This is the third blog in this series looking at the possibility that there could be personal growth or self-development for you as a result of your separation. In the first blog I talked about the idea of this concept and the suggestion that separation is the start of a new chapter, and even though the beginning may be characterised by doubts, worries and anxieties, you can choose to look (when it feels right for you) at what the middle and the end of this chapter might look like. In the second blog I introduced some questions that you could ask yourself and described a meditation and journalling technique that might help you to get in touch with these ideas.
If you’ve looked at those blogs and you’re now reading this third blog then that may be because you’re interested. Maybe you’ve felt that pull somewhere in your body that there could be a life beyond your separation, and it could be a good one? Perhaps you’ve even embraced the idea that things are going to change for you going forward and you’re starting to think about what that might look like – maybe you even have some ideas? But you might find yourself getting stuck. You have ideas, you can feel that there are things that speak to you that you would like to include in your future but you’re not sure how to access them, or to make them a reality?
This blog takes a more practical approach to looking at your personal growth and self-development. If you now have some ideas about what you would like to bring into your life then we can look at how that might happen. For me personal growth is very simply summed up by focusing on what you really want out of your life, and letting go of the things you don’t want in your life. So simple, right? Not! It is something that is easy to type but harder to do. Sometimes you can have a clear vision of where you want to go but you find yourself being pulled back, or obstacles are put in your way and you wonder really whether you will ever be able to get where you want to be. Below I break the process I’ve just described down into steps and talk about each step so you can get some practical strategies on how to help yourself move forward on your personal growth journey.
Realising the vision
Sometimes there’s a tendency to see new dreams or ideas as you changing your mind. It’s not unknown for others to pass judgement on your new ideas as fanciful or unobtainable. Or perhaps others around you simply see you as someone who changes their mind a lot about what you want. The fact is thought that we go through different periods of growth and expansion through our lives. They are not always focused on work – they might be on starting a relationship, on having children, or on developing more nurturing personal habits (e.g doing more exercise, or getting more sleep). It’s quite common for your goals in your 20s to be different from those in your 40s and beyond.
Sometimes there can simply be feelings of things not being quite right. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you felt truly happy, or you just find yourself feeling irritable a lot of the time, or resentful. These feelings can be a factor in a relationship breakdown but they can also be signs that what is going on in your life is not right for you now and there are changes you need to make. These might be related to your relationship, your work, people around you or just how you feel about yourself. Maybe you know something isn’t right but you’re not sure what needs changing?
Sitting in stillness, or walking or exercising outdoors can enable you to find the space in your mind to really look at what it is that works for you in your life right now, and what it is that is causing feelings of dissatisfaction. Honing in on this and understand what you want in your life and what you don’t, and what ambitions you have is the first step in personal growth. It can be scary sometimes – realising your relationship doesn’t fulfil you and contemplating that you might go it alone as a single person is a huge step. It can also feel like a mountain to climb if you realise that an alternative career is calling you and you will have to not only study for this, but also work out how to make ends meet whilst you’re studying with no income. That’s where a plan comes in. At this stage just try to tap into what it is you really want without dismissing things as too hard, or impossible, or telling yourself that you would never be able to do that (because you might be able to!). You can use the techniques set out in the second blog to help you if you’re struggling to focus on what your vision for the future is.
Making a plan
Once you know where you want to go you can then look at making a plan on how to get there. This might be a 6 month plan, or a 10 year plan. Don’t think you have to achieve it all immediately – or that that plan has to stay as it is. Maybe you will plan to achieve something in 10 years and end up achieving it in 7 years. It’s really about shifting your mindset to accept that this is going to happen for you, you just have to know when. Part of making a plan is the practicalities and that starts with getting information together (a bit like resolving financial issues when you separate). What is it you want as part of your new life? What does that look like, feel like, sound like? Be as specific as you can because that will help you check whether you’re on track as different challenges come up. If you know what your plan feels like then you can tap into that feeling when you come to different paths in your journey. It will help you decide on which is the right option for you. If it’s a new career or a new job that you want then you can start with researching what this looks like. Look at adverts for these positions – where are they based? What qualifications do they need? Are there other changes you need to introduce in your life to enable this to be a possibility? For example, might you need to work out additional childcare, or if you don’t drive perhaps you need to be able to drive for this role. Getting as much information as possible enables you to properly map out your path from where you are now to where you want to be.
