In trying to get through their lives, people often develop a hardened heart. They believe that to accomplish their goals and take care of their responsibilities, they need to be as laser-focused as possible. In essence they live with blinders on so that they don’t get distracted. When you protect your heart to the point that you see all incoming energy as distractions, you’re cutting yourself off from humanity. You are not a machine. Your heart and your emotions are a vital part of you and denying them isn’t productive or healthy. There are three ways that you can accomplish your to-do lists without encouraging yourself to turn into a robot.
You Are Not A Robot
1. Develop Healthy Boundaries
An important step toward having a more peaceful heart and a genuinely happier life is learning to develop healthy boundaries. Having a healthy boundary means making choices that are in your own best interest without deliberately harming anyone else. When you choose a boundary and stand firm, you’ll find that you are also letting go of any attachment to the arguments and drama from someone not getting their way.
Learning when and how to say no can be one of the most powerful skills that you will ever develop. You can be kind, thoughtful and respectful and still say no. One of my clients is a small business owner and in the beginning of his career, believed that to grow his business he was obligated to work with every client that called on him. He finally reached a point where there was literally no time left. He was working 7 days a week 12-14 hours a day and the business wasn’t growing. That was what caught his attention. There were no more hours available but he knew that the opportunity for growth was there. A consultant from the Small Business Administration explained the 90/10 rule, where 90% of the problems are usually caused by 10% of the clients. He examined his client list and realized that it was true! Over and over again the same clients were demanding more of his time. He knew that he couldn’t cater to that 10% and still grow his business, but was unsure of how to handle it. He decided that the best way to deal with it was to tell them the truth. The next time one of the 10% called he said: I would really like to work with you, but I know that I can’t make you happy. He then gave them examples of different ways that they had felt let down by his work in the past. Some just said okay and some argued. He is a born people pleaser and found it extremely difficult to say no. But the more he did it, the more it felt as though a weight was being taken off of his shoulders. Learning when and how to say no helped him let go of stress and opened up more hours to bring in new clients.
Understanding that it was his responsibility to set his own boundaries and accepting the power of saying no helped him develop a healthier balance in his personal and business life. Whether you’re dealing with business, family or friends, there is only so much of you to go around. Learning to say no will help you develop healthy boundaries so that you can accomplish your goals without losing your health or peace of mind.
2. Develop Compassion For Yourself
You matter. Who you are right now matters. Not when you accomplish your goals but right now in this moment. Whatever stage you’re at in life, whether a student, a parent or a retiree, you matter. Whether you’re a CEO or unemployed, you matter. When things don’t go as planned don’t beat yourself up, realize that it’s not the end of the world; it’s the end of a stage. A baby crawls, then toddles, then walks. They are going through stages in their development and stages don’t end with childhood. We go through them for as long as we exist. When you see a baby take its first step and then stumble you’ll say: Come on, you can do it! You project love and encouragement to help them keep going. Do that for yourself; be your own cheerleader. Sometimes when I’m in a really bad mood and don’t take it out on anyone, I’ll raise my arms and say: Yea, I didn’t yell at anybody today! It may sound silly but it is an accomplishment and it makes me happy to know that I didn’t let my negative energy hurt anyone else.
Just because something didn’t go the way that you or someone else wanted doesn’t diminish your value. Having compassion for yourself means remembering that no matter what happens, you have value and to treat yourself with kindness and respect.
3. Ask For and Accept Help
The voice that you hear the strongest and most often is the one in your head. Thoughts are like plants, whichever ones you feed will grow. If you allow the mind voices of your childhood or critical employers or frenemies to go unchallenged, they’ll grow like weeds. Challenge yourself, challenge the space and time that you allow them to take up in your thoughts. There are many techniques that can help you change your thinking including meditation and counseling. The first step toward healthy thinking is to realize that just because you’re thinking something doesn’t make it true. When you truly understand and accept this, you are opening the door to change and growth.
There is an old saying: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. It means don’t make things worse for yourself than they already are. Hardening your heart is making life as bad as it can possibly be. At times we all struggle with getting through the day. But our hearts are the best part of us. Our hearts and the emotions that go with them are what connects us to other people and to all of life. Opening your heart allows you to see, feel and learn what really matters to you and to those in your life. Opening your heart allows you to experience new depths in your life and in your relationships. Opening your heart is the only way that you’ll ever feel truly alive.