“Some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” ~Hermann Hesse She knew it sooner than I did. And more intensely than I did. I, on the other hand, may have considered our … The post The Top 7 Reasons We Stay in ...

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The Top 7 Reasons We Stay in Bad Relationships

“Some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” ~Hermann Hesse

She knew it sooner than I did. And more intensely than I did.

I, on the other hand, may have considered our differences but never thought of them as deal-breakers. I tried to justify the many struggles we had between us and believed that our marriage could work despite the challenges.

I had this feeling things would get better and stayed hopeful no matter how bad our relationship got.

I told myself that her extraverted personality and my more introversion could work together. And that her more social and outgoing nature and my more private and homebound inclinations were just minor differences.

I believed it was both of us trying to settle into our professional careers that led to our conflicts. Or maybe, it was moving away from California so she could complete her professional training that put pressure on our relationship. Or it was because we didn’t have a support system that we weren’t getting along.

In retrospect, if I'm being completely objective, I can see there were problems.

There were fights and disagreements that would have landed us on a reality TV show.

There were days of not talking and threats of leaving regularly.

There were instances where we ignored each other’s feelings and preferences in our life goals. There was a lack of understanding and compassion for each other.

Yet, we stayed together for years, and even after our separation, I still didn’t want this relationship to end.

Even after our divorce, I was hopeful.

Was this the optimist in me?

Was I being delusional?

Are you too wondering why you’re stuck in a relationship that isn’t working and bad for your spirit?

You may feel the dysfunction on a daily basis and feel frustrated with the constant fights and disagreements.

Are you wondering why you’re having trouble letting go when the person you’re with isn’t the right person for you? Are you wondering why you’re stuck in dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship? And even worse, not doing anything about it?

Here are top seven reasons we stay in bad relationships.

1. We have grown accustomed to people who treat us badly.

Those of us who grew up in abusive or hurtful households feel used to complicated love.

We begin to believe that people who hurt us are the ones who truly love us.

We have learned that it’s okay to be treated poorly, to not have boundaries, and to feel hurt by other people’s behavior.

Others have taught us that it’s acceptable to accept abuse and dysfunction. We not only can tolerate it but have to come to view this is as normal.

2. We prefer bad relationships over the unknown.

This is the biggest reason most of us stay in dysfunctional, hurtful relationships.

We may despise the person and the relationship, but we hate uncertainty and change more.

Our brains are simply not wired for changed circumstances.

We would suffer any amount of pain to avoid dealing with the unknown in the future.

3. We prefer a bad relationship over being alone.

We can’t stand being alone.

We can’t imagine a life by ourselves.

We see ourselves with cats, other lonely people, and silent walks in the park.

We hear silence, see no one, and feel like disappearing from earth altogether.

The alternative we imagine of being without someone feels hopeless and scary.

4. We don’t value ourselves.

We have a low sense of self-worth and don’t believe in ourselves.

When we find people who tear us down and bring us down, we take comfort in their behavior because it confirms our beliefs about ourselves.

We are open to people treating us badly because we are used to treating ourselves badly by talking down to ourselves, criticizing ourselves, and hurting ourselves.

We don’t believe we are worth the time and attention of someone kinder and more compassionate toward us. We may even fear being treated well because we don’t trust that we deserve it or that it will last.

5. We feel rejected, dejected, inspected, and tossed to the sharks.

Ending a relationship, no matter how good or bad it was, makes us feel unwanted.

It hits at our self-esteem and self-worth.

It makes us feel unwanted and unworthy.

Many of us felt unwanted or abandoned in our childhood, and ending a relationship in adulthood brings all our old feelings to the surface.

We’d rather stay with someone than fall into a sinkhole of unworthiness, never knowing if we can pick up your self-esteem again.

6. We feel out of place and out of sorts.

We don’t know what our place or role in the world is anymore.

We are no longer the husband, wife, partner of so and so.

We lose half of our family and friends, our ex’s family and friends.

We don’t know what to say to people at dinner parties, work, or any other social situation.

Our society tends to put an emphasis on couples, so without a partnership we become lost and on the outside of everyday life.

We become talked about, and our relationship status seems to be at the center of attention.

7. We don’t believe you there’s anyone else out there for us.

A big part of why we’d rather stay together is that we doubt we could ever find someone nearly as compatible again.

