Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reason #22: You're Getting Warmer (Great Advice Article)

A few months ago I read an article written by Martha Beck about “Escaping the Rat Race.” The article focused on overcoming fear to obtain freedom. Unfortunately, so many of us feel trapped in our job, relationship, or routine, yet are too fearful to get out. Beck highlights that many spend hours in their job playing roles that don’t match their innate personalities and preferences. As soon as they are out of work, they resort to mood-altering substances whether it be alcohol, food, or drugs. People are trapped in prisons made in their mind – or attitudes and beliefs such as “I have to look successful” or “I can’t disappoint my parents.” And if we ever come close to recognizing the truth (hey, maybe this job isn’t right for me? Maybe she isn’t right for me?), we’re deterred by terrifying questions: “What if this is the best I can get?” “What if I quit my job and end up somewhere worse?” “What if I break up with him and end up alone forever?” When faced with the UNKNOWN or the familiar cage, most people choose the cage even when liberation is just a few steps away.

Beck then provides advice on how to engineer a personal prison break and be set free forever. First off, your perfect life isn’t going to appear out of thin air. Just as the perfect omelet isn’t going to appear – you first need to see what’s available, rummage through the fridge, and make what you want. Fortunately, we all have that ability to shape our environment – we make the omelet, we paint the room, we change our clothes. Now some people will reply, “well, I don’t even know what I want….or who I want…or what I want to do.”

Here is Beck’s grand advice, and I’m not kidding, I have been following her SIMPLE advice in almost all decisions I have been making:

Beck would invite clients to her office to play the simple child’s game “You're Getting Warmer, You're Getting Colder”. The client would leave the room, and Beck would hide a simple object in a tricky place, such a key inside of a cake. When the client returns to the room, he will immediately ask, "What am I looking for?" Beck would simply give the feedback "You're getting warmer" or "You're getting colder." The client would start moving, quickly identify the general hiding area, and demand, "Where is it?" Frustrated, he would revert to following the "warmer/colder" feedback until he arrived at the object.

Beck’s point is life has installed within you powerful "getting warmer, getting colder" signals. It isn't necessary to know exactly how your ideal life will look; you only have to know what feels better and what feels worse. If something feels both good and bad, break it down into its components to see which are warm, which cold. Begin making choices based on what makes you feel freer and happier, rather than how you think an ideal life should look. It's the process of feeling our way toward happiness, not the realization of some platonic ideal, that creates our best lives.

I have used this method most frequently in my everyday decisions. Should I run tonight or watch a movie? Choose what feels warmer. Salad or sandwich? Choose what feels warmer (psychologically). If you make mistakes, no problem; you'll soon feel colder and correct your course. Making consistent choices toward happiness is what steers you in the right direction to greater happiness.

My blog itself is a result of the “You’re Getting Warmer, You’re Getting Colder” method. I have always wanted to write about health and wellness, but I was skeptical about starting a blog at first. “What if no one reads it?” “Will people think I’m narcissistic?” “Will people laugh about it behind my back?” So I decided to give it a try – I wrote approximately ten posts before I even told anyone about it (besides the supportive “Boyfriend”). I thoroughly enjoyed writing, the information I was learning, and the support and warmth I was given. So I told my college friends, then my sisters, and now Im finally at a point where I declare myself a warmerHOT Blogger (okay that was corny).

Anyway, Beck’s main message is that your feelings and impulses can bring you to distant and amazing destinations. You need to go ahead and trust your powerful instincts and your desire to be happy. You may choose to stay trapped in the cage (or as Beck writes “choose the cynical despair instead—it's all the rage in intellectual circles”)—but we both would rather be in the warmth.

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