How to Gain Clarity

Feeling inspired or generating insight has always been a challenge for me. I am prone to negative self-talk, and ruminate situations to the point of anguish. These habits inhibit my ability to gain clarity. In trying times, when the wind is taken out of my sails, and I am burnt out I struggle to find a positive perspective. This past year the coronavirus pandemic has been one big rollercoaster ride from hell, the unexpected turns conjured up feelings of fear, anxiety and distress.

It is difficult to feel secure, when life seems out of control, situations swinging from one extreme to the other. Finding clarity in a hellish, vague situation is not easy, but it is doable. I have found that even in my worst moments there is something to be learned or gained. Clarity for me is not a destination, it is a process. When I need some clarity, I don’t focus on one specific area of my life, person or situation, rather I open up completely and allow my subconscious to lead me.

It is my negative internal chatter that keeps clarity at bay. It is the unnecessary unsolicited advice from others, competing interests, manipulative people and so much more that blurs my focus. The more I practice quieting the chatter, silencing the noise through meditation, getting lost in a hobby or developing a plan for self-development, it is then that I find that clarity comes to me. It shows up in my life in very unusual ways, at unexpected times and helps me make grounded decisions based on common sense rather than rash emotions. I have developed habits for myself that keep me collected when I need perspective. It is important for me to stay clear, so I am able to thrive and live in reality rather than slip into escapism.

3 habits that help gain clarity:

  • Focus on what you can control 

This is one of my favorite tools in my wellness box. It does wonders for people like me, that ruminate every scene in life a million times over. When I focus on what I can control, I am able to stop the “what if” scenarios in my head. These scenarios are energy draining and a waste of time. I also like to make lists. When it is needed, I like to weigh my options, such as things like a pro vs cons or a likes vs dislikes list. When I focus on what I can control, I allow my process to finding clarity an easier path. My subconscious is able to focus on what I know, and what I can do, rather than confuse it with conflicting priorities. I set my mindset up for a goal that is tangible and within my reach rather than solve imaginary problems, or problems that aren’t mine.

  • Stop comparing yourself with others

Seeking clarity has nothing to do with anyone else but yourself. It is difficult not to look for an existing blueprint outside of myself, in places like social media, movies, celebrity lifestyles, or simply anyone or anything for that matter. I find inspiration in books and I love to listen to podcasts for clarity, but I take it in with a grain of salt. I know that every tool in a self-help tool box needs to be tweaked for every user. Comparing yourself to other people or using someone else’s blueprint for life is not the best way to honor your unique personality or finding clarity. Lately, I have been feeling a growing sense of space between my life, sense of purpose, personality and uniqueness from those of others. I used to get tangled up in other people’s dreams, and agendas but not so much anymore. I think shedding envy helps to recognize that you don’t always need what someone else has, or is perceived to have, because it might not be a fit for you. Recognize your self worth and honour your gains. Protect your identity by not selling out to get what you think you should have; nothing compares to you or your life. You will find you will gain more insight when seeking clarity, when you embrace your natural personality.

  • Recognize your patterns

I have triggers that I recognize and I deal with them as they come. It is not always easy, but with enough meditation and self-awareness, it is possible to become more aware of the types of patterns a set of behaviours produce in life. Finding clarity is not possible when you are stressed, afraid or unhealthy. I find that when I understand my negative go-to behaviours, I am able to create distance between my negative thoughts and immediate reactions. Understanding what I feel in a heated moment, helps me collect my thoughts and words, so that I am able to express myself with common sense rather than unintended hasty emotions. Recognizing how you operate is crucial to maintaining a clear head, when seeking clarity.

Gaining insight and seeking clarity are key drivers to realizing full potential, refines personality, and establishes the ground work to be a thoughtful human. Despite the many challenges I have faced this year with going back to work as a new mom, in the midst of a full-blown pandemic, I have found that even in this situation I am experiencing so much inspiration and clarity. I don’t need a perfect situation to feel inspired. It is in the imperfect moments I find myself most challenged and invigorated. I am not always clear on where my life might end up, but I know that despite the ambiguity that faces me, I am still able to embrace the process. Moments of clarity are jewels in my life journey, and when I receive them, I smile and soak in the feeling. I know more of these moments of inspiration are coming my way, if I choose to keep working hard toward healthy habits. Clarity is a process not a destination. Keep moving.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Recently, I have been confronted with a little more drama than I can personally handle, and I feel like I can handle a lot most of the time. Some of this drama is not mine. When a little too much drama presents itself centre stage in my life, I like to remind myself that I don’t need to get involved in every drama infused scene in my life story. I like to use the Polish proverb “not my circus, not my monkeys” as a reminder to escape the crazy circus tent, I sometimes stumble into. I simply walk out.

