Spoiler alert: the most direct action we can take to improve our health, wellbeing, and satisfaction in life is to take more control over our own lives.
I'm going a little off book today; I had a different topic in mind for this week, but I had two conversations with friends this morning - different friends, different conversations - and I’ve really gotten me fired up about this topic.
Yes, creativity, nature, all the things that I talk about and truly believe in, really are good for our wellbeing. But there is something else foundational that I’ve forgotten to bring into the discussion – exerting personal power over our lives.
Allow me to define what I mean by that. Agency is defined by Merriam Webster as the person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved. This is the ability to control take charge or control over our own lives.
Most of us in the US and other developed countries have a large degree of autonomy over our decisions, lives, thoughts and choices.
Have we taken a couple of steps back, taken a deep breath, gotten a fresh perspective, and revisited these things on a regular cadence? All of the other things - connecting with nature, implementing a creative process, designing your life intentionally - all of that falls under actually gaining sovereignty.
There is so much power in sovereignty over your choices and actively managing your life.
(When I say you, I don't mean YOU, my friend, I mean us, all of us.)
Why does it matter? Because the more you have control over your life, the more options and possibilities you have. You can direct your life onto the trajectory that you most dearly desire.
The first thing we need to do to gain that control is take a really honest look. Do an analysis, start paying attention and notice when and where you might be giving away that control.
How do we give away control?
In many ways large and small. Operating from habit, obligation, cultural norms, and anything else that causes us to automatically think something, decide something, or do something should be examined. When you begin to identify these areas and make small shifts in your thoughts and behavior, a lot of wonderful things begin to happen.
This paradigm, gaining control over my own life, is actually the big transformation in my life.
If you don't know my story, I won't go into it right now, but I can tell you that well into adulthood, I hadn’t learned this skill. When I did begin exercising control, it was slow. It was a piece-part, fragmented approach because it grows and the momentum builds on itself.
It's not immediate, of course, and you must continue doing it regularly because it's an ongoing process.
The revelation I've had today is that THIS is what I am trying to share with people. That is what I am so passionate and excited about. It's about helping people grab a little bit of that control.
Be aware that a person likely exercises more control in certain areas of their life versus others, and that's because some domains feel safer, or we have more comfort or expertise there.
We may be in a system, let's say at work, where we have more power based on role or experience and so we naturally begin to align with that. But in areas of your life where you haven't practiced this, it’s a huge opportunity.
As you do it, you begin to feel stronger in the world. You feel more capable. You build a body of evidence that in fact, it's okay to agree with something that your family wants you to do, for instance, or maybe change entirely your approach to something, even though this is the way you've always done it, You've changed now. You’re growing.
This may sound elementary to you but I challenge you to implement it. It's transformative and life-changing, take my word for it.
When you do this, you also enact something else very important in your life. You don't stay stuck in indecision, empty rationale, excuses, inertia, intellectual and physical laziness, or blame.
Quick side note: I know that all of the systems in the world - the groups, the communities, etc. - I know they're not fair. They're not and I believe that we can and should fight injustice when it exists. Absolutely. That's not really what I'm talking about today, but I want to acknowledge that is real and true.
On top of that, taking individual responsibility within those systems, this is how we make our lives this beautiful, shining, glittery thing that we want them to be.
So how do we take control over our lives?
We begin to know ourselves. That takes work. We begin to trust ourselves based on evidence and real action. We invest in ourselves. Put in time, energy, and critical thinking. It might even mean investing in a class or some additional learning.
The point is we begin to take some of that power back and we always keep our word to ourselves. The promises you make and the words you say to yourself are just as important as your word might be to a family member, a loved one, or a romantic partner.
This is how we take back our power.
Use whatever method works for you to do this. For me, two things stand out - my creative practice and a very strong support system. Neither of these things came early, easily, or were given to me. I’ve built them intentionally over time.
Our control (or lack thereof) directly impacts our decisions, and our ability to follow through on our commitments to ourselves.
When I think about my vision for 2023, it’s not a to-do list, not a hard-charging, militant approach, but more about who am I becoming and what are the ways that I can support that person that I can see in my vision.
When you find ways to exert more power over all aspects of your personal life, other things start falling in place.
