“And I’m all mixed up again. Which way should I go? So many voices in my head…” – Inhabited
Did you ever have so many voices in your head that you had no idea which one was yours? I know the drill. The more serious the decision, the more voices that show up to confuse you. Who do these voices belong to?
Running away from problems
In my mid twenties I had so many voices in my head and was so sick and tired of the way they talked to me and confused me, that I decided to try and leave them behind. Literally.
So I went to Europe. Alone. I needed to get that far away to try and shut them down. Now I understand that it’s not feasible for most people, so bear with me. You do not actually have to go anywhere to begin to figure this out.
Nonetheless, desperate moments call for desperate actions and at that time, I was desperate. So, I flew from Philadelphia to London one cold December night. Within a couple of hours of landing I was standing in Picadilly Circus all alone in a crowd of people. Cell phones were virtually non-existent. Despite my exhaustion and jet lag, I was elated.
I stood there quietly, just absorbing my surroundings, and my mind was the quietest it had ever been. I felt free. Where did those voices go?Advertising
We soak up so many versions of how our life should be
From the time we are too small to even remember, we have information coming into our brains. We are sponges soaking up everything going on around us. We have Moms and Dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, television programs and even peers…all telling us how life is, how we should be behaving and what is expected of us.
We just take it all in, all the while attempting to make sense of it so we can figure out how it applies to our lives. Many of those voices, unfortunately, come from a distorted world view, at best. Sometimes those voices are just blatantly damaging.
Nonetheless, as kids, we usually believe those voices are truth. Often times, if we don’t comply with those voices we pay a price. Punishment can be a powerful motivator, especially when you are a dependent, powerless child.
It’s called survival. So we internalize a whole slew of voices and opinions and they become the “shoulds” dictating our lives.
Those “shoulds” don’t belong to us. We inherited them from someone else. So when you tell yourself you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something. Ask yourself why. Before you make that final decision, it would be helpful to figure out whose voice you are listening to…or at the very least, if it is yours.
Shift your focus to find your own voice
The place to find your one true voice will not be found in your head. It will be found in your heart. That means you have to shift your focus. Move out of your head and focus on your heart. If you did not have all those voices in your head telling you what to do or not to do or why you should or shouldn’t do something….what would you do? What do you want?!Advertising
If you are answering, “I don’t know” then you may still be engaged in the conflict between your head and your heart. Try again….in the ideal world, without a millions reasons or excuses, what would you do?
I remember trying to make a difficult employment decision. I was working as an RN for a law firm. It was a nice gig. I had been there for five years. I liked what I was doing, despite having grown bored with it. I was paid a decent salary. I got along great with my employers and co-workers. I was good at what I did. I was respected. I had flexibility. I could take extended lunch hours, if needed. They took us on a trip to Jamaica. Who could ask for more?
I was considering returning to patient care, specifically hospice care. I had interviewed with a local hospice organization out of curiosity. I was offered a position. My brain went into overdrive. The voices in my head were relentless.
“What if you hate it?” “You will never get this flexibility in another job…certainly, no one is going to take you on an all expense paid island get-away.” “What are you thinking?” “Working with dying people…really?!” “Why would you leave a good job for something you know nothing about?” And so it goes, on and on and on…
I was paralyzed, afraid of making the “wrong decision”. I paced around my house, tormenting myself. I avoided talking to anyone about it, already having enough opinions roaming aimlessly through my head.
Legal work to hospice care was a huge and terrifying leap. After almost two weeks of grappling with it, I was no closer to making a decision. I was trying to figure it all out in my head and I was getting nowhere, but frustrated. Suddenly, during my second week of pacing around my home, losing in my head, I stopped suddenly.Advertising
I stood still in a spare bedroom of my house. I unknowingly shifted my focus out of my head and asked myself, “What do you want to do?” The answer was clear, “I want to do hospice care.” The next silent question was, “So what is the problem?” Again, the answer was clear, “I’m scared.”
In understanding why I was unable to make a decision, I realized that I wanted to make the move, but fear of the unknown was stopping me. The voices stopped. I knew what to do.
Listen to your heart
Those voices in my head were all the well intended, nonetheless, fearful voices of my youth. They came from parental and societal expectations of what employment life “should” look like. They were all the practical, well-advised opinions that keep many from finding their true purpose.
I resigned from the law firm and within a month, I was doing hospice care. That life changing decision was a stepping stone to my current career as a psychotherapist. It was while doing hospice care that I realized I was better with the psychological and spiritual side of life than the physical.
My heart knew what my head did not. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Had I stayed in my head and ignored my heart, I might still be trudging through life. Though I may still be doing something worthwhile and honorable, it would be, nonetheless, unfulfilling.
Now, please understand, we need our heads to help us navigate life. Our heads have to work through the practical part of what we are doing. We need our heads and our hearts to work in conjunction with each other in order to make our decision work.Advertising
But when we are making a decision about what is best for our life, the heart needs to lead. The mind is fearful.
Once you make the jump, your are heading on a journey towards your heart’s desire
Although not necessary, it can help to consider to whom those voices in your head belong. Who were the naysayers? Who told you what life was “supposed” to look like? How have parental or societal expectations dictated the life you are living? What fear has been projected on to you?
Whenever your mind is in overdrive…fear is involved. Hesitate, and ask yourself, “what am I afraid of?”
In asking myself that question, I discovered I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of regret. I was afraid I would be a lousy hospice nurse. I was afraid of facing death, not only that of others, but more importantly, my own. I could not disconnect from my own mortality and still help others grapples with theirs.
But I also knew that in desiring it, my heart was leading me to the place that was most right for me. As long as I follow the desires of my heart, I usually, likely always, land right where I am supposed to. I stayed there two years before feeling another pull at my heart, telling me it was time to move on. Each step leads to the next…and to the next and to the next.
Take that first step and you might actually discover, you are creating the life you want.
Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 65.media.tumblr.com
Last Updated on January 21, 2020
The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want
Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.
Why You Need a Vision
Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.
How to Create Your Life Vision
Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.
What Do You Want?
The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.
It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.
Some tips to guide you:
- Remember to ask why you want certain things
- Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
- Give yourself permission to dream.
- Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
- Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.
Some questions to start your exploration:
- What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
- What would you like to have more of in your life?
- Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
- What are your secret passions and dreams?
- What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
- What do you want your relationships to be like?
- What qualities would you like to develop?
- What are your values? What issues do you care about?
- What are your talents? What’s special about you?
- What would you most like to accomplish?
- What would legacy would you like to leave behind?
It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.
What Would Your Best Life Look Like?
Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.
A few prompts to get you started:
- What will you have accomplished already?
- How will you feel about yourself?
- What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
- What does your ideal day look like?
- Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
- What would you be doing?
- Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
- How are you dressed?
- What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
- What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
- Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.
It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next step. Give yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.
It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.
- What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
- What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
- What would you have needed to learn along the way?
- What important actions would you have had to take?
- What beliefs would you have needed to change?
- What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
- What type of support would you have had to enlist?
- How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
- What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?
Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.
It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.
Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com