I've seen them do it. I help them do it. I know I can do it.
There could be a list of reasons that life is icky for you - stretching to infinity and beyond - but it is still your life! You decide whether you're going to react or respond, consume or create, isolate or engage. So here's my list of 5 suggestions to re-establish yourself and start smelling the roses when life stinks (if you don't like the smell of roses, feel free to smell coffee or cinnamon or lilacs or whatever you like).
1. Prioritize a Self-Care List
Go get yourself some roses!...Yep. Right now!
Stop waiting around wishing someone else would get you some roses, change your perspective, and magically figure out how to renew you. You know what renews you, so make a self-care list of at least three of those things each day (some of mine from this last week were deep conversations filled with ideas, taking pictures of my children, painting my fingernails, listening to a new album, looking at beautiful art, exercising, and getting some brightly colored flowers...hence the roses metaphor). During our times of sitting in ick, creating self-care list is really easy because we crave the things on it. Once you have your list, prioritize checking everything off of it FIRST! Will you get interrupted? Probably. Distracted? Definitely! But come back to your list until it's all checked off. Self-care isn't a luxury, it is renewal and rest that are essential to creative, influential work. People will be served far less by your fumes than your full tank.
2. Set Fierce Boundaries
Protect your roses with a vase
Just like the right vase will both protect and beautifully display your roses, so boundaries protect what is important and help us position ourselves well. When you're life is in a stinky place, you know right away which boundaries have been crossed or compromised, and which ones you let slide because you thought you (or the circumstances you were in) were the exception to the rule. What boundaries do you need to set? Leaving work at work, having dinner at the table as a family, turning off your phone and computer after 9:00 PM, a date or family night every week, not allowing your home to foster toxicity or negativity. Set fierce and strong boundaries and don't judge someone else's for theirs. After all, whether your vase is glass or ceramic, its purpose is the same.
3. Courageously Align your Decisions with your Values
Take your roses to the bathroom
Yes, yes, I know! Roses in the bathroom? What? Well, you see. If I have some roses, I like taking them everywhere with me! I want to take them in the bedroom so that I wake up to them in the morning, put them in the bathroom so I can look at them while I get ready, cut one off and wear it in my hair so it stays with me through the day. Silly? Maybe. Courageous? Not really. But I value beauty and authenticity and love and freedom, so I will take my roses with me! The icky spots of life are always strewn with experiences that step all over our values. We step on them, other people step on them, circumstances step on them. It takes courage and creativity to look around you when life stinks and say, "Wow! Life stinks right now. Look at my values lying there in the ickiness. Who will I be to align my decisions with my values again?"
4. Live with Authentic Abandon to your Purpose
Give someone else one of your roses
Understand that you are valuable and your life has impact. Keep your purpose in mind and live it with abandon. What would it be like for you to do your dishes, mow your lawn, parent your children, serve your community, work your job, and change your world with your purpose always in mind, always living it out authentically with the sort of abandon that makes people wonder what is going on? Our purpose always involves exercising influence in others' lives as we use our strengths and fulfill our responsibilities with passion and intention. I know what it's like to sit in a meeting where the topic and tone is making your stomach churn and your chest tighten, when your children are sick, or it takes all your energy just to get out of bed, let alone try to create. In those icky times, it is easier for us to try to hoard our roses, clutching them with the death-grip of an anaconda, hoping that if we just stay quiet no one will notice that we have them. But just try something a little harder. Speak up, tell other people that you have these awesome flowers, tell them how they look and smell and how they've changed you. Then give them away.
5. Stand from the "Living Laboratory" perspective
Your roses will wilt, so try it again!
There will probably be another time when life just stinks. When it does, don't beat yourself up about it. Take what you learned from your last life "experiment" when you created from the ick, use what worked, discard what didn't, form a new hypothesis and try something new. Whether you give away all your roses, clutch them until they fall apart, or tenderly care for them until they finally begin to wilt, you will need to go out and get some new ones at some point. You might choose a different color, put them in a different vase, take them different places, and give them to different people, and that's okay. Because if you stand from the perspective of living in this laboratory, you learn and grow while your hypothesis becomes a theory, which then becomes a law, which then is threatened by a new discovery which stretches you to create an entirely new hypothesis that you never thought possible in the beginning. And THAT is when you can really start to create...even from the ick!
What have you been able to create from the ick?