How do we know we can date again? How do we know someone else will find us attractive again? How do we know if love will strike again in the future?

Instead of uncertainty of a day that may never come and a love that may never bloom, we choose to stay with the person we’ve already found.

Instead of hanging on to a relationship that is bad for your heart and soul, consider the possibility of moving on, grieving, and letting go of this relationship that isn’t working.

Trust your gut, know that this relationship isn’t right, and act on your inner knowing.

Look at the relationship objectively, as I wish I did sooner, and make the decision to walk away before things get any worse. As much as you would like it to get better, if neither of you are working on the relationship, or if you’re just not right for each other, it will not improve.

Know that brighter days are ahead if you release this person and the unhealthy relationship from your life. You can get through this breakup, as you’ve likely done many times in your life, and can move on from this relationship.

Brighter days mean being alone sometimes; it means finding peace; it means getting to know yourself and eventually finding yourself in a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

So many people have gone through heartbreak, have lost that one special person, and have gone on to find the right one.

Uncertainty after ending a bad relationship is uncomfortable but better than the comfort of dysfunction.

Letting go and ending this relationship is risky, but with great risk come life’s greatest rewards.

One day of peace and comfort by yourself is worth a thousand days being in a relationship that is suffocating and dysfunctional.

Instead of showering love on someone who can’t reciprocate, consider giving yourself that love.

Open your heart to yourself, speak gently to yourself, do nice things for yourself, make your life comfortable and relaxed.

Cultivate an inner sanctuary of silence, compassion, peace, and acceptance of yourself, perhaps through yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature, or by seeing a therapist to work through the core wounds from your childhood.

Work on spiritual practices that help you accept yourself for who you are and be comfortable in your own body without needing to be with someone. This could include breath work, affirmations, journaling, or even some form or art.

Finally, remember, your ex has helped you grow and lead you to the place you are today, but it’s not healthy to keep them in your journey to the end.

Letting go of your ex allows you to pick up the journey on your own for a bit so you can grow stronger and be better prepared for healthy, happy relationships in the future.

After your own solo travels, you can find another love that will help you grow as a person and further reach your potential as a human being. Or will allow you to discover who you are so you can live an honest and authentic life, which will lead you to rich experiences, spiritual growth, and deeper friendships.

Losing this unhealthy relationship doesn’t mean your world has ended and there will never be someone out there again for you.

Ending this relationship will open the realm of possibilities for authentic relationships, healthy love, and true happiness.

About Vishnu

Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose.  He blogs at www.vishnusvirtues.com For Vishnu's latest book, 10 Sacred Laws of Healing a Broken Heart, visit his Amazon page here.

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Life Lessons from a Wanderer: From Lost Boy, to Carnie, to U.S. Marine

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~Rumi                                                                                                                                                 

How did this happen?

I remember the wind tearing at the walls of my tent, bending the humble, graphite rods almost double. I was burrowed down in my sleeping bag, which was one of my sole possessions in life, along with that tent, a pack of books, some canned food, $200, and clothes.

I dug even lower and thought—what the hell am I going to do?

It was sometime in October of 1994. I was camped by a dry creek bed amidst some old, twisted mesquite trees and the fall winds of the Mojave were starting to muster.

And by starting to muster, I mean they began to violently gust fifty to sixty miles an hour.

All I could hear was the flapping of that pitifully thin material. It wasn’t even full dark outside yet. I could barely hear myself think the sound was so close to my head. I hunkered down miserably and hoped I would have an intact tent come morning.

It was starting to get cold.

I was twenty-one.

Now how I got to that desert creek bed, in that tent, on that cold October night, was a study in the term “failure to launch.”

Big time.

After I graduated high school, neither my family nor I saw how I could afford to go to college despite my grades and aptitude. So I semi-decided that I should just get out there in life and see what happened. I was certain I was fairly educated, college or no college, about people and life and the way things worked.

And I was also quite certain I wasn’t going down either the roads my father and mother had taken. Apparently, it was time to blaze some new trails.

I was probably on a “spiritual path,” I told myself.

No doubt, in great part, because no one could actually tell what sort of other path it might be.

