Are You Living the Life That You Want?

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In 2016, I decided to take on the challenge of accountability. As a Clinical Psychologist, being accountable was all about evidence based living – engaging as much as possible in thinking patterns and behaviours that have been shown to lead to a happier, more satisfying, higher quality of life.

The following were the five key areas that I focused on as highlighted in my Are You Practicing What You Preach? article:

1. Tuning in rather than tuning out

2. Turning towards my values rather than away from my fears

3. Maintaining a good work/life balance

4. Writing things down rather than keeping things in

5. Developing a growth rather than a fixed mindset

I made this declaration public as I was aware that people’s desire to remain consistent meant that I would be more willing to follow through on these targets and achieve these goals. All of them were based on solid research, and were meant to have a positive flow on effect for my long-term psychological well-being in 2017 and beyond.

Whilst I did make some progress in being more accountable to myself, especially with numbers 2, 4 and 5, I really did continue to struggle with numbers 1 and 3.

Part of the problem was that I think I’ve always been the person who wants to be able to do everything and I do struggle at times to prioritise and separate what is really important to me from what is important to others. The other part of the problem is that I was working too hard, not saying no to what I didn’t want to do enough, and not leaving adequate time for leisure and socialising or even personal growth, creativity and health.

I was often extremely drained and fatigued by the end of the work week and would spend most of the weekend recovering and/or catching up on chores and paperwork to try not to fall even further behind with administrative duties than I already was. I was also financially in debt even though I was working full-time, and I was stressed out more than I would have liked to be too.

Essentially, I didn’t have enough time or space to reflect on where I was or what I needed, and when I did I still didn’t make the necessary changes to make sure that my life was consistent with how I wanted it to be.

It’s not just me

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What seemed to help me a lot was reading the thought provoking self-help book ‘Take time for your life’ by Cheryl Richardson. In this, she highlights the seven common obstacles that people seem to face in living their best lives. These are:

  1. They generally have difficulty putting themselves first
  2. Their schedule does not reflect their priorities
  3. They feel drained by certain people or things
  4. They feel trapped for monetary reasons
  5. They are living on adrenalin
  6. They don’t have a supportive community in their life
  7. Their spiritual well-being comes last

— Cheryl Richardson

I don’t know about everyone else, but I could check yes to all of these items except for number 6. I wasn’t spending as much time as I wanted with friends, but when I did I felt well supported by them all. As for the rest, I wondered “How does she know me so well?“, but then I realised how many people there are out there that must be falling into similar traps.

My aim for 2017 is to take time for my life

Here’s how I’ve gone towards creating my ideal lifestyle so far:

  • I have moved into an amazing apartment in the city where I am within easy access by bike, foot or public transport to all of my work, sport and leisure commitments.
  • I have begun regularly using the swimming pool, spa, sauna and gym that is a part of this excellent apartment complex. As the gym here is great, I have been able to save by cancelling my external gym membership.
  • I have sold my car to avoid having to pay $70 a week for a car spot, not to mention the registration fees, car insurance, petrol, parking fees, fines, and depreciation in the value of the car. This also has the added benefits of never getting stuck in peak hour traffic, as well as more walking and bike riding to get to places, which reduces the amount of time I need to set aside for these activities elsewhere.
  • I have started listening to audio books more whenever I am walking around the city by myself. This has resulted in me getting outdoors more, reading less inside, and opened up more time for other personal growth, leisure and social activities.
  • I have finished up working at Mill Park and moved into the city for all of my work days. This means that I can get up later in the morning on work days, and ride or walk or catch public transport to work no matter where I am.
  • I have cut down the days that I see clients from 5 to 4, with Mondays now dedicated towards maintenance, administration, health, creativity and well-being. Because of this reduced workload I am less stressed and more energetic. I am now up to date with all of my administrative duties, paperwork, and continued professional development for the first time in 3 years.
  • This has also helped me enjoy my weekends more, as instead of playing catch-up on things I can socialise and relax and plan various adventures that I may not have had the time or energy to do in the past.
  • Even though I am working one day less per week, by buying less stuff and reducing my expenses I am no longer in any financial debt, and am saving towards buying a place of my own.
  • I have started up another website – sleepdetective.com.au, which aims to help others to achieve the best sleep they can.
  • I have now donated plasma and platelets through the Red Cross Blood Bank three times. This can be done every two weeks and takes about 45 minutes, and really can make a huge difference for those suffering from leukaemia and certain autoimmune diseases.
  • I have found a new General Practitioner, Nutritionist and Dentist to ensure that my physical health is going well and made the necessary appointments to assess or fix up any of the issues that have become apparent.
  • I have had a DEXA scan to assess my bone density, lean muscle mass and fat. I will be having another one of these in 3 months to monitor my progress and ensure that I remain in the healthy range for a male my age.
  • I have resumed monthly sessions with my Psychologist to ensure that my mental health and clinical practice are as optimal as possible.
  • I have signed up for a year membership with the meditation app Calm, which will help me to continue strengthening my meditation practice. I will aim to practice this for at least 10 minutes per day to make sure that I keep trying to tune in rather than tune out.
  • I have also booked in for a 10-day Vissapana meditation retreat in April and a 12 day P&O cruise at the end of July. Both of these getaways involve switching off from all technology for the duration of my stay, and will provide me with plenty of time for rest, relaxation and reflection, essential elements for tuning in and developing greater insight.

