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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Feeling off Track in Life? Here’s How to Stay True to Yourself

Feeling off Track in Life? Here’s How to Stay True to Yourself

You often hear people say, “be true to yourself” or “‘just be you.” Many legendary quotes speak to this concept, yet we can often feel like we’re off track when it comes to being our true selves.

My primary goal as a coach and consultant is to help people get back on track—to live a life of greater happiness, fulfillment, and success.

While there are many (awesome) books, courses, programs, and words of advice on living a life you love, I always come back to the conclusion that the fastest way to get there is to be true to yourself.

There’s No Place Like Home — Your True Self

In the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy taps her ruby red slippers together and repeats, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”

The same is true for each of us: there’s no place like home. There is a core in each of us where we thrive. This place or “state” is a reservoir from which we generate health and energy. Ultimately, your body, mind, and spirit all yearn to get back to this “home.”

Much of our stress, angst, and frustration is caused by being disconnected from, or out of alignment with, the source of who we are.

Why People Stop Being True to Themselves

From a  young age, we are pulled off track from being true to ourselves by well-meaning family members, teachers, the education system, our communities, and society.

Perhaps you were told to be quiet when you had much to say; or maybe your curiosity was crushed when your “whys” were met with “because I said so”; or your creativity and free spirit were suffocated when you were forced to fit in and sit quietly in a traditional classroom setting.

There are hundreds of examples of this, and I’m sure you have your own.

In fact, we as a culture, society, and species are derailed now more than ever. We are thrown off by the multitude of challenges in our own lives, by what’s happening in our countries and the world. There are unrealistic expectations and demands coming from every direction.

We are pulled off track by our 24-hour, technology-fueled world[1]. We are being pulled in different and sometimes even opposite directions, playing the many roles in our lives–employee, friend, parent, partner. All of these diverse roles have their own demands and expectations.

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We read books about how we should do things, take courses on what we are supposed to do, and try to model what we see others doing  to improve ourselves or be the right influence on others. And depending on the day of the week or the newest article or study, the advice is often different and conflicting!

How in the world are we supposed to get back on track when all of this is happening?

What Happens If You Are Not True to Yourself

It’s no wonder there are such staggering statistics around stress, health, and well-being, especially here in the U.S.[2].

For one reason or another, we are disconnected from our core self, we have slipped out of alignment with who we really are and what we already know. That pull is having widespread and significant consequences.

Let’s think of “being true to self” as a magnet. Your core self is compelled to get back “home,” but life’s circumstances and crises may actually have a stronger and demanding pull. As you get pulled from your home base, it’s like a magnet being wrenched from its attachment.

What happens when you pull a magnet away? It gets shaky and tries to get back. But if you let it, it will snap right back into place. Again, if you try to pull it away, it shakes again.

The Warning Signs

Now think of this for yourself. When you get separated from your core self, from being true to you, what do you experience? Do you get “shaky” like the magnet?

This disorientation can manifest as:

  • Physical symptoms such as low energy, headaches, stomach issues, tense muscles, frequent colds and infections, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, etc.
  • Emotional symptoms can include feelings of anger, frustration, being overwhelmed, loneliness, and eventually depression or anxiety.

These warning signs are your body’s way of saying that it wants to go home.

But most of the time, we ignore these signs. We keep pushing them down or forcing our way through. If we get a headache, we take a painkiller; if we have high blood pressure, we get a prescription; if we feel depressed or anxious, we drink a bottle of wine or take a tranquilizer.

However, the reason those things are showing up is to tell you something. Your body may be telling or even screaming at you that something is not working. What we really need to do is pause and identify the “why” behind the symptoms we are experiencing.

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These often relate to us being off track from our true selves and what works best for us.

How to Be True to Yourself and Get Back on Track

You might, at this point, be thinking this all sounds wonderful, but how do you get back on track? Some of you might even be wondering what being true to yourself even looks like any more.

Here are 10 ways to be true to you and get back on track again:

1. Identify What You Need to Thrive

One way to figure this out is to think about times in your life when you felt fantastic, otop of things, under control, in the zone.

Think about times in your life when you felt happy, fulfilled, and successful. Write them down.

Now, think about what it was about those times that made them so great. Was it the environment you were in? The people you were surrounded by? Something you were building or creating?

Maybe you had a clear picture, a plan, a purpose, or challenge?

2. Think About What Makes You Happy

What makes you feel joy or laugh? What do you love to do?

Are you doing those things? How can you live more in touch with your passions or be doing more of the things that make you happy?

3. Pinpoint What Makes You Feel Most Like You

Think about when you feel most like yourself. What makes you feel connected, grounded and centered with who you are?

Maybe it’s spending time with friends and family, or connecting with your spirituality through meditation. Maybe it’s a sense of adventure when traveling or the calmness that comes when you’re cozied up with a good book.

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What nourishes your soul at a deep level?

