ALL big life transitions bring with them a period of readjustment, and sometimes that readjustment can feel really difficult, writes Dr Michelle O'Driscoll in her weekly column.
Motherhood is just one such period of transition – we feel like we have life all figured out, but with the birth of a baby comes the birth of a new mother and your ”old life” and all that you valued and held as important may no longer be so.
In a similar way, through other big life experiences, we can grow and develop, which then changes how good a fit our career, friendships or life circumstances are for us.
The result of this change is feeling stuck in a rut, uncertain about your direction, or what makes you happy.
Rather than getting caught up in that fog that can descend, a really helpful approach is to step back and look at the situation with a combination of mind and heart. There are two key things to consider in this approach – your values, and your beliefs.
Valuing your values
This feeling of being stuck occurs because something has irreversibly shifted inside of you – your values.
Values are what we deem to be most important in life. They inform the decisions we make through signposting us at different junctures – both the important, and less obvious ones.
Think about something that makes you really happy and content, perhaps meeting a friend for coffee, or getting out for a run. What is it that you appreciate the most? Is it the connection, the honesty, or the physical exercise, the experience of nature, the sense of achievement? Any one of these could be one of your values.
Now, think about what would you change in your life, and why? Maybe you’re working long hours and not getting to spend time with loved ones. Perhaps family is a value? Or time? Does setting up your own business appeal to you, and for what reasons? If so, perhaps freedom is a value, and if not, perhaps security is a value for you? Lot’s to consider!
There are as many combinations of values as there are people, each like a unique fingerprint to what makes you happy, in your current location on life’s path. Taking some time to identify and assess these values is important, as it allows you to tailor your actions accordingly.
Identify your values
If you’re not clear on what is important to you in life, on what makes you happy, then your behaviours won’t align, and your outcomes won’t bring you the joy and satisfaction that you deserve.
Life transitions cause upheaval because what was once clear becomes suddenly uncertain – our values may not be what they were.
Getting to know ourselves again is important. What is of value to you now? Are you using your values as your new map for where you’re going and how you’re spending your time and energy?
Auditing your beliefs
Beliefs feed into our values, and help to shape them. Your beliefs are a combination of your previous experiences, which inform how you think and act as a result. They form over time, through layers of experience. We inherit a lot of our beliefs when we’re younger and carry them with us.
Beliefs need to be audited regularly, because they can serve us well, or they can limit our thinking and perspective. Believing that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, versus believing that you’re not good enough, can have opposite effects – either hugely empowering or incredibly detrimental.
If you believe that as a mother you should always behave a certain perfect way, or have unattainably high expectations of how you should be coping, or how your children should be behaving, it can lead to disappointment and guilt if these beliefs aren’t being realised.
Being able to see your belief isn’t realistic or helpful can reduce the feelings of inadequacy we experience as mums, employers or employees.
Replacing these beliefs with something more manageable or helpful can ease the torment, and create space for the reality of our experience – an ebb and flow, messiness mixed with joy, learning from experience and a sense of common humanity.
So, take some time to identify what beliefs you hold, particularly around your current situation if there has been a recent transition. Are your beliefs supporting you or limiting you? Are they true, or just what you’ve always thought? Questioning them and working to replace the unhelpful ones can be pivotal in your experience of life and its challenges.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company.
Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally.