The world we live in is full of characters and archetypes. We mingle and dance by one another on life’s stage, stopping to interact with some longer than others, but ultimately coming back to the role we play. We grow attached to that role, the qualities and characteristics of this person we call our self; our name, the job we do, our responsibilities, our appearance, our relationships, our reputation. As we get older, we tend to accept these qualities as unwavering and the idea of a personal revolution can seem impossible to manifest.
Though each of us is unique and diverse, I believe we all fall into one of two distinct archetypes; We are either a creator of our fate or a victim of circumstance. Sounds awfully dramatic, doesn’t it?
Think about the people you know. Think about fulfilled, successful, steady people. These individuals approach life with a sense of confidence and direction. They are unafraid of making a leap because they have faith in themselves and their abilities. These people invest time in sharpening their figurative tools of mind, body and spirit and they are clear about their aim. These people take ownership for who they are and who they want to be; Should they find themselves set back or stuck or headed in the wrong direction, they start over; with humility, grace and an open mind. These people are creators or artists of their own lives.
Now consider the parallel archetype of the victim. The victim doesn’t want to change or be helped, but they do want to be heard. The victim is subject to his or her circumstances and takes little responsibility for the action or inaction that led them to their current station in life. This character views fate as impartial and unfair. This person feels disempowered and doesn’t see the point of exerting great effort toward change because they lack the conviction that anything can ever get or stay better. The victim prefers comfort and predictability. Though they might not admit it, the victim loves the drama and the attention that comes with misfortune. He or she may not feel otherwise valuable, but pity helps to soothe discomfort and brings reassurance that he or she is not to blame.
Bear with me, I understand the contrast is harsh and no one wants to view themselves as the latter. If you’re feeling a bit defensive reading about the role of victim, I challenge you to lean into that a bit. While I believe that we can change our minds and our direction and move from the role of victim to creator; I feel firmly that you cannot be both, and I encourage you to decide which of these mindsets you choose to adopt each day.
The problem is, we think we have plenty of time. If we are fortunate, days become weeks that become months and years and eventually lead to an ultimate reflection of either satisfaction or regret. Which do you want to feel at the end of your days?
So how do we commit? How can you shift, should you find yourself detached or stagnant? Is it possible to change the channel? I think so. Does change happen instantly? Certainly not; but changing your mind does. If you find yourself lingering in victim-hood, the first thing you need to do is to stop justifying the reasons for arriving at this place. Wipe the slate clean (you’ll need to do this frequently), stop lingering and obsessing over mistakes and start looking forward. This can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like, but I recommend simple. Here are a few practices, tips and considerations for owning and creating a life you can find satisfaction in. Some are brief, others may require a bit of reflection and digging into. Take what you need!
- Know Thyself. Most times when we feel disconnected from others or life in general, it is because we are disconnected with ourselves. We move through life at a rapid pace, checking boxes, staying busy, maintaining appearances. We’re “fine.” If life becomes too stressful, there are vices for comfort; food, entertainment, socializing, drinking, etc. There’s nothing wrong with partaking in life pleasures unless you’re doing so for the sake of avoiding inner discontent. We have dreams, hopes, desires, fears, pain and heartache idly lingering within ourselves and it’s important to pause and let those thoughts and feelings expand and diffuse. We have to let our inner voice be acknowledged because it doesn’t ever go away. One great practice for flushing out internal wanderings is an exercise called Morning Pages. I learned about this practice while reading a book by Julia Cameron, called The Artists’ Way. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, a stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning or at night before you rest your head. These words are not meant to be read, they are meant to be an outlet for the dumping of your mind. Morning pages are meant to provoke thought, provide clarity, comfort and prioritization. There is no room for overthinking. Just fill three pages today and repeat tomorrow. I recommend trying this practice for one week and noticing how you feel.
*A more personal note on the subject of feeling disconnected; While I encourage time for personal reflection, I believe that you needn’t be alone. I believe it’s very important to establish some sort of spiritual connection; this can be a personal practice or weekly visits to church, but it is important to engage with something higher and bigger than yourself.
- “Gotta Serve Somebody” If you’re in need of a brain-break, here’s a song on the subject. Simply put, the best way to get out of your head and your own BS is to go love and take care of someone else; not in the spirit of avoidance or distraction, but in the spirit of getting out of life what you put into it. Shake yourself from the weight of the burdens you’re stuck in and be a light for someone else. Volunteer, do something nice for someone you care for, go pick up trash, talk to a stranger; just get out there and put a little more love into the world.
- Know that you deserve it. Do you often find yourself avoiding what you know is best for you? Here’s the thing; what we ignore does not go away. It slowly and quietly becomes much, much louder until we find ourselves in a chaotic mess that we must acknowledge. Do you believe that you deserve a better life? Do you believe that you’re capable of achieving it? If not, why? If not, how can you turn that around? Another simple practice that helps me to get honest with myself when I’m having trouble finding the source of my own disruption is to play the “Why Game.” Grab a pen (Yep, we are journaling again). Ask yourself, why am I feeling disturbed? Answer the question. Then, dig deep for your inner 3-year-old and again, ask why? Continue asking/answering “Why?” and eventually you’ll find yourself at the root of your discontent. I usually find that all of my doubts, fears, worry, etc. all lead back to a central, personal negative belief about or toward myself. Addressing the issue may be a long road and you may need help doing so, but this practice may just help you find it.
- Momentum is powerful. Momentum is a theme I often come back to. You’ve heard the Ghandi quote about thoughts becoming words that become actions that become habits that become values that become your destiny, right? Well, this destiny of yours is a result of your momentum; positive or negative. Have you ever made a change for the better and felt the internal shift of doing so? A simple example is taking charge of your health and wellness. You make the decision to take better care of yourself. You have a plan. You start eating better, sleeping more, drinking more water, exercising. You begin to feel more vibrant and your external appearance and attitude begin to reflect it. Suddenly, it seems so simple and clear; you have trouble recognizing why you didn’t start sooner. Ideally, these positive changes stick.
Inevitably though, we are going to fall off the wagon. It’s okay to do so, but we can get stuck in the negative mental loop of being a “failure” rather than picking up and starting over. Negative momentum is powerful too. If we continue to repeat negative habits and self-beliefs, we get trapped in a mental pattern that reinforces a lack of faith in ourselves and our potential. Know that you’re going to stumble and when you do, brush yourself off and get back on your path.
- Change your state. This one is simple. Find a practice or exercise that you can come back to, to shake you from periods of wallowing or self-pity. The best one, in my opinion, is exercise. Get your endorphins pumping. Then you can return to your problems, and I assure you, your mindset will be totally refreshed. Dance, sing, take a cold shower to shock and invigorate you, scream if you want to, laugh, smile, fix your posture, do some pushups, spend some time in nature, do something creative, go get a massage or take a yoga class… The possibilities are endless, and your approach will be personal, but sometimes you just have to change your activity to change the channel.
- Be mindful of who/what you surround yourself with. Another simple one. What kind of people are you surrounded by? Do they have a drive to grow? Do they encourage you to do the same? What kind of media/content are you consuming on a daily basis? I picked up this useful anecdote that will be familiar to many of you from Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist;
“Garbage In, Garbage Out.”
Surround yourself with people, ideas and information that helps you grow. Improve the caliber of your input if you want to enhance the quality of your output.
These are just a small number of ideas and practices to get you pointed in the right direction. The simple truth is that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. If you’re unhappy in your life, it’s your responsibility to change it and the first thing you need to change is your mindset. Start small, start with humility and start over as many times as you need to. Start being the CREATOR of the life you want.