I recently started working with a life coach. You know, those people who force you to get clear on your values, identify your goals, and then hold you accountable to doing what you need to do to achieve them. While talking to me about my goals, my coach said something that really stopped me in my tracks.
“If you took 10 percent of the energy that you use to come up with excuses about why you can’t have what you want and put it toward creating what you want,” he remarked, “you’d have it by now.”
It’s been more than 24 hours and his words are still ringing in my ears. Think about it. What gets in the way of living the lives we want so desperately to live? On some level, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s us.
“We create these ideas of who we are and they keep us from moving forward,” says Sarah Susanka, architect and author of several acclaimed books, including The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters. Realizing our potential, according to Sarah, isn’t as challenging as we might imagine. To remodel our lives into lives we’re inspired to live, Sarah advises some basic techniques:
Identify your beliefs. “Write down your internal script, what you constantly tell yourself,” Sarah says. Maybe you send yourself messages like, “I’m terrible with money” or “Nice girls don’t do that” or “I’m not a creative type.” “We have all this childhood patterning that gets in the way of doing what we want to do,” Sarah says, “but as soon as you put it on paper, you can see how opportunities have come your way but you’ve discounted them because of what you believe.” The first step to making change, she says, is to become aware of your patterns.
Takeaway: One statement that frequently comes out of my mouth is “I’m terrible with technology.” Of course, I cement the reality every time I utter the words, but I wonder to what extent I could transform my professional life if I dropped that limiting belief.
See the world as a mirror. Everything that happens in our lives, Sarah suggests, is a reflection of us. Everything is there to teach us something about ourselves. “If you’re angry with someone at work,” she says, “turn it around and realize you’re seeing something in that person that you cannot accept in yourself.”
Takeaway: I think about how a certain family member’s negativity grates on me, and yet, if I’m honest with myself, I know I’m repelled by him because his negativity reminds me too much of my own. Before expecting him to change, I need to turn to the woman in the mirror and work on changing myself.
Identify what you’re addicted to. “We all have something we’re addicted to,” Sarah says, “and I’m not just talking about alcohol or cigarettes.” Her addiction, she says, is the adrenaline rush that comes from being too busy; others may be addicted to zoning out with a bowl of potato chips. “Behavioral addiction stops you from being present in your life,” she says. “You end up living in your mind, not in your full potential. Your full potential is only realized in the present.”
Takeaway: I think of my addiction to worry and how it keeps me from living in the here and now—where my power resides—because I’m so often imagining worst-case scenarios in the future. How much more energy would I have to create the life I want to live if my worry addict took a back seat or got out of the car altogether?
“My experience is that everyone’s life has the capacity for so much more than has yet been realized,” Sarah remarks. And to achieve it? “It’s not about doing something different,” Sarah promises. “It’s about being something different.”
Join Sarah at Kripalu for her program: The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters, July 12—14.