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Who Is the Boss of You?

When I ask myself this question, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that MY DOG (see above) is often the boss of me. Even though I set an alarm, he is the nudge that gets me out of bed. I arrange my schedule so that I can work from home in the afternoons so that he is not left alone all day. I take him for walks on a fairly predictable schedule, and this is when I listen to podcasts that expand my knowledge and skills.

So, yeah, Fonzie is the boss of my schedule in many ways. Better that, though, than the grumpy Peanut Gallery in my head.

Here’s why I think the question, "Who is the boss of you?" matters.

Let me illustrate. I was riding in the car with a friend of mine the other day, and I was venting about something. In the midst of my vent-fest, I admitted that I know full well that all this stuff running around in my brain is my own “stuff” to fix. I know better than to blame someone else for how I’m feeling, and so I started angsting about “What’s wrong with me? Now I’m irritated that I’m irritated.”

My friend scratched her head and chose her words carefully. “Um, what if, what if you didn’t, like, think so much about how you feel? What if you just did stuff without thinking so hard about it all?”

It’s a fair point, and believe me, it’s not the first time someone has suggested that perhaps I “think too much.” So I’m going to attempt to answer that question now: “Why think so much about how you feel?”

My answer, as of today, is: Because I want to be the boss of me. If I don’t stop and examine what I’m thinking then I’m on auto pilot, which means I’m listening to the Peanut Gallery, that running tape of negative crap in my head that wants me to keep my life small. It says things like:

What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be more like __ or ___ or ___ or ___

I’ll never be successful because I’m not good at math.

No one wants my help.

Starting a business is too hard—why can’t I just be “normal” and get a steady, safe job?

My Peanut Gallery doesn’t want me to take chances, grow, or try anything new. It wants to keep me and my life small. I call it the Peanut Gallery because it’s the part of our brain that’s left over from our primitive (reptilian?) evolution that responds to everything with fear. It’s the wary part of our brain that tells us different = bad. We’re hard-wired this way.

That doesn’t mean we have to obey this part of brain, but it does mean that if we want our lives to be different, we’ll need to be conscious of what our autopilot thoughts are and change them if they aren’t serving us.

So, ask yourself:

Are you living the life you want to?

If the answer is “yes,” then by all means, share what you’ve figured out with the rest of us! How did you figure out what makes you happy?

If the answer is “No,” then it’s time to take a look at what you believe, and where those beliefs come from.

Do this right now.

  1. How do you spend your time? Jot down how you spent your time yesterday and how you are spending your time today. Include a weekend day, also. Tally it up: work, driving, childcare, socializing with friends, working out, leisure, self-development, watching TV, Facebook, gardening, walking the dog…whatever categories make sense for you. Just add it all up and if you really want to geek out, create a pie chart. ;)

  2. Now, for each category above, ask yourself these questions: -Why do I choose to spend time doing this? - How do I feel during and afterwards? - Who benefits from how you’re spending this time? - What would happen if you didn’t spend time on this? Who would it harm? - What might be a benefit of spending time this way?

  3. How we spend our time tells us what values we live by. What does your list tell you about what you value? Is this what you truly believe is important or does your list feel like a series of obligations?

This exercise won’t give you a roadmap of how you “should” be living your life. Instead, it’s designed to make you think about what rules you are living by, where they come from, and whether they actually help you be your best self.

Answers to these questions will start to give you a picture of what you think. Notice whether any of your answers include the words “I have to…” or “I should…” Those are indicators of the rules you live by, or believe you ought to live by, whether they align with your values or not.

Once you see how you are spending your time, you can see how you are making choices about your life and whether you like those choices.

If you don’t like the life you’re living, but feel stuck and don’t know where to begin getting un-stuck, send me an email. I offer complimentary 1-hour phone sessions to new clients.

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