Call it an awakening of sorts; or, for so many, a tipping point.
It’s as if a cloud has been lifted and you’re finally able to see what really matters in life.
The realization hits you hard that you’ve been on this earth for a half a century and that your time is limited.
There’s a feeling of both freedom and urgency that happens with this coming of age.
It’s an opportunity to ruthlessly analyze your life: where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve failed, opportunities you’ve passed up and those that you’ve taken advantage of, what about yourself and your life that you love and what you want to change; and most importantly, how you want to journey through this next phase of your life.
In looking back to my 20s, 30s, or 40s, I wish a wiser and older woman had taken the time to offer me a road map for creating a life of meaning, creativity, and joy.
It would have saved me a lot of wasted time, confusion, and worry. And it would have given me clarity, a sense of calm, focus, and self-assuredness as I journeyed through this very complex world of ours.
Here are 20 Essential Truths that I want to share with women under 50.
1. Make yourself your #1 priority. If you tend to your own well-being first, you’ll have significantly more energy to be able to help others when needed. Because women have historically taken on the role of caretakers, it’s something we do reflexively. Remember that practicing self-care is not selfish. It’s a necessity if you want to lead a rich and productive life.
2. Commit to developing a healthy lifestyle. Although our culture talks a lot about minimizing stress, the majority of us are still leading stressful lives. When you wrap your arms around the fact that 95 percent of all diseases are related to lifestyle choices, it may shock you into realizing that stress, exercise, nutrition, and relationships are the pillars of healthy living. The best news of all is that once you integrate these elements into your daily life, you’ll be awed by how much more productive, positive, and healthy you feel—and experience a profound sense of well-being.
3. Surround yourself with friends and family that love you and support your growth.How many times have you spent time with a friend or colleague who is negative, judgmental, or an energy vampire? Stop making excuses for keeping toxic people in your life. Anyone who consistently is not loving and supportive needs to be deleted or kept at a distance. Remember, your 5 closest friends are a mirror of what you truly think of yourself. Make sure that they embody attributes and values you cherish .
4. Learn to say ‘no’. This is difficult for a lot of women to do; whether when taking on extra tasks at work or at your kids’ schools, or in relationship with your children, spouse, or friends. It takes practice to catch yourself in the process of getting ready to say ‘yes’ reflexively. But once you get the hang of not automatically saying ‘yes, you’re on your way to learning to say ‘no’ in a skillful and firm manner. You’ll be delighted at how doing this will free up your schedule and energy to do things that you really want to pursue.
5. Delete ‘I should’ from your vocabulary. As soon as you hear yourself silently or out loud say those two words, stop and question ‘why’. The people who fill their lives up with stuff that they think they ‘should do’ rarely feel fulfilled and content. Replace “I should” with “I choose to” or “I want” and see what you come up with. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
6. Replace automatic negative thoughts in your brain with positive thoughts. Women spend so much time questioning if they’re good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. As soon as you hear any inner critical voice judging you, replace it with the phrase: “I am enough”, or “I am the artist of my life.” It may sound too easy of a solution but I can’t tell you how many clients have tried this technique with astounding results. They report back to me that they feel like a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders and that their self-perception has been dramatically improved.
7. Love and accept yourself. Although you may not yet believe it, you’re a beautiful and loving soul. Look at yourself in your bathroom mirror each morning (really look) and say ‘good morning’ and ‘I love you’. It may sound hokey but the more you do it, the more you’ll come to appreciate who you authentically are. You’ll be awed at the beauty and self-love your discover by doing this simple exercise each morning.
8. Develop a daily gratitude practice. It literally takes 5 minutes to integrate a gratitude practice into your daily life. I love sitting in the morning with a notebook and taking stock of what I’m grateful for. Whatever comes to my mind, I write down in a quick list format. The key to getting the most bang for your buck from this exercise is to allow yourself to experience the feeling of gratitude. For example, if you’re truly grateful for the delicious cup of fresh morning coffee you’re drinking, take a deep breath and ‘feel gratitude’ for that cup of coffee.
9. Work on self-awareness. Becoming familiar with your moods, motivations and deepest desires are critical if you want to live a meaningful, abundant, and productive life. Rather than walking through your day mindlessly, check in with yourself every few hours and see what emotion you’re experiencing. If you have a strong negative reaction to something, take note of it and figure out why. Also, earmark when you’re feeling pleasure, fun, joy, spirituality, and creative interludes: You’ll want to add more of these abundant positive experiences into your life.
