Ever feel like your life hasn’t “taken off” yet? Do you lose sleep over whether or not you’ve got what it takes to succeed in your new job? Do you spend more time pining over ‘if-onlys’ than you do focusing on ‘I wills?’
If so, you’re not alone. So cross that off your to-do list of things to worry about. These are classic symptoms of failure to launch – the self-imposed gravitational pull that prevents us from living our best life.
Just as it takes a whole lot of energy and intelligence for a rocket to escape the earth’s gravitational pull, reaching our own emotional escape velocity also requires resources and know-how.
How do we strap a rocket to our backs and break free? Here are four ways.
- Own it. Recognize that blaming yourself, your boss or friend isn’t going to get you what you want. Owning your experience and being accountable means facing difficult situations head-on and daring to stand up for our needs and feelings as we do so.
- Know your values. Your values provide the fuel and direction that you need in order to shape the kind of life you want to live. One way to begin identifying your values is to think about the area of your life most important to you right now. Maybe it’s your career. Consider what you want in this area. It could be a big promotion or a change of direction entirely. Whatever the case, envision how you’d need to behave in order to make that want a reality. Maybe it’s courage, curiosity or assertiveness. These are values. It’s easy for the gravity of life to push us off course, but returning to our values keeps us headed in the right direction.
- Don’t accept limitations. Instead, push against them. There are all sorts of ways that we limit ourselves. It’s important to track down the source of these restrictions to realize most are self-imposed. For example, you may have internalized things your teacher said about your life trajectory or maybe your parent,, in a misguided attempt to protect you, taught you that the world is a scary place. Limitations restrict who we can become. To break free of our limitations, we need to identify them. One quick way is to notice self-talk. There are three categories of ‘crooked thinking’ that limit our potential: mental filter where you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it, discounting the positive, when you reject positive experiences by insisting they don’t count and should statements where your inner critic tells you that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. You will find many of your limitations come from what other people have been telling you throughout your life.
- Keep hope alive. Hope is the invisible tailwind that lifts our lives off the ground and towards the things we want. It forces us to confront doubt and ask ourselves the real questions. Do I trust? Am I capable? Can I risk? Novelist and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit wrote, “To hope is to gamble. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” Hope means recognizing that we never truly know all the answers but deciding to say, “I will,” as you take a bold step into the unknown and lift off to a big life.