Connect with the Life You Want
You know what you don't like. What do you want?
Posted March 23, 2022 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
- It is easy to become focused on problems to the point where you forget what you really want out of life.
- Most of us complain about problems—our own; social, work, societal ones; and the those of the world. We know what we don’t want.
- But what do you want? What is the vision for your life? How do you want to achieve it? What is your time frame?
- Or are you so used to complaining that you have lost sight of goals?
One of the most important aspects of healing is your life outlook. Realistic and positive goal setting is a core aspect of stimulating constructive neuroplasticity, because the brain quicky adapts to where you place your attention. It is up to you to decide what you want your life to look like, what you want in it, and then pursue those dreams. Otherwise, your focus is on the problems, not solutions.
In my medical practice, asked each patient exactly why they were seeing me and what they wanted. Of course, the answer was usually, “I want to get rid of my pain.” It is an understandable request, but it doesn’t work. One of the paradoxes of healing is that you can’t fix yourself. The solution lies in moving away from painful neurological circuits and shifting into the life you desire.
It is critical to connect with your personal life vision, regardless of your level of pain and suffering. How else will you move forward?
“It’s always something.”
There are always significant obstacles to achieving what you would like. When you are young, it is lack of knowledge and resources. Then you are deeply enmeshed in your education and training. You may have started a new family. Finances frequently require “giving up your dreams” in order to just make ends meet. Life keeps coming at us, and our hopes become ever more buried. The added burden of physical and mental pain further compounds the suffering.
We all have dreams, but we seldom execute to attain even a fraction of them. What happened?
It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old.
They grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I agree with this quote, except I have a different take on it. People grow old because their dreams are crushed by anxiety.
We are so programmed to survive that we forget the importance of creating and pursuing our vision. And where would most of us have learned the needed skill? It would have been helpful to been taught it early in our educational experience. Since we lack tools to effectively process our stresses, we are trapped, anxious, and angry. It might even seem normal —except that we eventually may get crushed by it all. Positive thinking won’t break you out of this powerful cycle.
You must free yourself from anxiety by developing a working relationship with it. It is necessary for survival and a gift. It is learned set of skills. Then you can move forward, and your creativity can emerge. But this is still not enough. What is your vision? What brings you joy? What do you really want out of your life?
Assume that your life is a business with short- and long-term goals. As with any business start-up, the chances of success are low without a written plan—the more detailed, the better. Outside input and discussions with involved parties add important dimensions. Creating a personal business plan will help you achieve your goals.
Where am I now?
Where do I want to go?
How am I going to get there?
Dare yourself to dream again and while being realistic about what is possible. Then do it.
Where am I now?
Don’t pull any punches with this question. If you are engaged with the healing journey, chances are that your quality of life has been crushed. Get every aspect of your misery out on paper, organize it into categories, and don’t tear it up. Then redo it and get more focused. You must understand the magnitude of your situation, as well as specifics, before you can solve it.
Also remember that the healing journey is rooted in connecting to you and your body’s capacity to heal. What is inside of you, being trapped in pain, is a lot of negativity. You must connect with it and stay connected with it indefinitely. Hope springs from learning to navigate out of this mess and not from positive thinking. Embracing your skepticism is the starting point.
People often respond that they can’t move forward because they are in pain. That is initially true and why the early part of the healing journey is focused on ways to break loose. You cannot “fix” your pain. The solution lies in moving away from it and into more functional and pleasurable neurological circuits.
Break your misery into its components. There is mental and physical pain. What activities can you no longer do? How is the medical system not meeting your needs? What are the effects of your pain on your relationships and work? How much are you enjoying sitting around the house and being at the mercy of disability system? Is this the way you want to live the rest of your life?
Where do I want to go?
This step is more difficult than the first one. You may be so consumed by your pain that all possibilities seem to be gone. But go big! This is just an exercise that you’ll eventually bring to life. It isn’t possible to jump from chronic pain to the life that you want. But on the other hand, there is no chance of attaining the life you desire without having an idea what that looks like.
Take pain out of the picture. Getting rid of your pain cannot be one of the goals. Life is unpredictable. Pain comes at you in many unpredictable ways. You’ll develop skills to process adversity more effectively, but it will always be a part of your life. If you choose to remain upset by life’s challenges, your body will remain inflamed and you’ll continue to suffer. Look at obstacles as opportunities to practice your skills and move forward. This is not positive thinking; you are taking control with a positive vision.
Be specific and apply your vision to all aspects of your life.
How am I going to get there?
No vision is attainable without a plan. Again, look at the various parts of your life and ask yourself what would you like to achieve in each arena regardless of the pain? Every successful endeavor always encounters many obstacles. Part of the “how” is surmounting them.
You now must pull mental and physical pain back into the picture. They are big obstacles. They are there, your life is being adversely affected, and how are you going to break free? Each person must find his or her own unique way out.
This is where you look at your relationship to pain. If you choose to remain a victim of it (and you already are), you are stuck. If you view it as simply another set of obstacles to be dealt with, you are on a strong healing path.
As you stimulate your brain to change (neuroplasticity), you can direct your brain to create and move into enjoyable circuits. Similar to learning a new language, this just doesn’t happen by continually trying to correct your native language. You have to practice living a more enjoyable life in order to have a more enjoyable life.
We all know how to complain. Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to healing is that many people do not want to give up the power of pain in spite of their misery. It took me many years to see this, and it is sad.
What do you actually want? Do you want to hold on or move forward? You can’t do both. Once you attain clarity and create a plan, you have a high chance of achieving it—and thriving.