Self-sabotaging behaviour was a foreign concept to me when I was younger. As the years rolled on, and some of my behaviours were turning my life experiences into serious life lessons, I turned my attention to cultivating better life habits, including quitting things like alcohol, stress eating, procrastinating, not committing and others. But one behaviour I seem to work on quite a bit more than others is gossiping. Gossip is so prevalent in my work life, my home and my social life, that it is impossible to escape from and regulate. I have yet to find the best way to create some distance from other people’s “circus” otherwise known as drama. 

It is without a doubt that I am deeply interested in human behaviour, and talking with people about people is just next level tantalizing for me. I think a lot of people feel the same. This is why gossip is everywhere. However, I know from experience that including yourself in gossip is like walking into quicksand. The more you stand in it, the more you get sucked in, and the deeper you go, at some point there is no return. You are now involved, in the weaving of an opinion of someone else’s life without true knowledge or understanding of the victims moral compass, or their perceived reality. Having a discussion about a person without them actually being present, is like having a debate about the feelings of animals. You don’t know how animals feel, and you can’t ask them. Unless you are willing to analyze a person’s life experience from the time they were born, until present time, and dive deep into their psyche to understand their motivations, actions, intentions, pain, life perception and personality, you will never know the true intentions and motivations behind someones life strategies, and how this might affect your life.

Gossiping is a waste of time, but it is something that we do to ease our own insecurities and internal chatter. The ambiguity of life and the uncertainty of people is unsettling. Gossiping doesn’t give you any more control or power, over a situation or person. The momentary feeling of power that you get while gossiping is an illusion that works in the opposite effect. Your negative energy sends a signal to others that you are untrustworthy and lack self control. I like to think that everyone is just trying to get their circus on the road as smoothly as possible, some might want to drag you into theirs, some don’t even open the tent for public viewing. Respect boundaries and practice social decorum. This will help keep your eyes only on your own monkeys.

We all want to feel like we belong and connected, but gossip doesn’t foster community and belonging, it breeds jealousy and misunderstanding. When you don’t take on other people’s opinions and carry them as your own, this helps in taking proper responsibility and creates room for growth. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The grass is green where it gets watered. 

I have my own monkeys in my circus that travel with me and that is enough. I will always give out life advice gladly, if someone wants it, and I am always ready and willing to help if someone asks. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt even if they don’t deserve it, because really, who am I to judge? Everyone is a travelling circus, some crazier than others. Keep your circus and your monkeys in your own lane, and you will find less chaos on the road.

You Can’t Have It All

I wanted it all when I was younger, but now I know that I cannot have it all. The “all” I am talking about is anything really. The perfect house, the best relationships, the ideal job and the list is endless. When I was younger I was wildly ambitious, invincible, courageous, tenacious and fierce. This changed as I got older. Not to say that I am less of these traits but certainly different. As my priorities took form, I started to come terms with the idea that I cannot have it all. The ideal of everything, started to morph into the reality of everything instead. 

I choose to focus my energy on very specific values and principles, and where my focus goes my energy flows. My energy is what gets me to where I want to be in the future. I build my foundation of my life with the energy I create in the world. My emotions help me turn my energy into action then turning my beliefs into reality. I do not have an abundant amount of energy for all of the things in my life and I don’t subscribe to the idea that people have a limitless amount of energy. I know that there is only so much time in the day and so much tolerance from needless noise in life from external forces. If I want to accomplish certain goals I need to be frugal with my energy and time, that means that some people, situations, experiences and opportunities are going to be left behind. What is left behind is not a loss, it is simply a matter of math.

I do a cost benefit analysis of the priorites/people in my life every so often. I look at my situations, relationships and where my future is going and decide what is worth my energy. You simply cannot dedicate yourself to everything and everyone without burning out. Have an honest look at the reality of the situaitons and people in your life, this is a good guide post to where your focus should go. Living in a fantasy world or having great expectations about your life and the people in it destroys your ability to set proper goals. 

In my life my expectations of people were blinding me to who they really were. This set me up for some serious heartache when my energy was wasted from my goodwill or trying to mend or justify arguments. I wanted people to be who I thought they were, not who they actually were. I didn’t give people the space to show me who they were before judging them and not accepting their real selves, in turn branding them with a new personality that fit better to mine. I wanted it all. The perfect relationships, the kind that fit only me. I remedied this by listening to people and hearing how they told on themselves, piecing together their true personalities. The more I listen, the better I am able to make room for others where they belong not where I think they should be.

I peeled off the expectations and the masks I put on others, and organically situations flowed. That meant a little more work on my part, to get closer to achieving healthier and more honest relationships.

