. But then I discovered; It was because I felt ashamed. I had failed. I was a successful business woman who couldn’t even fake being in control.
I know there are millions of people living successful lives while struggling with a mental illness. If you’re one of these and you’ve never told anyone, here’s the good news.
The more you talk about it, the easier it becomes. You will feel stronger every time.
And, equally important, it helps others! It’s by sharing our stories, we let others know they are not alone. That’s powerful.
Principles Not Goals
Today, life is good. Our four adult children are doing great. We get to hang out with our beautiful grand-daughter. We own a profitable business and we’re now living at our wee house by the beach. I am so lucky.
The thing is, achieving these goals had involved a lot of anxiety, burnout, grief and depression. Realising that reaching these goals had been at a huge cost planted another seed for change.
What if I move my focus from goal setting to something else?
Today I focus on how I want to live my life. How I want to be. Not what I want to do. And I can express it in three words…
Creativity, compassion and authenticity.
I’ll tell you more about what these words mean to me in future posts.
Sharing our stories is powerful. Remember you are not alone.
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