Last year, my friend Julia Barnickle invited me to be part of an online community project in which she asked various writer friends to share their thoughts on the topic of, What if life were meant to be easy?
My initial response was an old habitual one; to turn the invitation down (i.e. hide). But then I remembered that this isn’t exactly a strategy for success in life, especially for a writer who wants her words to have some impact in the world.
So I said ‘yes’ and kept my fingers crossed that the words would come.
As it happens, they did. In fact, I had a hard time sticking to the 1000-word limit. I have a lot to say on the topic of life being easy (seeing as I seem to have spent the majority of my 50 years on this plant hell bent on proving the exact opposite!).
Without further ado, here is my contribution. It expands on some of the things I mentioned in my last post…
What If Life Were Meant to be Easy?
A few years ago, if you’d have asked me, “What if life were meant to be easy?”, I would have laughed and said, ‘You’re joking, right?’ (That’s the polite version; in reality, there would have been considerably more swearing involved).
Career, relationships, money… nothing came easily to me. Everything seemed to require a herculean amount of effort with embarrassingly little to show for it. This went on for almost 50 years. And then a miracle occurred: things started clicking into place.
What I discovered is that there is some kind of force or ‘genius’ that will guide us towards our easiest, most-true-to-ourselves life… if we let it. I have no idea what this force is – our soul, subconscious, the universe, God? All I know is that the more I listen to its voice, the easier life becomes. Little by little, I’m experiencing more flow. And synchronicities have started occurring – from meeting the perfect creative person to collaborate with at just the right moment, to receiving Julia’s email inviting me to take part in this project!
I’m still a beginner in all of this but the following 4 steps have really helped me on my journey towards living an easier life. I hope they help you too:
STEP 1: Be open to possibility
The first step is simply to admit that we want an easier life! This can be tricky. If, like me, you’ve struggled all your life, ‘an easy life’ can seem like such an impossible dream, you feel ridiculous even considering it. So, you don’t.
The problem with this is that our thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. Not in a ‘woo woo’ way; in a very practical way. The brain can only take in a fraction of the information it’s bombarded with, so it filters this data according to our focus. What this means is that if you believe life is a struggle, your brain will look for evidence to support this! For example, if you meet someone who’s living a ‘charmed life’, you’ll dismiss them as being a fake (or a fluke). And your perfect job might not even register on your radar because it doesn’t match your belief that life is hard and work is a struggle.
To combat this, I’ve been trying a new belief on for size: Just because life has been a struggle up to now, doesn’t mean it has to be this way forever. By entertaining the possibility that my life could begin to flow with more ease, my brain will go to work; picking out opportunities and experiences that match this belief.
STEP 2: Soothe your nervous system
This step has been a pivotal one for me. Our nervous system plays a crucial role in whether we live a life of ease or struggle. Here’s why:
Our nervous system goes into ‘fight or flight’ whenever we’re in danger. It’s a vital survival mechanism, which is designed for acute stress (e.g. a caveman running from a saber-toothed tiger). The problem is, nowadays we’re bombarded by threats which keep our system on high alert 24-7 (e.g. deadlines, financial worries, and terrifying TV news).
If you spend your days in a state of ‘fight or flight’, life will feel like an effort. Apart from the physical wear and tear on your body, your cortex will be inhibited (so you can’t think straight), and your brain will be primed to look for danger wherever you go. This ‘hypervigilance’ is exhausting, and it leaves little mental space for creativity, play, and intuition!
The solution is to soothe your nervous system and bring it back into balance. My favourite way to do this is with TRE (Tension/Trauma Releasing Exercises). TRE has changed my life so dramatically over the past 3 years, I now teach it to other people. But TRE is not the only route to a calmer nervous system. There’s also yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, progressive relaxation, and mindfulness.
STEP 3: Make space for intuition
Step 3 is to create some peace and quiet in your day. One of the easiest ways to do this is by taking a 5-minute ‘do nothing’ break (I came across this in Michael Neill’s inspiring Creating the Impossible book). The rules are simple:
- Sit for 5 minutes.
- Don’t talk, write, or get up.
- Let your mind wander wherever it wants.
You can look out the window, let your gaze meander round the room, or simply daydream. The important thing is not to expect lightning bolts of inspiration to arrive during this time. They might do. But then again, they might not. What you’re doing is creating a mental gap in your day; rather like clouds parting to let the sun come through. Inspiration might burst through now or later in the form of images, sounds, dreams, or feelings. When it does, it’s time for step 4…
STEP 4: Take the first step
It’s an annoying but true fact that in order to live a guided life, you’ll probably have to take your first step without knowing how things will turn out. Often, it’s only after taking the first step that your next step is revealed. (As a recovering control freak, this has taken me a long time to get my head around!).
For example, a few years ago, I was offered a sales role after months of searching for a job. I knew I should accept the position. I was desperate for the money. And yet every cell in my body screamed, ‘Noooo, don’t do it!’ Thank goodness I listened. A few weeks after turning the job down, I was offered the perfect role at a book publisher. They commissioned me to write my first book. This led to several more books. And suddenly, I was on my way to achieving my dream of being a writer!
In the case above, my inner voice was as subtle as a foghorn. But, often, all you’ll have to go on is what transformative coach Kristy Halvorsen calls, “the tickles of your soul” (I love this!) – i.e. what delights you, excites you, or simply draws you to it in some unfathomable way? Whatever it is, take a step towards it. You never know where it might lead. Following the tickles of my soul has led to some amazing things – from selling my own greetings cards to being shortlisted for a £10,000 literary prize!
I’m so fascinated by this topic; I’m going to explore it more on my blog this year. But for now, here’s what I know for sure: If we can slow down enough to hear the whispers of our soul… and have the faith to act on these urges, without knowing where they will lead… life may not always be easy, but it will begin to open up for us in ways we could never have imagined.