Have you ever really stopped to think about where you are at in life? Often people jump from meeting to meeting or moment to moment, without so much as a pause. There is always a distraction or something or someone that wants your attention. How often do we stop and consider what we really want, not just in this moment but in the future, the next 5 years, 10 years or 30 years. I can remember a time when just thinking about the next 3 months was a challenge, let alone a whole year.
When I first did this, I was shocked to notice that I was a long way off from getting what I was ‘dreaming of’ or ‘hoping for’. When I really took a good look at where I was, and why I was still there, I realised that I was holding me back. Initially I wanted to blame all the people or things that I could say had held me back, and I would run this narrative over and over in my head, punishing myself for my mistakes or for who I was. Things like “I’m not intelligent enough, I’m not motivated enough, I’ve never really been encouraged to shine, I learned bad eating habits, I struggled meeting people, I’m not supported by my family or friends, I’m not happy, I can’t do athletic sports”. I had become my own worst enemy.
I would make lists and collages of all the things I wanted; my dream home, family, health, holidays, sleep, intelligence, friends or the lifestyle that I wanted, even if I didn’t truly believe it was possible for me. I wrote it all down. I was super motivated! I loved making plans and I wanted to make sure I had a plan to get the most out of my life. I wrote down what I wanted for the next six months to fifty years.
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But somehow I could never seem to make those plans happen in the way that I pictured them.
So what happened to all the things that I really wanted to do and the things that I still want to do? Like many people out there, I’d had a lot of big ideas and dreams and even some simple ideas, but things just didn’t seem to work out. Everything takes a bit of effort, and I felt as if life was getting in the way. I found reasons and excuses not to stay on track. I just wasn’t able to get myself to follow through, or even worse, sometimes I didn’t even make a start.
What’s Getting In The Way?
As I looked down at the list of everything I wanted, I was curious to work out why I didn’t have it and to know what was getting in the way, really?
It was relatively easy to fantasise and dream up all these great people, experiences and incredible life, but it seemed so much harder to actually make it happen or to have it. I started to get sad. I almost stopped there, almost believing that it just wasn’t possible for me until, I realised that it was also another excuse. I dawned on me that I was what needed to change.
It wasn’t easy to accept, but as soon as I was able to, that was a major turning point for me. I really took it to heart, even doing corny stuff like turning up the volume to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’. I decided then and there, that if anything was going to change it had to be me. I didn’t know how I was going to change, or even what parts, I just knew that I had to. There were plenty of books on personal development, self help, psychology and habits but they all seemed too general, what would they know about me?
I took matters into my own hands and got some more paper out to write a new list. But this time it was a list of all the reasons why I didn’t have what I wanted. I asked myself what were all the excuses and reasons I didn’t have any of what I wanted already.
Some were obvious, like ‘I’m lazy’, ‘I’m not a people person’, ‘I’m not healthy’, ‘my job doesn’t pay me enough’ and then I started to just write whatever came into my head ‘I don’t know how to be in a relationship’, ‘I couldn’t get a better paying job’, ‘I’m better off staying where I am’, ‘people won’t like me if I change’, ‘I’m safe where I am’, ‘what if I get it wrong’ and so the list got longer and longer.
I thought I was taking responsibility
I thought I was pretty responsible most of the time. I was taking care of myself day to day, going to work and generally showing up for things I needed to. But I wasn’t really taking responsibility for getting what I wanted long term. For doing the things that were important, but not urgent enough for me to pay them enough attention.
When I learned to drive a manual car, I was 16. My dad was in the passenger seat with the ‘L’ plate on the front window and my younger brother in the back. I was so nervous! We were in the country on back roads so there wasn’t much traffic. My dad gave me the keys and said to me ‘you’re responsible’. I was about to grab the keys and say ‘yeah, yeah, let’s go’ and he hesitated and pulled the keys back and said ‘you’re responsible’. I looked him in the eye and he handed me the keys.
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There was so much to concentrate on! I started the car and it stalled. I started it again and hopped forward an inch before it stalled for the second time. My brother was talking to me from the back seat telling me what to do and I was getting more and more frustrated. It wasn’t working! Dad told my brother to get out of the car and leave us for a bit so I could focus on what I was doing. I started the car and we hopped forward a few more times until I worked it out. I was driving! It was new and exciting and nerve racking remembering all the things to do and to keep safe.
At the end of the drive my dad asked me to stop the car before we went onto the road. I turned the ignition off and looked at him. He said that he asked my brother to leave the car because I had to know that I was responsible for every step of driving the car and that the car would only move if I did something about it. He asked me where the crankshaft was and my face went blank.