I was a little cocky, a little rebellious, and a lot upset that the world hadn’t offered me up anything better than this despite my hard work in school, but no worries, I thought—I would make my own destiny. No one was going to keep me from the fine, successful, strong person I envisioned myself quickly becoming.

I took off with a lopsided grin and all the bravado of youth and inexperience. I knocked around in my home state of Oregon a little bit, did some landscaping, worked as a box boy, chased some women, and tried out some different towns, which all proved to be a lot like the one I came from.

And then, after a couple of slow years that went fast, more on a whim than anything, I joined up with a carnival company touring through Eugene, Oregon.

Yeah, I became a carnie.

For three months I traveled down the west coast of America, blowing into town, setting up stands and rides, asking people all weekend to give me a dollar for three throws of a dart in the balloon booth.

I met a crazy Aussie, worked beside a man with track marks on his forearms so bad I asked him if he had been burned, got offered drugs of all kinds, sex of even more kinds, and generally had a rollicking, somewhat desperate, entirely surreal time.

As we rolled into Phoenix, Arizona at summer’s end—the last major stop and a good moneymaker—I got off that wild ride. Life on the road is rough, no matter how glamourous it might look in movies. Rougher when you’re with tough folks.

I wasn’t quite carnie-tough, if I’m being honest.

And then, with no better options, I caught myself a ride a few hours upstate to a town called Quartzsite. During summers it’s not much, but it blossoms by tens of thousands during winter. Retirees from all over drive down in RV’s to enjoy resting their cold bones for a while.

It had a scrappy feeling, like a big, desert flea market. My kinda place, I figured. I looked around, bought a handful of paperbacks, and hiked several miles north to set up my tent by that creek bed.

And a few weeks later, in the quiet of late summer, living in my tent, I started really thinking and I realized, to my dismay, I didn’t know what to do next. I thought I should probably make my next move, but somehow I just couldn’t.

Day by day, it got harder to get through an afternoon. But still I sat there, growing more and more hollowed-out, besides the shore of that long-dead stream.

I imagine now I must have gone into some kind of mystic survival-mode. I was contemplating my navel, but so deeply, so close to myself, I could no longer understand how or why the outside world moved. I had no plan, and had you asked me even to just fake one for eating’s sake, I wouldn’t have been able to.

And it was no terribly enlightened, uber-in-the-now thing (though there are certainly gifts I still carry from the experience.) I could just no longer conceive of how to move myself physically.

I didn’t have enough resources for any false move. I didn’t have enough inspiration to march out and preach to the masses, spiritual journey or not. I had completely wandered off any beaten track and had apparently found the end of the road.

I think the technical term is “stuck.”

And I’m sure a part of me just wanted a cup of coffee and to sleep in a real bed for a few nights.

I had been swimming through life for years, just fast enough not to go under. I hadn’t thought much about what direction I was swimming or that I might be going twice as far as needed in the wrong direction. I didn’t consider the fact I might get tired and sincerely assumed if I just kept going I would be okay.

But now I had stopped, awkwardly and seemingly by chance, but it was a very, solid stop nonetheless.

And then, the wind began to howl.

Out in my beloved desert, where it had been just me and the earth and the sun for a quiet moment of weeks, suddenly, there was this other insistent, aggressive element. One I couldn’t avoid or outrun.

Tearing, shoving, and grasping at my poor, little world…

And it didn’t end that night. It didn’t end the next day or the next night either. Those winds tore at my tent for three whole days.

THREE DAYS.

I crawled out from my tent the morning of the fourth day like some primal, man-child, almost disbelieving the sky god had let the world and its creatures live after all.

The air was slightly shimmery and fantastic feeling, as it will be in desert mornings, and the rocks were hard under my bare feet, though I scarcely noticed. Slowly, faintly, I could hear myself begin thinking small, tentative thoughts again.

I was cold, but nothing like the last few nights.

Damn was I hungry.

But then, suddenly, in that strange air, I just got it. I understood completely, peacefully even, I didn’t have the ability to tell myself what to do with my days anymore. And what’s more, I understood I was not going to get that ability back soon or without help.

Right then, I just accepted it as fact. Not a judgment to be found anywhere.

Maybe it was acceptance?

I remembered how often I had left jobs and places and people behind the past few years because I didn’t want to be told what to do. Or because I was surely doing something mysterious and noble—wandering the earth like a soul-nomad, convinced mere survival activities had far less value than my greater journey (nose up in the air here).