It can also help to break things down into manageable steps. For example, if you feel your children are too young to be left in additional childcare you can have a plan for when you think this might be possible. Perhaps you will aim to start part time in your new role? Or perhaps you will work part time and study part time? If you want to start exercising but feel that doing something three times a week is too much can you start with once a week and then look at when you will build up to twice a week and so forth?
What additional support might you need to help you with this? Do you need some expert guidance in which case how will you pay for this and where will you find it? How will you save up so you can then access this? Will you take on some additional flexible work to enable you to boost your income to make this possible more quickly? Do you need help with childcare or other assistance (maybe you have a friend or family member that could help you with guidance on your new plans) – in which case who can you ask for this? We can often feel uncomfortable asking for help. For some people it’s a muscle that doesn’t get used a lot and so it feels weak. How would you feel if someone asked you for help? If you’d be willing to help someone else then why wouldn’t someone else be willing to help you?
Letting go of things holding you back
This is a big part of moving forward with your plans. We all have things that hold us back. Often it’s a limiting belief that you’re not capable of doing something, or that you’re not worthy of achieving all you want. Sometimes these beliefs aren’t even immediately yours – they can be stories we get told when we’re growing up, or by the media or others around us. Have you ever heard people say you can’t have it all? You can’t have a great home and family life and a job you enjoy? You can’t have love and wealth? Why not? Who makes these rules? The time has come for you to decide your own path and not for others to hold you back. This sounds easy but it can be really challenging. It’s hard to throw off beliefs that you may have held since you were very little. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we have these beliefs, and that’s why it’s tricky to get rid of them – if you don’t even know they are there.
Tapping into them is therefore really important – as is learning how to get rid of them. Tapping into them can be an exercise in noting when you feel something in response to something that’s said, or that you see. Maybe you heard about a job opportunity and you felt excited for a split second and then that turned to fear and you told yourself it couldn’t be for you? Or maybe someone told you you could do it and you bit their head off and got quite cross? That sounds like a button being pressed right there. Noticing when you feel a sudden reaction to something is important because it tells you something about yourself – sudden surges of excitement, sudden fears, sudden acceleration to very cross, or even a sudden urge to run away and hide, or a sudden change in how you feel such as excitement to fear, or fear to anger are all signs that something is being triggered within you and it can help to tap into that. Incidentally you may find this blog about triggers helpful. It can be hard to get to the root of the trigger sometimes, but by noticing what happens and making a note of it (so you don’t forget) it can help you to unpick what’s happening. Sometimes it can take picking off a few layers to get to the root of the trigger. There can be a real “oh” moment when you realise what is behind it. There can be a bit of a frustration and disappointment too if you realise these are issues you’ve been dealing with a lot – but remember a lot of this stuff is layered. You may peel off one layer only to find another lay that presents itself a little differently, even though it is really about the same thing.
There are different ways of getting rid of limiting beliefs and triggers. Sometimes simply by realising the root of it, it enables you make more conscious choices going forward. Some people favour writing affirmations and repeating these e.g I can’t do this becomes I know that I can do this, or I am excited about……... You should always write affirmations in the present tense so it is as if the thing you’re focusing on is already in your life.
Other people need help from a qualified professional like a therapist or a coach to help them unpick these beliefs and reprogram their subconscious so it’s properly on board with the future you’re focusing on. Most of our daily thoughts (and it may surprise you to know that we have thousands of thoughts in a day) come from our subconscious i.e not our conscious mind. This means that the programming we have about ourselves from childhood, other events and particularly traumas, guides our thinking about a lot of things. We can have spent hours, days or weeks thinking about how we’re not good enough to do something before we then consciously decide that perhaps our dreams are too big without having noticed the other thought program that’s been running.
Coaching has helped me enormously over the last 7 years and I’m a huge fan of using a professional to help you dig deeper into what’s really going on in your mind and having someone outside your head to help you unpick things. Many coaches have fantastic tools they’ve developed that are enormously helpful. There are also specialist divorce coaches too. Get in touch if you’d like details. Keep an eye out for our next blog coming next week pulling these threads together and suggesting some next steps if this is a journey you feel you’re ready for.
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