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Are you making yourself miserable, trying to do what ‘should’ make you happy?

What should make you happyThis is not the article that I was going to share today, but sometimes I get a strong feeling to go in a different direction. Today is one of those days.

This morning I was asked by a friend, to weigh in and give some advice in a group where I’m one of the resident expert coaches on dating and relationships.

In the interests of confidentiality I won’t share the name of the group or the person in question, but as I found myself writing to her, I realised I could have been writing to anyone, in any relationship situation.

Her story is that of a very brave woman. She was living the life that she thought that she should live. She was married, and wanted a family. But she wasn’t happy…so she courageously ended her relationship with her husband, to begin a relationship with another woman who she fell deeply in love with. But now she’s battling with fears and questions, that she doesn’t identify with the right labels, that she is feeling an immense pressure to make a decision now that will affect the rest of her life, that she’s choosing a harder path for herself, that it’s not the ‘right path’.

What should make you happy?

While not everyone has experienced this situation, the details are just that…details. I know a lot of people who are trying to create for themselves what their life should look like, feel like, what should make them happy…and are making themselves miserable in the process.

In life, there is often a disconnect between what you believed your life would look like (and would make you happy), what you think your life should look like (and should make you happy), and what your life does look like (and what makes you happy).

When we grow up with such vivid images in our minds, and thrown at us from TV, magazines, films, friends, parents etc we can often get very attached to these ideas as being ‘the right way’…and we dismiss any alternatives completely.

In reality, what we expect our lives to be, and what they turn out to be are very different…and with good reason…we take on other people’s ideas of love, life and happiness and then try and fit ourselves to them because that’s the way life is…but we often end up unhappy because it’s not OUR way, the way that’s right for us.

Coming from a girl who spent 20 years living a life she thought she *should* live and being unhappy in the process…believe me, I know.

What should make you happy vs what does make you happy

Rarely do we actually stop and ask ourselves,’what feels good to me?’, ‘what do I want?’, ‘what makes me happy?’…we just carry on, carrying on and expect it to all work out one day.

It takes real courage to wake up from the slumber of ‘just carrying on’, because that’s what everyone else does. It’s not easy to admit that something’s not right, and that you’re not happy…but choosing not to just keep doing the same thing and instead to create a life for yourself that feels right, that actually does make you happy and works for you is brave and admirable.

The honest answer is that none of us knows what the future holds. Life can change in a heartbeat and throw us an unexpected curve ball. Trying to make a decision today that will be ‘right’ for the rest of eternity, and committing to that rigidly is where a sense of pressure comes from. We sometimes feel like we’re running out of time to make a decision that will then be there forever. No wonder we end up feeling stressed! 🙂

We can only ever do the best we can with the information we have at the present time. The reality is that the decision that is right for you today, may not be right tomorrow…and that’s OK. Allow yourself to be in flow, being flexible and moving with the flow of life and how you’re changing and growing as a person, rather than putting yourself in a box today that you might grow out of tomorrow. Instead try living without the box!

What should a committed relationship look like?

One of the challenges with committed relationships is that people make a commitment once that’s there forever…and in doing so, they can feel trapped, or lacking in freedom…but also they can get complacent and take their partner for granted. “We’re going to always be together”…so they stop making the effort. I know he’ll be there no matter what tomorrow, so if I don’t make the effort today does it really matter?

The approach I always encourage people to take is to create a commitment that they want to continue to choose each other every day. There’s not an assumption that they definitely will or definitely won’t be there tomorrow…they want to continue to choose each other, but it’s a choice made every day. Knowing this, each person needs to keep putting the effort into the relationship each day, and they each need to continue to put effort into being the best version of themselves they can be. Relationships take ongoing effort and commitment to each other in order to continue to flourish and grow.

Finally…I invite you to lose the labels in your life. Does it really matter if you describe yourself as heterosexual? Lesbian? Bi-sexual? Man? Woman? Mother? Career-woman? Domestic Goddess?

…instead look at the label “ME” what am I? Who am I? What makes ME happy? What do I want? Labels can be so restrictive, so by focusing on the label “ME” you can make it mean whatever it means to YOU…which is all that matters. Whether you’re into men, women, or aliens with pink polka dots, doesn’t really matter…what matters is what matters to YOU.

I know a woman who left a marriage to be with another woman…to her it wasn’t about being gay, she just met someone she loved deeply and couldn’t live without…the fact that it was a woman was irrelevant to what they shared together. They were two souls who met, fell in love and created a life together.

I also have a friend who on coming out to her parents, they were devastated. To them, happiness could only be found with a husband, wife, 2.4 children and a white picket fence, therefore to them, she was committing herself to a life of misery. The thing is that to some people a husband, wife, 2.4 children and a white picket fence IS a life of misery. What makes you happy, and others happy can be totally different…so embrace what feels good for YOU.

