Challenging Thoughts to Live the Life You Want

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Hey! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Life transitions have been real. Since last year, I graduated, found a job, quit the job, and found a new career which has inspired today’s blog. To catch you all up, I was working as a case manager for a mental health facility in my city. It wasn’t my passion, trust me, but I did have a lot of reflection time to assess what I wanted out of life. Solely doing case management was not it for me. It’s that’s your heart’s desire, I commend you! I decided a few days into the job that I couldn’t be happy doing the job for even one year, so I set out to find a career that fit my interests and goals. I was fortunate enough to find a great career in Higher Education as a Design Coach using the book, Designing Your Life (Burnett & Evans, 2016) as a model for the Life Design program I work for. Lord knows I prayed for four months and He came through! 

Fast forward to this third week of June. The new Design Coaches are participating in a virtual Life Design training with other professionals throughout the world. One thing I can say about the training is that it has taken me out of my comfort zone with some activities, but in a good way. I’m out of my comfort zone because I usually sit back and observe where this training has encouraged me to step up and contribute my thoughts and ideas. We’re honest, vulnerable, innovative, and engaging. 

If you’re familiar with Designing Your Life, then you have an understanding of reframing dysfunctional beliefs. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, you may be wondering what’s the definition of a dysfunctional belief. According to the book, a dysfunctional belief is a myth that prevents folks from “designing the life they want.” An example would be, “Your career determines how successful you’ll be in life.” The reframe of the belief could be “You define your own success by designing the life you want.” For more information on mindsets of life design, please check out the book. For now, I’m going to talk more about how dysfunctional beliefs stifle us, where they may come from, and what we can do to move past them and reframe our thoughts. 

I mentioned how the virtual training has taken me out of my comfort zone. We did one activity where we stood up and shouted and pointed at random activities to get our minds free of judgment. Let’s talk about that judgment. When was the last time you wanted to do something out of the norm, but stopped yourself wondering what other people would think? Or you thought it would be too silly, too much, too big, or it wouldn’t be well received. I can tell you there have been numerous times when I wanted to do an activity and stopped myself because I didn’t think anyone would be interested. I answered “no” for people. I didn’t even give them a chance. Perhaps you thought everything had to be perfect. Maybe you felt people would laugh at you or wouldn’t support you. It’s tough to move past the self judgment or the presumed judgment from others. It’s scary. We don’t like rejection. It’s uncomfortable to be told no. We want to be loved, accepted, and supported. 

These thoughts and feelings don’t happen overnight. I’m going to be selfless and share my life as an example to how judgment is formed or why we may not pursue opportunities or think freely. During the training, we talked about how free children are when interacting with others or during play. Their imaginations are so interesting. They just do! We could learn a lot from these growing humans. The conversation made me think of a time when I was about five or six. I decided that I wanted to wash my hair with rainwater because I felt it was better for me since it fell from the sky. I can’t remember if it was because I watched a certain show or if it was because I felt a connection to nature. Either way, I felt free to make that decision for myself. I texted my friends about the situation and we discussed parenting styles.

Our conversation then made me think about the way adults nurture (or don’t nurture) children in their creativity. I remember not being allowed to have a voice in my home or being called anti-social because I didn’t feel safe in certain spaces. I didn’t feel safe in my home – not because of physical abuse – I didn’t feel like I could be vulnerable in my own home to express thoughts and emotions. There were also a couple of times when I had detention because I talked too much in class. I will say those situations caused me to shut down as a youth and as an adult. I would only speak when spoken to and lost joy – I just wanted to survive. I do wonder who young Alishea would’ve grown into if her curiosity was nurtured and valued growing up. Adults want growing humans to be fully functioning at a young age. Unfortunately for adults, children have developmental milestones they go through and need love, support, patience, and empathy. 

I’ve been thinking about how to get back to that space of creativity – how I can support young Alishea. Even though the adults in my youth weren’t able to appreciate my magic, I can make space to do it now. There is much work to be done. I’m going to move into a list of ways we can reframe our thoughts and start living and thriving using life design mindsets.

  • Examine biases to be solution-focused. We all get stuck, but we can get unstuck when we take a moment to step back and reexamine your thoughts.
  • Know you’re not alone and there are people who will support you. Make a list of the folks you know personally and professionally. These folks are a part of your team. 
  • Be curious and explore. Be creative like a child. 
  • Engage in shadow work. Watch your reactions or engage in inner dialogue. 
  • Examine parts of your well-being including physical, financial, and mental health.
  • Evaluate your time and energy constraints. People, things, activities can invigorate or drain us. 

These are just examples of things you can do to reframe your thoughts and to start living. You can also try meditation, journaling, and other self-compassion exercises to help reframe your thoughts to determine where the judgment stems from. Offer grace and compassion to yourself during this process. Just like your dysfunctional beliefs weren’t formed overnight, be patient with yourself as you begin the reframing process. 

Best wishes to you on your journey. I’m rooting for us all. Let me know what practices you’re currently engaged in or have engaged in to live your life by design.

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