The Atlas

Making head space for different results

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When in Agony, Tune Out

The treadmill of day-to-day life absolutely begs for auto-pilot. After all, why on earth would you want to be present and attentive if you are spending an hour sitting in traffic or on public transportation to and from work every day? Mentally checking out or finding ways to distract yourself almost becomes self-preservation.

The trouble with that, though, is that it often ends up adding to your burden. And five (or more) days per week eventually feels suffocatingly heavy. The inevitable question that comes up when someone lives this way is: Why exactly am I doing this again?

Of course, the number one reason I hear (and my own, when I asked the question of myself) is: I have bills to pay. I can’t afford to stop.

Here’s the thing: no one is suggesting that you have to stop. There are other options.

However, if you are rushing through your day -- and conforming to a commute-intensive, workaholic, 24x7 instant response time culture that, in combination, probably eats at least 60+ hours of your waking week -- then it’s hard to start even considering what a different solution might be -- or, sometimes more importantly, what you might want it to be.

Time and time again, I see the same pattern:

  • I can’t face another 20 years of this.
  • I know something has to change.
  • I have no idea what I want to do.

The first step to figuring that out is to find a way to make space to sort through your own thoughts. There are a ton of ways to do that, and almost any of them can work. But you first have to do it -- whether it’s working from home one day per week, spending Saturday mornings sitting on a sand dune watching the sunrise, biking around the local park by yourself, taking a vacation, or talking to a coach.

If it were easy, it wouldn't be called WORK

Really digging in and thinking is actual work. It requires allowing yourself the chance to stop and simply consider yourself and your surroundings. You can’t expect to do that if you keep yourself in a constant state of white noise.

Until you give yourself some space to let your brain do its work, it’s hard to create a new vision for a potential future. And without having a vision, you can’t make a plan. And without a plan, you are resigning yourself to the status quo.

There are so many pieces of who you are today -- your strengths, your skills, your talents, your passions, your experience -- that can be rearranged to help create a new future, but that almost never happens without thoughtful consideration and examination.

For that to happen, your brain needs the chance to unplug from the hissing distraction of your daily cruise control. The most interesting thing I see happen when someone (including me) makes that space, is that the questions that matter most are often the first ones that rise to the surface. And making space for those is how you truly begin a transformation process.

So, what is the most useful way to make brain space for you? Meditation? Yoga? Cooking? Swimming? Painting? Music? Running? There are tons of options. Which one will you pick?

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