Do you ever experience a nagging feeling that something is missing or just not working in your life? Maybe you even have a pretty good idea what it is but avoid dealing with it because you don’t want to rock the boat, or you’ve never been good at confrontations or, for whatever reason, at some point you convinced yourself that certain things are not an option for you; you’re too young or too old; you have too much responsibility and not enough control, or you lack the right skills, education or experience.
Consciously or not, these are choices you’ve made along the way, and yet the pesky feeling of longing and dissatisfaction persists.
How Settling Leads to Life by Default
Life in default mode looks something like this … we get up every day and go through the motions of letting life happen to us, following routines and investing energy and attention on whatever screams the loudest for attention. Occasionally something happens, a comment or uncomfortable situation that pings your gut and reminds you that you’re still hauling around the weight of this annoying albeit persistent obstacle to your peace of mind. You might give it a second thought, but in the end, decide not to let it ruin your day and focus your attention on other things.
It seems innocent enough, but in choosing to live this way you are relinquishing control of your life to fate, circumstances and the whims of others.
There are two ways to be happier; improve your reality or lower your expectations. ~Jodi Picoult
The sentiment in the quote above about happiness applies to most areas of life. Many people choose to lower their expectations to avoid disappointment, but more often than not it’s to avoid discomfort. To be clear, the focus here is not about condemning the life you’ve built, which may be perfectly wonderful on the whole. It’s the little things that we learn to put up with that multiply and prevent inner peace, create regret and in extreme cases can end up defining the quality of a life. There’s no better example than the issue of boundaries.
Personal boundaries are not about keeping people out or being mean, they are imaginary lines you draw around yourself to maintain and protect your body, mind, emotions and time from the behavior or demands of others. People who disrespect your boundaries often start out with small transgressions to test the waters and then keep pushing to see how far you’ll let them go. A good example would be the frog in hot water analogy. That may be a myth but the concept is a valid one when it comes to how easy it becomes to overlook more and more as time goes on, unless you choose to take responsibility and stop the cycle.
By taking the time to identify and face the source of any feelings of discontent you can make an informed decision about whether or not you are willing to make the effort to change your reality, or once and for all find peace of mind by lowering your expectations. This is a choice only you can make.
How to Uncover the Source of Your Discontent
Identify Your Triggers
Even if your whole life feels vaguely off balance, the chances are good that the real culprit is a specific problem, circumstance or relationship that’s been left unattended for too long. Regardless of the root cause, there will inevitably be certain triggers that set off annoying feelings of yearning and discontent, and your first job is to identify those triggers so you can begin to hone in on the area that needs attention.
It may be your work, where you live, a relationship, or it could even be a health issue you’ve tried your best to ignore. Maybe it’s a dream you once had, getting your college degree for example, and every time you have to list your education or show your references it triggers feelings of embarrassment, vulnerability, or defensiveness.
So the next time you begin experiencing that itch of discontent, don’t try to ignore or stuff it, instead, take some time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Even if you believe you already know what the problem is, by identifying the specific actions or circumstances that trigger these feelings, and exploring your responses, you may be surprised at what you learn about yourself. Sometimes what we believe is the culprit is really just a symptom of an entirely different problem.
This is a process, which means you may have to go through it a few times so I recommend you use a journal or a log of some sort. The deeper you can dig and more detail you can come up with the better.
Determine What Would Make You Feel Whole
Once you identify the source of discontent in your life then it’s time to explore your options. This is where many people stall because they focus only on the potential discomfort of confrontation or reasons why they can’t do, be or have something. The thing to keep in mind is that sometimes we latch on to those excuses because they provide us with a convenient reason for not taking action.
You Must Make a Choice
Once you discover your triggers and source of discontent you are left with a choice to make, and there really are only two ways to go with this. Either decide you’re worth the effort and commit to doing the work to create meaningful change, or resolve to find peace of mind within your current circumstances. It really is that simple … and that hard.
Regardless of where you are now, time will continue to pass and it’s up to you to choose whether you will be the driver or the passenger in your journey through life.
- How Self-Reflection Can Help You Create a Better Future
- It’s Never Too Late to take Charge of Your Life
- Personal Boundaries Teach People How to Treat You
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.