“Designed by Apple” is a great summary of why so many of us like Apple products and technologies but for me, it’s a great summary of my personal journey too, so if you don’t mind I will use it in this context. For the last three years, I have felt that I am struggling with the amount of “improvements” in all areas of my life and arrived at a very emotionally charged November 2013 when my personal happiness simply evaporated. It’s such a terrible thing to admit in public! But here’s some good news: I have spent last six months de-cluttering my life from everything that “might be useful later” and crystallising my new goals and today I am almost at the end of the process. At least I can see clearly all crucial areas of my life and I can start coming back to my old, super-productive and happy self.
I really hope you will never arrive at that deep and dark place I have been to but just in case here is my recipe on the way out:
1. Set up a time frame and inform others about your plan.
Give yourself time! I took six months and agreed with my family and friends on this particular period. I explained my reasons and promised to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible. Surprisingly all my close friends were very supportive and are here for me all the time during this process, actually asking me to take more time to regain my balance and happiness – I love them all for it!
2. Switch everything off!
Mute out EVERYTHING. Stop all your social commitments – you are probably feeling that you are not delivering anyway. Cut down on work if you can and feel that it does not make you happy. Put away your “to-read” books. Switch off TV, radio, even music. Stop. Stop for a while. Find something brainless to do. In my case meditation and yoga were the key. I spent two months working on all major jobs, but the rest of my time was spent in the garden, on the yoga mat, in my specially designed meditation corner.
3. Take it easy and only then attack the more complex problems!
If you feel lost or cannot identify the source of your crisis first try to focus on easy solutions. I personally felt that my problem is rooted deeply in the way I relate to work, family and all relationships – which is a highly complex area of life. So I decided to work on my fitness, relaxation and physical surroundings first trying to work out what FEELS good, what makes me HAPPY. The moment you try to tackle the most complex issues you risk getting lost in your own assumptions so it’s much easier to start small and gradually move to more intense challenges. It took me two months of NOT THINKING about my crisis to be able to see through it with a bit of distance and common sense.
4. Take yourself and your closest friends seriously!
Do not ignore the role others play in your own happiness and your input in their daily lives. As much as you wish to step back, ignore everything and find time for yourself do not forget to let others know just how important they are for you. That’s all you need to do – tell them! You do not have to commit to a weekend of partying (which as stated above would probably work against your goals of relaxation and self-discovery) but there is always time for a SMS, email or a kind sentence on the go.
5. Stay relaxed but disciplined and focused!
Keep to your original timeline and do keep your eyes focused on your goals. If you are aiming to identify and resolve your crisis or re-define the way you live, study, work do all that’s in your power to complete your planned process. In my case, I had to move from meditation to active conversations with friends, notes and thinking. It’s shocking just how we tend to forget to think carefully about the way we live or the way we define our priorities.
Write a journal. Make lists of your goals, dreams, priorities. Are you able to define a top ten most important things in your life? If so, write them down and think carefully about their order. Are you sure? If you are doing this exercise in the right, serious manner you will see that you might need to rearrange priorities. I was always convinced that my top priority is independence and freedom of speech just to discover that something that was not on the list (due to the strange feeling of obviousness) was family. To discover a crucial item missing off the list was quite a painful realisation to me, so I expect you might have difficult moments too. But remember, it’s all for good.
7. Trust yourself in finding the right balance!
You venture on a steep hill and often you might feel that you are also stepping into quite new areas of life. That’s all right. Just trust your instincts, experiment and measure just how far you want to change the way you live your life.
8. Share your discoveries with others!
Communication is the key. Always. After a few months of serious work, thinking, re-discovering your life and re-arranging priorities inside of your head and on paper, you might feel that your friends are not even aware of the huge shift inside of you. It’s natural to feel this way and if I may I would wait for the right moment to share it with your friends. We are responsible for each other – each and every change inside of you will initiate change in others, might cause a new sense of uneasy or lack of balance. I had to tread really carefully and explain small changes to all my friends and family each time a decision or discovery was made but also clarified and articulated.
9. Do not think you are done, ever!
After six months of taking active ownership of your l, fe you will feel that you have walked miles and aged centuries. You will feel fresh, ready to face new challenges with clear head and so on. But keep in mind that life is an ongoing path so memorise your priorities, exercise clear thinking and give good example of open, well timed communication. Do not assume your work here is done. The work has just started.
Now you can start designing your life.
Small note: please do not think that after half a year of serious work on my personal development I have suddenly become a successful life coach or philosopher. Quite the opposite – I am purely sharing my personal take on crisis situations and personal unhappiness. If you have your own take, do let me know! I would love to see how you respond to similar stages in life.