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Get off the Default Bus Route

We teach what we need. So I hope you don’t judge me when I tell you I’ve been stuck so many times, it’s become a joke in our family. Now, when I tell my husband I don’t know what to do or complain about being stuck, he plants his feet into the ground, raises his arms above his head, and says in a high pitched voice, “Help, I’m stuck, I can’t move, I’m stuck” If I don’t slap him, he goes on to say “If I only knew someone who could help him rechart my life.” Haha.

Right now I’m stuck not knowing whether to continue my functional medicine training. I love it but it is extremely time-consuming and stressful to be studying 12-15 hours a week. I also don’t know how much I can incorporate it into dermatology. I’m also stuck when I think about school for the kids next year. Will they have to do virtual school again if this delta variant of COVID ramps up? Should I look into private school?

There are many ways and reasons we’re stuck. As hard as it is for me to admit this, our stuckness is almost always because we’ve chosen a situation or a view of a situation and we refuse to budge.

In my case with feeling stuck about the kids’ school, I am choosing to stress about it. Will worry help the situation? Nope. Will my brain magically know the best solution my thinking about it over and over? Nope. What about functional medicine? I am choosing to feel stuck because I want someone to tell me it’s okay to start a course and not finish it, or that it’s okay to skip a semester and finish it later if I decide to. As long as I convince myself I’m stuck, I don’t have to show ownership and make a decision.

In chess, you have two minutes to make a move. In basketball, you have 8 seconds before you have to let the ball leave your hands. Yet, In life, we allow ourselves years to have a stuck mindset about our health, our career, our cluttered house, not getting along with our in-laws.

I shared two ways I’m stuck because of my own thoughts. But what if someone is stuck through no fault of their own like maybe they lost their spouse. Obviously, this person is stuck. She’s not gonna be going out and kicking butt professionally or starting a new creative endeavor or health regiment right away. My friend lost her husband when we were both in our early 30’s. She couldn’t fathom selling their house, starting a new job, or doing much of anything for the first 18 months. But if she’d chosen to let grief define the rest of her life going forward, she would’ve stayed stuck. So this episode isn’t for someone going through acute trauma. This is for those of you getting tossed about in the turbulent ocean of life, but not for someone who’s just hit an iceberg.

If you find yourself daydreaming about a different future than your present circumstances, congratulations, this means your inner self is nudging you past stuckness. She’s trying to wake you up to a different possibility. Maybe you’re not daydreaming about your future as much as thinking you don’t want to still be in your current circumstances 5 or 10 years from now. Or, maybe you really haven’t even thought about it. Maybe your nose is to the ground and you haven’t looked up from being a mom to toddlers and babies, maybe you’ve had your head down climbing the ladder at work and you haven’t even stopped to ask if you’re on the ladder you want to be on.

Let’s do a visualization to help illustrate what I mean. If you’re not driving, close your eyes. Put your feet on the floor, take a deep breath. Now, imagine you’re on a big bus. A greyhound bus, seated on one of those gray striped upholstered seats, other passengers in front of and next to you. Your purse is on your lap, your head resting on the seat. You feel the gentle movement of the bus as it rolls down the highway. Imagine you look up and see the digital board telling you which stops are coming up. You see listed on the board your job description, your home life situation, and your health situation. It might say something like this: Disgruntled 1st-grade teacher, unhealthy relationship with food, pre-diabetic, feels disconnected from husband, wishes she could go back to school but in debt because of compulsive TJ Maxx and Amazon purchases.

This bus stop scenario is sort of like what happened to me when we went to see a financial advisor a few years ago. When he said that I had to keep working like I was working for another 20 yrs, something in my brain snapped. No! I don’t want to be on this same bus for another 20 years. I knew I had to make some changes with regards to my schedule, the hours I was working, the number of patients.

The other example in my life when I realized I didn’t like where I was headed was with my marriage about 10 yrs back. I realized we were bickering a lot. We had fewer good times than we used to, we didn’t like each other all that much. I thought, “If I’m gonna stay married to this man, my babies’ daddy for the next 40 years, and I plan to, then I want it to be amazing. I want to like him, I want him to be a friend. I want to flirt with him and laugh with him. I want to go to new places and have a fun future together. When I looked at where our marriage was headed, aka the next bus stop, I decided we had to reroute. I agreed to marriage therapy and set my intention to have a great marriage.

