In the last blog post, I talked about how we can all lose ourselves in relationships, if we aren’t hyper vigilant. It’s easy for some guys to get swept up in a relationship, especially when the rush of hormones takes over.
Once you’re lost in a relationship, you are acting with your unconscious mind. This not only makes it easy to lose sight of yourself even further, but can be dangerous when it comes to carrying on with a relationship with someone who isn’t right for you; your heart is forming an attachment with this person and overruling your brain.
Furthermore, even if the relationship is right for you, you may be prone to acting needy, or worrying and over thinking when things don’t go your way, or when past hurts surface, being triggered by current events.
This is because you are being completely ruled by emotional/primitive parts of the brain, which can lead to self sabotaging behaviours; pushing the self destruct button in the relationship, in order to protect yourself from a detected threat, which may not even be a real threat.
The thing is, it’s not just relationships , that allow us to lose ourselves. We can be letting life play out, by being in relationships, jobs and life situations that aren’t working for us, and haven’t been working for us for months, years, or even decades.
We can think that this is just how life is, but life will be characterised by a general feeling of discontent, feeling lost, or even frequent bouts of depression.
To this extent, we can become a passenger in our own lives, with no clear purpose. This happens, because we chart ourselves a life map when we are much younger. This map includes likes, dislikes, core values and beliefs. It also includes career choices and our perspective on everything we come into contact with.
A large part of the formulation of this personal map, is influenced by our parents and our upbringing. This can lead to making long term life choices, based entirely upon the values and beliefs of our childhood caretakers.
This is all well and good, but often these beliefs are outdated, or they don’t really sit well when we start to look deeper at them and explore ourselves within. The problem is, we stick with these outmoded maps, even after they have stopped serving us; kind of like running an in-car GPS for years without updating the maps.
So how do we turn this around and find our Purpose?
The first step is awareness. Mindfulness allows you to become more aware of your unconscious mind taking over, and allows you to access your conscious mind more fully. This helps, by allowing you to create space between you and your mind. It will also help, in making you more aware of your body and how different emotions feel physically in the body.
Mindfulness also helps us to explore consciously why we do things. In my own mindfulness journey, by using weekly comfort challenges, I found out just how much we rely on our childhood and past experiences, in order to work out what we like and what we dislike.
What these challenges force you to do, is to just try things that you wouldn’t normally try. Dislike science fiction films? Go to the cinema and pick a film you wouldn’t normally choose, or try one or two on Netflix, if you don’t want to risk wasting your money. You may be surprised.
Maybe you “Don’t like Anchovies”? Whether you had a bad experience with them when you were younger (as I did), or you just don’t like the thought of them, give them another shot. Do you always habitually sit in one chair in the living room, board room, or at dinner? Try a different spot.
These habit releasers are just the start; we can easily find things that we will love, but have never really tried before. Of course, you may be thinking “But these things aren’t really important to life”, and you’d be correct, to a point. What this releasing of old habits does, though, is it allows you to open your mind even further and be willing to explore opinions that are in direct opposition to your own.
Being aware of the ego and its role in everyday life, helps a great deal in this pursuit too. When we become more conscious, we realise that our ego is making us feel the need to always be right, or to make someone else think the way that we do, because the ego feels threatened. When we become more conscious, we let go of the ego as much as possible, allowing us to reformulate our worldview and be more accepting of others’ opinions and different ways of living. This is the start of rewriting our maps.
Facing the pain of change head on:
When we confront our beliefs in this way, and attempt to re write our map, it is often a pretty painful experience. This is why few of us ever do it. Forcing ourselves to realise that everything we’ve ever believed is wrong, is just about as difficult as it gets, especially as these old habits are deeply ingrained into our minds and woven into our day to day life.
It can often take what a lot of people refer to as a ‘mid life crisis’ to begin to painstakingly rewrite our maps (I prefer the term: Whole Life Crisis), so be prepared for those around you to think you’ve gone crazy, but don’t modify your behaviour to please others, as this would be at the cost of your own future well being.
When I left my wife at age 38, most people around me thought I was going crazy, especially as it had been preceeded by episodes of depression.
This led to some people who I considered friends, to completely disappear from view, so I was forced to proceed in life, not only without the person who had been a companion for 16 years, but also with less than a handful of true friends. Other so-called friends became judgemental, difficult, or unsupportive, so I made the decision to walk away, because I needed to put my own wellbeing first.
At the time, the pain was often difficult to bear, but over 2 years down the line, I am a happier, more contented person, with clearly defined goals and a purpose that makes me get out of bed every morning. More than this though, I have developed much more empathy for others, and can see beyond the outer facade that most people seem to adopt.
It’s easy to be critical of others, or get into conflict with people and think of them as horrible people, but very few people in this world are evil, or inherently bad people. We are all just getting through life the best way we know how, making the best decisions that we can in any given moment. We are living in a society that likes us to compete with each other, which doesn’t help with a critical mindset. It is possible, though, to move away from this mindset, if you practice more empathy and acceptance until new habits are formed .
Entering the being mode:
Whether you are feeling like you are at crisis point, or not, you can start to make inroads into releasing old habits and re writing your own personal map. With the aid of mindful awareness (Mindfulness), you can enter the being mode.
Allow me to explain:
Most of us are caught up in doing mode. We keep our minds busy 24/7. When we aren’t working, we are doing things; meeting friends, going out, being with a partner, etc. In the relatively small gaps between these ‘big’ things, we are either glued to our smart phones, or feeling ‘bored’, which makes us find something else to fill our time. This is just how we have come to behave, and it can add to the feeling that life is stressful, busy and relentless.
When you can use mindfulness to enter the being mode, everything changes. It takes a while, but if you can learn to just ‘be’ – putting your phone away, sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, either indoors, or out somewhere in nature, you will begin to access the conscious mind.
The conscious mind does not need constant thinking: Thinking about past events, worrying about small things that are not actually affecting us in this moment, or running through future events that haven’t even happened yet, you will eventually allow the wisdom of your conscious mind to shine through and guide you.
It took me 3 months to fully incorporate mindfulness into my life, and a further 6 months to work out my current calling. I was already writing, in the automotive field, as an extension of a Classic car related business. The business had caused me a huge amount of discontentment, even though it was actually an extension of a hobby.
When I became immersed in my own self help journey, followed by much research into psychology and reading enough books to literally sink the titanic, I began to feel like I should pass on my hard earned wisdom to others, to help them to find out the hard won insights I had discovered.
It was only much later on, that I realised I had done some writing on dating, fitness and other self help topics when I was 20 years old, including beginning to write books and courses (on paper then),but had given up when I met my future wife, due to losing myself completely in the relationship. It’s as if I knew my purpose all along, but buried it for half my life.
Just as I have found my current calling though, this may change again and again before I reach the end of my life. As humans, we are like onions; gradually peeling off layers (and re writing our maps) as we pass through life.
I’ve never know what I want to do for the rest of my life, and for years this was something that tormented me a great deal. Realising that we need to continue this process of reinvention, has set me free from this torment and allowed me to be free to give my current purpose my all.
As well as entering the being mode, through a mindfulness course, including guided meditation, you can take cues from things that you are good at, or have always interested you, combined with newly discovered interests from releasing old habits, to guide you towards finding something that you love to do.
It takes an incredible amount of strength and courage, to turn your back on what is familiar, in order to forge a new path and find a purpose, but if you want true fulfilment in life, then you must summon all your strength to make it happen. If you need any more help, head over to TED talks (www.ted.com) and search ‘purpose’. Here you will find a few talks to help get you started. It will be worth it.