How did I get here?!?
Written by Michele Dial, M.Ed., LPC
Ever feel like life is happening without your input and you’re just along for the ride? Ever wake up and wonder, “How the heck did I get here?” Believe me, I feel you! It is so easy to get into a routine and go through the motions each day because it’s comfortable and efficient . . . and necessary. Cue the laundry list of obligations and responsibilities. Then we look up from our routine and realize changes are happening all around us – gaping holes in the landscape tell the story of buildings that have been leveled, landmark high school reunions pop up, kids transition to junior high, then high school . . . where does the time go? Are we just treading water, or are we actively living the life we choose?
The Path to Autopilot
Early in life, caregivers in the form of parents, teachers, extended family, etc. help us form our belief system about the world around and develop our values. These principles typically guide our path to adulthood, i.e. pursuing natural talents, a college education, a career, a family, travel, cultural development, and community service, or some combination of these pursuits. Regardless of the path we choose, at some point, we settle into a regimen that pays the bills and leaves us with a general sense of wellbeing.
It’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves shifting into autopilot when we hit this plateau. So we wake up every day, drop off the kids, go to work, go to the gym, go home, walk the dog, make dinner, watch some TV, go to bed, and wake up to start the whole routine over again. Insert the details of your own reality here. While the actual activities may differ, the sense of monotony resonates. At some point, life stops feeling fulfilling. We start to feel as though something is missing. The sense of longing is palpable. Life has taken over, and we are no longer in the driver’s seat.
It’s time to take stock. Dust off those values and beliefs you developed once upon a time, and see if they still fit who you’re becoming, because, let’s face it, we never stop growing and changing; we are always becoming. Reevaluate and revise your values and beliefs as needed to fit the wisdom and insight of your life experiences. What still holds true for you? What needs a little tweaking now that the veil of youthful innocence has been lifted? Once you have a renewed sense of what matters most to you, ask yourself if your day-to-lay life aligns with your core beliefs.
Does your career provide you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, or does it feel like a daily grind? Are you spending as much time with your family, friends, and significant figures in your life as you find fulfilling? Does your body feel healthy and fit? Does your mind feel stimulated, your heart full? At the end of the day, do you feel exhausted and empty, or happy tired? If you don’t like your answer to any of these questions, it’s time to make some changes for the better.
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. This is where we stop letting life happen, and start making intentional choices about how we use our time. Choose your top three priorities and start brainstorming strategies for adding meaning to these areas. Join a gym, take a class, connect with a spiritual group, start a game night with friends, host a parent/child play group, schedule a massage, designate a regular date night with your significant other, try a new activity or sport, explore the quirky character of this awesome city – the possibilities are endless!
Think back to times in your life when you felt enriched and content. What components were in place? What is cluttering up your day that was not present during those periods? It’s time to clean house. Some additions, like family, are priceless and indispensible. Others are optional. However you choose to spend your time, do it wholeheartedly, and strive to be fully present for the people you love. Your intentional presence will enrich your life and theirs.
If you’re struggling with the process of decluttering your life and living intentionally, don’t be shy about asking for help. Find a therapist you can identify and align with, and let them be an objective voice to help you sort through the blocks that stop you from living your life in the driver’s seat.
Michele is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Heights Family Counseling who specializes in strengths based counseling with teens, adults, and couples. Her goal is to help you spot and deconstruct unhealthy patterns of responding to them (such as withdrawal, escapism, eruptions, etc.) and develop new, more satisfying ways of approaching life, love, and livelihood. Book an appointment with Michele by going to https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/contact/ and read more about her counseling style at https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/amy-rollo/