Learn how to end the cycle of unhappiness.
Do any of the following situations describe your life?
- You're in a relationship that, logically, you know isn't good for you. Maybe it's unhealthy, makes you feel bad or it's not going anywhere. At least its not going where you'd like it to go. Yet, you're terrified about what will happen if you end it.
- You spend your precious life in a career or job that makes you miserable. Getting out of bed every morning is torture because you dread what awaits. But given your situation — your age, experience, financial pressures — you don't want to take the risk inherent in exploring new opportunities.
- You're trapped in an uncomfortable situation with a family member, friend or colleague. You know you should say or do something, but you're afraid of what will happen if you act. After all, maybe you're wrong. Maybe speaking up will do more harm than good. You don't want to hurt the other person, and you certainly don't want them lashing out at you.
If finding yourself in one of these or similar situations doesn't surprise you, the situation isn't the problem. If you default to, "Oh well. That's life," rather than, "I deserve better," then you've got some soul searching to do.
What does that mean? Soul searching. How do you make that happen?
If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, take some comfort in knowing you're not alone. We all struggle with beliefs and fears that keep us stuck. Our head tells us we should get over it, push through it, move on and be free. But a mysterious force reigns supreme and we find ourselves in a familiar rut. I call this hidden force "the border patrol".
The "border patrol" is the invisible guard in your mind and emotions — the purveyor of fear and keeper of the status quo. It maintains the boundary between enslaved by fear and your personal freedom. It was created by and is fed by LIES (Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories) in our lives. These can be a result of misguided teachings, narrow-minded understanding and well-meaning warnings that worm their way into our heads and hearts.
Through fear of standing out, and intense social pressure to fit in, the "border patrol" uses coercive psychological force that compels us to believe LIES and act as if they're fact. The result: we become stuck in beliefs that seem true but are not truth. We then use these beliefs to structure and live our lives.
LIES create artificial boundaries that limit our ability and willingness to create the life we feel inspired to live. Instead, we find ourselves living out set patterns of thinking and behaving — unconscious habits that leave us stuck in a story that we mindlessly live over and over again.
Wondering how the "border patrol" got such a strong hold on you? Here's how it happens.
- You experience something. For example, a partner you adored unexpectedly breaks up with you.
- You decide what it means. Consciously or unconsciously, you decide his rejection must mean that you're not worthy of being with someone who is successful, attractive or desirable. Or you declare that you'll never again care that much for someone because the hurt is unbearable — more than you can handle.
- It takes root in your emotions and colors your interpretations going forward. You become certain that what you believe about the breakup is accurate — it becomes the only way to see the situation. As a result, you may find yourself applying an all-to-familiar "label" to every new potential love interest you meet: "They're all the same."
- You use future experiences to validate what you believe. Each time friends tell you a story about a bad relationship, you respond with, "See, I told you they're no good." You even look for the bad in good relationships.
- Now, you are stuck in a story. You're in a rut, a vicious cycle. You're stuck in a story about "them" based on old history. The consequence? You're unable to see the uniqueness of the next person you meet — the one who could be your soul mate.
- Your story becomes true. Perception is reality, and now your reality is based on your biased perception of relationships. Stuck in your story, you keep finding ways to validate the LIES in your life. Your happiness is stunted. Your miserable feelings are validated.
- Finally, your development is arrested. Fixed and frozen, your mindset doesn't allow you to see the situation differently or mature beyond it — until you challenge the LIES in your life.
This closed-loop can only be interrupted when you allow for the possibility of other interpretations. Since most of us are invested in our story, creating such an opening can be a challenge, even when we don't like the plot.
To break the cycle and free up your energy to create more joy and fulfillment, begin simply. Whenever you're faced with any situation or decision, use these questions. They will help you expand your thinking, open up options — pushing you beyond the boundaries of the "border patrol" and LIES that limit your happiness.
- Do I feel trapped in this situation?
- Do I see only one course of action I can take?
- Am I choosing to do what I really want to do or am I acting based on fear?
- Are my decisions based on what others have taught me to believe is true?
While the idea of asking yourself questions may seem too simple to make a real difference, try it. I promise, with a commitment to consistently examining and challenging what you believe, you'll be surprised how it will transform you and how you travel through this life.
These simple questions will help you challenge your "border patrol" and strengthen your ability to open up a whole new world of possibilities.
Start confronting the Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories in your life today. Order a copy of my book LIES That Limit. It will help you break the cycle of self-sabotaging behavior and put you on the road to authentic happiness.