It was all very romantic in one sense surely, and I recommend it in measured doses. It was also cold, hard, hungry work.

And I realized, that strange, cold morning, perhaps it was time now to consider being “bossed” by someone.

Preferably someone who knew what they were doing.

So I did what any sane person would do.

I joined the Marines.

Six weeks later, even hungrier, perhaps a little worse for wear, I stepped off the bus at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, and into the most decision-less, disciplined, bossed around few months of my life.

The beds weren’t good and the coffee wasn’t either. But there was food.

And most of all, I relished my twelve weeks in boot camp, my four weeks combat training, and three more weeks of specialty schooling before I shipped off to Camp Fuji, Japan. And yes, I was a little unique in this perspective among my fellow recruits. I just honestly enjoyed having made a decision that took away all my other decisions and gave me time to re-learn the shape of a day.

Slowly, very respectfully, I drifted back into the fuller stream of life.

Of course, there were moments over the ensuing years when I worried I had exchanged no boss for approximately 230,000 aggressive, semi-socially challenged ones. Until I realized no one questions the Marine working twice as hard as everyone else—they promote him and then follow his orders.

And moments when I questioned why the lost boy from Oregon who packed books instead of more food into the desert would be carrying a gun for a living. Until I realized so much of civilization still relies, unfortunately or not, on walls and the men who stand on them. And I loved so much of the world—those snowbirds, my fellow wanderers, my mom, the green of Oregon, the bright blue and sand of a desert day.

And even times when I worried there was some sort of “loss of innocence,” that I had rushed too much perhaps. Until I realized the world will take us all in its time—fast or slow, makes no difference. What we can aspire to is an understanding of our mortality and purpose on the trip—some sense of value beyond ourselves and shaping of our own ends.

I learned wandering can be done with purpose. And sometimes it is done without purpose—for the sake of being a wanderer. Both have their place. Both will end.

I learned a “spiritual path” doesn’t preclude a job or pride or a family or a home or a business or a new book. The wandering simply goes on through other incarnations—new costumes for the old player if you will. It is the powerful essence of the questions that drive us forward, not the solace of a particular answer.

I learned the mind is full of doubts, and like our ancestors before us, we often fear the night. But I also learned the heart has its own wisdom and can find us a path if we are still, if we listen even when we are afraid to hear.

I learned the sun comes up again, every single day—a new day always dawns. Make it your touchstone. It is only our insistence and fear and driving urgency in darkness that keeps us from the peace of new light.

I learned the world will love bossing you around—be it managers, Marines, loved ones, or society in general. And the only antidote is to “boss” yourself better than they can. No one messes with the person working twice as hard as everyone else.

I learned a person must own themselves completely and “be the boss” of their living each day. And I learned there are times, sometimes, when we absolutely won’t know how to do that. When we will fail in the endeavor and must find some trusted help until we slowly remember how to again.

I learned the best boss for me is ultimately me. But I also had some very, very good “bossing” teachers along the way.

And when I do forget myself (as we all may, when wandering) and how to be my own boss—when I find I am scared or running up against another’s will or losing momentum or lost in a desert of dying, summer days…

I still myself and remember the howling wind. I remember the wild, reaching shadow-fingers across my tent walls under the rising of a bright, cold moon.

I burrow deeply, arranging my blankets, my books, and all the things I love best closer to me as I prepare for the storm.

And I let the wind howl and bear down on the thin walls of life. I let it reach for me, as it will always seek to, and I find stillness in my heart. I know answers might not come soon and the night may be long.

And I grow calmer yet, understanding the question I have now is much more than I have asked before, knowing I might need to find help or let another show me a new way forward.

And I smile a little, maybe, remembering the promise of that fourth day sun and what I must have looked like emerging from my fraught, little shelter and how bright the morning was and how many amazing new questions it brought.

And then, then I listen some more.

Here is wishing you happy wandering, happy bossing, and happy listening, always.

About Tath Ashcroft

Tath Ashcraft is an author, entrepreneur, world-traveler, and yoga enthusiast. He is a coffee drinking, music loving man who believes in the life-changing power of listening, living adventurously, forming unlikely friendships, and learning to give. He is the author of Fearless GIVING: Leave Want Behind. Live Congruently. Discover Your Legacy. 

