2013 has been a phenomenal year in terms of my mental outlook. I returned to my counselor in January for a tune-up. Twelve months later I'm still being coached by her and am harvesting some really dramatic results. She has been planting seeds of thought and reflection for years, and this year I saw so many of those seeds sprout in different areas of life.
As I approach my 39th birthday in days, I see the New Year as a new landscape to cultivate. The tools I've acquired (or fine-tuned in 2013) are certain to ensure that 2014 is productive and enriched spiritually and otherwise. These are the tools that I'm carrying with me in 2014 and beyond.
With practice I no longer label the negative aspects of life in a flurry of self-talk. Say I pack my lunch in the morning before work. On the commute miles from home I realize I left the lunch in the refrigerator or worse on the counter where all the food will spoil and have to be thrown out. I used to engage in negative talk. "Dang it, I knew this was how the day would start. Now I have to spend money I was trying to save by packing the lunch. My mornings never go right." I have learned that this inner dialogue is an energy drain, changes nothing, and is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Now in moments of forgotten lunches or the bigger things life throws my way, I take a deep breath and remind myself It's okay. I can handle this. Sometimes I have to repeat this over and over. No matter how often I tell myself this, I am far better able to take life as it comes. Repeat after me, ONLY POSITIVE WORDS. Make no mistake. This takes practice, but it is so worth the time and practice.
In 2013, I identified areas of my life where boundaries did not exist and where some boundaries needed to be redrawn. Of the four practices, I am declaring this one the hardest for me to do. It required me to look at some painful scenarios, mourn the losses they meant for me, and reclaim what is best for me. I came to understand that some (if not most) of my past suffering stemmed from the lack of boundaries or my poor maintenance of said boundaries. I imagine the rancher who doesn't maintain her fences and as a result her ranch is threatened by the forces that would normally be kept out by a sturdy fence. In 2013, I mended my fences thus protecting my heart's acreage from outside attacks. Repeat after me, CREATE BOUNDARIES FOR HEALTHY INTERACTION.
The boundary maintenance became instantly easier to do when I began removing the "shoulds" and "suppose tos" from my inner and outer dialogues. Each time I thought or spoke a should or suppose to my boundaries were weakened. These words create unrealistic expectations and almost always usher in disappointment. They are the cousins to negative labels and unhealthy self-talk and undermine positive outlooks. Should and suppose to insinuate black and white,control, and ulterior motives. They keep authenticity from taking root and are generally no good. They do not leave room for the grays that are inevitable and beautiful in life. Repeat after me, THROW OUT THE SHOULDS AND SUPPOSE TOS.
Removing negative self-talk, re-drawing boundaries, and removing counterproductive vocabulary ushered in my improved ability to live in the moment, the best tool for living life to the fullest. As I sat with my counselor recently, she stopped me mid-sentence and said that all day she'd been talking to clients about the importance of living moment to moment, not worrying about what was going to come next. She thanked me for already doing this and not needing to be reminded. WOW. I'd been practicing it so much in the past two years that I didn't realize it had become second nature. Her feedback encourages me that the work I have done this year will help me to take the New Year as it comes and will be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that have wrecked my positive outlook in the past.
I wish you a Happy New and Peaceful Year.