So all that said, my advice to anyone in a situation like this would be to consider a few different questions:
– What do you think your life “should” look like? …and why? Where do these ideas come from? Are they really yours? If not, it’s OK, you took them on for a reason, but if they aren’t serving you, then it’s also OK to let them go.
– What actually makes you happy? Look back over the past year…and whether it fits the idea of what life should look like or not, look for the times, experiences, and moments in which you were happy. Then start to build up a picture of what your happy life could look like…remembering that life is organic, it’s always growing and changing, and it’s OK for you to grow and change with it.
– What does the label “ME” look like? Have fun playing with it, create the lifestyle and choices that are truly right for you.

…and finally, what choice will make you happy today? Life is short. Things change without warning. Live for today’s happiness, create that for yourself. You could plan out the next 30 years of your life, and something could happen that could completely change everything. So what will make you happy today?

…and then give yourself permission to enjoy it, now, while it’s happening, in this moment. Because this moment is all we’re guaranteed in life…so make the most of it, and allow yourself to feel happiness and joy today.

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

This week’s Thursday Thought Quote: When what ‘should’ make you happy doesn’t, try something else… – Claire Brummell, Feminine 1st

This week’s Thursday Thought:

When what ‘should’ make you happy doesn’t, try something else…

– Claire Brummell, Feminine 1st

This week's Thursday Thought: When what should make you happy doesn't, try something else - Claire Brummell, Feminine 1st

The dreaded s word

The dreaded ‘S’ word – Part 2

The dreaded s wordSo yesterday we talked about the dreaded “S” word…”Should” and that step 1 in solving our “Should” problem is first, to work out and ensure that these beliefs are actually ours.

The second problem with “Shoulds” is that very few people actually do them. How many times do you say “I should lose weight” and then not actually do anything about it? New Year’s resolutions need to be made once every year for a reason…because we don’t stick to them the first time we make them!

So Step 2 in solving our “Should” problem is to banish the word “should” from our vocabulary! If it helps, make yourself a “should” box…every time you use the “S” word, you have to make a donation to the box…for most of us we’d have enough for a new pair of Maonolos by Christmas!

Now, as you probably know, just trying to stop yourself from doing something on its own can be a challenge…so in order to successfully banish the “S” word, we need to replace it with something.

And, believe it or not, the language that we use is massively important to how we end up feeling and we want to make it work for us, not against us. So, whenever you get the urge to use the “S” word, instead change them into either “want to’s”, “get to’s” or “musts”.

“Want to’s” – Think about it…if you have something that you should do, and something that you want to do…which are you likely to do first? Which are you likely to enjoy more? So changing “I should do more exercise” to “I want to do more exercise” actually changes how we feel about “doing more exercise”…even though all we’ve done is change a couple of words. It might seem like a small change, but believe me it makes a big difference!

“Get to’s”- Like the “want to’s” this simple change can make a huge difference to how you feel. So, let’s use a great example which applies in my life on a regular basis: changing “I should go running this morning” to “I get to go running this morning”. Let’s face it; there are thousands of people who would LOVE to be able to go running of a morning (admittedly not those who hit the cocktails a little hard the night before!), but for whatever reason they can’t. Taking something which could otherwise seem like a chore and turning it into something I “get to” do completely changes how I feel about it. Give it a try – you never know, you might enjoy it… 😉

“Musts” – “Shoulds” and “musts” are a world apart. We all know that things that are musts are non-negotiables…we have to ensure that they happen, regardless of the circumstances. Whether they are eating food, drinking water, or paying our rent, we all have them, they just differ from person to person. For one person wearing makeup to leave the house is a must, for someone else it’s a should, for another person it would be something they would consider and for a fourth it would be a must not! It’s all completely subjective. So as you can see, making this small change in language completely changes how we perceive the situation and more importantly how likely we are to act on it. (Note to self…I MUST get a new pair of heels for the Christmas season… 😉 )

The third thing about “Shoulds” is that they also tend to be very non-specific. This makes them that much harder to achieve…or if you do achieve them, you don’t notice that you’ve done it, so you can’t even congratulate yourself for a job well done!

For example, if one of your “Shoulds” was “I should lose some weight”, what does this actually mean? How much weight? By when? If you are aiming to lose “some weight” and you lose 2lbs, then technically you’ve achieved your goal…but I can’t believe that without checking the scales religiously that (1) you’d even notice or (2) if you did notice that you’d be doing a happy dance around your living room to celebrate your great achievement…

Therefore step 3 is get specific! If you want to do something about one of your “want to’s”, “get to’s” or “musts” then be specific about exactly what it is you’re going to do. Now in doing this you need to be reasonable (we don’t want to pressure ourselves to achieve something which would require superhuman skills to do!), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be ambitious!

So rather than “I should lose some weight”…you could choose to now can say “I want to lose 6lbs in the next 3 months”. This simple change of language can make all the difference in how you feel about your desired outcome and also increases the likelihood of actually achieving it.

