by Jess Campbell
Changing your life – truly – may not be as insurmountable as you think.
There are lots of things we could do more of in order to be and do better.
We could all drink more water. We could get a little more sleep. We could lift heavy things up and down a few times a week a little bit more (yes, flipping a tractor tire or carrying an animal in your arms counts!).
But the thing that will make the biggest difference in your life is something a little less tangible – and a lot more freeing.
We all know the song Let it Go from the wildly popular Disney movie, Frozen. And sure, letting go of things that aren’t good for you and don’t serve you sounds like a great idea in theory.
It’s the HOW of letting go that can trip people up. The good news is, letting go doesn’t have to be as hard as you might believe it to be. In fact, letting go of what isn’t serving you could be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.
So let’s take a look at how to get you started at letting go.
RECOGNIZE WHAT ISN’T HELPFUL
You probably are well aware of the things in your life that you could do without (or maybe you’re not, in which case – you’ve got some work to do). And it’s all well and fine to say you’ll change them or give them up. But in order to actually work toward ridding your life of the things that aren’t serving you, you must first acknowledge that there is another option and that you can choose differently. Only then can you begin to move toward the alternative and let go of unhelpful things in your life.
DON’T LIVE IN SHACKLES
… especially when you have the key. As Henry Ford (sorry, Chevy lovers) once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Limiting beliefs are something everyone struggles with. If you truly believe them, though, you’ll never get to where you want to be. You are not your (especially negative) thoughts. Believing your negative thoughts is a choice, not an absolute. You choose what you believe which means you can make different choices going forward.
ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE, RIGHT NOW
This can be really hard, especially if there are things about yourself that you don’t particularly like or are desperate to change. However, it’s important to fully understand that nobody’s perfect. In fact, perfection is like the horizon: it recedes as you approach it so you never arrive there. You are a culmination of the behaviour and decisions you have chosen up until this point. If you want to make changes, embrace who you are right now – and then begin again, choosing differently.
ACCEPT WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE
Yes – more acceptance. #lesigh
The past is the past. What’s already happened and what’s already been said and done cannot be changed. So, why drag it around with you to weigh down the present moment? The present moment is where life happens. It’s much easier to choose well and make decisions that reflect who you want to become when who you used to be no longer holds you down. Accept where and who you are now. Your future self will thank you.
FORGIVE YOURSELF (AND EVERYONE ELSE)
This might be the most difficult aspect of letting go. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Continuing to choose resentment means you’re voluntarily locking yourself in your past. Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made, for saying and doing things that aren’t about who you are now. If you can forgive yourself, you’ll find it easier to forgive others – even though forgiveness isn’t for others. It’s for you.
Some of these things could be easy for you to implement into your life going forward. Or they could be hard; they may even seem impossible right now. However you feel about letting go of things that aren’t serving you, it’s okay. The point is to recognize those things, make peace with them and put them down. Shouldering heavy burdens like poor self-worth, negative relationships or significant stress is not helping you. So, go ahead – sing the song.
And let it go.
by Jess Campbell
If you want to change your behaviour for good, there’s definitely a way to do it (and a way to not do it).
You would be hard-pressed to find a human on this planet who didn’t want to change something about themselves. Perhaps it’s a small change, like going to bed earlier. Or perhaps it’s a big change, like leaving a negative relationship.
There are many who despise change and so stay within the confines of their present situation (although it’s almost never that straightforward). Even if you don’t mind when things change, there’s no arguing that change can and usually is difficult – but it’s almost always worth the work. This is especially so when it comes to our behaviour.
Why can’t we seem to go to bed a little bit earlier? Why can’t we stay away from the chip bag at night? Why can’t we be more organized? Why can’t we be more outgoing?
When it comes to lasting behaviour change, there are three aspects to consider – and one to steer clear of.
THE BAD NEWS FIRST
This isn’t really bad news at all, to be honest. If you’re looking to make lasting change in your life, stay away from being motivated by fear. Although fear is a good motivator – some would argue it’s how our species has survived as long as it has! – there are two things wrong with using it as motivation.
First, fear-as-motivation causes you to become more resilient to the behaviour you’re trying to change. Say you’re a smoker. You know that smoking is very bad for you and it can kill you via diseases like cancer and emphysema. Knowing this is certainly scary – and yet, you continue to smoke. The thing is, fear makes us do one of two things, flee or freeze (most commonly; not very often does it make us fight, but it can and does). So, you’re a smoker – but your grandfather was also a smoker and he lived to be 93. You want your fear of smoking to go away so you use Grampa’s old age as a rationalization to continue smoking – ‘I have excellent genes and will be fine.’
Second, fear as a motivator can and does cause us to become ignorant and keep our head in the sand about the changes we should be making. Fear makes us feel bad and we don’t like feeling bad. Quite simply, ignoring it is easier than feeling it and making a change. Except you’re still afraid and still in need of making that change. So, what do you do?
THE GOOD NEWS
In her TedXCambridge talk, cognitive neuroscience professor Tali Sharot outlines three pillars of meaningful behaviour change.