10. Take responsibility for your life. Blaming external circumstances on not being happy with yourself or your life will keep you stuck, frustrated, and angry. Catch your inner critical voice reflexively saying: “If only I…..”, or blaming others when something isn’t going smoothly. Replace those voices with “I am responsible for my own life and I choose to create an extraordinary one.”
11. Believe in your own abilities. Once you own that you have the power and ability to create a life that you deeply desire, you’ll be shocked at what happens. You’ll experience—deep in your soul—the power you possess which, in turn, will inspire you to make changes. You’ll also understand that there is a solution to practically everything and that you have the ability to figure it out.
12. Stop worrying what other people think of you. Girls are taught from the time they’re young to seek approval from others. If you’re someone who needs acceptance from others, it’s time to change that. Spending time on such a trivial activity will not only drain your energy but will keep you from getting to the best parts of yourself. When you catch yourself in a ‘self-doubt’ mode, call on your wise inner-self to embrace the younger, less secure self and remind her that she needs only to please and receive approval from herself and no one else.
13. Become a better listener. You’ll always learn more from listening than you will from talking. Whether with an old friend, a stranger, a family member, or in business, learn the art of listening and asking just a few well thought-out questions. Becoming an excellent listener will enable you to develop more intimate and deeper connections. You’ll also have more interesting conversations and it will keep your mind active and growing.
14. Maintain a beginner’s mind. We live in a culture that places a high priority on expertise and productivity. If you want to live a rich, creative, and fun life, you need to expose yourself to new endeavors—where you’ll obviously be a beginner. And even in an arena where you do have expertise, there’s always more to learn and do. So let go of perfectionism and needing to be an expert at something and learn how to take on a beginner’s mind. It will open up so many possibilities for you.
15. Practice forgiveness. So many of us are holding deep grudges and hurt inside—even when apologies have taken place. The inability to forgive others is usually a sign of not being able to forgive yourself. Catch your inner voice making critical or angry comments about others— knowing that what you’re feeling towards them is actually a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Just by noting your feelings and telling yourself to “Let it go”, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your feelings of anger and judgment towards yourself and others dissipates. You’ll go from feeling hurt, isolated, and stuck to experiencing a rush of positive energy, relief, openheartedness, and compassion.
16. Own and develop your creativity. Our culture has led us to believe that only a designated percentage of women are creative. Not true! You were born creative: it’s your birthright. Find ways to exercise your creativity muscles and of integrating it into your everyday life (my book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, is a perfect vehicle for teaching you how to experience a creative and joyful life.)
17. Spend time in nature. Nature is one of the more profound ways to de-stress, clear your mind of clutter, jump-start creativity, and experience feelings of well-being, calm, and awe. Even if you have only have 20 minutes a day to take a walk and awaken your senses, you’ll quickly discover the magical benefits it has in all areas of your life.
18. Practice mindfulness. We’ve been led to believe that in order to have success in our lives, we need to multi-task from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night. To the contrary. When you slow down and practice being present and focused each moment, you’ll experience a deeper, richer, and more meaningful life. A good way to begin practicing mindfulness is to stop whatever you’re doing, sit still, clear your mind, and take 3 deep breaths.
19. Create The Life Of Your Dreams. Even if you have moments of self-doubt, let your ‘wise self’ remind the ‘less confident self’ that you’re highly intelligent and creative with the desire to experience an impactful life. The truth is this: if you set your mind to it, believe in yourself, and take action, you’ll find the way to create an extraordinary life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
20. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is a paradox. On one hand, leading a meaningful life is serious business; on the other hand, not really. Knowing how to integrate fun, laughter, and playfulness into your everyday life is not only a tonic for the soul but is shown to jump-start creativity and enables you to develop deeper connections with others. Think about it: after you’ve had a good laugh, don’t you feel more light-hearted, happier, and able to continue your day with more ease
Fran Sorin is a coach for high-performing women, author of the highly acclaimed book,Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, and a CBS radio news and Psychology Today contributor. As a coach, Fran works with clients on how to step into their power, to dream and live big, and experience a life of creativity and well-being. Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening is available at Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Barnes and Noble stores, and other online and neighborhood booksellers.