With the pace at which we live our lives these days it is little wonder that overwhelm and a feeling that everything is spinning out of control is felt by more of us every day.
I’m no stranger to that feeling myself.
I remember vividly the day my life changed forever. It was a hot Sunday afternoon in early December 1990 and I was 12 years old when I dived into a pool and my life as I knew it came to an end.
Later that night in Intensive Care, after a helicopter airlift and a couple of ambulance trips, I was told that I had broken my neck and drowned, and that I would never walk again.
At that time it certainly was a devastating blow,and the years that followed were a struggle.
Fast forward twenty five years and on any given day I’m juggling keynote speaking – often in another state, consulting, coaching, networking, writing, training to qualify for the Paralympic Games and somewhere in the midst of all that trying to run a household and have some downtime for myself.
There is no coincidence, then, when I looked back over how I gained more control in my life that letting things go was a central theme. The best way to have control is to reduce the drain on your energy and motivation.
Here are the 7 things that I let go of that put me back in the driver’s seat of my life:
1 Bad habits
Recently I celebrated 18 months without alcohol. For someone who used to have the nickname ‘Wino’ this was quite the accomplishment! The experience of complete clarity, connectedness and presence that has come with becoming a teetotaller has meant I will never drink again. I still go out and have a good time but the difference is I’m in complete control of behaviour – and my spending! Assess the habits you have that are holding you back from being as committed as you could be to things that are important for you to achieve.
2 Trying to please others
We all aim to please – it’s in our nature. However once you start focusing too much of your energy on trying to please others, rather than spending time on your own needs, it is easy to lose our own sense of worth. I have found that it’s okay to be responsive to the needs and wants of others, but I value my own just as importantly. Amid the clamour of daily demands from friends, family and colleagues, take some downtime to really reflect on what is worth your time and energy, and if you are really benefiting from it.
3 People who drain your energy
There have been many instances in my life where friendships and relationships started to feel like they took more from me than what I got from them. If people don’t add value to your life it is time to let them go. Sometimes though, these energy vampires can be the closest to you – spouse or family be sure that you guard your hopes, dreams and desires so they don’t suck the life out of them. Keep those interactions on a different plane, more general chit chat. Limit your exposure to them. Put your energy into spending high quality time with high quality people.
4 Bright shiny objects
Ideas have a tendency to breed like rabbits. I found myself spending more time fleshing out new ideas as they happened rather than completing what was already well developed. I was dropping what I had planned to do and getting all excited about the potential of this new idea. I had a habit of buying website domain names for these ideas as they happened and then letting them expire 12 months later! Now I have a ‘business ideas’ notebook in Evernote (a traditional notebook is just as good) that is the parking lots for some of these ideas. Most of them I just cast aside now knowing that they are taking me away from where I need to be. We need less projects not more!
5 Things that don’t align with your core values
Until recently I had a second business on the go with a couple of business partners. When the business started I had a strong passion for the social change it was committed to making in the world. Over time I found myself avoiding it, procrastinating and when I was working on it I couldn’t wait to move on to something else. I took some time earlier this year to reflect on what was important to me, what my values were and I found that I had little passion for that cause any more. Once I discovered this I felt relief and knew that I had to step away from it. Now, my level of enthusiasm and discipline is much higher in my core business and the results have improved accordingly. Take the time to regularly check in with the work you are doing to see if it aligns with what you stand for.
6 Background noise
Being a person who is easily distracted by any noise or movement I had to let go of trying to work in places where there were a lot of people. As cool as it seemed seeing friends working out of co-working spaces or busy cafes, it just wasn’t leading to productivity or enjoyment gains that I needed. I still use busy cafes for meetings but anything requiring concentration is done from my home office in silence.
7 TV and screen time
TV is a huge time thief. Sitting down to watch TV after dinner usually leads into a stream of shows late into the evening. Getting ‘hooked’ on series shows is also toxic. They make you feel like you need to keep watching – either when it is on TV the next week or losing weekends watching an entire series on DVD in one go. Not only is it a time thief, most of the news content is negative and leaves you feeling low and helpless.
A lot of these things will never go away completely – as you become more resilient you get more skilled at managing them and assessing your priorities.
The question to ask yourself now is ‘what can I let go of so I can move forward?’.
Stacey Copas, Author of “How To Be Resilient”, is Australia’s #1 Keynote Speaker and Facilitator on Turning Adversity Into An Asset. She has worked with large organisations such as Telstra, CSIRO and SACA and has been featured in national media including ABC, Financial Review and The Australian for her insights on resilience in the workplace.