“I think somehow we learn who we really are and then we live with that decision.”
I really like this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. It basically says that who we really are is a matter of our decisions. It is not something god-given and unchangeable, it is something we decide for ourselves. Therefore it is important to know what we want and to connect with ourselves to know who we want to be!
I had the idea for today’s blog today. I was sick for almost two weeks; it started with a minor bug, a minor cold, it got better, then it got worse. Long story short, it was “only” a severe cold. On the bright side, I had a lot of time to do something I didn’t do in a long time – connect with myself.
Today’s blog is about the one person, the one most important person in your life, that is yourself. How can you expect that somebody loves you if you’re not able to love yourself? How can you expect that anybody treats you with respect and takes care of you, if you can’t take care of yourself or if you can’t respect yourself?
Connect with yourself
Are you connected with yourself? When somebody asked me this question for the first time, I was a little bit surprised. My first reaction was “Yes, of course!”. On second thought, I hesitated. I mean, I lived with myself every day, but it didn’t mean that I knew me (it sounds silly, doesn’t it). But do you know yourself? Do you check with yourself often?
To get to know what I want, I learned to check in with myself regularly. So, every once in a while, I have a little hiatus, a break from every-day life, a few hours just for myself. I am not online, I am not checking the phone, I am not listening to music, I am just there. Existing, breathing, practicing mindfulness; I watch my train of thoughts, my mind wanders around, and it is the best feedback I can get about myself, my thoughts, my desires, and what is going on with my life.
Start with little steps
To connect with yourself, start with little steps, baby steps. Practice mindfulness, and try to sit quietly in a room for 5 minutes. No Internet, no mobile phone, disconnected from the world, but connected with your inner self. Now, watch your train of thoughts. Don’t judge, just let it flow, let it go. Whatever comes into your mind, observe it, but don’t judge. It won’t be easy, but it will get easier every time you do it. The next time, try to do it for 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, until you have the amount of time you are comfortable with.
Something I can not repeat often enough – get a journal! Write down anything that came into your mind. Psychological studies state that once you write something down, it is out of your mind (i.e. “taken care of”). Over time, you will see a pattern, your desires will become more clear, and you will get a feeling and an idea for your goals in life. This is truly important because once you know your goals, you can take care of your goals to connect with yourself.
Take care of your goals – and reward yourself
If you don’t know what you want, how can you ever expect to get what you want? An important step in connecting with yourself is to think about your goals. What do you want? Write down some of your main goals, either short-term or bigger long-term goals. When you write down bigger long-term goals, I recommend breaking it down into smaller easily achievable goals; it is always helpful to think of small steps towards something big. Do not forget to congratulate yourself when you achieve your goals. For example, when your goal is to go to the gym regularly, and you made it through week 1, reward yourself!
Once you have set goals, you need to think about your next steps. Be as clear as possible why you set a certain goal and how your life will be different once you achieved your goal. Think about help, support and resources you need to achieve your goal. Be not afraid to ask for help!
I have to repeat it one more time – get a journal! All my clients who started a journal stated that their life changed significantly after a while. Backed up by science, daily logging into a journal helps us shape our mind and focus on our goals. There is nothing that you can’t do today to take the first step towards your goal (and if it is just buying a journal for logging your progress)!
Of course you know about eating healthy and going to the gym, of course you know about how exercise helps you to feel better. My question is – why aren’t you doing it? The problem is, we probably aren’t doing enough of it, we don’t feel connected with ourselves.
Our life, our day is filled with our decisions we make. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, we could make the choice to meet with somebody. Instead of playing the game in front of the computer, we can cook a nice dinner for our partner and cuddle afterwards. Instead of eating chocolate as a snack, we can choose to eat an apple. It sounds simple because it IS simple. Life is about our decisions. It is not the big decisions that change our life permanently, it is the small decisions we make every day. Changing these small decisions, one by one, towards our goal, we will find ourself in a better place after some time.
I hope you have an interesting and insightful time with connecting with yourself! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum focuses on positive psychology to help people live a better life with greater happiness and authenticity. Currently, he is a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville/Tennessee, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna/Austria. He is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist as well as a certified Industrial-/Organizational Psychologist (certified by Austria and the Board of Organizational Psychology – Austrian Psychologist Association), a motivational speaker and coach as well as a researcher concerning positive psychology. He is a passionate gamer and uses new technology frequently. His research work combines (Clinical) Psychology/Organizational Psychology and new technology (e.g. online-based social skills trainings) as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as being addicted to the Internet, games or smart phones.