Learning to thrive in life takes into account nurturing and developing the many aspects of ourselves. Ultimately we can’t leave any behind, but you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Research over the last few decades have shown that authentic happiness, joy and wellbeing comes from cultivating positive relationships, optimism, positivity, self care, health and vitality, meaningful and purposeful work, self expression, spirituality, goal achievement, curiosity and courage to continue growing and learning new things.
Consider the whole of your life yet work on the parts - select one or two areas to focus on at a time and dedicate yourself to making small, consistent changes in those areas until you have mastered and integrated the changes you want. Start with a bite size and when you have success there, then go onto another one or a bigger bite of your initial goal. This will make the greatest impact on your life and the changes you make will be permanent and more easily sustainable. What is one small change you can make in an area of your life to cultivate greater wellbeing? Can you find an accountability partner to share your successes with to help you stick with it?
Hold the vision - Positive psychology teaches us that our brains are hardwired to have a negativity bias which draws our attention to and a focus on what is wrong, what is not working, what we are lacking, where we have doubts and fears. When given one part positive and one part negative, our brain will focus on the negative. This creates a heaviness in our life and drains us of precious energy resources and motivation. When we make a conscious effort to pull the majority our attention off the negative and redirect it toward the positive, we are better able to regenerate our energy. Barbara Fredrickson PhD, a positive psychology researcher and author of “Positivity” has proven that when we are able to do this, we experience more positive emotion and establish an upward spiral in our lives. The goal is not to ignore problems, but retrain our mind, and focus our thoughts to release doubt, pessimism, worry and defeatist thinking. Can you clarify and hold the vision of what you want and remind yourself daily what is going right and well in your life?
Nurture yourself - Find what authentically nourishes your soul, makes your spirit come alive, and give it to yourself regularly. This is not a selfish act, it is ultimately our job to be the steward of our own wellbeing. For me this is dancing, writing, or being out in nature. For my daughter it is working on her art or expressing herself creatively. Our culture doesn’t always teach us to take care of ourselves in this way, we easily forget to put ourselves on the list. It is unique for everyone, what is it for you? What healthy practice rejuvenates you and makes you come alive? Notice how it makes you feel and build that into your day or week and make it a priority.
One final thought, start each day with a clean slate and a beginner’s mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”, quote by Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki. Strive not to be a perfectionist, but rather let yourself be human, live fully, make mistakes to learn and grow and “begin again” every day!