Most of us think of creativity as solely referring to artists: painters, musicians, writers, or even architects. They are so creative. I beg to differ. I believe that to be authentic requires that we each live from a place of creativity.
As children, we have an innate curiosity. We look at the world around us with fresh eyes, always looking for the new and exciting. We ask “why” and “what” and “how”, ad nauseum. But somewhere along life’s journey, we dampen this desire to engage with the new.
How quickly this year is flying past, despite the days that seem to last forever and drag by slowly. Perhaps, like me, you’ve had a chance in these last eighteen months to consider deeply what it means to have a life that you love. More importantly, have you noticed the roles that freedom and health play in your life?
This year has reminded me of the importance of my physical health and wellbeing. My physical health impacts my mental health directly. Coeliac Disease goes hand-in-hand with anxiety and depression when inflammation sets in. It’s more than just the anxiety of not knowing how my body will respond and “play up”.
As long as I manage my inflammation and have a healthy gut flora, my mental health thrives. As my mental health thrives, so does my productivity and ability to build a life I love. Nonetheless, I have regularly ignored how this autoimmune disease affects me and limits my freedom over the past twenty years.
As we spent much of 2020 in lockdown, all the issues related to what I can control and what I cannot control came to the surface for me. There were months of deep introspection and noticing where I have healed and what I have left to heal. I noticed where I trusted the Divine to take care of me and where I sadly lacked trust!
So, I took stock of my life once again.
Defining values: freedom
One surprising effect of the crisis of 2020, ongoing into 2021, is how it impacted my values and what I consider important.
In my twenties, freedom would have been my primary value. And once again, I find it front and centre as the value which I hold most dear. While wisdom reappears, laughter made an appearance for the first time since my teens! Mastery made an appearance, replacing ideas of commitment and being in the flow. And empowerment made an appearance for the first time: empowering myself as well as empowering others.
For 2020, my values were bold, committed, resilient, inspired, aware, intuitive, and flow. I struggled most of the year with the flow and detaching from the outcome! I’m not sure what happened to bold – other than being outspoken in my memes on social media to the extent that I got a few Facebook bans for sarcasm that was “fact-checked”.
But for me, freedom is more than just political freedoms or religious freedom.
What does freedom mean to you?
I consider freedom to cover many aspects of my life:
There’s an emotional aspect – the healing from baggage that I have perhaps carried for many years;
Financial freedom – the power to live a life that I love, having choices open up before me because I have built the financial wherewithal to finance my choices;
Religious freedom – to believe and have faith as I choose;
Freedom of speech and opinion; and – most importantly
The freedom to be yourself.
I hope that you are loved, accepted and valued as you are, for who you are, by the people that you value and love.
The Health to Live a Life I Love
An essential element of my personal freedom is the health to live abundantly. This includes my emotional and mental health and a level of fitness that is high enough to do the activities that I love.
While my personal definition of great health is a body that does not rely on medicines or supplements to keep my organs and systems balanced and well, that is not currently my reality. I don’t have enough energy to do everything I want without supplements, and I don’t get to live pain-free. However, I don’t have to resort to medication for my health journey. That is a major step forward from where I used to be.
I exercise because I want to be strong enough to do activities that I love: paddle boarding, exploring the outdoors, travelling with active sightseeing. While my travel has been restricted these last eighteen months, I am focused on keeping a fitness level that affords me the confidence that I could leave at any time and be fit enough.
The goal, ultimately, is a life that I love.
How do I identify my ideal life?
If you’ve ever done a “Passion Test”, you will know this phrase well.
“My life is ideal when I am…”
What are you doing when you are living your ideal life?
Who are you with, ideally?
What do you feel when you are thriving?
Where are you?
You might write down ten or twelve phrases of “my life is ideal when I am…”
At the beginning of the year, I write down fifty things that I do when my life is ideal. What are the activities that I am actively involved in? Who do I make time to visit and spend time with? It might be as simple as “make time to have coffee with ____”.
The goal throughout the year is to do as many of these 50 items – no matter how big or small – that are aligned with my values and ideal life. These are fifty small stepping stones to an ideal life.
Designing my ideal life:
I am now exceedingly careful with who participates in the design of my life. Whoever calls the shots has the power. I insist on having the freedom to design my life and seek opinions from others with common interests.
What limits your ability to dream and desire? Of course, it depends on whether these limitations are real. Are these limitations beliefs that we have held in mind for years? How might I challenge these beliefs? Perhaps they are imaginary limitations. If you’ve handed over the power to others, can you now take it back?
Do you have the freedom to prioritise (in time, money and attention) what is important to you?
The freedom of values:
For me, in the design of my ideal life, my values take centre stage. They are not simply empty words and ideas. Rather, they reflect the ideals of what I want to embody in my choices.
Whose values are you living and embodying each day? Perhaps your life and the design of it reflect the values of another generation. They might reflect the values of your inner critic rather than your deep sense of self.
Creating a life you love is more than ideation and design. It’s creating and then keeping to routines that support you. You take an idea, and you put it into action, allocating time and resources.
Do you have the freedom to create a life you love?
What limitations and obstacles are you facing?