No Regrets?

Now that I’ve shared the changes that I’ve started to make towards my ideal lifestyle, I want to ask you this:

If you only have one life to live, and that life is yours, what changes do you need to make now to ensure you don’t accumulate any more regrets in the future?

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In her viral blog post and subsequent book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware listed the top five regrets that the dying people she cared for typically had. These were:

  1. They wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.
  2. They wish they hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. They wish they’d had the courage to express their feelings.
  4. They wish they’d made a bigger effort to stay in touch with their friends.
  5. They wish they had let themselves be happier. 

— Bronnie Ware

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Remember, we tend to regret the things that we don’t do much more than the things that we do. Be brave, give it a go, and see what happens. If you’re not sure what you want or how to figure it out, booking in for a session with a Psychologist could definitely help!

Dr Damon Ashworth

Clinical Psychologist

13 thoughts on “Are You Living the Life That You Want?

  1. Yeah for you sounds like you are now living the elusive life/work balance. However I am going to point out for most of us this recipe for life balance won’t work. Why – we work jobs that only just cover the bills if we are lucky. We don’t have the option to move living or working areas. Dropping a shift or reducing hours worked means we’re not deciding if we can afford a DVD, we’re deciding which meal we don’t eat. What I’d like to see is the plan that is for the minimum wage people to get all of the goals for a healthy life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emmanique,
      Thanks for reading. You make a great point. If I had children or was paid less, then I doubt that I would be able to work less. Likewise, if I didn’t live in the city or close to where I work than I wouldn’t have been able to sell my car. Earning a minimum wage definitely makes it harder, as physical needs for shelter, safety, security and food need to be prioritised over a good work/life balance. Hopefully some of the principles can still apply.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been at both ends of the pay scale and oddly I’ve found having less & being forced to prioritise what gets paid per pay check has meant I’ve slowed down. I rejoined the library and read more, I’ve rediscovered my neighbourhood as walking around it is my gym, I eat better because a lot comes out of my garden (also exercise). I make presents via knitting or crotchet & friends love it. And having to save for something like a DVD means I really want it, no more impulse buys. It also means I’m not constantly exhausted because I’m not constantly trying to work long stressful hours & have a full on social life. Would I like my $100,000 wage back no because it came attached to a FIFO job where I worked 10 hours per day for 21 days straight, which was killing me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very few of your changes would work for me…I’m a carer and that brings its own gifts and challenges. The principles are sound though. These days, I own very little…so there is little to fret about. The dog keeps me reasonably fit and well aired. I take time out every day for me, even just for reading something uselessly amusing. As for the spiritual life, that is one of my main priorities, brings in no money to cause worries and yet enriches rather than depletes. Busy, but content.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing the loooong list of changes you’ve made. It definitely serves as good motivation. I love your posts and the research you publish! Gonna take a look at the books you recommend – you see, I’m always on the look-out for good material to study but usually get overwhelmed by the amount of ‘best psychology books’ out there so I choose nothing. I’m not a professional psychologist like you, I just love to observe people and ask myself why they do the things they do – I began noticing patterns. But the biggest realizations come from studying myself and exploring my own mind. It’s what I love doing. So thank you very much for running this blog, a lot to explore here! I’m looking forward to your future posts. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post – great aims for 2017! Very practical and reasonable! I myself need to establish speicifc goals and try to accomplish them this year! 😛
    BTW thanks for the follow back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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