Written by Aziza founder, Laila Ghattas
One of the common themes that regularly emerges on our women’s retreats is the heavy burden of obligations participants feel make up their lives. The imprisonment of should’s that haunt and taunt and pretty much add zero to quality of life.
Our August 5-day women’s retreat at Thirteen Moons was no exception. Participants all recognized that they shared similar negative motivation for much of their life choices on a daily basis. They each had a deep sense of duty to do what they thought they should do- for their partners, family, work, friends, most everyone in their lives.
These women felt little satisfaction in their choices because they weren’t really doing what they wanted to do. They were doing what they believed, imagined, or assumed they should be doing. Instead of stepping back to evaluate a task or request or even habit, making space to see what it was costing them to proceed in the same old same old way, they continued marching to the old drum of duty.
Beliefs abounded: I should spend time with my difficult mother-in-law; I should be completely organized and on top of everything; I should start to exercise and watch what I eat; I should be feeling better by now….
This type of inner dialogue can feel like a straight jacket. True freedom of motion is impaired in a lifestyle void of reflection and evaluation, empty of alternative options from the deeply grooved default of self sacrifice.
If this scenario feels familiar, why not try the exercise that helped these women on retreat, all from the comfort of your own home! This can be quite an eye opener to do and share with a trusted friend or family member.
Divide a page into three columns down the 8 1/2” side.
1. This is the heavy part. Make a list on the left side of the shoulds, ought to’s, musts, need to, all your to do and be things in your life. Make this an involved list. Dig deep. Use two, three pages if necessary, get it all out, every thing that dictates your inner and outer life, even about how you feel. Some may come easier than others. This requires a level of self-honesty that may feel difficult. Persevere! You’re worth finding out what you really believe, what really motivates you.
2. This is the insightful part. In the middle column, for each point, ask yourself: Do I want to, do I agree, or do I really not want to, I completely disagree with the statement. If you really don’t know, put a question mark. This is good information for you to have about your relationship to the belief at hand.
You may surprise yourself to find out you really don’t want to car pool with your child’s best friends’ mom. Or you’d really rather run outdoors than do yoga. Or you don’t really want to go on a camping vacation to save money, you’d rather stay home and read your favourite books.
Now here’s the empowering part of the exercise.
Now you’ve taken charge of your life. You’ve let yourself in on the structure of your life tasks and attitudes. You’ve evaluated how you really feel about the should or belief you hold, and perhaps have held for a long time unchecked. You’ve decided what you’re going to do about it, if anything at all.
Now it’s your decision. You’re not simply following what someone else thinks you should do or be or feel.
Congratulations! You’ve taken yourself off autopilot and taken responsibility for the quality of your life by becoming consciously involved in your decision making process. You’ve included your self in the equation of your life lists.
That’s what self-empowerment can look and feel like. It doesn’t get better than that!
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