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Perspective Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! We're now less than two weeks away from the launch date for Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal. As you may have noticed, I've been sharing some of the coloring pages over the past few weeks, all colored by yours truly, to give you a sense of what the journal has to offer. So far I've shared:

In addition to coloring pages, the journal includes questions, written prompts, and doodle prompts to help you reframe your worries and minimize anxiety in your daily life.

Really, it all comes down to perspective. Everything seems more difficult and overwhelming when we're wading through the muck of a disappointment, crisis, or tragedy, knee-deep in our messy emotions. But oftentimes when we step back and view things in a different light, life suddenly seems more manageable, and sometimes the painful seems not only tolerable but also useful.

There's a Taoist fable that I've found particularly powerful because it reminds me not to panic when things go “wrong.” You've quite possibly read it before, but perhaps it's something you need to read again today:

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all twenty-one horses.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

You can't see the whole picture from where you're standing, so take a deep breath and remind yourself that things likely aren't as bad as they seem. And even if the worst thing happened, you could handle it and maybe even grow and gain in ways you can't possibly predict.

From now until June 26th, you'll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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It’s All About Perception: You Can Look Through the Lens of Love or Fear

“We are not responsible for what our eyes are seeing. We are responsible for how we perceive what we are seeing.” ~Gabrielle Bernstein

One of the things I love about this journey of personal growth is that we get to learn the same lessons over and over again, until they finally sink in on a visceral level. I love it when I hear or read the same insights repeatedly, from various sources and at different stages along my own path.

Recently, at a low point in my life, I re-encountered this fundamental teaching in Gabrielle Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back: 

Every single situation, thing, and person in our lives may be seen through one of two lenses: the lens of fear or the lens of love.

These are profoundly different ways to view the exact same circumstances. Nothing on the outer level has to change for you to experience a radical shift in perception: you simply have to change the lens you’re looking through.

When I read this, I realized that I’d been caught in a downward spiral of negative thinking. Yes, seemingly “bad” things have been happening in my life recently, but was it true that I had no choice but to feel bad about them?

As an experiment, I decided to try describing my current life and circumstances from each perspective. This is how things looked through the lens of fear:

I am a woman in deep middle age, alone and completely without romantic prospects. My financial situation is dire. I do almost nothing that is fun or exciting. I work an unskilled job and fritter away the rest of my time without meaning or purpose.

It isn’t pretty, is it? I challenged myself to be brutally honest, knowing that what isn’t acknowledged can’t be changed. No wonder I had been feeling hopeless and depressed, with this story running through the back of my mind! Just reading it makes me want to crawl under a rock.

Here is a look at my life through the lens of love:

I am learning all the time, and am deeply engaged in understanding life and growing as a person.

I’m a great mom; I have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with my daughter and am actively supporting her in growing into independence. I am helping my parents make an important transition. I’m nurturing my relationships with my siblings and friends.

I help and inspire many people through my writing and coaching. I have prospects of financial security through multiple avenues.

I’m healthy and young-looking; a loving, kind, and fun person who attracts others easily. I really enjoy my work and my colleagues. I live in a cute apartment in a fun and vibrant neighborhood. My present is meaningful and my future is bright and full of hope.

That feels so much better! Same life, different lens. Nothing changed on the outside, but everything changed on the inside. You can do this exercise with literally anything or anyone. I tried it on my ex-husband, who has been at the root of many of my recent troubles. Here he is through the eyes of fear:

He’s a total loser and impossible to work with. He’s selfish and unevolved. He’ll never learn or change. I’m powerless to remove myself from this situation.

And through the lens of love:

He’s scared and feels bad about himself. He doesn’t know how to take responsibility, so he lashes out at others instead. He feels out of control and thinks he has no choice but to do what he’s doing. I am learning tons through this experience! 

This exercise (probably) won’t change my ex-husband, and it doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy about him, but it does help me feel less triggered by his behavior and is thus more likely to contribute to a positive outcome. At the very least, it simply feels better to think this way—and that’s worth a lot!

Can you think of something in your life that you might be seeing through the lens of fear? Try describing it, in all its negative “glory”—don’t hold back. This is not the time to be enlightened; you want to really know what story is running the show. Acknowledge that on some level, at least some of the time, this feels like truth to you.

