August 2017 - sheIQ Life

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Challenge Your Boundaries Keep It Super Simple Bronwen Sciortino sheIQlife Simplicity Expert Stress Reduction Resilience Mindfulness Professional SpeakerChallenge Your Boundaries to Ease Your Mind

It was an interesting moment when I realised that the last time I had made a conscious decision was the first time I had decided to crawl.

Deciding to crawl was such a simple act … and yet it was an act that triggered the start of my social conditioning. Just like everyone around me, from the moment I first crawled I was trained that all of my answers were to be found outside myself. I was cheered as I crawled with more expertise, encouraged to walk and praised as I became proficient at it.

Progressively over time, I was schooled by my family, friends, school, community and so on, in all the things that were right and wrong, good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate about myself, my characteristics and my behaviour.

What I didn’t know was that all of this conditioning was forming the basis of the platform that my subconscious would then use to filter information about my life. Filters that would go on to create the boundaries that would define the way I would live, how far I would extend myself and the things that I would – and wouldn’t – allow myself to do as I moved through every day.

I also discovered that the subconscious is always adding and storing information to the long-term memory bank, and as it does so, it also creates lists of similar circumstances that the memory can, and will, be applied to over time.

Here’s an example. If, while walking across a courtyard on a rainy day, I was to slip because the pavement is wet, then my subconscious will not only record that it is slippery when wet in that courtyard, but will also then apply that information to all situations when it is wet.

So, instead of a one-off event where I slipped in the rain, my subconscious would go on to create a memory for me that it is always slippery when wet. Moving forward, I would then apply that to every situation, forever applying a boundary of having to be much more careful of all surfaces when it is raining.

Sure, there are times when this sort of information is helpful and can alert me to take care. However, I also found that there were exponentially more times when the experiences stored in my long-term memory were being applied through an ‘auto-pilot’ response … and I was limiting what I ‘allowed’ myself to do through wanting to minimise the impact of the long-term memory.

In effect, I had allowed my subconscious to create boundaries for me that in turn had created rules around what I could and couldn’t do. To make matters worse, those rules were creating layers of complexity that were significantly limiting my potential; they were essentially squashing me into a small and confined box.

I had spent so much time being squashed in that small and confined box that it had increased the level of fear that I associated with making changes. I can tell you from experience that when you can’t move it’s also very difficult to breathe.

Furthermore, being squashed into that space was taking such a toll on me that my subconscious then created boundaries for me to conserve my energy … and so I stopped doing almost all of the things I loved to do because the rules I had put in place told me that they were no longer good for me.

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Eventually I found myself so afraid to move that my subconscious created blinkers for me and I became blind to the warning signs I was receiving from my body and my mind. Instead, I created rules and beliefs that succeeded in convincing me that it was much better to live in a totally overwhelmed state. Somehow, I had trained myself that being overwhelmed was easier than taking small steps that introduce and encourage change.

Once I understood all of these things it became very easy to take one simple step at a time to do things a little bit differently.

One of the most powerful things I have ever done for myself was to create a process that allowed me to step out of the box I had created for myself. I learned the simple, yet significant, act of challenging my boundaries.

I’ve tried and tested the following method so often – and it has worked so well every single time – that I now love finding something that I can challenge regularly. Here’s how it works:

Identify a boundary in your life. The boundary can be big or small – it doesn’t matter. Just find something that you want to test. I started by challenging some long-held beliefs about physical activities I didn’t think I could do anymore because of permanent injuries. Set yourself an activity that will challenge what you believe about this boundary. Give yourself something to do that will challenge whether what you believe about the boundary is correct or that the boundary no longer applies to you. I set myself a goal of completing a day trek with challenging terrain that I knew would test the beliefs I held about my ankles, knees and back. Consciously take notice of the things that are – and aren’t – true about the boundary. Allow yourself time to get into the motion of the activity you’ve decided to do. If possible, remember to constantly ask yourself how you’re feeling whilst doing the activity. When you’ve finished the task, look at how you went honestly and decide whether the beliefs you held about the boundary are still true. I now know that 95% of the beliefs I held about physical activity weren’t true for me. Give the boundary a new definition. Once you know what is and isn’t true about the beliefs you held about the boundary, you can create a new definition for yourself. Creating the new definition will re-code your subconscious and create new information in your long-term memory. I now hold new beliefs about what I can and can’t do with regards to physical activity and I also know that these are now boundaries that I can challenge again whenever I want to!

