One of the most important questions I believe we can ask ourselves is,
“Am I focusing too much on what I want less of in my life, and not enough on what I want more of?”
There can certainly be value in the former at times:
If there are toxic people in your life, they’ve gotta go. You probably know who they are.
If you’ve never had good boundaries with your Mom and she drives you crazy and it’s getting in the way of your marriage, it’s your responsibility to set them so that negativity decreases.
If you feel burdened by extra weight or credit card debt, it makes sense that naturally you want less of that. (But this is where the secret comes in.)
What feels better:
“I have to lose this extra weight by summer, whatever it takes. No more chocolate, no cheese, no grains.”
“I want to add more vitality and energy to my life, so I’m going to move my body with intention and joy even just a little bit every day, and I’m going to feed myself foods that are bright and rich and truly nourish all my amazing organs and muscles.”
As I said, there are times that focusing on what you want less of might make sense — but on the whole, framing your actions in that way is like Hoovering your life. Less. Less. Empty. No space.
Nothing "abundant" about it.
So often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We want less anxiety. We want less heartache. Less loneliness. And yes, your heart deserves to be filled and radiating love. But in this life, there is pain. There’s death, tragedy, break-ups, curve balls. And the only way out is through.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day. If you’re so busy spending your time and energy on all the things you want less of in your life, where is the time and energy left for what you want more of? As Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
We constantly tell ourselves things like, “but when I think of putting myself out there and trying online dating, I get afraid and anxious and tell myself I have to wait until I look better or have my life more together and then I think of how painful my last breakup was and I just don’t want to do it. Maybe once I feel more confident I’ll do it.”
So this is where the tricky part comes in.
When you identify what your values are and what it would look like to move in the direction of those values (what actions would you be taking?), you have to know the other stuff is gonna show up. The fear. The anxiety. The grief. The “not good enough” or “I’m not confident” thoughts. The justifications or excuses. But guess what? Not only do you not have to get rid of that stuff before you take action toward your values (what you want more of), but it’s not even possible. And that’s where our brains like to mess with us, because they tell us that if we just try harder, if we just do it better, we can just get rid of all that unpleasant gunk in our heads and hearts.
Stop spending so much energy trying to get rid of your unwanted thoughts and feelings that are guaranteed to show up as you move toward your values… because if you’re really honest with yourself, it’s not working, and when you're coming from that place, you probably end up feeling stuck.
Instead, make room for abundance. For more.
As they say in AA, “What are you packing into the stream of life?”
Take inventory of where your time and energy is going, and how you are framing your goals and actions. If you find that 70% is going toward the “what I want less of” side and only 30% toward the “what I want more of” side, make a commitment to yourself to start shifting the balance.
These concepts are very similar to what you’ll find in the ACT Matrix from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (one of my favorite models). If you want to try making your own Matrix to help you make this inventory, watch thisshort video by Benji Schoendorff (it’s a little behaviorist nerdy in the beginning, but fairly easy to follow) or hop on over to Kevin Polk’s website.