The first pillar is social incentives. People are more likely to change their behaviour if they can compare what they’re doing to what other people are doing. Humans are naturally both social and competitive. When you see someone who is doing what you want to be doing, there is an ingrained response within you that says, ‘I could do that too – and maybe better!’ It’s not about turning yourself into a narcissist but about observing the behaviour of others who are where you want to be, choosing to duplicate that behaviour and then, over time, making it work for you so it becomes your new normal.
The second pillar is immediate rewards. If you are rewarded for the new behaviour, you’re more likely to keep doing it. Let’s get back to our smoking example. Future You would obviously love for you to quit smoking so you don’t die of lung cancer at age 45. But Present You really loves to smoke: the feeling of the cigarette between your fingers, the social aspect of going outside with others, the calming effect of that first inhale. All of these things are rewards for the behaviour of smoking and they are almost all instantaneous. Hence, why you continue to smoke. If you can find a way to immediately reward yourself for not smoking, the chances of you becoming a non-smoker are a lot higher.
The third and final pillar of lasting behaviour change is progress monitoring. Being able to look back and observe your progress over time will motivate you to continue your changed behaviour. Say you use an app on your phone to keep track of how many days you’ve gone without a cigarette. It’s easy for you to see your progress, so you’re less likely to break your streak of consecutive non-smoking days than if you weren’t keeping track at all.
The next time you find yourself longing for change, try turning to the combination of social incentives, immediate rewards and progress monitoring – and not necessarily fear – as your motivation.
by Jess Campbell
You notice when you’re physically hurt or when you’re overly exhausted from a long, taxing day. But becoming more self-aware involves going a little deeper than the surface.
If you’re a fan of the 90s sitcom, Friends, you may remember one particular episode where Monica calls her soon-to-be husband, Chandler, an “emotional robot” because he had been unable to cry for several years. While that scene and episode were good for a laugh (as all Friends episodes are), Monica’s description of her emotionally stunted partner can also be applied to most of us when it comes to self-awareness.
Self-awareness means to be aware of not only your present self (what you’re doing, where you’re going, etc.) but also your thoughts, emotions, stresses and beliefs. Having self-awareness is about understanding ourselves better. The thing is, most of us walk around on auto-pilot and are completely unaware of the intricacies of our thoughts, emotions, stresses and beliefs as our minds drift to mundane things, like what the weather will be like tomorrow or what might be for dinner when you go to your mum’s next week. Hence, the applicability of the emotional robot title.
Except, who cares if you walk around on auto-pilot all the time? As long as things get done, why does it matter how we feel or what we think about it, let alone what we think or feel about ourselves?
As it happens – self-awareness matters greatly and cultivating more of it could drastically change your life.
YOU’RE NOT ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT
Despite Monica’s rather blunt description of him, Chandler is not an emotional robot. His inability to cry stems from – among other things – an extreme lack of self-awareness. By the end of the episode (spoiler alert!), Chandler does cry. He’s able to tap into his true feelings about their upcoming wedding and marriage, share his fears with his fiancée and release those fears through crying. (And more crying. And then some more crying. And then even more crying. It really is a hilarious episode.)
The world we live in today is not exactly sympathetic to the emotional side of being human. Emotions are labeled as bad; people who show them are labeled as weak. This, unfortunately, is especially true in the agriculture industry. (Does the phrase, “Suck it up, buttercup!” mean anything to you?) It’s no wonder that most of us walk around like a robot, unable to adequately express how we feel, let alone be aware of what those feelings are throughout a normal day.
BECOME AWARE FOR SELF-CARE
The desire to more deeply understand ourselves and why we are the way we are is an admirable goal. But it’s also an important one, especially when you’re struggling in one or more areas of your life.
Say you’re having trouble maintaining positive relationships with the people you work with on the farm. For many young farmers, those relationships are with family, making things extra complicated. If you work on becoming more self-aware, you’ll be better able to recognize not only your emotions but also what triggers them. Being able to recognize how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way can help you improve your relationships because you’re much more in tune with who you are. You begin to notice where your boundaries are (or where they should be, anyway), how you want to be treated and where you want to go in life, and can then adequately and reasonably speak up for yourself about those things.
Getting to know yourself in this manner helps you to build steadier, healthier relationships with other people. Most importantly, though, it will drastically improve your relationship with yourself.
KNOW MORE TO LEARN MORE
So, how does one go about becoming more self-aware? Although this may be a bit overwhelming, a great first step is to ask those closest to you what your strengths are and what you need to work on.
Everyone has blindspots; things we do and say, and behaviour we exhibit, without even realizing we’re doing it. Luckily, those closest to us have a different perspective on us than we do, and so can offer that perspective in a constructive way. If you do ask about this, you need to be willing to truly listen to the perspective that’s offered and remember that, no matter what they report, you are asking for their help and you value their words.
Another way to foster more self-awareness is by journaling. Whether you write down a few bullet points about how you felt over the course of the day or talk into a recording app on your phone to remark on something that happened, moving your thoughts and feelings from inside your own head and out into the open, so to speak, can help you process them and, if they’re not serving you, let them go.
The topic of self-awareness is a complex one; it certainly didn’t come easy for Chandler! But if you want to move beyond being an emotional robot and understand yourself better to live your life in a more meaningful way, improving your self-awareness will help by leaps and bounds.