As a transformational lifestyle coach, I work with clients who sometimes expect that there is that one, magical action they need to take to start living the life of their dreams. If they can *just* quit their job, if they can *just* travel more, etc. — then life will be what they want.
In truth, change takes more than “just” having the courage to take the leap into a new way of life. There’s a commitment to a lot more work around that. Real and lasting change takes making real shifts in actions (what you’re doing), behaviors (how you’re doing it), and thoughts (how you’re talking to yourself and what you believe). The way you think influences the way you behave, which influences the actions you take. And allllll of that feeds into the change that you’re able to make AND sustain for the long term. It takes real work.
But let’s talk about the first steps, because that’s all we can ever really approach at one time. If “taking the leap” isn’t the route to truly living life, where do you start?
I love David Whyte’ poem, “Start Close In,” for a clue as to how to begin changing your life. He writes,
“Start close in,
don’t take the second step,
or the third,
start with the first thing
you don’t want to take.”
It’s a poem about clearing out the voices of others that influence your decisions and listening to your inner voice to take those first steps forward. It’s pointing toward the difficult thoughts and behaviors that you know deep down need to shift in order for real change to take place. The things you don’t want to let go of, because of the comfort they bring you, but are ultimately the first barriers you’ll have to face when moving toward your transformation.
Another concept David Whyte talks about in his writing is “the arrogance of belonging.”
In this short video, he talks about how to sustain a life of belonging, which, if you’ve read any Brene Brown, is the one thing we are all longing for in this life and what brings a strong sense of fulfillment for us.
How do you do it? To “turn your face towards home,” to return to yourself and begin living fully, all you have to do is to live into the way you feel you DON’T belong and begin moving toward it. In his writing, Whyte talks about how in the natural world, a mountain is nothing like a tree, is nothing like bird. Each one belongs in its own way of NOT belonging, not looking like everyone else.
In your “arrogance of belonging,” you give yourself permission to be fully you, to embrace your true path in this life, and to listen primarily to your inner voice for guidance.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert takes this concept and calls it “creative living,” giving yourself permission to take up the space you’re meant to in this world. Letting yourself flow with everything that bubbles up in your body as the actions you’re meant to take. She makes sure to call out that this “entitlement” to living is actually the opposite of the self-absorption it sounds like. Think about what typically keeps us from acting in accordance with our inner voices — worry about what others will think of us. Self-absorption.
Gilbert writes that it’s actually the OPPOSITE of selfish to live out our one particular way of being in this world. It’s giving ourselves permission to pour out our fully unique gifts in this world, for its benefit.
Give yourself permission to live. To embrace change. To branch off in a different direction from everyone else.
In my work, I call this concept “adventurous living.” It’s the same idea, building on it by emphasizing the risk that it takes to step out of the perception of belonging as “fitting in,” and into true belonging. It also draws on the commitment you must make to shifting and adapting to change that inevitably comes our way in life, if you want to live into your life’s true adventure.
So, how do you do this?? Let’s get into the real first steps you can take, to start close in and embrace your unique, creative, adventurous self.
Here are 5 mindset shifts you can begin practicing now, plus how to use them to change your behaviors and to start on the path of adventurous living. The “ABCs” of adventurous living:
Awareness, or mindfulness, is an essential first step to noticing what thoughts, behaviors and actions are serving or not serving us, so that we can make the necessary shifts.
Set your Awareness into gear by
- Knowing what you WANT. Key into your inner compass by setting daily intentions around how you want your actions to impact the direction you want to be going, and how you want to show up for your day. And…
- Checking for alignment. Throughout the day, start to notice (or become aware of) what you’re doing, thinking, and being that either aligns with your intentions or is not in alignment with those intentions. When you first start out, you might just incorporate a nightly check-in with yourself, then as you build awareness you might notice more in the moment and gain the ability to ask, “Am I in alignment?” and make a shift.
If you’re anything like me, you might tend to force tasks you need to get done in order to appear “productive,” without allowing yourself time to get in the flow, to provide time for rest, or to give yourself space to shift thought patterns.
Things like play, rest, or just switching activities can help to kick your brain into a new thought pattern, Allowing new possibilities:
- A sudden solution to a problem might come up when you’re doing an unrelated activity.
- The quality of your work might improve if you’re doing it from an aligned space and when you’ve had enough rest.
- You might have more clarity on decisions and next steps when you let go of what others expect of you.
Try letting go of pressure, and tune into the alignment you’ve created through awareness. Rooted in your true self, how does your day flow more naturally? Notice how Allowing versus forcing begins to impact your thoughts and behaviors.
In order to more easily work on Allowing, you’re going to have to start giving yourself permission to do some being, rather than doing all the time.
While busy-ness has become a badge of honor in this society, what would it be like to instead proudly wear the badges of getting adequate sleep? Taking time away from work to eat your lunch? Being still with yourself instead of always having something focused to think about, or do?
It feels uncomfortable at first — I know! We are trained to have to be “doing” something, or else we’re not “productive,” and that’s viewed as negative. This is a false perception!
Just Being IS working. It’s Allowing you time to actually hear your inner voice. To respond rather than to react. To recharge adequately. To gain a new perspective. And with all that quiet time and focus on being…you might just start realizing you need to shift some of your actions to better align with your new world view.
Breathing is something that every single being must do. Humans, animals, and plants alike. And it’s something we very rarely (if ever) pay attention to.
When I do BreathWork sessions with Carolyn Jones, my BreathWork Instructor, she always reminds me of my breath by saying something like this:
Feel into your breath right now. It’s likely predominantly in your chest. Shallow, rushed, tight. Now let your breath drop into your lower belly. Breathe fully into your abdomen, filling up all of the space in your body. Take the time to do this. And let it out fully.
We get stressed, we focus on fitting in, on being productive, and we lose touch with our bodies. Our life-giving force of breath is given less space to fill us and awaken us.
You’ve grown in Awareness of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. You’ve begun to Allow your true self to shine through rather than forcing action based on others’ expectations. You’ve begun to work on just Being and challenged your view of productivity.
Now, take time to turn inward. Have the courage to feel where else in your body hasn’t been given adequate attention. Listen to the tension, to the emptiness, to the longing that bubbles up within your core. Be with it. Allow it to speak. Be Aware of where those sensations show up throughout your day.
As a simple first step here, start to dedicate a few moments each day to paying attention to your breath, and what sensations are present in your body. Let your breath fill up your whole core, and use it to spread love to all the neglected spaces, to give yourself permission to open those up today.
Lastly, your adventure begins when you gather up all the pieces from your Awareness, what bubbles up through your Allowing, what you notice when you begin to just Be, and what speaks to you when you Breathe. You can use all of this information to make a conscious choice for your next steps forward.
I like to use two tools to tune into this information, to nurture it, and to challenge your next Conscious Choices.
- Curiosity. What is your true self, and your body, saying to you? If you’ve been paying attention, you can hear the messages loud and clear. It’s time to listen and to get curious about where they are coming from, and what they want from and for you.
- Compassion. Sometimes we may encounter messages we don’t want to sit with, or deep places of hurt. They’re still a part of us. When we’re willing to turn towards them and give them compassion, we can start to work with those spaces and nurture them back into integration with us. Try simply surrounding those spaces with a feeling of love and compassion, and see what happens. How does that increase your freedom of choice?
You alone have the ability to Choose what you do in life. Whether you live adventurously, creatively, in belonging…or if you adhere to others’ expectations and continue to long for something more.
So, what are the first actions you plan to take today? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, to your adventure!