Then do the opposite. What does he/she/it look like through the eyes of love? What’s the most positive spin you can put on the situation? Don’t make anything up. This is not an exercise in fantasizing or sugar-coating. This is not about talking yourself into believing that something or someone that’s bad for you is actually good.

Instead, it’s about trusting that even the worst situations hold the seeds of good, if only for the learning they bring about. It’s looking for the silver lining. Choosing to see yourself as a hero rather than a victim.

When you read or say each of these stories, how do you feel? We can choose between these two feelings—but it’s a choice that must be made multiple times a day. Fear is a habit that takes sustained effort to conquer. What helps me is to remember that it doesn’t matter how many times I fall off the beam, as long as I keep getting back on it!

One of my teachers often quotes the Course in Miracles: “I chose wrongly, but I can choose again.” Gabrielle Bernstein says that a measure of our progress is how quickly we realize when we’re out of alignment with love and make the choice to re-align with it. Though we’ll never be completely free of fear, we can learn to quickly return to love.

Another thing that helps me is to acknowledge and have compassion for the very real emotions I feel when caught up in my fear story. I don’t find it effective to simply “will” myself into a feeling of love and joy. Instead, I say something like: “I recognize and honor that I’m feeling sad and scared, and I choose to realign with love.”

This reminds me that there is a choice to be made, because when we’re in the grips of the fear story it can seem like the only possible interpretation of events. It gives me a little bit of breathing space just to acknowledge how I’m feeling and to follow the trail back to the story that I’m telling. Then I can choose a different story (by looking through a different lens) and wait for my feelings to catch up.

Your feelings will always reflect the story you’re telling, so they are your best indication of whether you’re looking through the lens of fear or the lens of love. This is how it works: Lens –> story –> feelings.

It’s tempting to think that we have to wait for something external to change before we can feel good, but it’s incredibly freeing to realize we have the power to change our feelings by changing our perception and choosing to look through the lens of love.

About Amaya Pryce

Amaya Pryce is a life coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her books, 5 Simple Practices for a Lifetime of Joy and How to Grow Your Soul are available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit www.amayapryce.com.

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How to Stop Worrying About the Future and Start Living Your Life Now

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

Retirement. A word that fills people with both excitement and fear.

On the one hand, we’re excited about the possibilities that retirement brings. The possibility to travel, to try new hobbies, to live our lives the way we want.

On the other hand, we worry about whether we’ll have enough money to survive until that unknown age at which we’ll die. And maybe not just survive but to actually thrive in our later years.

That fear, that endless worry about the future, is what keeps many people stuck in soul-sucking careers. Following the safe path in life, trying to save up money for that day in which they’ll no longer be working. Sacrificing their one precious life in exchange for a sense of security later on.

I understand those fears about the future and retirement. I recently turned forty-nine years old, which means that my retirement is only fifteen years away. Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but I know that those years will pass quickly.

I have some money saved up in retirement accounts and I will also receive a small pension. And hopefully I’ll also receive money from Social Security.

Will that be enough? And how long will have money last? I have no idea.

My retirement years could have been a lot different. Three times in my life I’ve walked away from jobs that paid me lots of money and paid generous retirement benefits. My friends who decided to stay in those jobs will likely have few worries when they retire.

So yes, I gave up a lot of money and a secure retirement. But I also saved my soul in the process. Those jobs I walked away from? They were destroying me.

I hated being stuck in a cubicle. I hated sitting in front of a computer all day long. I hated writing pointless memos. I hated going to meetings to talk about things that I didn’t care about.

My dad spent over twenty years in a job he hated because he had no choice. He had to support his wife and three kids. And I saw firsthand how staying in that job destroyed him. And I vowed a long time ago not to do to myself what he did to himself.

So I did whatever was necessary to get out of those jobs. And then I used some of my savings and took the time to do things that people say they’ll do in retirement:

  • I backpacked around the world, visiting over thirty countries and living in several others.
  • I volunteered with street children in Mexico and with cancer patients in the Philippines.
  • I leaned Spanish, starting from point zero to becoming near fluent.
  • I lived at a yoga center in Pennsylvania and a meditation center in Wisconsin.

And afterward I started my own business so that I could live life on my terms instead of how others wanted or expected me to live it.

