There can come a point in our lives where we look around and say, "Is this it?" It's a very middle-aged thing to do I guess. I started feeling it before then though. Probably around the time that my ability to make choices for myself became more and more restricted by my parenting role and a partner who's heavy work travel schedule meant I operated like a single parent a lot of the time.
To the outside though it looks like you've got it all sorted though -
Happily married ✔️
Three gorgeous kids ✔️
Nice home, reasonably comfortable etc etc. ✔️
But...something was missing. It feels bloody uncomfortable too because you're not quite sure where you took a path that lead you off track. You just have an on-going niggle, a discomfort that you can't quite place. You want more from your life. And that can make you feel like you're being greedy or ungrateful.
Here's the thing. You're being neither. What I've learnt is that that feeling is you. It's your inner voice saying, "I can do and be more" and if you don't listen to that voice, that niggle is going to keep niggling and if ignored for too long, will fester into regret. This blog post is about making sure that you don't let that happen!
Asking for more is not something that women have traditionally been comfortable doing. That's why, statistically, we're less likely to ask for a raise than a man, less likely to apply for a job where we don't meet every single one of the listed requirements (men tend to go for it even with less than 50% of the criteria!), and we're less likely to ask for or achieve the same discount as a man when we negotiate major purchases.
So, to get you started on that path to your MORE, here are 10 steps to finding your MORE :-
When you want something different, something new, you need to be able to see it clearly. You need to take that niggle and make it tangible. It has to take on a concrete form and be compelling enough, have enough 'pull power' for you to work for it.
I used a visualization board here, which is a really fun jumping off point. If you have some friends who are at the same stage as you are, it can be an enjoyable afternoon or evening activity. Don't just invite people to make up the numbers here though. You want to surround yourself with people who really get what you're doing, otherwise their presence can be a negative. So, just get a whole load of old magazines of all types and subjects, a large card board (I just picked up a 28" x 20" board at Target), glue, colored pens and scissors.
Your Visualization Board is for everything you want to be, do and have in your life. With that in mind, and thinking shamelessly BIG here, start going through all those magazines and tearing our pages and images and words that speak to you. If you're doing this in a group, with people who know you well, this process can be really enjoyable, maybe a little challenging too but discomfort is a necessary part of change. A word of warning; If you're doing this in the evening with a group - easy on the wine!
PICK ONE THING:
So you had a lot of fun making your Visualization Board. You dreamed big and it's a beautiful, colorful board full of bright shiny things and dreams....Now what? This is the point where lots of people get intimidated. The inner voice of "Who do you think you are?" rears its ugly head, determined to put you back in your box. First, tell that negative narrative to shut the hell up. Second, pick one thing.
If say you're overweight now and you put a picture of yourself ,or a magazine image of someone, at your ideal healthy weight on your board maybe that's your "one thing". If you have a passion for some crafting hobby and you put an image of you making that into a business, maybe that's your "one thing". The point is, you just created a board with everything you want to do, have or be so it shouldn't be too difficult to choose a "one thing". Just pick what feels most compelling to you right now. Be decisive.
The reason people fail is broken focus. They throw in the towel on a project after a while or drift and let deadlines slip and then tell themselves some story about why they didn't want to do it in the first place.. This is NOT what you want for you so it's, quite simply, not what you're going to do.
Build another visualization board for this One Thing. It can be a little smaller but give it the same amount of attention and care. This is about you and you deserve thoughtful care and action. The idea is to surround this One Thing with imagery of what it would mean to you. So for example if it were a business venture, what would that do for your self-image? Would that change how you socialized? Would it bring other related opportunities for you and your family? Whatever your One Thing is, make your visualization rich and vibrant. Bring it alive so you can practically step into it and breathe in how it feels to live in that accomplishment.
Now, write a short paragraph as that woman who's achieved that One Thing. Seriously! You need to be her because that's the direction that you're going. Own it! It's yours.
By now you should be hungry, really hungry for change and to step into this Other this "MORE". To make any change we clearly need to do something different than what we've previously been doing. So, we need to switch into Learning Mode. Lots of people fall out of the habit of reading or education once they leave school or university. So don't worry if that's you, you have a lot of company.
Depending on what your One Thing is you may have more or less of a learning curve. For some people you may have the knowledge you need but you now need the confidence to take the next step. If that's the case there are a lot of resources to help there also. Confidence is totally learnable, it's not some sparkly gift bestowed on the few and the rest of us are condemned to the darkness and obscurity of timidity. Get creative and resourceful and hey, get googling! Identify your gaps and find the resources to fill them.
Nobody can do this for you, just you. Don't underestimate you though. Don't give up because it looks too hard or will take too long. The time passes anyway. Where would you like to be when that time passes? Still here, vaguely wanting "more" or, would you prefer to be stepping into that richer life you so beautifully visualized? Get busy!
It's easier to get wherever you're going if all engines are running on full power. That's where exercise comes in. We want to be living the fullest, most fulfilling versions of our lives don't we? How do we do that if we neglect our physical form. It's not about looking like you're 19 again or running a marathon (but hey, for some people that's a very cool and rewarding thing to do), it's about self-respect.
Take a long walk, join your local recreation center and take a dance class, go hiking, dust off your bike and discover some new local trails...It really doesn't matter what it is, just make it fun. Believe me I've been very unfit and I've been very fit, I am always happier when I'm fit. Just begin. Showing up is half the battle. Get an accountability partner if that works for you. Schedule a minimum of 3 session of some type of exercise every week. When I say schedule by the way, that's a hard schedule. You don't break that appointment. It always happens. It's who you are.
