Dr Ruth Briant-Jones
Losing Your Way
Understanding What's Important, And Finding Your Direction
We've all had times in our life when we've felt lost. When the pieces don't seem to fit and when nothing we do seems right. For the lucky ones, this can be a fleeting experience, an unpleasantness that is gone quickly, before it causes too much damage. For many, though, it can remain as a nagging, gnawing doubt. An ever-present sense of not belonging, of not understanding who we are, of who we want to be, or of what we should be doing with our life.
I'm very familiar with that feeling; feeling that I have more to give, that I am not everything I can be, that I should be better with friends and family, regretting old decisions and wishing I could put my finger on who I want to be and how I want to live. Happily, after a great deal of deeply personal work, I've found my way and am living a life now that is truly incredible. Of course, it's not perfect and there's always soul-searching to be done and goals to aim for. This kind of struggle is a part of life - I would argue that without it we wouldn't feel alive. More on that another time, though.
While we'll each find our own methods and walk our own journey to find happiness, there are, I think, commonalities between those who seek to undertake these individual journeys:
1. Stopping and evaluating.
You know something's not right; it's been bubbling under the surface for a long time. You just don't know what the issue is. What do you do about it?
Stopping and evaluating your life, in every aspect, is important. Are you happy at work? At home? With your relationships with your friends and family? Are you sleeping properly? Do you feel good in your body? Are there certain times that you feel doubtful, unhappy or unfulfilled?
Evaluating where you are now in all of the facets of your life can reveal some of the answers to your unease. Simply taking the time to stop and ask yourself these questions may give you the clarity you need to step out of the fog and start changing things for the better. Once you've established which areas are troublesome (it's not usually every area of your life!), it's time to hone in on those and really drill into the detail.
2. Figuring out if you can change the parts that aren't working.
Just as Reinhold Niebuhr asks, you need the wisdom to work out the things you can change and the things you can't. There is no point in struggling to change things that you are powerless over - it's a waste of energy that could be used much better elsewhere.
You can't change the weather, your parents, or your boss, and exerting energy on trying to change these external factors is largely a fruitless exercise. You can, however, change how you interact and react to those external factors. You can walk away from toxic relationships, you can change jobs, you can learn to stand up to that bullying colleague, and you can pack an umbrella if you hate the rain.
Identifying where you can channel your energy is a key part of the process of changing your life for the better. How you channel it is the next challenge.
3. Commit to change - adapt or move on.
You've worked out what you want to change. Now you need to figure out how. It's a simple decision in some ways - either you stay and adapt to whatever it is that's making you unhappy, or you move on and away from it. Hate being overweight? You either learn to love yourself as you are, or you change your lifestyle. Neither is an easy option; both require work. This is where prioritising comes in. What's important? What do you really want to change? What can you truly commit to?
Diving into the changes you're looking at, cross-examining yourself and your motivation for that change can help to cement your commitment. You need to understand what you really want and why you want it. And then, you commit to achieving it. That's where you find your purpose and your goal.
4. Work, work, work.
You've figured out what, how and why you want to change. You've set a goal. Now, you start the work. Every day. Re-commit, re-focus. Take the small steps. Over time, you'll see the changes you reap, and you'll start to feel empowered, powerful, and capable of controlling your life and steering it in the direction you want to.
5. Re-evaluate often.
Things change, we change. Sometimes the bearing on the compass needs re-setting. Sitting with yourself and starting that process again of figuring out where you are and understanding whether you are moving towards the happiness you seek, completes the cycle. We all become engulfed by our daily lives, paying the bills, going to work, maintaining our relationships, settling into our familiar routines. Consciously re-evaluating to ensure that we're moving in the right direction can prevent us from moving too far in the wrong direction and becoming lost.
Give yourself the gift of your time and focus. You are in charge of where your life goes. You have a compass - you just need to give yourself the time to figure out where it's leading you.