Health and Energy to Take Action:
For me, these past twenty years, taking action has been tied closely to my health. While I might use mindset to push through part of the obstacles, I’ve found that building a stronger, healthier body is easier and more effective than focusing on using my energy to push through.
How does your mental health impact your freedom?
I’m in an industry where we talk openly about mental health and our challenges with anxiety or depression. I’m blessed with an awareness of what “okay” feels like and can notice when I’m not doing well. More importantly, I have a support network that helps me get back to fully balanced and in action.
Because when my health is great, I’m motivated and focused.
If you don’t have that support network: how can you build it? Having a life you love depends on this!
The joy of travel
With Coeliac Disease, one of my biggest constraints is where and what I eat. While that could limit my love of travelling, I refuse to allow that to be so! Airbnb has been one of my saving graces because it allows me to have a kitchen and make my own food. I typically pack one or two small pots (yes, I travel with my own pots) and then buy disposable cutlery and a ton of tinfoil when I arrive. The tin foil allows me to cover surfaces in the kitchen that might have gluten (like chopping boards).
Unfortunately, Coeliac Disease also constrains what I drink. It’s more than just avoiding beers and whiskey. Most powdered coffee and frappe mixes are either flavoured (malt) or contaminated with gluten. However, most leaf teas (unflavored) are safe choices. So, I often order a tea with a meal rather than risk hot cocoa (because I don’t know which powder mix they use) or a cold drink.
On a plane, I assume that the only food I’ll be offered is a fruit salad and peanuts (which don’t sit well with my stomach and I avoid). So, I always pack my own snacks for planes and travel.
I’m not going to let dietary restrictions impact the joy of travel!
Eating out, however, is another story! I’ll join friends for celebrations but often find myself ordering vanilla ice cream. While it would seem that a fruit salad or a salad of any kind would be a safe choice: unless they have a dedicated gluten-free surface and knives, I won’t risk it. I prefer to go hungry for one meal than ruin my holiday for the next ten to fifteen days.
Steps and pacing yourself
You have to start wherever it is that you are at right now. There’s no point in waiting longer – till things get better – to get started. It’s unrealistic to think that everything is always fine – there are challenges and obstacles.
If you’ve never done it before, get clear on your personal values, and then define for yourself what freedom means and the health you need to have the life you love.
Your personal definition of freedom will differ from mine. Perhaps it is merely political and religious freedom. Maybe it is something more.
What is your personal definition of wellbeing? Does it include health and fitness?
No matter what your definitions, identify small steps that you can take this week, this month and over the next six months that allow you to build a life you love. You might consider creating a plan for the next two years or even up to five years.
Review, revisit and revise your plans.
Plans are implemented over time: things change, and life doesn’t always go as expected.
I typically review my plans and progress in November and May of every year. Sometimes I find myself back at the drawing board, rebuilding the plans I had for my goals. Other times, I merely tweak and chunk down, delving deeper into the next steps forward.
It’s all about how I face the obstacles and challenges along the way.
Despite the challenges I’ve faced with health and well-being over these past twenty years, I still insist on being fit and healthy. This doesn’t mean that I give up on a goal or dream. Nonetheless, I regularly check what works and adjust my course.
You’re never starting from scratch when you revisit and revise your plans – you now have more experience and adjust for the current reality.
It’s tempting to throw away the goal and give up. But most times, the problem is not the dream or goal itself. Usually, it’s the plan we’re following or our half-assed efforts at implementation.
As much as I would like to say that I wing it and do everything going with the flow, I don’t. I use discipline and routines to keep the flow happening. They are my best friends in both planning and execution.
What do you value most in freedom, health and a life you love?
As you look back over the lessons you’ve learned in the last eighteen months, consider how your definitions of health and freedom have changed.
More importantly, what do you value most in creating a life you love?
Most of us have emotional triggers that we aren’t aware of until we blow up or “lose it”. These learned responses helped us to survive unpleasant situations (often in our childhood). Unfortunately, those very habits (cues/triggers, course of action or response, and rewards) that allowed us to survive in childhood now sabotage or hamper our growth and relationships.
I’m not talking about PTSD triggers: those are at another level, where it’s not merely a habit. These triggers actually require deeper assistance, such as therapy.
These habitual responses are survival tactics, often learned in our childhood. I adeptly overlook and sidestep the bigger issues when I ignore the hidden rewards of my habits. The slowing down of 2020 gave us much needed time to sit and do the inner work of looking at our survival tactics.
Even 2021 has shown me (especially on social media) how I respond to certain types of posts and comments. There are people that I have been tempted to block “for my peace of mind”. Nonetheless, my commitment to healing and working on myself continues. So, I decided that rather than block them (or engage or shoot back), I would make time to actually look at where I have lost my freedom to respond gracefully.
Imagine yourself with this beautiful view of the ocean, and like the girl in the picture, you’ve found yourself a comfortable place to sit on the rocks to admire the view. And so, for a moment, you sit. In silence. Enjoying the moment.
But at what moment does this comfortable spot on the rocks begin to get uncomfortable?
Do you start to notice your legs first, or perhaps your back where you are leaning against the rocks? Maybe it’s simply the back of your heel, where your foot rubs a sharp piece of rock or roots.
When do you decide that this perfect view and the comfortable spot is now uncomfortable? It’s time to stand up and move on?