Why prioritizing your own projects will make you a more generous person

Have you ever wondered why it’s so much easier to help other people with their problems than to fix your own things? You just can’t help lend a hand when someone close to you – or even a stranger – is in need. You spend hours and hours listening to other peoples problems and trying to help them out – but when it’s time to work on your own projects – whether it’s painting that painting, cleaning your desk or working on your website – you mysteriously loose both focus and confidence.

You start questioning yourself, you start looking for something else you’d rather do. In theory you know you can do it. In reality, you procrastinate, and come up with all different kinds of excuses why you shouldn’t be doing it right now.

What’s going on here? How come this smart, creative and competent person that is you sometimes gets totally blocked when it’s time to work for yourself?

The deepest fear

Even though there can be many different reasons why we act this way (fear of failing or general perfectionism just to name a few) there’s another, incredibly common, reason I want to focus on today.

When we help others we feel good – literally. Helping means that we are a good person, kind, caring. Helping others, we figure, improves our chances to receive love – and utterly, we all want to be loved, right?

But when we do something that mainly serves ourselves – no matter how much joy the activity itself brings us – we fear to being perceived as self-indulgent, even selfish.

Taking this one step further – why do we fear to be perceived as selfish? Quite obviously – selfish people are not very nice, so on a deeper level

We fear that people will not love us.

Ouch. No wonder you weren’t so keen digging into that project of yours if you (well that means your subconscious, but still) believe THAT is what’s at stake.

Bringing it into the light

When looking at this story in bright daylight, I’m sure you agree with me it sounds a bit far out:

If I play my guitar/make a painting/organize my papers to make my life more fun/easier/better I’m selfish, no-one will love me and I will stay lonely forever.”

Still, these are the kind of messages we keep buying into, because usually they never reach the conscious part of our brains. They just rush through our systems with the speed of light, leaving us feeling scared and confused, without us having an idea what happened. (My cognitive therapist called them “Automatic thoughts”)

But now since we’ve gotten it out of the dark, how about doing some conscious questioning:

First of all, what happens to YOU when you keep putting your own things off in order to help others? Does it make you happy?

The answer is probably, that even if you DO enjoy helping others, (which I’m sure you do) if you never get around to working on your book or cleaning up your house you will eventually become disturbed. With time this can grow into resentment, bitterness and jealousy. Secretly you start accusing others of stealing your time, and you might even start accusing people who do get on with their stuff for being… oops!…selfish. Sorry to say this, but these are not very loveable features 🙁

And second: IF you have people close to you who actually prefer that you put your dreams on hold in order to help them realize THEIRS – is this really the kind of people you want around? If someone REALLY loves you, doesn’t this mean that they want you to do whatever makes you happy?

picture blurry basketball goal

Do you mysteriously loose focus when it’s time to work for yourself?

How to REALLY be loveable

The truth is, most people love to be around happy and inspiring people – people who are striving to live their full potential.

So if you want to be loved – aim at doing things that make you happy, even if this sometimes means that you have to say no to helping out someone else.

Don’t get me wrong – helping others is a beautiful thing, and also something we need to do in order to feel as we’re part of this world. But you need to have a balance!

The irony is that it’s often the people who help others the most who also fear most to be self-indulgent.

So if you’re still worrying about being selfish, please try to remember that by doing your best to live your full potential you will actually help others – by allowing them to do so as well. First of all by being a role model & inspiring them, but also since you avoid becoming that bitter and envious person. Happy people feel no need to put other people down for doing THEIR thing.

Finally, as Gretchen Rubin states in her lovely book “The happiness project”, it’s scientifically proven that

Happier people are more generous

They give more, volounteer more and they love more than unhappy people. Doesn’t sound very selfish, does it?

Easier said than done?

If you find that you keep putting off your own stuff, in spite of knowing better, I’d love to help you out. Working with a coach is a very powerful way to move from feeling stuck, lost and confused to actually doing the things you really want! When we work together I will help you explore what is stopping you, and find the tools that work best for you to get you into action 🙂 To learn more about my coaching programs or book a FREE consultation call go HERE

Over to you

What’s on your mind? Have you heard that whisper warning you for being self-indulgent? Or are your inner voices saying something completely different? If you feel like it, please share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear what you think!

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What to do when life sucks

Sometimes, everything is just crap. Plain and simple. You don’t get the results you want at work – or you can’t seem to find a job no matter how hard you try, you feel stuck in your relationship  – or every date you go on turns out to be a disaster, everybody wants something from you and there’s no time to do what you really want, your home looks like a mess, the kids are screaming, and on top of that, you’re out of toilet paper.

When you feel like this, it doesn’t help much that the sun is shining and the birds are twittering. All you want to do is run away and hide, or hit somebody – really hard. But of course you don’t do such things. After all you’re a responsible grown up. So you just grind your teeth instead, and put yourself into survival mode.

There is a way out – and it’s not what you think

 

We all get stuck in that black hole from time to time, when it feels like all our efforts are useless. We keep thinking about all the things we are unhappy with in our lives, about all the things we would like to be different, but are clueless about how to actually get there.