4. Know When You Don’t Feel Like You

In order to get back on track, you have to know you’re off track in the first place. That’s why it’s just as important to know when you don’t feel like you.

How do you know when things aren’t working for you? Think about what pulls you out of stride.

We talked before about physical and emotional symptoms that show up. What are those for you? What do you think, hear, or feel?

Notice. Pay attention to these early warning signals your mind and body are sending you.

5. Look at Your Core Values

Do you know what’s most important to you? How can you reprioritize and put those things first? If one of your core values is family, how can you live that more?

Can you stop working extra hours at work in order to have more time with your kids? Can you plan a weekly date night with your spouse?

 

If you need help finding your values, check out this article.

6. Use Your Talents

What are the innate strengths or talents that you could be using more? Are you amazing at solving problems, listening to friends, or cooking healthy, wholesome food? Where can you use that talent now?

7. Connect With Your Purpose

Some people are very clear about their purpose, while others are still searching. I know this is a big one.

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Even if you aren’t clear on what your purpose is, are you living each day with purpose? Or do you get off track by distractions, expectations, or life[3]?

If you get off track, find your purpose.

    8. Focus on Taking Care of All of You

    Get back to basics with healthy eating and living. Focus on your overall wellness, and take care of your body.

    Does that mean you need to exercise more? Sleep more? Mediate more often?

    I’m a big advocate of a healthy body. While I believe this piece is important, it’s also important to note that you could work days and years on your health, nutrition, hydration, etc, but if you don’t take a step back and look at the energetic pieces of you, you’re not going to make much progress.

    9. Rediscover What You Loved to Do Before Things Got so Busy

    Was it hiking outdoors? Being with friends? Sitting in the library reading a good book? Doing absolutely nothing at all?

    Try making more time for these things now.

    10. Let Go

    Let go of the expectations of others and the way you “should” do things. Let go of who you are trying to be and, instead, try being you.

    We try so hard to please, to meet expectations, to make others happy, or to fit in. Much about being true to you is about what you let go of as much as what you hold on to.

    The Bottom Line

    As you might imagine, you don’t have to do all 10 of these to get back on track. Just one step in the right direction will start to lead you home.

    How do you know which one to start with? Like the magnet, see which ones attract you. Which one of these resonated most with you?

    If you’re not sure, read them again, and see which one(s) have that magnetic pull. Your core self knows which one of these is the next right thing to focus on for you.

    More Tips to Help You Get Back on Track

    Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Tracy Kennedy

    Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

    10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them) How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation to Calm Your Thoughts 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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    Published on February 22, 2021

    How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

    How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough)

    Scott Peck’s first sentence in his book, The Road Less Traveled, is, “Life is difficult.” He then goes on to say that if you accept this, you are going to be okay. There is a lot of adversity in life, and none of us are exempt. That’s why we need to focus on the good things in life for us to move forward.

    Here are 4 ways you can focus on the good things in life, especially during tough times.

    1. “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do”

    “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

    The above quote is the title of Dr. Robert Schuller’s outstanding book. The title tells you all you need to know about the book.

    We have been through a tough 2020, and 2021 could very well be just as tough. The hope is that vaccines and proper protocols will get us through these difficult times. Americans in the 20th century suffered through two World Wars and the devastating Great Depression. To get through these times, they had to be tough—and they were. Now, it is our turn to show our toughness.

    I can think of three examples where people showed their toughness in recent years.

    The first has to do with the Catholic Church and the awful pedophilia scandal. I believe it was one of the worst times in the history of the Church. What happened to the children was unconscionable. Another side of the issue was the clergy who were falsely accused. Two of them in the Chicago area knew they were innocent and showed their toughness in different ways.

    The first got through it with prayer—praying especially for his accuser. Prayer can be a great way to get through tough times. The second was able to retain his optimism. He said he kept repeating a sentence from John and Bobby Kennedy’s mother, Rose: “After the storm, the birds always sing.”

    Both men were exonerated after a most difficult and humiliating time. Their accusers ultimately admitted they had lied.

    Another way of getting through times is by calling on the best of people. Winston Churchill, during the worst bombing of London in World War II, told the British people, “Never, never give in!” The British people did just that.

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    Another way of getting through times is through determination and work. We were looking to build a gymnasium at Providence High School when I worked there. We drafted a paper giving the rationale as to why we needed the gym and presented it to people of means in our community.

    The vote was 16-0 that we should not try to build during such tough economic times. Providence has a gym today because of the work ethic and the determination of one man—Father (then Bishop) Roger Kaffer.

    Finally, teams go through tough times in athletics. We started one season 3-6. We decided to go back to the fundamentals. We finished 9-2 and played for the conference championship because we returned to the fundamentals. All organizations can return to their core values during tough times.

    Prayer, optimism, calling on our best selves, determination, work, and our core values can get us through tough times.

    2. Keep a Good Thought

    “Keep a good thought” is an Irish maxim encouraging people to stay positive. We can find the good through tough times by our thinking.

    Dale Carnegie wrote, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy. It’s what you think about.”

