Are you feeling that your life is not quite what you want, or you feel constantly irritated, tired or low but are not really sure why or what you might do about it? Sometimes we might also feel that our life needs such a massive overhaul or that the matters are out of our hands that there’s no other option than to have things be as they are.
The current Covid19 pandemic has most likely hightened this feeling for most of us and we might feel dissatisfied or anxious more acutely. There might be issues that will still be there after lockdown and social distancing are over and if you feel up to it emotionally, this excercise might help you recognise things you either have not had time to think about or the isolation has only made you realise the things you’d like to change for the long term.
How to figure out what you don’t want
This excercise comes from a Finnish book about exhaustion and burn-out (‘Uuvuksissa’, Liisa Uusitalo-Arola, 2019). The point of the excercise is you first determine the things you don’t want anymore, and then you sort the main issues into groups based on if they are things that are in your control or not.
You might need at least 30min to do this, even if in the book it says it’s a 15min task. You might need to do it in parts and have a little time in between if it stirs something up in you. I found the excercise very clever for it starts with the things we don’t want. Our brains are designed to flag up danger so recognising negative things comes way more naturally to us and hence I felt that at least for me personally it was easier to start from things I don’t want. You also don’t need to know how to change these at the moment, you will just focus on your feelings and notice what is going on and have more clarity on that.
How to do the excercise:
- Start with ‘I don’t want anymore to…”
- List 100 things you don’t want in your life – these can be feelings, actual things, people, circumstances etc. It doesn’t matter if the same thing crops up on the list in separate ways, the most important thing is that you keep going and squeeze things from your subconscious.
- After finishing your list, choose ten things/themes that are most important to you or most prominent on the list – sort these out in a table of ‘Things in my control’, ‘Things in your control’ and ‘Big things’ (large and more complex issues that can’t be solved by any one individual)
When you do the excercise, you might find that the first 30 or so are really easy to come up with. These tend to be the things that bother us most acutely. As you go on, the next 30 or so are likely around the same themes and some start to be more prominent than others. In the last third you might find things you hadn’t consciously recognised or have maybe been reluctant to admit to yourself. I found this part of the excercise helpful in recognising which of the things that bothered me had the most effect on my mood and quality of living and should be addressed first, if they were in my hands.
In the second part of the excercise you categorise ten of the things you find most important based on if you are the one that can change the issue, someone else, or if the matter is big or complicated and there’s no one person capable of shifting it.
When doing the excercise, you might find it tricky to categorise some of the things you have listed. Some things you feel that are out of your control, might have at least elements which you can affect. At this moment, however, they might feel too complex or difficult and are best left in the column of ‘big things’ and maybe later you will have more tools to address them. The important thing is to recognise if you are mulling over or getting constantly irritated about things that are out of your control and you might want to work on shifting your focus and energy on things that you an do something about. Again, this might be something that can’t be changed overnight but it’s good to recognise what is happening and work gradually to adjust.
The next step
As I mentioned, even if the book said this is a 15 minute excercise, for others (like me) this could take longer and you might need to dig in a bit to see what things come up for you until you reach your 100. I think when I did this excercise a year ago, it took me in total 1.5 weeks until I had organised the list and recognised which things I can affect and which I can’t. If we are in huge turmoil, we just don’t have the energy to face the facts or do the work and that’s alright. If you feel you want a change and are not sure what is the what you should focus on first, I think this excercise is a great place to start.
You don’t need to jump into action straight away, the excercise is meant to just bring you the understanding what is going on your head and why you might feel dissatisfied. This can help you start to think about possible things you might be able to do and gradually make little adjustments to get more into the direction you want to go to.
As suggested in the book, after you have finished the excercise on the things you don’t want, you can continue with making a list of 100 things you want to add in your life. Again you can then recognise common themes and it comes even more clearer what things you might want to address first. It might also be the case that you have a lot of things you don’t want in your life but at the moment you can’t affect them much, but just focusing on adding things to your life that bring you joy and make you happier can help you to tolerate the situation until you have some possibility to make an adjustment.
How do you feel about trying this out? Let me know how it sits with you, leave a comment or reach out on my FB page (@makinglifetweaks) or Instagram (@GF_lifetweaks). I would love to hear from you!