He continued and asked if I was able to drive the car without knowing where the crankshaft was. I wondered if it was a trick question and I replied ‘yes’. He said ‘correct’. You don’t need to know where the crankshaft is to drive a car, but you do need to know who to go to, to find it when the car needs a service. He said it was the same thing in your life. Driving a car was the same as life.
You don’t need to always know everything about yourself to keep moving forward, but you are still in control of driving forward, and if you notice that you are going off track, it’s a good idea to stop and find someone who’s been where you are going for advice on how to get there, or on the tools you might need to get there.
I started the car and we drove for a while and as I was making sure I looked in all the mirrors, kept straight on the road and kept a steady foot on the accelerator and brakes, I realised that he was right. I was in control and responsible for driving my car in life.
As I looked back down at my sheets of paper I realised that I hadn’t been taking as much responsibility for driving my life as I had originally thought.
What does your life map look like?
Google maps is so handy when you land in a new location or when planning a trip, don’t you think? I use it all the time, but hadn’t really thought about how relevant it was to my life until I was trying to work out why I wasn’t where I thought I would be in my life.
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Google maps only works though, when it has accurate data. If you said that you were in Melbourne and wanted to get to Bourke Street, Google maps would ask you where in Melbourne you were to begin with. And it would keep asking you to be more specific until it could pinpoint your exact location and where you want to go. It will do this right down to the street number, name and suburb. Have you ever had the right street name and number but the wrong suburb? You would be way off track!
Our mind works in a similar way. It really needs to know the details of where you are at, and where you are going, in order to help you get there. The more accurate and clear you can be, the better.
Are you working against yourself?
The mind is like a laser beam trying to get you what you want. For example, have you ever said that you want more money and then walking along the street you might see a coin and you bend down, pick it up and put it in your pocket. At that same moment your mind is ticking a box next to ‘I want more money’.
Have you ever been out with a friend and they might have mentioned a particular song you haven’t heard in years and then a few hours or days later you hear that same song playing in the supermarket. I have a friend who wanted a pink volkswagon and as soon as she mentioned it, I replied saying that they didn’t exist. She insisted that they did and we agreed to disagree. Later that day, I saw a pink volkswagen. But that’s not all, because then I saw another one and another one, and I couldn’t not see pink volkswagens! Over the coming weeks I saw at least six.
The mind is like a super-computer that is processing an incredible amount of data, more than we can consciously comprehend. It has to sort, store and organise the data and bring some of it to our attention. So when we become focused and aware of something in particular, that is like a signal to our mind to pay attention because that thing is important to us.
So as I brought my attention back to the pages in front of me, laid out like a map where I had written a list of all the things I wanted on the right, and all the reasons why I didn’t have them on the left, with a gap in between.
It got me thinking, if each of my thoughts was like Siri directing my car (me) on a map (my life) no wonder I felt like I was going around in circles! No wonder I was confused, no wonder I felt stuck!
I started to imagine Siri saying to me ‘go get a relationship’ and then following that with ‘I suck at dating’ or ‘there are no good guys out there’ or ‘I suck at meeting people’ or ‘I’m too shy’ or ‘I’m not good looking enough’. Then I wondered what would happen if all these thoughts happened at once or in quick succession. What would someone do? They would stop right? The vehicle would stay in one place until it could work out where it was at and where to turn first, or which direction to go in. No wonder I was exhausted!
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
How to choose your route
I felt like my map was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start, so I looked for the area of life that I had neglected the most. This was the one that was most off track and furthest from where I would like it to be.
I got a new sheet of paper out and wrote ‘Environment’ at the top, then I listed all the people I knew or was aware of that were closer to what I wanted in this area. If I didn’t know of anyone personally, I thought about movies and public figures I could learn from. I even posed a question of how do I meet more people who have the relationship, health, career or emotions that I want? Just by asking the question I realised I was taking responsibility for making a change and moving forward, even if it was only a tiny bit.
Similar to when I was learning how to drive a car, it started with short bursts of movement before I was driving smoothly. Even when I got to the stage of driving without consciously thinking about each gear change and pedal shift, I was always staying aware of what was coming up, what was behind and to either side of me, and where I was on my map compared to where I wanted to be.
Over time I stopped holding me back and I got to achieve so much more than what I had originally thought. It all began by looking at where I was, working out where I wanted to go and doing something to get there.
Sometimes I made little adjustments and I learned to always value the people who can help you along the way, especially those who have been there before and know what works. It took patience and trust at times, but was definitely worth it! Everyday I realise how lucky I was to learn about responsibility so young, and I continue to apply it everyday.
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