Back to the bus visualization. As you read the description of the next bus stop, your eyes, imagine your eyes widening as you realize the description applies to you. You think, “WAIT!” I don’t want to get off at the same stop, that’s the point of this bus, I’m supposed to be moving forward and going somewhere new. I want to get off somewhere different. You look around you and wonder where the other passengers are headed.

Weirdly, the bus has shifted, and now all the passengers are seated behind you. With a start, you realize you’re in the driver’s seat. Holy Canoli, you are the one driving the bus. As you grip the steering wheel, your mind races. “If I’m driving the bus, I get to decide where I’m going”. As this realization sinks in, you take a deep inhale. “I get to decide where I’m going and I’m darn sure not heading towards diabetes, debt, divorce, and staying at this job for the next 40 years”

Where to go? At first, maybe you feel overwhelmed. The road stretches before you with an endless combination of twists and turns. Then you notice a big GPS screen. You pull over to the side of the road and assess your options. It has a health button. You push this button and see the health category. It’s divided up into diet, physical activity, sleep, and mood. Wow, you think, as you touch the button labeled “Eats real food”, “Doesn’t overeat or eat emotionally” and “Sleeps 8 hours a night” For mood, you pick out “Calm, grateful, and excited about life”. Once you pick your choices, you see the next destination mapped out. This new stop looks much more appealing. It described the You you’d like to be.

Life isn’t as simple as pushing buttons and having a GPS unit tell you how to magically get there, but I use this analogy because we DO get to choose where the bus goes, we choose our future with every choice we make. Even if someone else puts us on the bus with their choices and actions, it’s up to us to get in the driver’s seat and choose our next turn. We can choose to get off exactly where we’re headed and keep being who we’re being and doing what we’re doing, or we can map out a new future.

Notice too, the importance of pulling over to the side of the road when you realize you don’t like the road you’re on. You don’t just whip this big ol’ bus into a U-turn. There are penalties for not taking precautions to plan out your next step safely. People could get hurt, you could suffer financially with a big fine, or you could end up going a new wrong direction only to have to turn around again.

Maybe you’re thinking, “My life is just fine, thank you very much. I would be okay if it stayed just like it is.” Well, that’s great. I’d believe you except you are listening to a podcast about recharting your life. Maybe there are a few things you’d like to be different five years from now?

Your next thought might be, “Okay, I get the bus analogy, I’m heading towards my future and if I don’t choose where I want to go, everything will proceed as it is right now. So let’s say I want to change some things, how do I do it? I can’t see an actual GPS screen with choices laid out and boxes to check.

Things you’ll want if you’re going to map out a different journey:

  1. You’ve already done the first step, you’ve realized you are on a journey and started to consider you have a choice in how this plays out.

  2. Dream a vision of how you want your life to look. Use your imagination. You can use a guided a meditation, you can write it out, you can draw/sketch it out, but you do need to eventually put it in writing. If writing isn’t your thing, make bullet points or a list.

  3. Commitment. Renew your vision daily in your mind, say it, see it, and mean it. This is about believing in yourself even when your mind tells you otherwise.

  4. Accountability. You’re much more likely to be successful if you have accountability. Get an accountability group or partner. This is why Weight Watchers is so successful. Start telling people where you’re headed and you’re less likely to back down. Hire someone to hold you accountable and you’re less likely to change your mind. People hire drivers, travel agents, and financial planners, You might need to hire someone to help you map it out.

  5. Passengers. Who’s on your bus? If everyone on the bus is heading to the same destination, you aren’t likely to pull the cord to let yourself off at a different stop. It’s easier to keep on keeping on with everyone else on the bus. Look around you. Do the people on your bus take care of their bodies? Do they complain about their jobs all the time? Are they perfectly content to stay rooted in place and not grow? Are all your bus mates divorced? Drinking nightly? Spending money they don’t have?

If you’d like help mapping out your next bus stop, I have a group coaching coming up in the fall. It’ll be a small group, so shoot me an email if you’d like to sign up.

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