We all seem to hold on to old ways with white knuckles, thinking there is no other way that works, yet new ways present themselves just when we are most exasperated.

Frustration As FuelAs I clear the debris from the basement of my old home, preparing to move on to the next chapter of my life, I wonder “where will this road lead me next?” I know I have the ability to create the life I desire, but finding the pieces that will most satisfy me seems like a search expedition without a lamp. Finding the nuggets, finding the gold as I toss one idea after another aside is frustrating at best. The most disconcerting notion is that many of the ideas and structures that have fulfilled me for years, no longer work and I have yet to find new structures that do work. I feel like I am beginning with a blank canvas, which for me is usually exciting, but when the canvas is my life it’s a bit daunting. I am told to “think outside of the box” yet the walls of the box seem so high that I can’t see anything but the sides of it.

This feeling of being hemmed in by old ideas is so constricting I find myself shaking and yelling in frustration. I used to think this was an effort in futility, pure drama or a willful temper tantrum but I am now finding that it shakes the constructs and relieves enough tension to allow me to see other ways of putting my life pieces together. Many of us seem to hold on to old ways with white knuckles, thinking there is no other way that works, yet new ways present themselves just when we are most exasperated. This powerful release of tension forces a break from the old.

I envision a child who has built a tower of blocks that keep falling. After several tries he lashes out in frustration. Once he realizes that a tall tower cannot stand on one block he cleverly begins to build a new foundation for his tower. This time he uses several blokes, creating a stronger, wider foundation. Taking this analogy into our lives elicits several questions:

Have you built your life on one aspect: family, career, or relationship?
If you were to build a new life, which aspects are crying out to be a part of your foundation?
How do you place these new blocks so they support each other?
Which aspects are currently choking you? Have they outlived their usefulness?
How do you comfortably pass along those responsibilities you no longer want or need?
Are they still responsibilities or are they a part of the life that is receding?
How do you release the white knuckled hold on your old structures?
And how do you begin to see over the wall of the box?

Exercise: Where am I?

I learned a great technique that I used with success several times (including in the above scenario). Take a piece of paper and make three columns. First column: things on my schedule.  Please put everything you do on this list from appointments, to classes, your children’s’ activities – anything that involes your presence and time. Second column: who am I doing this for? You may think it is for you, but really look at why you are doing it.  Third column: Do I absolutely love it? Not do you like it, it’s ok or I don’t mind. I want to know if you really, really love it. Does it make your heart sing??

Once you complete this you may begin to see several things. Through column one you may see a pattern. That pattern may show you which aspect of your life is predominant. Through column 2 you’ll see who dominates your schedule or life and perhaps discover that you are not on your list at all. You may also find through column 3 that your schedule is full of things you feel blah about or have little interest in. Take a few days to work through this. With reflection you will get all the information you need for the next part of the exercise.

Step 1:

Let go of anything that you do not love. You may have to work through guilt, obligation or “I don’t see how!”, but you want a new life right? One that fulfills you? The first step in getting there is to clear out the clutter. If your schedule is so full of to-do’s that they not only drain your energy but have you running till its bedtime, you will have no time to figure out what you really want to do.

Step 2:

Begin to take 15 minutes each day and completely disconnect from everything. Go for a walk without your phone. Sit in your car and look at a beautiful scene and shut off the phone. Put it in the trunk for heaven’s sake! Close the door to your bedroom or take a long bath, again, no phone, no kids, no interruptions. Once you allow yourself undivided time, your dreams, passions, wants, needs, and hopefully desires have the time to come into your awareness. When we are distracted and running all the time we become the single focused child building an unstable tower. Step back and allow yourself to dream a little.

Step 3:

Pick one thing you really want to do and place it on your calendar in ink. Allow the rest of your life to flow and ebb around it. As you do this you will begin to build your new life. You will feel fulfilled and happy – in block sized increments at first – but now you are on the way.

So the next time you feel frustrated allow it to swell through you. Let it break down the walls of your box. I promise you frustration can show you where you are feeling most blocked and point you in the direction of a more fulfilling life.

Are you willing to vent the frustration and break the walls of your box?