BE SELECTIVELY DEAF:
Not everybody around you will like to see you change. Change is uncomfortable for some people, even if the change isn't happening to them. But they like to make it about them all the same. Lovely, lovely people as they may be, they will make comments and offer up their opinions and none of this will be in your best interests. Be selectively deaf!
The best way that I have found to deal with this is to just change the subject, quickly. Normally I just ask that person about themselves or give them a compliment about something. This is usually enough to move things away from them giving an uninvited opinion. If you have someone in your life however who is more tricky to deal with than this, or who might perhaps even look to strongly influence you and encourage you to stay where you are, other tactics might be necessary. I'm sure you've heard this before, we are the average of the five people we spend most time with. If someone isn't good for you, you need to made a decision about how much time you're prepared to spend with that person.
You're not here to live someone else's life for them. It's about how much you want your 'MORE'. It's not selfish to want to make the best life you can for yourself by striving hard to become your best self. If that's uncomfortable for someone in your circle that raises questions for them to answer it's not a reason for you to change course.
It is far too easy to ignore this one. It's another one of those things that, as women, we've often just got used to putting ourselves last. If you're a mother, especially a mother to small children, it can be particularly hard to find the time, or energy, to think of yourself.
It matters hugely though. Psychologically, if you think about it, it's a reflection of worth and priorities. Do you value yourself enough to care for yourself? Intellectually you probably just answer automatically that of course you do! But, if, in reality that isn't happening...that auto-answer is meaningless. We are what we do, not what we say we'll do and you are a reflection of your standards. You deserve to be well cared for, by you.
Rituals are your secret weapon here. They don't have to be elaborate or expensive they just have to happen! You are the expert on your situation. Be brutally honest about what your situation allows for you. Is it just that, if you're a mom with little ones, you get an un-interrupted half hour to luxuriate in a bath on a Saturday evening? Perhaps it's a night out for a movie and dinner with friends once every two weeks. Maybe it's getting a manicure, a blow-out, a quiet hour reading by the fire. The thing is, it's different for everyone but we all need that time to breathe and renew. It makes us better at every other thing that we do.
Self-care is not self-indulgence, it's self-respect in action.
Maybe you do this already, maybe you think it's hippy "woo-woo" stuff, I don't know. Here's the thing, it's like a superpower. Really, I kid you not! Sure I was skeptical at first, I was sitting and my mind was wandering in every direction and I was thinking to myself, "This isn't working!" So, basically, not a natural at this meditation gig! But it's worth the time to develop the habit. Meditation is a big part of my own self-care.
For me it's just 30 minutes in the morning that I sit on my meditation pillow and follow a guided meditation. I use a number of programs from the Oprah and Deepak Meditation Experience Library. I love them because Deepak very kindly "minds the time" and gently rings a bell when the time is complete. It works for me and I think it's a great resource for those beginning their journey in meditation.
The benefit for me is that I find myself calmer, more centered, and more effective throughout my day. Damn it I'm just a nicer person to my family and to everyone I meet because I've meditated. Try it! There are a couple of books I love on meditation. The first one is Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Hanh, Thich Nhat (1991) It's a very easy read and will dispel any myths about mindfulness and meditation that you may have. The second is Quiet Mind which is a collection of guided meditations that I found particularly helpful.
You knew it was coming! Listen I live in New Mexico. Think guacamole and sour cream and tacos and and and... I love the food here but I love me too. I have met maybe one woman in my entire life who did not have a food/diet issue. I'm sure I'm not unique in that. Let's face it the whole food, weight, diet thing is bloody exhausting and sometimes those jeans in our closet just seem to hate us!
We all know what to do to eat healthily and maintain a healthy weight but... So it's not about going on a diet, it's about getting real with ourselves. It's about stopping equating food with being "bad" or "good". Food is just food! It's meant to nourish us and give us energy and strength and protect us from illness. Is what you're about to put in your mouth going to do those things for you? If not, put it down and choose something that will.
I'm a firm believer in the old adage - What get's measured gets managed. It goes for your food too. Keeping a food diary works for some people and then they can identify in what circumstances they particularly need to be mindful of their diet. There's a great app that makes that a lot easier. I use it and love it. It's called LoseIt. It can help you track your exercise and your food. My favorite feature is that it lets you scan the codes from your food products so you can track with greater precision. The downside? I discovered that the bag of popcorn I loved to eat, far too often, was costing me north of 700 calories. Cutting that down made a big impact.
So it's not about starvation or juice cleanses or no carbs or paleo. It's about nourishing and respecting this amazing body you've been given so that it can serve you for a long and fulfilling life. Don't obsess about diet rules. Use your common sense.
We're social animals. That's how we're wired. We need to be among others or our mental health can suffer. Be adventurous and seek out new groups. Use the Meetup App to check out what kind of groups are active in your area. Maybe you'll find a great match for your One Thing. The Bumble App has a new networking version for women meeting other women. Why not check that out?
Whatever route you choose to meet new people just do it. It's like brain food. It nourishes us to make new connections.
So, now that I've led you through these steps, what will you do with them? Unfortunately I can't package up your dream life and hand it to you. But you know that those things that you have now in your life, that you really had to work for, are worth more to you than anything that came your way without an investment on your part. I hope you'll choose to make the investment in you so that niggle you have, of wanting MORE, will never fester into regret.
About the Author
Eimear Zone is an entrepreneur and co-founder of social enterprise, PEBBLE + ROSE. She writes on feminism, entrepreneurship, and mindset management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and IG @emtczone