 

The trick for how to get yourself moving towards what you want when it feels this dark might seem a bit counterintuitive at first:

 

A great way to get what you are missing, is to start with appreciating what you already have. 

 

Yep, there you go. Time to pull out that good ol’ GRATITUDE. I know it sounds cliché, but please stay with me, because I have experienced first hand  that it REALLY works:

Last year I went through one of those really dark times. It crept on gradually, until I one day realized to my horror that I felt ANGRY ALL THE TIME. I was snapping at my husband and had no patience with my kids. But most of all I was angry with myself, and kept thinking it was no use even trying to improve anything since everything I had tried just failed.

I remember saing to my husband that I felt totally helpless. In theory I could see how I was only making matters worse, but I just couldn’t seem to break the negative pattern.

Learning about the possible benefits of practicing gratitude, I decided to give it a try. After all, my life was crap, so I didn’t exactly have anything to loose… But I can assure you this wasn’t an easy task considering where I was at this point.

I would sit down with my gratitude journal after a stressful morning when finally, after a lot of struggle I had managed to bring the kids to their daycare, and think “I can’t stand this screaming anymore, please give me a pill that will make them shut up!” And then I realized that they where actually healthy enough to be able to scream, and I would write

 

I’m grateful that my kids are healthy today” 

in my journal.

When it was pouring down, and I still had to get out, I would write

 

I’m grateful that I have good rain gear” 

 

When I felt frustrated that yet another day had passed without me managing to get much done on my to-do list, I would write

I’m grateful that I have the freedom to choose how I use my time” 

 

But isn’t this just fooling yourself?

I’m not saying that you should appreciate that you are sick or just lost your job or that your partner cheated on you – but no matter how difficult your situation, there are always SOME things that are good. And by paying more attention to those things, and allowing ourselves to feel gratitude for what is actually good, we improve our ability to change our situation for the better.

What happened for me was that this practice really helped. The switch didn’t come from one day to the other, but after a week or so struggling to find any reasons daily for being grateful I noticed how my thought patterns started to change.  It got easier and easier to focus on the good things in my life – and easier and easier to handle the hard stuff.

I got more patient with the kids, more loving towards my husband, more forgiving towards myself– but the rewards didn’t stop there. My kids actually started to scream less, all the nice sides of my husband started to show again, and since I wasn’t scolding myself all the time I had more energy – and I got more of my hard stuff done.

The thing is, thinking a lot about what’s wrong is stressful.

Also, when we think about crap, we only see…crap 🙁

It will keep us in a bad mood and suck the energy out of us, and unless you’re a true fighting spirit who uses anger, revenge etc. as fuel, it will make it harder, not easier, to change your situation.

When you start thinking about things that you actually can be grateful for – even if it feels far out at first – it will help you to feel more energized, confident and powerful. All of which are very helpful components in order to change your situation 🙂

 

The Gratitude Bootcamp

According to science, if you can think of as little as THREE things you can be grateful for everyday, it will reduce your stress level and make you a happier and healthier person.  (If you have time to watch a highly interesting TED talk  where this is mentioned, you’ll find it HERE)

But when we’re not used to think this way, we need some practice. So how about dedicating the coming week to learning the art of gratitude? (No worries, it will only take you a few minutes each day). Ready? Here’s what to do:

  1. Get yourself a gratitude journal.  (A normal notepad, or some paper sheets will do just fine 🙂 )
  2.  Decide which time of the day that fits you best for writing. (I prefer to do my gratitude journaling sometime in the beginning of the day, since it will improve my mood and help me the rest of the day, but many people prefer to do it before going to sleep, and any time is better than no time.)
  3. Write down at least three things you can be grateful today. Start every sentence with “I’m grateful that…” (Personally I find it good to aim at making it a long list, like one page in that note pad, because this will force you to remember things that are easy to take for granted. For example, I like to write down that I’m grateful for living in a country with peace, healthcare, democracy and freedom of speech, that I actually have a place to live (even if it’s messy sometimes 😉 ), that I have food in the pantry and a washing machine.)
  4.  If all you can think about is the bad stuff, try to look closer. If you’re not used to practicing gratitude, you will probably find that a lot of complaining thoughts keep popping up. I find it very powerful to try to change those complaints into something I can be grateful for, like that I’m grateful for my boots when it’s raining instead of complaining of the rain itself. Or when I complain that I’m loosing too much time surfing on the internet I’m still grateful that there IS internet these days…
  5.  Practice, practice, practice… Taking the time to actually write down a list of things you can be grateful for makes it more real and easier to remember than just thinking about it. But once you get the hang of it, you don’t have to journal everyday. I pick out my note pad from time to time, when I notice I’m slipping back in old thought patterns, but after a few days I’m usually back on track, and can do the practice in my head little by little as the day goes by.

 

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Over to you

 

Have you already tried a gratitude practice? What 3 things can you think about that you can be grateful for today? Please  share in the comments –  I’d love to hear what you think!

 

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Home is where the heart is

Our homes should be the place where we rest, get creative, and spend leasure time with friends and family. But all too often, our homes turn into sources of stress instead. Here I will share ideas for making home life easier and more enjoyable 🙂