Challenging boundaries is now so easy and simple for me that I am constantly looking for things I can test. Every time I go through this process I find that it shifts my perspective about things. The best thing about a shift in perspective is that it opens up so many more options in my life and there are so many more things I can easily do.

More options received in a graceful and easy way makes it so much easier for me to breathe. And … the more rules I get rid of, the simpler my life becomes. It seems that the more I challenge my boundaries the easier it is on my mind.

Perhaps most significantly, my experience has taught me that being ruled by the boundaries in our life is a choice that we make; we can choose to challenge them and breathe easier every day, or we can choose to remain confined and squashed in a box of our own making.

Doing something a little bit differently is no harder than learning to ask yourself a few questions – the choice is yours.

Want more info on ways to challenge some of your boundaries? There are loads of tips and tricks on living and thinking differently in my book ‘Keep It Super Simple’ – you can buy a copy from www.sheiqlife.com/shop.

Keep It Super Simple: Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist Average Rating: total customer reviews…

Want to chat? Email me on info@sheiqlife.com or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!

Bronwen Sciortino is a Simplicity Expert, Professional Speaker and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Breakdown Bronwen Sciortino Keep It Super Simple sheIQlife Simplicity Expert Stress Reduction Resilience Mindfulness Professional SpeakerI’m often asked by people what it was like to suffer a complete breakdown.

This is not an easy question to answer. It was such an intense experience that there are still some parts of it that I don’t completely remember. The best way I know to describe what it was like for me to experience a breakdown is this:

Imagine that in five minutes time you are going to receive a shock to your system that is so significant that it will shatter everything you’ve ever known. In that instant, you will lose your ability to think. You will look at the things around you and be completely unable to make sense of what you are seeing. You will know that something isn’t right … but you will have no means of working out what it is, nor where to turn to fix it.

Your mind will be numb. You will have people around you asking you questions, but you won’t be able to understand what they are asking, let alone how to comprehend a way of answering those questions. You will suddenly be unable to stop crying … and you won’t know why.

Now overlay on all of this the fact that you cannot explain any of this to anyone … because you don’t understand any of it yourself.

In essence, you move from being a fully-functioning adult to being lost, lonely, terrified and completely dependent on those who are closest to you … within the space of minutes.

You’re lost … because you cannot cognitively function as you once did so easily.

Everything around you is foreign and you have no way of connecting to how – or why – it is in your life. Perhaps the worst aspect of this is that you look in the mirror and you don’t know who is looking back out at you.

You’ve lost all sense of who you are – the things that used to go together to make you a human being are gone, and it feels like they will never be found again.

You’re lonely … because you cannot understand what is happening to you, and that means you cannot explain to anyone else what is happening to you.

All sense of belonging has completely disappeared. You feel completely disconnected from the community around you. And because you can’t explain what is happening to you – and there is no physical wound for people to see – it is hard for the people around you to understand what you are experiencing.

So, to rationalise your status in their own minds, they decide for themselves what is wrong with you, and what will fix you. Then, when you don’t comply with these decisions, they get frustrated with you.

You’re already extremely vulnerable, and then someone says something to you that they think will help to ‘lift you out of your funk’ and it wounds you like a knife, making you fall backwards into the abyss you’re trying to climb out of. This makes you feel like those miniscule forward steps you’ve taken have been lost.

You’re terrified … because everything you knew to be true about yourself and your life are suddenly gone and you have no direction.

You don’t know where to turn, where your answers are, or how to ‘fix’ your situation … because you don’t know what is wrong with you, and therefore you don’t know what questions to ask.

