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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Change and Mindset

There’s a difference between wanting to make a change in your life and thinking you should make a change in life. In the first instance you want to make a change, in the second an external force encourages change.

When an external force wants you to change, it’s a lot harder. Sometimes you dig your heels in, refusing to let change happen. Sometimes you sabotage yourself. Maybe you talk about needing to change, but you don’t act on those words. Either way, the result is the same, you don’t change. Not really. Certainly some people may change for a while, but often end up back where they started.

When the desire to change comes from within, when you have your eye on a goal you can clearly see, when that goal excites you, then change happens easier than ever!

We recently read “The Secret Garden” as a family. In the book Mary Lennox’s cousin, Colin, can’t walk. He’s spent his entire life in bed, or on a couch. Sitting up was a good day for him. But one day he decided to change. He decided he was strong, and would live forever! He didn’t sit and wait for strength to come to him. He knew he already had the strength, he just had to find it.

The first day he made his decision to no longer be an ‘invalid’, he stood up. At ten years old he decided to be strong and healthy and stood up for the first time in his life. Previously, he’d believed it was impossible. He believed he could die at any moment. But after he put his mind to changing his destiny, things happened quickly.

In our life I see the same magic working on us all the time. When either Ryan or I talk about what we should or shouldn’t do, we often ignore the decision after a week or two (sometimes longer, often shorter). But when we make a decision to change our reality, things happen quickly.

We’ve made a decision to change our home life, to change the way we approach opportunities. We decided to bring magic, a deeper faith, and #unforgettable into our daily lives.

Some things change quickly, but others are more difficult. In some ways we’ve lacked a clear vision of what we want our life to look like, we flounder and falter because we don’t have that clear idea in our mind. Sometimes fear of failure hold us back.

Our vision for increased financial security and a more active lifestyle has been easier to visualize and make a reality.

We knew we wanted extra money each month for savings, to pay down debt, to spend when we see something we think would be awesome. But we also decided we wanted Ryan home more often, which cut our monthly income by almost 60%. Yikes!

How could we make both of these things a reality?

We currently have two vehicles. We own one (and will make the last payment on it very shortly), the other owns us. We decided to sell the vehicle and drop down to one vehicle instead.

It’ll mean some big changes for us, but it’ll free up so much cash! For the first time ever our monthly expenses will be less than our base income. This is HUGE!

But this change also works with my wanting to walk more and be in better shape. Yesterday I dug out the bikes, hooked the chariot behind Ryan’s bike (my bike isn’t capable of pulling a trailer), loaded Cordelia and Brom into the chariot along with tons of water, a mini picnic, cell phone, library cards, camera, and a couple toys (just in case). Ella and Agatha rode along behind me and together we all rode to the library, just over 6KM away, uphill almost the entire way!

I forgot to time us, but going home, down hill, took us only about 25 minutes! Dropping down to one vehicle will change a few things for us. We’ll need to utilize the bus a few times a month in the winter. We’ll also change where the girls do some of their classes. Instead of driving to Edmonton to take gymnastics, we’ll go to a closer gym.

Instead of shopping at Costco and the specialty pet food store we used to shop at, we’ll buy all our groceries and pet supplies at the stores closest to us, and walk or bike when we go shopping. It also means we’re less likely to ‘just run out for a minute’ to buy something we would like. Instead we’ll actually think about how important something is to us.

We’ve weighed the pros and cons of owning a single vehicle. There are a few things I worry about, but I think the pros out weigh the cons by far and once we get a new rhythm in our life I’m sure we’ll hardly miss the second vehicle.

These are only the first of many changes we’re making to improve the way we feel about ourselves and our life, and I’m so excited to embrace this change!

I am strong! I can bike across town pulling 100lbs of children and stuff behind me. I didn’t wait to try until I convinced myself I was strong. Instead I just did it. I hopped on the bike and rode. We stopped several times to take a break in the shade. We drank water. We rested. Then we rode some more. I could use the rest breaks to ‘prove’ I can’t do it. Or I can look at the total outcome as proof that I can do it.

Positive thinking says I’ve already done it once. Next time will be easier!

Have you ever made a big change like this? What was it? How’d it go? I’d love to hear of your successes as well as lessons learned!