In my opinion, there’s no amount of money that makes staying in a job that you hate worthwhile. Not for me, at least. Not unless I have absolutely no other choice. Life is now, not in some imagined future.

I honestly have no idea what the future holds for me and what my retirement will be like. I may not have much money when that time happens. And the money I do have for retirement may run out quickly.

But over the years I’ve learned to be adaptable. I’ve learned how to do without. I’ve learned how to live simply.

Most importantly I’ve learned that the three most important things in life are connection, community, and contribution. Those are things that can’t be bought with money. And as long as I have those, everything else is negotiable.

So whatever happens in the future, I trust in myself and my ability to adapt. I know that I’ll figure something out.

And I’ll not just survive…I’ll thrive!

  • Maybe I’ll join the Peace Corps.
  • Maybe I’ll live in a monastery in Thailand and study Buddhism in depth.
  • Maybe I’ll teach English in a rural village in Peru in exchange for room and board.
  • Heck, maybe I’ll drive a school bus till I’m seventy-five years old like my dad did (and absolutely loved!) after he finally left his soul-sucking job.

I leave you with this message. If you’re in a soul-sucking job, and only staying for the money, then do whatever it takes to get out as soon as you can. Your one precious life isn’t worth wasting.

Yes, you need money to survive. We all do. But there are always far, far better options than sacrificing your life for money.

So if you’re ready to stop worrying about the future and start living your life now, here are my tips for you:

Accept and trust that you’ll find a way to make things work in the future, even if you’re not sure how.

Chances are, you are more intelligent, resourceful, and adaptable than you realize. And that you will find a way to not only survive in the future but also to thrive. That’s what I found out when I started taking more risks in my life.

For example, I used to think that I couldn’t learn a foreign language. But once I put myself in the right situation (intensive lessons in Mexico), I quickly found out that I could learn a foreign language.

I also used to think that I couldn’t adapt to living in a foreign country. My first two attempts ended after three months due to homesickness. But my third attempt was successful and I’ve now lived in Bogota, Colombia for over five years. I’ve adapted to living here even though I thought I couldn’t.

Start taking a few risks and testing your limits. Just like me, you’ll learn to be more resourceful and adaptable—skills that will both help you in the future and give you more options in life.

Strike a balance between now and the future.

You need money for the future and for retirement. But you also need to live in the now. Aim to strike a balance between those two competing desires. Do everything you can to live your life now while also preparing for the future.

For example, when I go out to eat with my friends, they will often order a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main course, and dessert, spending $50 per person. I, on the other hand, only order a main course and drink water, spending $10-15 dollars. I still get to enjoy a nice meal and the company of my friends (living now) while spending a lot less money (preparing for the future).

Give up the idea that life has to look a particular way.

Lots of people follow the safe path in life because that’s what they see everyone else doing. But there’s no reason why your life has to look like everyone else’s.

By their forties, most of my friends and family had settled down, bought houses, started families, and worked the same jobs for years. On the other hand, when I was in my forties, I quit my job, sold all my possessions, and backpacked through Latin America and Eastern Europe. That’s not what most people do in their forties, but it’s what I wanted to do.

Similarly, I’m sure my retirement will look a lot different than that of my friends and family. But my life isn’t bound by what other people do and neither is yours. Live the life you want to, the life that resonates with your heart—both now and in the future!

Accept that the future is ultimately unknowable.

None of us knows what the future holds. And no matter how much you plan for the future, your future will likely turn out to be very different than you expect. I know that mine has—for example, I never expected to be living in Bogota, Colombia, nor did I expect to own my own business.

There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future, but in the end you can’t control it. So I suggest that you embrace the unknown, go with the flow, and see what unfolds in your life.

In the end, you only get one chance at life. You can wait around for the future, wait around for your retirement to finally start living the life you want. Or you can start taking steps to do that right now and let the future take care of itself when it arrives. The choice is yours.

About Ed Herzog

Ed Herzog is a life coach whose mission is to help people discover an authentic career path – one that allows them to use their talents and passions to make a positive contribution to the world. If you’re searching for an authentic career path, you can start today by downloading his FREE guide: 10 Powerful Questions For Discovering Your Life Purpose.

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The post How to Stop Worrying About the Future and Start Living Your Life Now appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

     




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