You’re also utterly terrified because you’re suddenly dependent on someone else for your survival – something that is completely foreign to you and not something you’ve ever needed to deal with before. Previously, as a functioning adult, you could take care of everything you needed, but now even the basic things are difficult and everything else seems almost impossible.

What is it like recovering from a breakdown?

In its simplicity, when you are at the bottom of the abyss and things are at their worst, you are faced with a choice: you must choose to either live or to die. You will have to make this decision at a time when the choice isn’t clear, and when you are at your most vulnerable and have the least energy you’ve ever had in your life.

Having made the choice to live, I then had to face the challenges that recovery would bring. I can put my hand on my heart and say that recovering from a breakdown was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

It took me two years of exhausting, invasive and confronting work to get myself back to a point where I could function at a basic level on a day-to-day basis. It took a further year of this work for me to be able to step forward and take my place in the world again.

Sitting in front of complete strangers was daunting. Being asked questions that forced me to look at the deep, dark, hidden places within myself and learn to not only recognise but to love every single piece of myself again was even more daunting.

Overlaying this with trying to find my way in the world again and it was without doubt the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

What have I learned from experiencing a breakdown?

Before my breakdown, I was under constant and unrelenting stress, and I was completely exhausted. I had completely bought into the belief that we must be stressed and exhausted for us to be successful. I had pushed myself to extreme limits to be a high achiever – to present a perfect facade. I had existed on two hours of restless sleep a night … for the previous twelve years. I was constantly draining energy from a completely dry tank – which meant that I was effectively cannibalising myself for existence.

Through the process of recovery I learned exactly who I am. I re-connected with myself and I now know – and understand – my gifts and strengths … and I can openly acknowledge them.

I’m not afraid to be who I am anymore. I’m not afraid of my greatness and what that brings to the world. I’m now comfortable in my own skin. I am re-charged, re-connected and re-energised.

Perhaps, most significantly, I learned that all of these things were available to me before I drove myself to breaking point – I had simply chosen to be blind to the pathway to finding them with ease and grace.

I learned that we spend a lot of time playing the ‘judgement game’. This is where we critically assess those around us to determine whether – in our opinion – they are successful or not, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate – you get the idea.

What I now know is that this game is simply a distraction. It distracts us from looking within ourselves to determine whether we’re on our own path. It distracts us from seeking answers that we think we might not want to hear.

Perhaps it took me learning these lessons so that I can share my experience with others, and they can take small, easy steps now to move their lives in a different direction. Perhaps my road can provide a map for others, where they can make change without first experiencing the extreme pain that I endured.

It seems to me that our society teaches us to hold a fascination with the suffering of someone else. I’m not saying that the fascination comes from a macabre viewpoint – not at all. Rather, I believe it comes from us trying to work out whether that suffering is a legitimate option for us to take so we can escape the way we currently live.

My advice, having experienced the trauma of a breakdown and the long and exhaustive road to recovery afterwards, is that if you wake up every morning exhausted, having not slept well after being subjected to constant and unrelenting stress from every corner of your life, then it’s time to take a few simple steps that will help you think and live a little bit differently.

The easiest way to do this is to find the people who will teach you how to re-connect with yourself – the ones who will teach you how to learn from yourself. Let go of the grip you have on your distractions, and allow yourself to unfold from that small ball you’ve allowed yourself to be rolled into.

You can, of course, choose to keep going the way you are and hope that your breakdown, when it comes (and it will eventually come), will be kinder to you than mine was to me. However, I know that it is a much simpler option to take some small, easy and completely manageable steps now that can move your life to a different path in a kind and gentle way.

There is a very different way to live … and it is no harder than learning to ask yourself some simple questions. Will you stay the way you are? Or will you take a tiny step forward and put a toe in the water of a very different way of life?

Want more info on easy ways to step forward and create a kinder life? There are loads of tips and tricks on living and thinking differently in my book ‘Keep It Super Simple’ – you can buy a copy from www.sheiqlife.com/shop.

Want to chat? Email me on info@sheiqlife.com or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!

Bronwen Sciortino is a Simplicity Expert, Professional Speaker and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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