Finally when we actually do something that would previously have fallen into the category of “should” we rarely take the time to recognise and acknowledge the fact that we’ve done it! Think about this in terms of being like trying to encourage a child to do something that you want them to do. If you point out or criticise the child every time they do something you don’t want them to do, and never acknowledge them when they do what you want them to, what are the chances that they will actually change their behaviour? Pretty slim right? We need to positively re-inforce the behaviour that we would like repeated so that the child feels good when they do it, which increases their motivation to do it again.

We are no different. We need to take the time to recognise, acknowledge and celebrate the things that we feel we are doing well, in order to encourage ourselves to keep doing them, rather than regularly focusing on what should be done ‘better’.

Therefore the fourth and final step in solving your “should” problem is to remember to always recognise, acknowledge and celebrate the things you are doing well in your life. There are lots of ways that you can do this, and you need to find the way that works for you…as long as it makes you smile it’s doing the job! For me, this was the invention of the “Happy Dance”…30-60 seconds of jumping and dancing around in a silly way with a smile on my face…does the job perfectly!

So now we have all of our steps, I would like to ask you to make a commitment to yourself that rather than using these “shoulds” (which only serve to make you feel bad for no good reason!) that you will choose to change your language in the future to feel good about making the change that you want to make and will also help you to achieve it!

Sound good?

…I think so too… 😉

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

The dreaded S word

The dreaded ‘S’ word – Part 1

The dreaded S wordWe all know it.

We all use it multiple times a day.

It’s the “S” word that is dominating our lives.

No, it’s not “Shoes” (although they do play a major part for me!)…No, it’s not Sugar (though many of us do indulge from time to time I’m sure)…No, it’s not S&@t!

It’s “Should”.

How many times a day do we use the word “Should”?

“I should lose some weight”

“I should clean the house”

“I should have done that faster”

“I should have remembered that”

“I should eat healthier”

“I should drink less”

“I should exercise more”

“I should be doing something which is fulfilling”

“I should be a better mum”

“I should be doing better at work”

“I should see my friends more”

Should, Should, Should, Should, Should.

In fact, it’s fair to say that we spend a large portion of our lives “Should-ing” all over ourselves.

The question is…”Why SHOULD we?”

Is it because other people think that we should? Is it because we have been told that we should? Is it because society says that we should? Is it because we have the words of people in our past echoing in our heads?  When we say that we “should” whose standards are we using to decide this?

There are really four elements to this “Should” situation.

The first is that so many of our “Shoulds” aren’t even ours, so many of them come from other people – Partners, Parents, Friends, Media…we are being influence by those around us all the time, even if we’re not consciously aware of it.  Let’s be honest, how many of us would feel such an intense pressure to lose weight if it weren’t for the hundreds of images of skinny celebrities, pop stars, and actresses we are being bombarded with every single week? How many of us have heard friends or family who don’t seem to have an ounce of fat on them say “Oh I really have to lose a few pounds?”  Or have heard one of our girlfriends say of someone else “Ooh, she really shouldn’t be wearing that”? Every time we hear someone make a statement like this, our brain takes note and questions whether or not we SHOULD be thinking the same thing.

How about “I should be doing better at work”…where does this come from? Is it from your boss? Your co-workers? If this belief has appeared because you have a boss whose expectations are completely unrealistic, who is so out of touch with what you do that they have no clue what is feasible with the time and resources you have (sound familiar ladies?)….then why do we take it on?

The really interesting thing about statements like “I should do better” is that when we look at it closely, we don’t even know what it really means. Better than what? Better than who? How will we know when we’re doing “better”? In spite of this, we still repeat statements just like this to ourselves on a regular basis. It could be argued that we’re setting ourselves up for a fall…

What about the phrase “I should have done that faster”? Rather than focusing on what could have been improved, wouldn’t it be better for us to take a moment to recognise and acknowledge the fact that we have completed a task which was on our “to do” list? If we recognised and rewarded ourselves for things that we have done well (or just for things that we have done!) rather than focusing only on the negative aspects then who thinks that we might be enjoying life a little more…?

You see the challenge with the word “should” is it implies some sort of deficiency. If you use the word “should” you are suggesting that there is something wrong, and that you have a reason (no matter how illogical or unreasonable) that the situation has to be different….which often leads to guilt…and in the case of us ladies, a lot of it.

If these “shoulds” aren’t even ours, then why do we spend so much time feeling bad about them?!

So step 1 in solving our “Should” problem is first, to work out whether they are actually ours. Our beliefs, our thoughts, out standards.

Next time you hear yourself say the word “Should” (whether it’s out loud or just in your head), ask yourself honestly “Why Should I?” Do I really think I should, or am I just repeating someone else’s words?  Does it really matter to me, or am I doing it to please or appease someone else? Make sure that the standards that you are holding yourself to really are YOURS.

Join me tomorrow for steps 2, 3 and 4!

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x