My values dictate my way of life and my priorities path the roads I travel on. Just because there are roadblocks, diversions and other nonsense, doesn’t mean I have to quit at what I want to accomplish. Sometimes, I pivot, reorganize or simply rest to feel re-energized again. Just because one area of my life is bad doesn’t mean all is lost. There is good in some of my life and not so good in other parts. I decide where I want to improve, and where or when it is not worth my energy.

One area of my life worth my energy is my marriage but I had some serious expectations of what my married life would look like, how my in-laws would be, how many kids I would have, and where I would live. Nothing turned out like I thought it would, because I don’t have the energy for it all. I have to compromise. There are somethings in my life that are exactly what I wanted and others quite the opposite. The things that I am thrilled with have compounded even more joy from the contrast of the things I don’t have. Let the things that you feel you should have, be the way that they are. You don’t have it because your energy is somewhere else. If you don’t like where your energy is flowing, consider where your focus is growing, that is where your life is going.

Life is not a race it is a marathon. Every chapter in life has its own title, story, plot line and characters. Do not compare your unique chapters with anyone else. Life is different day to day, month to month, year to year and unique only to you. Allow what comes and keep the energy flowing where it needs to be, everything else will unfold.

“You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime
You’ll find
You get what you need”

– The Rolling Stones 

3 Ways To Deal: When Life Is Unfair

When I experience unfairness or injustice my body feels it instantly. My fight/flight mode kicks in, anger and fear bubble like a volcano. I stew with anxiety, and if left unchecked I feel depressed for some time, until I soak in a proper dose of reality and some exercise. 

Fairness is subjective. Life is not fair because it is not supposed to be. Life is competitive short and painful. I think it is important to come terms with this, and not perpetuate the suffering by dwelling and complaining. Complaining about the unfairness of life is pouring salt on a wound. Here are some things I like to do when a door is slammed in my face, or a promotion sails by my office desk, or when I simply cannot take the injustice anymore of anything in my life. 

  • Exercise 

When that anger or rage fills my body the best thing I do for myself is get up and move. Sometimes unfairness hits you when you are burnt out and it seems counterintuitive to move, but it is important to do so to remove yourself of all the stress hormones raging through your body. Go for a run, a walk, bike ride or simply move around your house. When you perceive injustice or unfairness your body responds with anger and fear, get some fresh air and move to get rid of the toxins. A change of scenery and movement helps your body and mind relax. 

  • Create a Goal and Achieve It

Competition is something we all live with. Comparing our lives with others is just part of living in society. Now with social media it is more prevalent than ever before. Most of our unfair views come from our expectations that we should have what everyone else has. But we don’t know how others have achieved their perceived success. Luck over hard work has a lot to do with success, and that is something no one is able to control. When I create a goal, big or small and actually achieve it, this helps me achieve a sense of control over my life. I try to be in competition with the only person I should be, with myself. Your life should not be in competition with anyone else but yourself, the most important task is developing your own self worth so that your perception of fairness is not so obtuse that complaining dominates your life. Success is handed out unfairly, so setting your own personal goals that are attainable are important to satisfy your self esteem and live a fulfilled life.

  • Practice Gratitude

When you can’t get the things you want, appreciate the things you have. There have been many moments in my life when I thought that I would just quit because things seemed so unfair. But then I stopped and thought about all the things that I have accumulated getting to that point, and only when I stopped and looked back I realized how much richness I have in my life. When you feel like you need or want something other than what you presently have, you will always see life as unfair. Chasing success, material things and status is addictive. Constantly looking forward, never looking back is a vicious cycle creating a scarce mind set and unsatisfied life. Maybe my life isn’t exactly the way I want it but it also isn’t exactly the way I don’t want it. Life is subjective and fairness is subjective. What I have, someone else would kill for, so it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are so many surprises that come out of not getting what you want, these sometimes can turn out to be the biggest blessings of your life.  Be grateful because you never know what is coming next.

Life is complex, with many obstacles, and nothing is for certain. Life wasn’t meant to be fair, but it definitely is beautiful and worth it. By accepting the realities of your own life and looking at unfair moments as opportunities to grow and learn your body and mind will interact in a healthier way.

Don’t resist change.

The only way out is through. 

“The only thing that makes life unfair

is the delusion that it should be fair.”

– Steve Maraboli 

Gaslights, Light The Way

It is undeniable the damage a gaslighter can do if you get too close to their fire. Reality to me is something that is uncontested truth. I like facts, words and the concreteness of things. To some, reality is merely an illusion that is simply energy, a perisistent illusion. I think of reality as something that is real and existent as opposed to something that is imaginery, it is the totality of a system, known and unknown. Physcial objects, tangible and real things make up reality. I like to play with the “what-ifs” and the “what could be” once in a while, but I certainly am not blind to the “what-is” in my life.

But what happens when someone tries to undermine your entire perception of reality? 

