A continuing improved life is one of my ongoing desires.
Each time I improve in one area, I give thanks and move on to the next. It’s a way of life that works out well for most of us.
And then there’s this:
An article I read recently talked sensibly about health, especially the need to cut back on caffeine by mid-day every day, and here it is five days later; it’s 3 pm, and I’m doing the very thing it was suggested not to do.
How many of us do that? Read something, or listen to something that we know is valuable, yet nothing changes. We don’t change.
The caffeine thing is just one of the many times I’ve briefly paid attention to something of value that soon fell by the wayside. The one piece of wisdom that not only got through to me but stuck with me and dramatically improved my life was one straightforward idea.
Stop defining. Start refining
I have no idea what this sentence might mean to you. Still, for me, it meant if I wanted the conditions and experiences in my life to be different, I needed to stop defining myself and my circumstances in the same old way and begin a refining process that would lead to a real change in my life.
We’re often told to redefine our live perspectives, but that idea of taking what I already had and presenting the same thing in a different way after making some changes felt much like the same old same old.
But refining. Ah well, that took me in an entirely new direction. Much like refining gold, where the gold is separated from the metals and ores. That sounded more like it. I wanted the inner gold to be separated from the rest.
I took this idea to heart, and while in and of itself it didn’t make my life better, it was a means to an end, which led me to the most vital things I’ve refined in my life so far. It was my way to an improved life.
We all do this. We see ourselves in a particular way. We judge ourselves by our age, experiences, and education, and all we have accepted as accurate of ourselves, which then becomes the role we play in life.
It’s important to understand that our image of ourselves, our particular typecasting, tends to be incredibly resistant to change. Based as it is on what we’ve learned from personal experiences or the environment in which we grew up.
Of course, other factors lend themselves to our typecasting. Still, it’s essential to understand that regardless of the causes, how we view ourselves is how we live our lives, and our experiences reflect that. And if this doesn’t change then our improved life is on a sticky wicket!
Stopping our typecasting is far from easy though. In fact, it’s downright hard. And takes a lot of discipline. So what to do?
Working from the inside out for an improved life
The only thing I knew for sure is that the place I needed to start refining wasn’t at the beginning but at the ending. Beginning with a decision to focus on the person I chose to be. So I used the following:
Affirmations – like I am happy and grateful now that I am/I have………
Visualization – now that you are the one or have the thing you desire, what does it feel like? What are you doing? What are people saying to you?
Journalling – Play pretend here. Be like the kid you used to be, playful and joyful and write accordingly. Write the fun things you experience as the new refined you. No seriousness necessary. Just a lighthearted view of how it feels to be this person and have the things you desire. Add whatever touches you need to fill in the blanks of your refined life.
Meditation — sometimes guided — sometimes just visualizing my life experiences from the place of imagining my new self with my new actions leading to different circumstances.
It took willingness and the necessity of some courage, determination, and boldness to get to and stick with this. And if you are prepared to do the same, you too might unlock new levels of potential and set yourself up for a new future. It’s a pretty cool and rewarding game to play.
It’s me, not you. No really!
Another area where I recognized refinement was essential was ceasing my current reactions to things, people, and events, and that was the point where I realized that how I felt belonged to no one else but me.
It was time to stop being defined by outside influences, i.e., being caught up in an intense reaction to something, as defined by my self-beliefs and self-definition.
And I soon realized that the new, upgraded, more refined me could keep the outer potential influences at arm’s length if they didn’t serve to make my life better.
The version of myself that became tetchy when things appeared not to fit my definition of how the world should be was no longer acceptable. Instead, I chose my refinement to be that those things wouldn’t bother me even a little bit.
It was always me, not you, and not them. What anyone else said or thought wasn’t about me. Expansion or contraction were my choices, and I chose expansion.
Managing time or…..?
One thing kept cropping up as I focused on refinement. My unreasonable expectations of what I could realistically achieve with my time.
And sadly though I tried desperately to ignore the reality that there weren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I had decided I could get done, Reality wasn’t kind enough to ignore me!
I naturally kept doing what wasn’t working! But my savior in all this was, at the same time, my new typecasting saw me as someone who was organized and productive without driving myself crazy with unrealistic to-do lists.
And eventually, it dawned on me. I couldn’t manage or control time. I merely had time and what I did with it was up to me. It was me that I needed to manage.
Accepting that there would always be too much for me to do, I had to make choices because, at the end of the day, time didn’t care what I did or didn’t do. Only I cared about that.
My reward was I removed myself from the whirlwind craziness of trying to resolve the unresolvable. A to-do list of all that couldn’t possibly be accomplished in my time frame.
A system gradually unfolded for me.
Starting with time constraints
Working from home as I do, I never had any. So I gave myself a starting and ending point, bringing home in force how much time I really had to get things done before I shut up shop.
I junked my old daily priority list. I had been in denial over what was realistic for years. Having at least a week’s worth of activities on a daily list was a one-way ticket to misery. As a result, I never finished anything significant. I was a good starter and a terrible finisher.
Lastly, I decided to go full throttle on just one or two priorities a week and moved those items I’d designated as important to a ‘will-do-if-I have-the-time’ list.
This was on the advice of Merlin Mann, who said:
Priorities are like arms. If you have more than two, you are crazy, or you’re lying.
Letting some balls drop but succeeding at what mattered allowed me to finish writing and finally publishing 5 books. A feat I would never have accomplished if I hadn’t discovered the power of managing myself instead of managing time. As I said, something over which I never had any control in the first place.
If you can use this one thought or find another that resonates better, that leads you to do things in a different way; it might blow you away at how dramatically you experience your improved life.
I’m still blown away by the changes in mine. And best of all, they keep coming as I keep refining.
My final thought isn’t mine at all, but another Merlin Mann quote that I love:
The mindless junk of your past crowds out opportunities and sets pointless limitations. Move out the junk, and you create room for the rest of your life. Ultimately, it’s not just a question of tidying your house; it’s a question of liberating your heart.
Encourage one another.