May 17, 2016

Happiness in the Space Between: 3 Ways to Take Back our Lives.

Mindfulness, meditation, mindful, breath, relief, pause

We live in continuous state of change.

We fear change, which is interesting as everything changes—in life, the world and the universe. Embracing change is not always easy, but it is powerful, and in doing so we can vastly increase abundance, happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

When we resist change we shut ourselves down and can only experience what we already know. By embracing change, we open ourselves up to more ideas, experiences, and possibilities.

The role we play in change has three components although we tend to think of only two: cause and effect. I would like to invite you to think of these as stimulus, response, and the gap between them. This final component, the gap, is an important differentiating factor.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom ~ Viktor Frankl M.D., PH.D.

In other words, we have a choice. This is the place where our humanity exists, where we differentiate from other species and where we can create happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. It’s also the area in which most of us deny or reject responsibility.

Sh*t happens! Things don’t always go our way. The gap between the stimulus (which is sometimes things not going our way) and the response, is where we have our greatest opportunity to make an impact, create change or discover new possibilities—therefore becoming directly involved in the response. This moment—which is so often missed, overlooked or downright ignored—leaves us feeling like victims, out of control, anxious, stressed and furthers our unhappiness, dissatisfaction and anger.

Let’s take a closer look at this gap. Things happen, and then there is a moment—a pause, maybe it’s a breath, maybe longer than that—before we need to respond. In that moment, we all have freedom, power, and possibility. Our power to choose is our power to create, and choice gives us control and options.

I get it…taking ownership of this gap is easier said than done. Things happen and often we quickly react in the way we’ve been trained or socialized by our parents, friends, and society. Sometimes our response is choosing not to respond. Sometimes our reaction is merely being on autopilot or is motivated by conditioned feelings or fear. By actually taking responsibility for our response, utilizing that gap to actually think about and make mindful choices, we gain power, control, and strength and have a say in the outcome of the response. 

How? No matter what happens we always have choices and options, even though we might not like them. There is always room to get creative and realize that while from one perspective there might not be options, from another perspective there are many. Owning and taking responsibility for these moments returns our power to us.

So how do we take back our lives, get off cruise control and start embracing change? I will warn you, it’s not a quick fix; it’s a process that involves consistent practice and focus, but it’s worth it, because even a subtle shift can create joy, happiness and fulfillment.

Here are three things we can all do to take back our lives:

  1. Start paying attention. Noticing is always the first step. What do you normally do when things happen? What are your patterns, i.e., how do you react or how does it normally go? Ask yourself, “Was my response motivated by love or fear?” If it’s not working the way you’ve been doing it, try doing it differently. Make a list of other ways you could have reacted or other choices you might have made.

  2. Visualize and Take Responsibility. Think of a situation that you are currently in where you are not happy. Maybe it’s your job, relationship, health, financial or living situation. Think about how things normally go? For instance, what usually happens when you fight with your partner, when your kids misbehave, when your boss is in a bad mood or when your car breaks down?  Visualize how you would like it to go. Visualize how you could show up with a more giving attitude or with more positivity, love, compassion or vulnerability. Take responsibility. Own what judgments and attitudes you’ve been bringing to situations and make a decision to practice showing up differently. Visualize how your new approach creates new, more desirable results. Take a pen and paper and write a letter to yourself from the future describing how this new, more empowered situation turned out.

  3. Start meditating. A daily mediation practice will help you focus, calm your mind, slow your thoughts, enable greater reflection and patience. You can start with just three minutes and set a timer so you don’t feel anxious about when to stop. Medical studies show meditation actually makes you healthier, and reduces anxiety and stress. There are a lot of great, free guided meditation resources available online to help.

Remember this isn’t a band-aid, or a quick fix. It is a new way to look at, and live, your life. If life isn’t working for you and you keep approaching it the same way, what makes you think you’re going to get a different result?

Stop playing the game of not having what you want. Stop playing the game of living in fear. Stop playing the game of not being happy. When things happen, take a moment and make a new more powerful choice, show up differently, create a new response. Live knowing that this is your life and you are the only one responsible for how it goes.

You’re more than a piece of driftwood in a raging ocean. You have the power of choice, so use it in your commitment to your happiness!


Author: Alex Terranova

Apprentice Editor: Roseann Pascale/Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Minoru Nitta

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