Some of the best advice I’ve received was to be curious about everything going on in my life.
When you’re curious about things, it makes it easier to take in hard truths. When you notice something you don’t like, it’s much easier to digest saying to yourself, “That’s interesting. I wonder why I did that.” It’s much nicer than being hard on ourselves and saying, “I can’t believe I did that!”
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A few years ago there was someone in my life that wasn’t as good for me as I thought they were. But I didn’t recognize how their presence in my life was affecting me.
Part of what led me to recognize that I needed to remove myself from this relationship was taking the time to get quiet and ask myself some tough questions. It may seem simplistic, but I got curious about how I was feeling.
But I had to make time to ask myself questions about my feelings that we don’t always take the time to do. We’re so busy being busy that we don’t take moments to ourselves to simply be.
Because I didn’t take the time to take stock of how this person affected me, I spent far longer in that relationship than I should have. It also caused me more suffering than I needed to have.
We can’t make real change in our lives until we notice what’s going on in our life right now.
We can’t start making those observations until we make time for ourselves and consciously ask ourselves questions. By being curious about what’s going on with us.
How do we start to make the observations that will lead to real change?
We can start by taking time to ask the right questions. Questions like:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What makes you most happy?
- Do you make time to do those things?
- If you don’t, then why not?
- How can you make space in your life for what you want most in your life?
- What’s causing me to feel the way I do right now?
Once you’ve started down the path of observing what’s going on in your life – how you react to situations, what decisions you make, the people you surround yourself with – you start seeing where you may want to make change.
There are some questions you can ask yourself to help you start to notice what’s going on in your life. Once you start asking yourself questions, you may find that you start getting angry with yourself. That’s normal.
It’s normal to start to be hard on yourself once you start noticing areas of your life where things could be better. But try to be kind to yourself.
When I notice something I want to change, I say something to myself like, “Of course I behaved that way. I didn’t know any better then.” Or something like, “Yes, I didn’t make the best decision. I did the best I could, and I’ll make a better decision next time.”
There’s no point in beating yourself up. We’re human, and we make mistakes. We simply learn from them, then try not to make those same mistakes in the future.
(If you want to read more about how not to be too hard on yourself for being human, I highly recommend any of Brene Brown’s books including “Rising Strong.”)
Here’s 6 questions to help you get curious about what’s going on in your life.
1. Is my breath relaxed?
The pattern of our breath tells us when we’re relaxed or when we’re stressed out. If it’s smooth, then we’re likely calm. If it’s choppy, then there’s more to ask ourselves.
First, notice whether your breath jagged and uneven. Maybe you find yourself holding your breath at times. Can you figure out why it’s that way?
Is there something going on in your life that you can link with what’s going on with your breath pattern?
If so, take a deep breath, hold it at the top, then open your mouth and release your breath in a loud sigh.
Doing this just once will make you feel more relaxed, but do it as many times as you need.
Taking deep breaths has been proven to reduce stress hormones and improve your health generally. You’ll know it works because you’ll feel better instantly.
2. How does my body feel?
If you notice your breath is jagged, chances are your body reflects it too.
Is your jaw clenched? Are you furrowing your brow? Wherever you are, breath in and out deeply ten times. While you’re breathing, bring your attention to each of the areas that are tense and consciously relax them. Scan your body from head to toe releasing tightness.
Now, get curious.
Is there a reason you’re tense? Are you procrastinating on a big project that you need to get started on? Is there a person or situation in your life that isn’t easy to navigate? This is where the work begins.
3. Why am I angry?
Anger is a normal feeling, but reacting to that feeling can cause major turmoil in our life and affect others too.
When you feel anger rising, there are a few things you can do.
First, notice that it’s happening.
Second, take 10 breaths.
Third, decide how you’re going to react.
This has come in handy when I’m angry with someone, and I write an email. I observe that I’m angry while I”m writing the email. Then I take a few breaths to recognize that the words and tone of my email reflect that anger. Then I re-write my email to remove any (or as much) of the comments that may appear snarky. I may even take a moment to talk it out with a friend before hitting send. This has helped me avoid unnecessary conflict many times. I highly recommend it.
Sometimes after my anger has passed, I’ll notice that I was more angry with myself for how I handled a situation than I was at the person or situation I thought I was angry with. Take a moment to evaluate what happened, and take note for next time you get angry. Maybe you’ll notice what’s happening sooner and be able to nip it in the bud.
4. Am I numbing out?
What is numbing out? It’s avoiding feeling what you’re feeling. It’s finding any way to avoid coming face to face with something you know you must do.
There are lots of things I use to numb out: food, binge watching TV, the internet, sleeping.
Some other examples of activities that you can do to numb out are:
- obsessively cleaning
- staying busy all,,,the,,,time,,,
Once you notice what you’re doing, it’s time to reassess what you’re doing. Ask yourself what you’re avoiding.
When you discover what you’re avoiding or what you’re scared of, then you can start to take steps to dig in and do the work to make real change. Baby steps.
5. Am I repeating the same thoughts over and over?
If you answered yes, it may also be a way for you to numb out. This may also be a way of negatively affecting your state though.
What do I mean by that?
Have you ever had something negative happen to you? Maybe it was a conversation between a loved one that went badly.
Or maybe you rehearse conversations that haven’t happened yet where you tell off someone you think deserves it.
If you replay these negative stories, or stories that bring up anger, you’ll put yourself in an angry state.
I don’t know about you, but being in an angry state takes up more energy than I want to give. I want to feel energized and joyful. When I’m angry, I notice that my energy is zapped, and I focus my attention outward onto another person rather than creating the life I want to have.
When you notice yourself doing this, just know that it’s normal. When I find myself doing this, I take a deep breath to reset my body. Then I shift my thoughts to something that I’m grateful for. It can be something as simple as the breeze rushing through the leaves of trees or my dog Frankie’s when he’s looking at me and wagging his tail. My state instantly shifts.
6. Am I complaining?
This is the worst! (Okay, I think that was a complaint.)
Once you start noticing this one, you’ll see it everywhere.
It seems almost impossible to stop sometimes. (Maybe that’s just me.)
When I notice that I’m complaining about a person, a situation, whatever it is, I do the same thing I do in #5. I take a breath and find something that I’m grateful for.
Bonus points if you can find something you’re grateful for in the person or situation you want to complain about.
I love this quote.
We shape the world around us with our words. If we don’t watch how we use them, we could start living in a world that is less amazing than it really is.
These are just a few questions to get you started in opening your eye to what’s happening in your life.
The first step is to start getting curious and observing what’s going on.
Then you can start to figuring out how you want to change things.
What do you take time to observe as a guidepost to knowing whether you’re happy with what’s happening in your life? Let me know in the comments.
Links Mentioned in the Video