Thriving: The First Step

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Last week I talked about how a simple thing like a weed in nature survives and thrives even in the toughest of places.  It may have seemed like an odd place to start our journey, but I thought if you could see how simple the basics steps of thriving are, it might be easier to believe it’s possible to achieve them. Seeing the end helps me focus anyway. Sometimes I have to revisit the goal, a lot, to stay on track.

I’m really not a patient person.  I like to think I am, but I’m not. Once I know I want to accomplish something, I’m all in, ready to act. For me, that includes thriving. But the thing about thriving is, like most everything else, it takes time.

Thriving, by its very nature is a slow process. It takes time realize you’re stuck, then you have to figure out where you’re stuck, how you got that point, how to adapt, and how to fix it. Fixing takes time. Sometimes you can just change directions, other times you have to start from the ground up.  I’ve learned that I have to take the steps one at a time and slowly. Believe me, it’s been tough!

Along with being impatient, I also have a thing about lists. I can be habitual about making lists. For a time, I was able to wean myself away from writing down my daily “must do” tasks and just wing it. It felt good, too. But I’ve noticed that when I feel stuck or confused, out comes the notebook again. It gives me some needed structure, I guess. It helps me to review what’s gone wrong, or at least what I think might be wrong, and then how to figure out a path forward.

When I was ill this past year, and spending most of my time inside, out came the notebook. I may have been too tired to garden, or go for a walk, but I could pick up a pen and makes notes.

I hated being sick.  I felt like I was wasting my days. All I could see was how I was missing out on life. I felt like if I wasn’t able to do all of things I had planned to do before I got sick, then I was failing. My cancer left me with a definite realization of the shortness of life and I didn’t want to waste a moment of it. I felt like I was stuck in place where I didn’t want to be and that I had no say in what happened to me.

I was resisting where I was and why. In reality, I was in treatment. I was battling cancer. I was just in my first steps.

As I said earlier, it takes time to realize you’re stuck. When I finally stopped resisting and acknowledged where I was, out came the notebook. I wrote down how I felt, where I thought I was, what I was going through, what I still had to go through, and where I wanted to be. That was pretty eye opening.

Shocking, actually.

My perspective was pretty out of whack. My dreams and plans had me active, busy, and physically perfect. Who was I kidding? I could barely crawl to the couch on some days. I just didn’t want to admit it.

And that’s the thing about thriving.  Your really have to take the time to be honest with yourself: about everything. And that’s not easy. But remember, for now, the only one you need to be honest with is yourself. It may hurt a bit and you’ll run through a lot of emotions, but you’ll feel better.

It doesn’t matter if you in a bad relationship, are ill,  are dead broke because you made financial mistakes, or are stuck in a job you hate. Maybe you’ve stood by people that were bad for you, or just made other choices that aren’t working. Maybe something happened that is not your fault, but you’ve still had to deal with the outcome.

It’s not about what you did in the past. It’s about where you are, now.

I’ll say that again, because I need to remember it as well.

It’s not about what you did in the past.  It’s about where you are, now.

There is nothing you can do to change what happened yesterday, or the day before that, or the month before that. You can’t go back in time and undo whatever not so good thing happened (unless, of course, you have a time machine tucked in your basement; we’d all be lining up for that).

So here it is, the big first step in thriving: Be honest with yourself about where you are. 

Write it down and read it to yourself. Absorb the words, and just take it in. Let yourself feel the emotions. Are you happy, regretful, sad, angry, furious, or numb? Whatever it is, just feel it. Feel it for as long as you need to. Just remember to think kindly about yourself while you do it. Just figure out where you are and try not to judge yourself.

Eventually, all of the feelings will die down and you’ll feel a little bit better.  It’ll take whatever time it takes. But you’ll get there. You’ll feel a bit more composed.  Even a bit more hopeful.

Even though all we’ve done is to state where we are, a bunch of other things have come to mind. And most of these thoughts, ideas, or statements seem to start with the word “should.”

“I should have left him sooner.”

“I should have finished school.”

“I should be making more money; or have been more successful.”

Let’s just stop for a moment. Let’s park the word “should” at the door. The word “should” is what I call a “guilt” word. As soon as I say it, I think about all of the ways I’m lacking as a person. I feel bad. I feel incompetent. I feel inadequate.

We want to thrive.

What would happen if we used the word “could,” instead of “should?” Would we feel more hopeful? Would we feel that there might a way to refocus what we are doing and make a change?

“I could have left him sooner.”

“I could have finished school.”

“I could be making more money; or be more successful.”

How do you feel now?

The point of figuring out where we are right now is not to beat ourselves up about what choices we made in the past, but to simply give us a place to start. Nothing more.

When I think of where I “could be” instead of where I “should be,” I’m in a much more positive frame of mind. My thoughts are more on the realm of “well yeah, I could be there, but what stopped me?” and not “well, I really blew that!”

Chances are that you had a valid reason for doing what you did at the time. Maybe it wasn’t the best reason, but it made sense to you.  Maybe you’ve just forgotten why.  It is what it is.

For now, just determine where you are and next time we’ll talk about where to go from there.

You can do it. You can learn to thrive.

We can do it together.




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