New year – New you

Tam Johnston

As the tune of Auld Lang Syne echoes around us we may find ourselves saying; “this year I’m going to really nail it, achieve all the things I didn’t last year and create the ‘perfect’ version of me I’ve always dreamed of”.

What if you’re already living the best life for you? What if your life simply doesn’t match up with the outdated plan you had in your head when you were growing up? In fact, you constantly feel like you haven’t reached your goals, aren’t truly happy or that something is ‘missing’ when in fact this is actually the right path for you; you just haven’t updated your ‘life story’.

Time to take stock and reset

When we are young, we all form an idea in our head as to how our lives will play out and the kind of person we think we will be, either consciously of un-consciously. We create our own ‘life story’ ahead of time and unknowingly, expecting our life to match up to it. We form or adopt beliefs about who we will become and what sort of life we will live. For example, if someone sets out become an affluent entrepreneur and run their own businesses, alongside this they may also assume they’ll have four children, foreign holidays every month and to spend as much time as they can with their family and friends. We have already pre-written our autobiography of our lives.

However, this particular life story might not play out as the person realises that the demands of building a business compromises their work life balance to such an extent they can’t spend time with their children. So, in order to restore this quality of life, they take a job within someone else’s organisation which rectifies the problem. But they are left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. As though something is incomplete or unfulfilled. I see it with my clients all the time – as sense that something is ‘missing’. Except its not, it’s just different  (from what they imagined or expected) and their focus is inevitably on what they are not, what they don’t have or what they are not doing. Little credit goes into who they have become instead, what they do have and what they are doing that has become a higher priority or where they have shifted to another life path. t is easy for them to make this signify failure or that they are not successful or accomplished, but they are not this at all. 

We can simply end up with a mismatch between how we saw ourselves and our lives, versus the current situation. Unconsciously, our mind is very goal orientated and earlier in life, we gave it strict instructions of what route we should follow and who we should become and how we should live our lives. Even if we didn’t explicitly know or were happy to see what came up, we still had a sense of what our lives would be like and the kind of person we would be. It makes up part of our ‘self image’. How we see ourselves and our projections. For some of us that was more based upon others expectations and ‘steering’ than our own, but either way, the path was set up behind the scenes for how our life should be as well as who we should be within it.  

This can also work in the opposite way. What if someone starts off their career as a junior assistant in a start up business at the age of 16? As the business grows, more and more opportunities present themselves and individual ends up as the CEO of a multi million global firm. What if this person doesn’t update the story of their lives? Inside, they still think, feel and act like that 16 year old assistant that started working for the firm all those years ago. Internally they battle to accept where they find themselves and can’t quite believe or take credit for their achievements. They feel like it’s a fluke, they are an imposter or on some level feel guilty about the life they live. They didn’t set out to get this, but now they’ve got it they feel insecure every day and fear the bubble bursting as they crash back down to the reception desk.

So, what do we have to do?

Sometimes we have decades between our young life story (or others expectations of us) and reality. Fortunately, we can stop, reset and re-write the autobiography of our lives. We don’t need to be defined by our earlier self. Circumstances, what is important to us and the kind of person we become shifts over the years. As do our ties with others that may have had a hold or significant influence upon us when we were young. We are free to make our own choices based upon what is right for us NOW.

If your are feeling resentful, stuck, as though something is missing or are aware that you haven’t fulfilled the ‘story’ that you originally planned, its time to re-edit your autobiography. Give this a go.

Editing your autobiography

Start by thinking about what your unconscious life story has been for yourself and write down how you expected it to look (or what others had impressed upon you that you inadvertently ‘took on’).

  • What type of person did you expect to be?
  • What kind of lifestyle had you planned?
  • Where were you going to live?
  • Were you going to have a family, get married?
  • How much money were you going to have?
  • How old is the person you see in your life story?
  • How much do they weight, how fit are they?
  • What was driving them? What was supposed to be important to them? At what cost?
  • If something is still really important to you and its feasible, don’t take it out of your story just because you haven’t achieved it in the timeline you’d originally planned.

Now update it. Reflect on where you are in your life today and how it matches up with your original life story. Where is the conflict? Is there anything you need to drop from it or add? Is your life story realistic for your age and where you are in your life?

Now the fun part

Re-write your autobiography as thought you are at the end of your life looking back on the ideal journey you want for yourself. You might want to work out how you don’t want it to be first, what you would regret as a starting point. Just by flipping this will steer you towards what you want instead. Connect with your life story and allow yourself to feel it and dream it. This may sound strange, but it’s the feelings you evoke from doing this exercise that will make you want it.

Finally, familiarise yourself with this story regularly from now on. Let it play in your mind until it sinks in; revisit it regularly in case any other adjustments need to be made.

Having a current life story will get rid of those internal niggles that something is missing or in conflict, help you focus on what you have and want, and set you on a new path to make it your best year yet!

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