We don’t know about you, but making that list of negatives back in step #1 was freeing. Simply saying what was wrong out loud lifted a giant weight from our chests. Griping was fun! It felt so good that we didn’t at first realize how quickly we needed to take action…until the feeling started to fade.
I remember driving to work the next morning, a 45-minute slog down the interstate that was only helped by the bear claw and coffee I picked up at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru on the way.
As I drove with sugar glaze sticking to my face and sugary coffee upping my nerves, weaving around the aggressive Massachusetts drivers (affectionately called “mass-holes” by the friendly people in surrounding states), I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. The long drive that bookended my day, the sugar high that made me crash at 10 a.m., and a life spent sitting on my butt instead of moving – after years of doing it, I couldn’t do it anymore.
Once you call out a negative in your life, whether it is as little as the lumpy pillow that prevents a good night’s sleep or as big as a soul-sucking relationship, it is hard to continue accepting it as okay.
The relief of naming the pain morphs into the frustration of continuing to choose to live it.
This is where Step 3 of the The Best is Yet to Come starts. It’s time to make different choices, baby!
Making Room for More
Your life is jam-packed right now: work, family, chores, social obligations. You may not be able to see how you can fit in that ideal life we talked about last week. There’s a good reason: Because it isn’t possible.
You have the same amount of time in a day as everyone else. There is no way to make more. So the only way to add more to your life is to subtract what you don’t like or need anymore. You have to create the space to live the kind of life you want. And there is nowhere better to start than by eliminating what you no longer want or need.
Look back at the list you made of the negatives in your life – actions, attitudes, relationships, and situations. What action can you take right now to reduce those from your life? And what continuing action can you take tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year to continue reducing that negative until it is entirely gone?
Some irritants you can reduce right away. That lumpy pillow? Stop torturing yourself and get a new one today. Extricating yourself from toxic relationships or eliminating a large debt will take more effort.
But with every single item on your list, there is something you can do right now, today, to reduce or eliminate it from your life.
How Will You Break Up with the Bad?
- Love: What isn’t working with your love life and how can you improve it, even a little bit? It’s a tiny thing, but Warren and I began a morning hug just a few months ago and that tiny bit of connection before the stress starts means we handle our frustrations with each other better. We make sure our first interaction is a positive one, not the “who forgot to make coffee?” complaining.
- Career: What about your career can you change with your attitude, resume, further education, etc.? Remember, you can only change you. Don’t focus on how your boss or coworkers can be different because that won’t happen (unless you change bosses or coworkers).
- Hobbies: Are you making time for this? Still thinking “one day” you’ll try that? What is one thing you can reduce in your life to make room for this? Take out an hour of watching television to make time, or declutter a space in your home to make room.
- Money: Do you feel good about money? The way you spend and save it? What it buys you? How could you feel better about it? Remember to focus on things YOU can do, not “win the lottery” or some outside intervention. It may come down to eliminating trips to the mall until you get your finances in order, or examining your credit card bills for recurring charges you can cancel.
- Health: Are you at your best right now? How could you reduce what hampers your sleep, robs you of energy, and leaves you feeling weak? Small daily changes in these areas can have a huge impact on your overall health. When I stopped looking at my laptop after 7 p.m., the quality of my sleep dramatically improved.
- Friendships: Are you surrounded by the wrong people? How can you reduce your time with soul suckers so you can make room for the right kind of people? (We’re going to dive much deeper into this one in Step #7.)
- Location: Are you in the wrong place? What will bring you closer to the right place? A city girl needs a vibrant location and a country girl needs her fresh air.
- Activism: Do you complain about what’s wrong in the world but don’t have an outlet to fix it? What can you do to lessen your frustration about your community, social groups, and government?
- Home: If your home is a negative, you have no true sanctuary. What can you do to find a better home…declutter, paint, move, get a roommate, kick out your roommate, etc.?
Once you take control of the negatives, you’ll notice an immediate reduction in your frustration. Yes, the problem might still be there. But you have it by tail, and it won’t be long before you’ve rid it from your life. That taking back of control will remove the frustration of feeling powerless in your life.
When we started looking for new jobs, polishing off our resumes, and buying yogurt and travel coffee mugs, our mornings were transformed. We still had the negatives, but we were doing something about them.
Coming up next, Step 4 of The Best is Yet to Come. Now that you’ve cleared some of the negative from your life, we’re going to start adding in the positive. Stay tuned!