By Yaromil Fong-Olivares
Are you someone who has chosen all the right education and professional opportunities? Married the perfect partner, perhaps already a homeowner? Taking care of business, holidays and family life?
And yet, miserable.
Lately I have been thinking about what it means to have a well-written life story. The story that we began to follow when we were only 5 or 6 years old, way before we had the knowledge and awareness to make decisions based on personal values, passion, and mission. I am not judging as this is a very valuable path to take because it demonstrates resilience and commitment. Paradoxically, a well-written and inaccurate life story means that while you may be doing everything “right” you are also not honoring your gifts, your callings, your passions and your higher self. It is a life that is primarily focused on our destinations and acquisitions. “I’ll be happier and more fulfilled when I become director of my company” or “I’ll be happier and fulfilled when I purchase my home” or “I’ll be happier when I meet and marry my soul mate” or “I’ll be happy when I have my ideal body.” And the list goes on and on and yes on.
The problem with thinking of your life in terms of destinations and acquisitions is that we completely miss out on the beauty and adventure of life itself. We miss out on the magic of life. We focus so much on the future that we neglect the present. Paulo Coelho in his blog writes it best:
“That is where the great problem resides: we almost never allow ourselves to realize that the present moment in itself holds all the glory.”
Read the full post from Paulo Coelho here.
This is one of the reasons why I believe there are so many aspiring writers. Individuals of all walks of life want to become writers because we want to tell stories. We want to provoke emotion and action through words. However, in order to accomplish that goal we must be able to feel the beauty and complexity of life ourselves. If we are always focused on writing well we are unable to also focus on writing the truth.
In this way life and writing can be very similarly daunting, alluring, fantastical and painful. Many artists of all types focus on truth rather than skill because that’s where originality and genius begins. I say begins because skill is a crucial part also. But skill alone will not create a masterpiece novel nor will it create a masterpiece life.
Furthermore, this concept of well-written and inaccurate can be applied to many aspects of human life. I’ll share a little bit of my relationship with this concept.
Ever since I can remember I struggled with body (image and health) issues. Now, at the age of 30 I have a very strong, radiant, and toned body that I have worked very hard to achieve. One of the reasons I struggle with body image and health is because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). I have a “well-written body” on the external physical realm but my insides have been messy in the past. Because there’s no cure for PCOS my inside body fights to process sugar, my liver struggles and my mind wanders every month due to hormonal roller coasters. I am often told I am lucky to have such a slim body and while I rarely disclose my PCOS status I often reply with the truth: "I work hard for this and I don’t do it only because of my looks, I take care of myself because I want to be healthy." I am not sure if people believe me but frankly I am ok with that.
It’s difficult to grow up with PCOS because it’s a hormonal imbalance and well as ladies don’t need any more hormone-related drama in our lives, especially during the teen years. I am lucky enough to have a naturally optimistic spirit; resilient, curious and also hard working. I work hard on my mental health, nutrition and fitness because I want to have the energy to do the things I want to do, make my contributions to the world, and because my quality of life depends on it. Since before I was diagnosed I have been trying to manage the effects of PCOS and will continue to look for natural solutions. I evolved from trying out every birth control pill to moving to natural remedies (acupuncture, herbs, exercise, diet) to accepting it with compassion and love as part of my well-written and accurate story.
PCOS is the leading cause of infertility for women, it causes obesity, hair loss, body hair growth, body image issues, diabetes, and depression. Since PCOS causes irregular periods women who have PCOS are at higher risk for cancer and a bunch of other depressive illnesses. And yet, most women who have PCOS are undiagnosed and untreated. Le sigh. If this makes you angry, let’s do some push-ups together.
Thankfully, things are changing. Women are powering up together to take charge of their bodies, spirits and legacies.
How does one begin to move to a life well written + accurate?
Focus on today: Whenever I have an abnormal surge of unjustified sadness (no loss or grief just hormones) I focus on getting through the day. I don’t think about anything else but what has to get done that day. My mood becomes secondary to whatever I am doing, creating and experiencing.
Focus on tomorrow: I know this may sound contradictory but toward the end of the day I begin to focus on how tomorrow will be better. This requires you to trust yourself, to love yourself and to use your creativity to welcome the wonder of tomorrow. It’s wonderful to experience that expectation and enjoy uncertainty because you can really set the tone for a better tomorrow. This is different than focusing on the next week or month because you actually can hold yourself accountable when you set a goal and intention for the following day.
Cheat motivation + focus on your strategy not the outcome: This is related to my previous post “The Problem with Praise”. When you focus on your work (insert any aspect of life here, family, hobby, writing) and the satisfaction you receive from your work then you start to learn what makes you happy and begin to choose more happiness in your life. When you choose to focus on outcomes your dissatisfaction grows because outcomes are difficult to control and predict. For example, rather than focusing on how many clients I have, I focus on what I am doing with the clients and how much I enjoy working with each of them. In this way my worth is not determined by traditional definitions of “success” but rather by my courage to do what I love despite the fluctuating aspects of owning a business. Similarly, when relating it to praise, think about acknowledging what someone does not what they get when they do it. “You are a great writer” NOT “Congratulations on being published”. Same idea, different messages.
Finally, these strategies will help you understand your process for self-motivation because they help you connect with what you feel when you are going in the right direction for you. You can start to notice that showing up to your gym today simply because it feels good and not because you have to lose 10 pounds will help you show up to the gym tomorrow. Similarly, you’ll notice your energy reserves growing because you will not be focused on reaching the finish line but rather on moving closer, at your own pace, to feeling great right now and tomorrow. You can allow yourself to feel good because today you are getting things done your way and simply because it makes you feel whole, connected, happy and free. How about it?
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Yaromil Fong-Olivares is a life coach and personal power blogger residing in New York City. Contact her for coaching, training, writing, and speaking gigs at firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase my ebook THE HOLY GRAIL OF LIFE COACHING, click here.