You know those “moments of truths”?
When what you hear, or come to realize, turns your world around. When one or several things turn out to be exactly what you needed to hear at the exact right time. Bo-boom.
For the past couple of years, I’ve had several ah-ha moments that have made my life better. Here are seven of those realizations. Some were harsh to come to terms with (like #1), while others brought me the greatest relief and hallelujah moment (like #7).
Read them, ponder them, and let them move in with you. See if they can alter your life and perhaps amp up your awesomeness even more.
First time I heard this I got a tiny bit uncomfortable, to say the least. Did that mean I had to take responsibility for everything? Even areas in my life where I had felt mistreated, misunderstood, and clearly had my reasons as to why things weren’t ideal? Like my financial situation and why I wasn’t working with something I love.
At first, I didn’t like the idea of taking full responsibility for everything. But, then it hit me: If I want to own the solution, I have to first own the problem. This doesn’t mean that what someone else did to us was okay; it just means that we accept what happened (because, let’s face it, it did happen) and then take responsibility for how we let it affect our life onward.
We can’t change a situation in our life that we don’t take full responsibility for, because that means that the power sits with someone or something else. Excuses, blames, and reasons might cushy-comfort us for a while, but it won’t change the game.
Try this: Look at one area of your life that you’re not fully satisfied with. Then, choose to take 100 percent responsibility for it, no matter what has happened or how things are now. (If you find it difficult to start, just imagine that you do it for two minutes).
Taking responsibility means taking your power back to where it belongs: to you.
What really pisses you off about others? What frustrates you and makes you go through the roof? Yeah, that’s all a mirror of you.
Realizing this for me gave me so many ah-ha moments (after I passed my denial phase). For example, I was frustrated with one person who always interrupted me and others. Why wasn’t she capable of listening? Why did she always have to interrupt people half way through?
As you might have guessed, this was also something I did. (Now I’m aware, so hopefully I don’t do it as much anymore.) Realizing this was powerful. Not only could I reveal sides of myself I wanted to work on, it also allowed me to practice compassion instead of judgment with others’ behavior. Win-win!
Look at things that annoy you about others and then turn the focus toward yourself. What’s the message here? How can you grow and develop from it?
Here’s a simple exercise that can reveal some pretty cool things about yourself. Who do you admire? What qualities in them do you look up to?
What you admire in others—or perhaps secretly envy—is also a mirror. It shows what qualities or desires that longs to be expressed in you.
If you admire Oprah’s way of connecting with people, know that you also have that ability. If you admire Richard Branson’s bravery and positive outlook on life, know that these also exist within you.
I always get really inspired when I see someone talking in front of other people, while looking really relaxed. So, I figured that this was a side of myself that wanted to play out more.
Since then, a friend and I started organizing workshops in Stockholm so we could practice speaking in front of others. Now, those events are a place to meet and connect with others who also wants to grow, learn, and create their ideal life.
Think about someone you look up to and become specific in terms of what you love about them. Then see if you’re currently expressing this quality. If not, what can you do to start expressing it more? Take small steps forward to play with those qualities.
In today’s world we’re constantly exposed to attacks, shootings, and other tragedies. It’s everywhere—in the newspaper, on TV, and social media. We can’t ignore it, but what we can do it decide how to deal with it.
Either we can react to these situations with the first impulse that comes up, or choose to consciously respond to them. Those are our two options. But, here’s the thing: We cannot react to frustrating, fearful, or stressful situations with frustration, fear, and stress and expect a position outcome.
If we’ve learned one thing throughout history it’s this: War feeds more war. Anger triggers more anger. Fear leads to more fear. Simply, we cannot drive out darkness with darkness—only light can do that.
This applies to all situations, big and small. So, next time someone cuts you in traffic or arrives late, try to step into their shoes. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe their partner had just broken up with them. Maybe they’re having a really crappy day.
Or next time you hear about a terrorist attack, send love to those affected, and love in action by helping in whatever small way you can. After you’ve processed what happened, try to even send healing energy to the person who did it. Who knows what this person has gone through, or what their mental state is like? Who knows his pain, threats, and beliefs about this world?
Hate, anger, and resentment only create separation between us and others. They don’t lead to a better world; they lead to more pain for one person in particular: yourself.
What we all need right now isn’t greater separation; it’s greater connection. So focus on giving light where there’s darkness. Simply, put love where you can’t find it.
Now, you might not agree here, but stay with me. What if everyone, including the most greedy, hurtful, and ill-tempered people on this planet, are doing their best at all times? That is, based on their experience, mood, and beliefs.
If this statement is true or not, we’ll never know. But, acting like it is will save you time, energy, and frustration. Maybe the slow waitress has severe sleeping problems. Maybe the guy who’s not meeting his deadline has family issues. Maybe the criminal had parents with drug problems and the only way he got attention was by breaking rules and causing pain.
We never know what someone else is going through. We never know their thoughts, experiences, or what caused them to do something. All we can know is that if we were in their shoes, we might do the same.
Replace judgment with curiosity. Use your empathy and try to imagine life as the other person. Just for a while, be them, act like them, and think like them. Things tend to look completely different from another perspective.
Some things are hard to accept. Maybe it’s a situation, a limiting belief, or your own or someone else’s behavior.
For a long time I tried to ignore the fact that I didn’t like my job. I tried to numb my feelings by focusing on party weekends, alcohol, and friends. But, I was never able to create change by pushing away what I didn’t want. It just gave more power to the unwanted. Eventually, I had no other option but to accept what I felt. To realize that it was okay not to feel satisfied where I was.
Once I had accepted what was, I was able to change it. Then I could paint out an ideal situation and take small steps forward in that direction.
Work with what is—see things exactly as they are and then act.
You do. And knowing it to be true will make you a better person. You matter to those around you, to the society you live in, and to this world.
Not one person has the same set of interests, skills, and experience as you. Your talents, curiosities, and qualities aren’t random—I believe they were given to you for a reason.
Put them to use. Let the world see what you’re capable of. Let others take part of your gifts and caring. When you thrive, you give permission for others to do the same. Playing small or staying stuck in worries or fears serves no one.
Act, speak, and believe that you matter immensely—because you do.
Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.
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