    I enjoyed the basketball coach who had an interesting take on thinking. He asked the referee if he could give him a technical foul for what he was thinking. The ref said of course not; the coach then responded, “I think you stink!”

    Willie Nelson, in one of his many songs, stressed to be careful of negative thinking. Paraphrasing, the refrain was, “Think of the good times because the bad times weigh like lead on your mind.”

    Our students at the University of St. Francis would annually go to Bolivia to help the people build and repair homes. When I asked them what they learned from the trip, they said two things—they could not believe the poverty the people lived in nor could they believe the positive attitude with which the people lived. Their kindness, humor, and compassion were incredible. Somehow, they consistently kept a good thought, despite their tough circumstances.

    Mother Teresa summed up keeping a good thought when she wrote, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

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    You can focus on the good things in life when you are determined to “Keep a Good Thought” through hardships.

    3. Be in the Moment

    We focus on the good things when we are happy. Roy T. Bennett wrote, “If you want to be happy do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”

    Two emotions that can deprive us of our happiness are guilt and worry. Jeffrey Nevid called them the “useless emotions.”

    Guilt refers to the past. We can elect to carry guilt for something we did in the past. That is our prerogative, but the bottom line is we cannot change it. It’s over! What we can do, however, is learn from it, then move on. Learning from it is the easy part; moving on, the only realistic thing to do, admittedly is the hard part.

    Mark Twain had a great insight into guilt’s partner, worry, when he wrote, “I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which happened.”

    Too often, we worry about things that never materialize. If guilt and worry are tied to our past and future and if they are “useless emotions,” then the only alternative is to live in the present.

    In my first 25 years of coaching basketball at the University of St. Francis, we had no bus to take us to road games. We, the coaches, drove the vans. There were 21 NAIA teams in Illinois and only 6 made the playoffs. We finally had the chance to be one of the 6 but we had to win one more game. The team we played was about 5 hours away. We were down 12 with 4 minutes to go in the game. We rallied to make 2 free throws with 2 seconds left to go and we were up by 1 point.

    They inbounded the ball to our free-throw line, some 79 feet away from their basket. Their player threw a “Hail Mary” ball toward their basket—it went right in and knocked us out of the playoffs! I had the option of dwelling on that incredulous ending and living in the past or living in the present and driving our players back to campus safely! Fortunately, we made it home.

    We can focus on the good by making ourselves happy. Many people have validated that we can make ourselves happy.

    Aristotle kept it simple, “Happiness depends on ourselves.”

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    The Dalai Lama wrote, “Happiness is not something that is readymade. It comes from your own actions.”

    The actress Aubrey Hepburn had this insight, “The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.”

    Mahatma Gandhi saw it this way, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

    When we will ourselves into a state of happiness by staying in the present moment, we can focus on the good things in life.

    4. Help Others

    Mark Twain wrote, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up.”

    A former high school classmate, Pat Warren, was constantly cheering up our friends when they were experiencing tough times. I would hear about the person suffering and tell myself I must get to see him. Inevitably, by the time I finally got to see him, Pat had already been there. He constantly focused on the good things he could do for others, especially during their difficult times.

    Joe Madden, the former Chicago Cubs manager, used to tell his players, “Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” I saw one of his players execute the pleasure.

    One of my grandchildren was playing in a Little League game on Chicago’s north side. He was playing on one field and there was another game on an adjacent field. When I looked to the other field, the game had stopped and all the players and fans had surrounded someone.

    Ben Zobrist lived near the park where the kids were playing. He had been the Most Valuable Player of the previous year’s World Series. So, there was a lot of pressure on him to perform well this next year, but he did not let the pressure exceed his giving pleasure.

    The Cubs had a game that day and he lived close enough to Wrigley Field, their home park, so he would often ride his bike to games in his uniform. However, before riding to his game this day, he rode over to the park where we were.

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    The players and the adults were excited to see and meet the 2016 World Series MVP. He stayed in the park until he signed every autograph for every person on both fields! It was an act of random kindness as he gave the kids great pleasure. He focused on the good despite the pressure he was about to face in his game.

    Numerous pundits have great insights into the many facets of helping others.

    Catherine Pulsifer said, “People appreciate and never forget that helping hand, especially when times are tough.”

    Martin Luther King wrote, ”Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.”

    Charles Dickens spoke about the two kinds of people who help. “There were two kinds of charitable people: one, the people who did little and made a great deal of noise; the other the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

    Finally, Jim Rohn wrote about the relationship between giving and receiving, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”

    Helping others, especially during tough times, enables you to focus on the good things in life.

    Final Thoughts

    We can focus on the good things in life during difficult times in four ways:

    • By being tough and not fearing the tough times
    • By keeping a good thought
    • By staying in the moment
    • By being there for others

    Remember that tough times are inevitable, but they will also inevitably end. The key is to focus on the good, and you’ll get there eventually.

    More Tips on How to Focus on the Good

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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