Speaking of the New Year, in the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to lead two 2023 visioning sessions and there is a very special event coming up on the day of New Year's Eve. Leading these gave me incredible insight and helped me to understand this principle at the core of everything we strive to do.
I’d like to invite you to a unique and exciting event – a 2023 celebration and visioning session in collaboration with Christine Stomp, founder of Badlands Yoga and an absolutely incredible teacher and yogi.
The four-hour workshop includes a creative visioning project and activity led by **yours truly**. Christine will lead the rest of the workshop and show you exactly how you can implement a home yoga practice. It's all about envisioning how your life can be exactly what you want it to be and then how you can take practical steps to make that happen and follow through.
There are in-person options as well as electronic options. I hope to see you there and I'm wishing you peace and power in the the New Year and beyond.
I'm fine. Are you fine? I ask this question because so often I think I'm fine when in reality there's something going on that is related to how I learned to cope and the approaches I use for healing. That's what I want to talk to you about today, healing.
I don’t usually don't talk specifically about my challenges or trauma. There are three reasons for that.
I would like to acknowledge that each of us has trauma of some sort. Some of them are big like blinking neon signs, and some of them are smaller. They're like paper cuts, and over time they aggregate, and they can be just as painful.
Related to that, I would like to offer that even though I acknowledge that some trauma is “bigger” than others, we cannot compare or rank trauma against someone else's or even our own in a previous situation.
The reason for that is that who we are as a person, the baseline that we came into this world with, our genetic makeup, our personality, and some of the ways that we behave are very, very different across the board.
When you add to that the environment in which we grew up, the role models that we had, and the experiences that we've had over time, we show up very differently. One person may not and probably won't respond to a situation in a similar manner as another
Having acknowledged that, when I talk about healing today and over the next three weeks as part of a series, I’ll be exploring three foundational cornerstone practices that have worked for me.
It doesn't mean that they work every time or that I'm ever completely done, but it's a really good place to start. I hope that by offering this, you can take what resonates for you. Use it. tailor it and implement it in a way that fits you and your life. If there are pieces of it that do not work for you, then please just disregard and know that it may work for someone else.
Now that I regularly use these principles, I’m not perfect at dealing with the things that come up, but I am better able to understand my emotions and I'm better able to manage them appropriately. I think that's a really key point- once we can recognize some of our less effective coping mechanisms, we can then strive to make different choices.
I will reveal to you, and this won't be surprising for people who know me personally, my go-to coping mechanism for dealing with difficult things is shutting down and numbing. I am the oldest and it's an almost unconscious response that I have had in place for as long as I can remember. I am fine all the time unless I really take some time to examine it and look more deeply.
I can make the mistake of thinking that everything is okay when in fact, sometimes it's not. I’ve grown to the place where I know how to recognize when I am sort of checking out and I challenge myself to do a little better.
Have you noticed that the world is full of walking wounded despite all of our technological advances?
The human race is not very good at dealing with our emotional challenges. We struggle mightily with mental health.
The first principle I’d like to offer is: nature heals.
Just getting outside and walking around, just that alone is actually incredibly powerful. Human beings are meant to spend time outdoors. In our current society and the way that our culture works, most of us don't spend a lot of time outdoors.
If you are going through a challenging situation, turn to the simple medicine of the natural world. Just the act of getting outside in nature can reduce stress and elevate your mood. Moving your body really helps.
If you're going through something right now that's difficult or if you're just looking to implement a healthy practice in your life, planning regular time outdoors can be really impactful.
For many of us, because we work in cubicles and at desks, we are not moving our body very much and we're not spending much time outdoors. Getting outside, actually getting sunlight on your face and in your eyes and on your body for a short period of time each day is my go-to healing elixir.
There is a ton of evidence and scientific studies that have proven the effectiveness of being outdoors.
My challenge for you this week: consider just adding a 15 minute walk to your day. If you it helps, maybe choose a podcast or an audio book and listen to that as you are walking. When you come back, notice how your body feels and notice if your mood has changed in any way.
My number one approach to dealing with trauma and facilitating healing is to partner with nature and here are some practical ways to make that happen:
Ways to connect with nature:
While you’re outdoors:
Who am I?
I’m a systems engineer and creative coach living in ABQ, NM. I believe that we can intentionally design our lives to align with our deepest dreams and desires.