Throughout my life I have met all sorts of people, from different backgrounds from my travels and even in my own city through school, work and different love relationships. The personalities that have helped solidify my own perception of myself the most where the… gaslighters. 

Gaslighters communicate in way that leave you feeling dazed, and make you question if there is something wrong with you.

Gaslighting is basically underming your reality. It is about power and control. Some basic tactics are minimizing your thoughts and feelings, deflecting and shifting blame, denying wrongdoing, using compassion as a weapon and twisting and reframing conversations. It is the behaviour not the person that I don’t tolerate. I believe that everyone can do better. I am not perfect myself and have caught myself torching others with these tactics. Awareness is key.

Gaslighters have shown me my light.

In the past I  have entertained opinions about my character and put them on to wear but they never fit. The negative realities and the perceptions that were not my own were itchy, uncomfortable and never sat well with me. I am not against constructive criticism but there is a fine line. My judgments and perceptions are my own to express no matter what the other person feels. If this is challenged to the point that I have lost my opinions and feelings and adopted the other persons perceptions this is no longer a true representation of my world. 

When my husband and I decided to change and grow and pursue a healthy life including going booze free, I thought we would receive only postive feedback. To my surprise that wasn’t the case, and not only did we receive negative feedback, but we found ourselves isolated for a while from people we thought we could trust and support us.

For a time I was confused but then I realized that I have a voice and I have the right to express it. I was able to carry my truth of my reality only when I wasn’t afraid to lose people that didn’t allow me to grow in my life and I let them go. 

Let the gaslighters carry their perception of you by themselves, you don’t need to burden yourself with other peoples opinions of you. I am glad I ditched those torches. That was not my baggage.

I think that if you make a commitment to your reality, and what you think your future should look like, this is more important than how others perceive you. I now understand that no matter how hard you try to please others, or try to explain your perspective and feelings, it is not worth losing your power and your sense of self.

You own your right to make space in the world and show up in a way that celebrates who you are. Raw, unfiltered and real. Too many times I have let my self-image, my persistence to please and my fear, take my voice away. Now I see, that even if I generate positive energy, make myself healthier or try to contribute for the good, there will always be opposition and that reality has nothing to do with me. It takes a gaslighter sometimes to show you the light, to help you solidify your own truth and give you strength to never allow anyone to dim your light again.

Hold that torch high.

Keep shining.

Keep moving. 

You Got This!

How Do you Know the Things you Know?

Do you ever get the feeling you know something just because you feel like you know?

You think or see something and you automatically have a strong feeling of familiarity about it. It could be a person, a place, something you read or something someone has said to you.

Like you have been there before, or the thing that you heard you keep hearing it everywhere.

You tell yourself you don’t know how you know… but you know!

I always want to believe that what I am told is what someone actually means and that their intentions are aligned with their actions, but I know that isn’t always the case because people lie to themselves and also to others. So, how do you determine how you feel about someone if you can’t take their word for it? Can intuition guide you to proper knowing?

I read about intuition and have always tried tapping into it. But really I don’t know what I’m looking for or what I should be feeling. My guess of what intuition is, is that if it doesn’t feel right, to fight or flight. That is my basic understanding of intuition. As my self development journey deepened, I realized most of what I knew was because I experienced these situations/people before. I was becoming aware of my patterns and they all seemed so familiar. The familiarity made it feel like I knew things without real knowing.

I think when you think you know something it could be that you are recognizing a pattern.

But, it could also be misleading breeding ignorance planting seeds of arrogance. Even though I think I know quite a bit through learned experiences, travel and even my education, there is also so much unknown that I reject just simply because I think I know.

I recently read the book The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel. It is a parenting book that describes what happens to the brain when emotional areas and logical reasoning are disintegrated. The book presents simple techniques to help children manage big emotions and make better decisions by integrating the various parts of the brain. The book also highlights that the experiences we have wire our brain structure. One of the techniques that Dr Siegel uses is called “name it to tame it.” In this strategy the child would retell an upsetting event in his/her own words, and this takes the event from a completely emotional, experience-based memory and applies order to the experience. The child’s perspective is changed and the event is approached more logically.

I wonder how many of my knowing’s come from upsetting events that haven’t been properly processed to make logical sense, and now those feelings are driving a skewed intuition.

Along my alcohol-free journey, I started integrating my logical and emotional brain by looking at some of the narrative that I replay in my head. As I rewrite some of the stories, I’ve realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I still have so much more to learn and so much to make sense of.

There is so much going on in our brains when we try to convince ourselves of something that we know. Bias, hunger, mood, the weather, hormones, sleep, past experiences, the conditioning of an education system, memory retention, pain and so much more contributes to our perception of knowing. Next time you think you know something without knowing why or how, ask yourself to rewind the scenario and tease out why you might feel, think that way and you might get a different answer. 

Check your story, think before you know.