The holidays are always advertised for the joy that they should bring yet many people that I spoke with – overall happy and successful people – talked of rush, stress, overwhelm, overspending and exhaustion. Not to mention forceful expectations for the season – perfect presents, perfect New Year’s Eve celebrations, family obligations (and confusions), and the ever glorified, New Year’s Resolutions.
The new year is certainly a lovely opportunity to take stock and reflect upon ourselves, our circumstances and our hopes. Yet this healthy exercise often turns into an unreasonable, guilt-ridden, out of context goal setting that rarely results in meaningful long-term change.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t set goals – each person can freely test and choose the strategies that work for them. But that’s the key: what works.
Because my experience has been that while many of us know WHAT we want to change (get more exercise), and even WHY (health, lose weight, reduce stress, look better), the HOW often escapes us. Yes, we know that willpower and action have a lot to do with it (go to the gym). But there are usually more fundamental elements at play that can sabotage the effort – and understanding them can be the key to real results.
So I introduce to you the concept of what I call LEDs. It is my simple summary of a collection of research dedicated to exploring the roots of true happiness, success, fulfillment, and tranquility – and what it really takes to achieve them. For a wonderful quick read on the subject I highly recommend Brené Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” (please read it, it will bring you relief, clarity and real joy).
LED stands for:
- Limits – your natural physical, mental, emotional, interpersonal, and whatever you want, limits. Where do you feel strained, stretched and overwhelmed? And not in the good way. According to Brene’s research, being able to know, set and respect your own limits is a vital key to reducing stress, improving the relationship with yourself and others, and increasing the fundamental key to love, compassion and connection.
- Expectations – most of us compare and judge ourselves by external, hard-to-reach standards, thereby training others to do the same. What are you badgering yourself about? How you should be thinner, prettier, more successful, wealthier, a better parent, a better professional…the list goes on. The epidemic of never being enough and doing enough is preventing us from not just knowing but enjoying the gratitude for the beautiful things we already have, and already are.
This is not about not recognising where we want to improve – it is about rejecting a frame of mind that deep down believes that we are lesser people and less worthy of love and respect because we haven’t yet achieved them. Sounds dramatic?
We don’t often think of it this explicitly but it can reflect in how we perceive and present ourselves, act towards others and approach our future. Not to mention, chronic anxiety, fear, and dissatisfaction that has nothing to do with healthy change strategies and everything to do with keeping us stuck and feeling chronically inadequate.
- Desires – just as we need to set and abide by our respective limits, we need to learn to ask, securely, kindly but firmly for what we need. Very few people I know – no matter how great they are – are really comfortable or good with this. Myself included. What are you denying yourself?
Asking for help, expressing emotions (especially the tough or unclear ones), insisting on time for ourselves and our loved ones, voicing a decision or a preferance.
What can result are awkward or painful moments when our desires are expressed at the wrong time or with excessive emotion for being kept inside too long. The ones who receive it then often feel blamed or inadequate for not having seen, recognized or met these needs before and communication issues often result. If not worse, like resentment and distance.
We have all been there and many of us are still there but like with all the LEDs, with time, reflection and some good quality action, things can change.
The LEDs are ultimately about really bringing out and showing up as the REAL YOU and feeling that this is ok, that you are enough. The world may respond in a variety of ways, some helpful and others not, but the end result will make you so much happier and calmer in your life and in your relationships.
I designed this short Workbook to help you work through your own Limits, Expectations and Desires so that you can set the most intelligent, fulfillable goals for lasting results. And again, please read Brene’s book because it will explain it all in a down-to-earth, reasonable way that we can all relate to…no matter what your situation.
Though I hope it goes without saying, let me be clear: you have, always, each and every day, my very best wishes for you and your loved ones for a life, that with all its up and downs, fills you with joy, gratitude and reinforces all the importance that you bring to this world.