It may be a sign of the times, but even the best of us are suffering from at least a bit of an inspiration deficit these days. From the nagging sense that “something is missing”, to a struggle with motivation or full blown feelings of being “stuck” in a job, relationship or bad habit, most of these modern symptoms take their root in a lack of inspiration—not feeling connected to who we truly are and what matters most.
There are ten common things that halt our process of change and keep us locked up in unwanted patterns, habits and situations. Fortunately, when a lock is made, it usually comes with a key. Here are ten keys to the most common traps along the path to balance and transformation.
Just Do It
Just do it, get’er done, go for it— and then get on with it. Change begins by making changes. If you have a lot of risk to consider, then start with small changes. If you are unsure of your change, then experiment with your options. Remember the longer it takes you to do something, anything, differently, the longer it will take for you to learn from life’s feedback and a sense of progress.
Give Yourself Permission
Too often we wait until the people around us totally approve of or understand the changes we seek. Not everyone will be able to understand your best choices nor give you the support you need. They likely have something invested in you staying unchanged. More importantly, don’t wait until you feel totally ready— haven’t felt personal permission to change, that’s why it has taken this long. So, make permission a choice and give it to yourself today. If you need to, remind yourself with a regular affirmation, some silent self-talk that says, I deserve health, happiness and full expression.
Get Comfortable With Discomfort
Most major and magnificent changes require a period of discomfort. It may come from the effort involved, or compromise, sacrifice, or even facing the old pains of the past (wall of wounding as I call it in Inspiration Deficit Disorder). It is not about punishing yourself, or ignoring danger, keep friends and guides close in your process so you don’t get too far off track. For the most part, on the path of change discomfort is usually a good sign - take it as a sign you are getting somewhere.
Feel To Heal
Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Emotions want to be felt. You don’t need to act from your feelings that typically lead to trouble. You will almost always benefit from fully owning, experiencing and observing your truest emotions. Fear, guilt, shame, loneness, anger – all these things can heal when we allow them to enter our lives, as the poet Rumi says, like guests in our home. You entertain them, engage them fully, and then ask them to leave. It is hard to find the end of a feeling without embracing it.
Your Body Is Along For The Ride
As you evolve, grow and change in your inner-life, your out-life and your body are sure to respond. Major emotional and spiritual shifts are almost always accompanied by temporary physical symptoms such as more or less hunger, more or less exhaustion, and even less explicable symptoms like twitches, jitters, excess energy and even nausea. Pay close attention to diet, exercise and sleep as you go through life changes and defining choices.
It’s Not What You Think
This key is simple to say and difficult to do: don’t over-think your path to inspired living. Trust your gut, consult your emotions, get good support, think through your plan and then see what happens. The more you think, worry and doubt, the more you will rob yourself of the valuable energy you need to create the change you seek. Just think less! Change your focus, learn a breathing technique, find a hobby. Inspiration is not a rational process.
You Are Perfectly Imperfect
Another simple key that can radically help any process of transformation and yet requires determination is to embrace the mindset that “good enough is good enough.” We live in an age of false standards and media driven ideas of what perfection looks like. TV shows and magazines portray images of ideal lives (and bodies) precisely because no one has such perfection. They know that if they offer a product to help us achieve that last boost towards finally being as healthy and happy as we can be, that we’ll take the bait every time. In the inner world, there is no perfect. There is only what is. We evolve, we grow, we are on track and off track, but it’s all a part of being fully human. Release the idea you need to be perfect for anyone. Make life about satisfaction, not striving; fulfillment, not perfection.
Know Love Is Empowering—But Not Always Pleasing
As we take steps towards finding balance and vitality in our lives, most of us will get locked behind an inaccurate idea of love and loving. Too often I hear people say that they don’t want to do what is best for themselves because they will hurt someone else’s feelings. Loving choices, for yourself and others, are to be empowering. They present the truth, with support and compassion, but they don’t protect people from facing what is real or from learning and maturing. When you take action out of love the intent is always empowerment and uplifting, the process may not always be fun, or pleasing to those around us.
Enough said? It sounds like a paradox: take action, don’t delay, find your passion and follow it—and just slow down. As you seek the full beauty of your life remember it won’t all happen on your time schedule and much of what you are looking for will be around you as travel. Inspired living is not a destination, it’s a journey.
Love Your Stress
It’s shocking to end a guided tour of how to end stress and restore balance with the encouragement to love your stress. The truth is that stress is a normal part of a healthy growing life. The trick is to not take on unnecessary stress nor to exaggerate your stress by making choices that are contrary to your essence. If you cut out the stress that comes from imbalance, then you can embrace and manage the natural stress that comes from the simple stretching and fullness of a vital life. Eliminate the stress that you can and then accept the stress that remains with compassion and good humor.
Jonathan Ellerby, Ph.D., is the Spiritual Program Director for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and author of Inspiration Deficit Disorder: The No Pill Prescription to End High Stress, Low Energy and Bad Habits. He is also writes the Practical Spirituality Blog on Beliefnet. These tips are adapted from the book.