Life is and always will be unpredictable, sometimes it catches us completely off guard, and that’s okay. That’s life. What’s important to remember is that every time life throws a curve in your path (sometimes a complete cyclone, but that’s relative), it’s testing you and pushing you to either grow in the way you haven’t been able to on your own or learn a lesson you didn’t know you needed to learn. For some, those lessons or growth moments are one and done life-changing moments, and for others, the lessons are persistent. I’d like to think that those who receive that latter do so because they’re meant to do more, be more, and tasked to bring real change to the world. Either way, these moments come to help us, and we have to remember that and work our way through them rather than let them overcome us completely.
Sometimes the curve ball or cyclone come in the form of life getting overwhelming – everything happening at once, like a burnout – which is sometimes caused by ourselves and sometimes by the world around us. When that happens, the key is to acknowledge that it’s okay to take time for you to work through the moment. But it’s also important not to remain hidden from the world. It’s important to find yourself again, redefine yourself, and push forward. It’s most definitely easier said than done, but there are some methods you can use to get through.
1. Get back to your basics
Each individual is raised with a certain set of principles, morals, or general perspectives on how life should be lived and why. For some those may be religiously founded while for others those may be culturally founded. Either way, each of us has a core perspective of the world that grounds us, whether we’re aware of it or not.
For example, when I reached one life changing moment, I lost everything that I had in the world, which left me literally with nothing. At that point of my life’s rock bottom, I was forced to realize that those things and people were not what defined my existence because I was still there, still alive, and so something else had to remain within me for that to be the case. It was then that I realized that my foundation was my philosophical perspective and my set of beliefs & principles that stemmed from it. By exploring these aspects, I became aware that they grounded me. By remembering what I believed life to be, what it was worth, what my purpose was in it, and what aspects were the most important to me, I was grounded in those notions and able to rebuild.
So the question is, what are your basics? Take a blank sheet of paper and answer the following:
- What do you believe life is and what it is for?
- What do you believe about yourself and your best qualities? (not what other people tell you or have made you believe)
- What do you think your purpose is in life and why?
- If you don’t know your purpose, then think about what in this world calls you to action? This is not about what job you do or your career path – it’s about what piques your interest and makes you want to learn, explore, and do more in this world.
- What are your principles? Meaning, identify what guides you when making decisions.
- What are you grateful for? These don’t have to be things or people, but anything that makes you feel gratitude.
2. Reprioritize your life
You had a certain set of priorities before everything crumbled on itself in that glorious or disastrous life moment. Now that you have a moment to reset your life, and you’ve identified what grounds you, you have a chance to reset those priorities as well. The things that worked for you and were ever so important before that moment were great until then. Now they may not be what you need to focus on or give yourself to – especially if they don’t align with who you are, who you want to be, or how you want your life to be.
From experience, there came a point when I had prioritized my career that was supposed to be a life-long path, the “life moments” that society had defined for me – grades, job promotions, marriage, children, etc. – that were supposed to be of utmost importance, my “family” by blood irrespective of their treatment of me and mine, and vanity in its truest sense because I was told and made to believe I was not attractive and had much work to do in that department. Those priorities were CLEARLY misplaced. When I hit my reset moment and took the time to reevaluate, I realized that my priorities had changed significantly and I aligned with my new priorities so much more. These new priorities were also much simpler (as your priorities should be). My new priorities were to be transparently me, take care of myself and my people, maintain a circle of respect and trust (everyone else got the boot), spend time with those that I love, and do things that I love. These priorities have made it so easy for me to decide if something in my life deserves my time and emotions. If it doesn’t, then it is removed immediately without a second thought or remorse.
As you think through your priorities, ask yourself:
- Does it align with who I am or want to be?
- Is it adding or detracting from my life?
- Is it leading me to my dream life or distracting from it?
- Does it make me happy?
3. Make space for happiness
At any drastic moment in life, you will notice that your mind immediately reverts first to the despair at hand, and then to the moments that made you happy and the desire to do more of those things. A perfect example of this is when you ask anyone who is past the age of retirement or who is terminally ill what they regret not doing in life, and they normally tell you that they regret not pursuing their dreams or the things that truly made them happy. It is sad that we only realize this at the end of our lives, and so I implore those who recognize these special “reset moments” in life to really feel through the things you are doing in life and recognize what makes you genuinely happy. Identify those things, activities, or people, and consciously make space for them in your life.
When we engage in things that make us happy, we experience an indescribable fullness that carries into other aspects of our lives. The more you engage in these happy-inducing things, the more you will experience bliss that only comes with living a life full of such deep joy.
Since my burnout and reset years ago, I catch myself smiling stupidly at least once a day at the pure joy of living a life I love. There are always things that make the day tough and there are still things I need to change further, but even with the normal life hiccups, I find time to engage in the things that make me happy and that always results in a burst of pure love for being alive.
Tips for making space for your happy things:
- The Sheen 15. We have the ability to sustain focus for about 20 minutes according to research by Dianne Dukette and David Cornish (2009). That means we should work on any item for that period of time and then take a break, switch to something else, and then return to that task or move to another. Even a break of 15 minutes, gives the mind the breath it needs to refocus. Once you’ve identified your happy things, figure out what items/hobbies can fit into a 15 minute window. Now look at your daily schedule and slot 15 minute breaks throughout the day and mark each for a different happy thing. For example, I absolutely love learning new languages, so I take 15 minutes every day to practice a language through Duolingo.
- Setting self-care expectations with others. Boundaries are key to ensuring that you are able to keep the time you’ve set aside for what makes you happy. You must set the expectation with others that your self-care time is important for you to be able to give the best version of yourself during your non-self-care time. This time is for you to clear your head, uplift your mood, and get back in the game stronger than before.
These are just a few ways to bring yourself back, but honestly the key is to exercise introspection. So use these methods or introspect on what makes you the best you and work that more into your life.
The thundering wave
Tries to overcome all the same
Each thrust hits different
But hits hard in this game
There comes a moment
When all you can do
Is let it hit as it will
But not engulf you
The tide will settle
You will emerge
That sparkle hits different
When you’ve survived a surge
– Akiti –