Do you think your life looks like a hamster in a wheel, that you turn around and around without living the life you want?
To live the life you want you may read and follow some advice taken from the method Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, developed by Albert Ellis (1913-2007), an American psychologist.
The basic principle of this therapy can be summed up in this sentence taken by Epictetus: “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” According to Ellis, by finding and changing your irrational beliefs, which are a source of suffering, you can free up yourselves from your internal chains and finally lead the life you want.
Here are 5 advice that you can use depending on the area of your life that you deem most “urgent” (partner, work, family, etc.) because you think you have some irrational beliefs there.
- Stop using the verb “must”. Ellis calls this belief the “musts”. Must-haves can generate emotional disturbances, which prevent you from connecting to your deepest and truest needs and desires. In addition, they also prevent you from finding the resources you need to pass over difficult times. Examples of some thoughts resulting from this belief are: “I must do everything well otherwise others will not appreciate me (meaning, if others do not like me, I am worthless)”; “The others must do exactly as I want”. “Circumstances must allow me to get what I want and how I want it”. Whenever you feel trapped in a situation, the “musts” are at work. Identifying them allows you to weaken their negative charge and slowly you will be able to let them go.
- Choose your words wisely (remember that words are bricks that build walls, also within you). The words you use not only reveal your way of thinking but also guide your behaviour. How you interpret what happens to you and how you project yourself into an event that has yet to happen affects your emotional state. This generates emotions that reinforce your beliefs. Rather than repeating over and over that you are not lucky or that you are worthless, it is better to say that you did your best, that perhaps you have not been careful or that you were not aware of that thing or fact, but that you will do everything possible to do it better next time. It is not about using the magic wand, but about betting on what helps you move forward rather than following your negative and useless beliefs.
- Dare to think about yourself. It is not about thinking only about yourself or thinking of yourself as opposed to others. Judgement, conformism and projections from others (parents, family, friends, society) take you away from what makes you feel good. Ellis believed in the power of determination, even knowing the weight of the unconscious and personal history. He invited his patients to identify areas of life that made them feel good and wanted them to focus on those. We all want to be accepted, recognized for our worth, but sometimes it is necessary to put aside these desires of gratification. You shall focus on what makes the most sense to you, what you feel is the condition for a happy life according to your happiness standards.
- Stop blaming yourself. Are you ruining your life by saying “I should have” or “I could have”? Are you spinning around like a hamster on its wheel? Reproaches against yourself represent real sterile and negative self-flagellations. If you have made a mistake, even a serious one, let the guilt go away and then evaluate two rational and productive options: apologize and repair the “damage”. By apologizing, you face reality and assume your responsibilities. Repairing, on the other hand, allows you to get back into a position of action and makes you regain self-esteem. Stopping self-scolding also helps you take the reins of your life back and move on. If you made a mistake and you are the victim, it’s just as important to learn to forgive yourself and learn the lesson for the next time.
- Laugh more often. Laughing allows you to take distance, to play down, to hold on and to create an environment that is conducive to exchange and sharing around you. Look at the crazy side of situations (there is always one), listen to humorists, watch comedies. Laughing is contagious, you know it. As soon as you see that you are being a know-it-all, that you want to give lessons, that you are becoming fussy or that you are complaining, stop it! This behaviour might cause you some stress, as you would fail to identify what is important from what is not and, finally, you would be a victim of a perfectionism that may ruin your life and, sometimes, even that of the others.
Do you think that any of these tips may help you with your life?
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12 thoughts on “Living the Life You Want”
There is a shift of self-care going on when we move from an outer directed way of living into an inner directed state of being. It might seem overwhelming and a lot of work initially. But like anything, once it becomes your new normal, it starts to become second nature. And it’s hard to go wrong with a playful, light-hearted sense of humor and healthy detachment. I often encourage people to watch their thoughts and emotions like they would a movie or listen to them like they would music. That way, they can start learning how to individuate, differentiate and empower themselves from them. It can be quite a playground or entertaining theater. Thank you for sharing crisbiecoach!
That’s a good practice watching your thoughts like they were a movie or listening to them like they were music. Thank you for commenting!
First, I am an exponential odd ball, so consider that when considering this.
“Wants” versus “Needs” have always been kept separate by my instinct. I have discovered, after realizing what my instinct has been doing for over 60 years, that my instinct is focused upon needs for me and those with whom I have some substantive contact as I wonder down the various paths of life. Thus, the life I want is of no interest to my instinct, to which I have ceded control such that it has been able to foster my needs. (I do have a lot of needs of others that i seem to help them meet.)
Yes, these tips help! Thank you!
Thank you, Cristiana, for another great post! I don’t think that just some of the tips will help with my quality of life–they all will! 🙏
Thank you Arthur, happy to hear that!
I love this post, Cristiana! Laugh more often and dare to think of yourself totally resonate with me. Thank you for this brilliant inspiration!
I love the five points you list here. I don’t know if you ever read anything about General Semantics, but Albert Ellis drew from its founder, Alfred Korzybski, as well as the Stoics (Epictetus being a key figure). One of the foundations of General Semantics is how the language we use shapes the world we see. Korzybski called it “neuro-semantic reactions” which can also be seen in later therapies such as Neuro-linguistic Programming. Other early language theorists such as Edwin Sapir and Benjamin Whorf talked about linguistic relativity and Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” These concepts emphasize your point about the world we want to live in. I know it’s not as simple as “change your words; change your world,” but the words we use to describe and fashion our world truly matter. Great post, Christiana.
Very interesting points, thank you!
Great advice 👍 thanks for sharing
Thank you for reading!