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There is a purpose to worrying

The year is winding down, and I am re-discovering some old posts from 2015 when I was working on my first (and only) business venture and training 15-18 hours per week to become the best triathlete I could be. Looking back on those years, I was always on the go, reaching for more and more. An internal engine kept pushing me forward. I then wrote about waiting and how we can maximize our time to increase our productivity. But also that purposefully doing nothing has its…well… purpose.

Seven years later, I feel my perspective was short-sighted, and I certainly feel I have a broader perspective on life. In those last seven years, a lot has happened, and as the year is winding down, I am reflecting on all the many things that occurred on a global and personal scale.

I turn to the concept of Compassionate Self-Awareness to add depth to my old perspective on how to use waiting to live more authentically.

On Waiting

  • We wait at the doctor's office.

  • We wait at the bus stop.

  • We wait in line.

  • We wait at the red light.

  • We wait in traffic.

  • We wait on life to happen.

Waiting means staying in a place with no purpose other than waiting for what comes next. When we wait on something, on someone, for something, for anything, we choose that nothing else is more important than this one thing we decided is the most important!

We wait and want for something else to occur. Always looking at the next thing.

One of the surest things in life is that time moves forward. A minute will pass, and so will a day, a week, a month, and a year. And you will never get it back.

The way I see it, I can either sit and do nothing or get up and do something. Give the waiting a sense of purpose.

  • Waiting at the doctor's office? Bring a book on your phone or in print.

  • Waiting at the bus stop? Soak up some podcasts and expand your knowledge.

  • Waiting in line? Observe the people around you, focus on breathing, and think about your day.

  • Waiting at the red light? Do some neck curls, tighten your glutes, put on a happy song, and start wiggling around! It will boost your mood.

  • Waiting in traffic? Grab an audiobook or listen to podcasts again!

Waiting is an uneasy state of not feeling content with your current position, expecting the next thing to occur by itself while you purposelessly sit there, simply watching the seconds creep by.

I find myself waiting every so often. It doesn't make me happy when I do.

  • I am waiting for the next family visit.

  • I am waiting for the next training plan to be uploaded.

  • I wait for my business to get more clients.

  • I wait for my body to adapt to become faster and more resilient.

  • I wait for this magical email to appear and say my essay will be published.

  • I wait for allergies to be over with. We all tend to wait on something for something magically appear and be handed to us, but it is the act of training that has taught me to get up and do something to get something.

On a personal scale, my perspective has changed through eight birthdays, two separations (one felt like a divorce), two surgeries, one ironman, one pandemic, one master's degree, one coaching certification, and one childbirth.

My word for 2023 is Self-Care.

No, not the type that is about going to the spa. That is nice. No, the self-care I am talking about is knowing when to change course and dial in whatever you need. To self-regulate.

Knowing when to sit and do nothing, learning to be ok doing nothing, and feeling the moment's happiness. Letting the senses take in the environment and tune in, much like an old radio, to understanding what your heart needs to feel good—learning when to wait on something and finding peace in knowing that time will pass and that eventually, that which you are waiting for will arrive or not. And either outcome is ok. Because there are some things within our control and others are not.

How do I define feeling good?

  • Feeling good means that nothing is pulling on me, and I am not judging myself and not battling low energy and a lack of motivation getting in the way and being able to feel gratitude for the moment.

  • It means managing anxious thoughts, so they don't disable my day and overwhelm me.

  • Feeling good is no longer having a fear of missing out on something and then dealing with further exhaustion because perhaps it would be better to miss out on something than to exert yourself.

  • Feeling good is not feeling hurried or the need to rush to get things done.

  • Feeling good means enjoying the moment exactly how it is and not fighting it or stressing about it even if it isn't. Simply letting it be and no longer applying any pressure on changing the situation or emotional state.

Everything I need to feel good is right here, right now.

Now let me introduce the topic of Compassionate Self-Awareness:

If you are intrigued, there is a short article on Psychology Today on how practicing compassionate self-awareness can assist you in reaching that internal peace.

“Those who are self-compassionate gain more benefits from introspection than their self-critical counterparts. Although the search-and-destroy missions of self-critical people are certainly a direct way to move through personal difficulties and advance toward goals, they can be extremely stressful and tiring. To make things worse, self-critical individuals are essentially attacking themselves; they are their own victims. And when they feel the pain of their self-criticism, they respond with more self-criticism for being weak rather than with compassion. Not surprisingly, they don't tend to have a sense of well-being and sometimes even feel unworthy.”

Let’s talk about feeling anxious and worried in the context of my reflections above.

In 2015: I would have told myself to stop worrying and focus on doing something right now because you are in control, and if I worry, then I must do something to fix it, so I stop worrying.

In 2022: Anna, it’s ok that you are worried and anxious. I would probably feel it too. What is it that your worry is trying to tell you? Are you concerned about a problem that you can foreshadow? I recognize your need to want to fix everything and do something about it; however, your worry is here for a reason, and that is alright. Feel what you need to feel and when you are ready to examine the situation and figure out if there is something you can do, then I will be here for you.

A helpful exercise to practice compassionate self-awareness.

  1. Tune in and ask yourself, how are you feeling right now?

  2. Whatever is the feeling, what do you think the emotion is trying to tell you?

  3. What is the origin of that feeling? Are any things from your life coming up? Childhood memories, perhaps?

  4. What is it that you need at the moment?

  5. Are you able to provide yourself with what you need?

  6. What are the things you can control, and what can you do?

  7. Now, look at your thinking. Are you judging yourself for whatever it is you are experiencing? Or are you holding space for your emotion, and instead of trying to change them, are you cradling yourself and practicing compassion as you would with your child or best friend? Are you holding your hand and saying, “I am here for you? You’ve got this?”

To bring this post to an end, I want to challenge you to think of your motto for 2023:

For me, it is straightforward:

I will no longer do anything or want anything because someone, somewhere, at some point in time, said I should be doing or wanting something. Because my internal peace is my #1 Priority. Should is shit.

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