Help is there, but empowerment is too...we need to do our bit to achieve what we want
Updated: Jul 25
Elliott Joslin said of insulin in the early 1921s "It is a remedy for the wise...it is only effective if it goes hand in hand with self discipline"; Sir Patrick Valance, chief scientific officer to the government reiterated this point more broadly with "We cannot expect technology to solve all the problems we are facing...we may ask for technological solutions...however they are only effective with changes in behaviour."
Despite the medical, hygienic and technological advances since the 15-1800s when our average lifespan was 30-40 years, bringing us now to an average life expectancy of around 70-80 years, epidemiologists have recently said that there is now a danger that our behaviours (such as those causing the preventable T2 diabetes) may be curtailing it! There is a lot of support, there are a lot of innovations, tablets, tools, there is a lot that can be done to help whatever predicament we find ourselves in - BUT we need to take some responsibility for our good health - mental, physical and emotional - ourselves.
I do want to make it clear at this point that I am NOT talking about the need for society change when it comes to toxic work practices - it is clear there is more that can be done on a broader scale; neither am I discussing the individual cases where people's lived experiences have worn them down so much they don't know where to start and need extra support before we even look at responsibility...I just mean on average...we can rely on so much - BUT there is often something we can do ourselves.
Are you a reactor or a creator?
This is something I offered as part of an observation I gave to a client recently who demonstrated superb problem solving, but was feeling very much that this was because only problems were landing on their doorstep.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back from the fire-fighting, and ask ourselves - what life do I really want to be living...and then start to take baby steps...and I MEAN baby steps - to create/build/grow it for ourselves (while still also beating back flames when necessary).
Reclaiming our agency...or perhaps recognising we have some at all can seem so simple and obvious yet it is often difficult to achieve.
Lived experiences can shape our thinking and current situation...but thinking can be "unthought", and situations can be changed
Not all of us will have had a smooth upbringing...many will have faced trauma, sadly far beyond growing pains...sometimes that experience will have been from people we do not hold any malice against, they were just trying their best. As such we must learn to recognise the rules, strategies, thoughts that were either:
- "unconsciously absorbed" from those we spent time with - whether through seeing them as role models, or their own words to us
- "strategies" we developed to cope when things got tough eg. if you have been brought up in a chaotic household, you may have developed the "strategy" of the "peacemaker" or he person who "needs to sort it all out".
...neither of those behaviours are necessarily 100% authentic to who we are and who we would like to be, but they are who we may have (had to) become.
However, we CAN learn.
1. Start reflecting on your thinking
When you have a strong opinion on something, or a strong desire to act in a certain way - ask yourself - why that might be. Is it a strategy - eg. you need to problem solve because no-one else will help you; or that's 'who you are'; or because otherwise others will kick off...or many many other reasons
Then, if you have identified that the action or thought may not be completely how you feel about the situation - see if you can identify how you DO feel eg: Actually I'm rather cross I'm even thinking about this as it's nothing to do with me; or I don't even care about the outcome - I've got my own life to live...or again many other options.
and then - try to identify what the ideal out come (for you) would be and explore different causes of action to achieve that...so your focus is on the outcome YOU want, not simply solving the situation alone (often for the another person!!)
2. Try and get better in touch with YOUR needs
Many years behaving in a certain way and we can forget what we truly enjoy and love from life...if you can catch yourself enjoying something, try to make a mental note of it - and do it again in the near future.
3. Outline what you want your ideal life to look like
- What do you look like?
- Where do you work/play/live?
- Who is in your life (and who is not)?
- How do you want to be remembered/what legacy do you want to leave?
This will also give you some inner guidance with regards to meeting life head on...knowing what you want and stand for doesn't mean problems won't arrive that you need to navigate, but you may gain a bit more clarity as to which ones are yours to deal with and the outcome you are seeking from your actions.
"Dorothy, you had the power all along"
While help is often available, use that as additional to your own capabilities and empowerment as a creator. While Dorothy may not have changed a thing about her journey to Oz because she learned so much and saw people in a different light, she still had to click her heels together at the end and request to go home. I'm not saying you need to curtail your personal growth and learning from the experiences you face, but I am saying if you aren't learning or growing, but simply becoming exhausted, then how much will it hurt to see if taking affirmative action in a way that feels best to you authentically might bring about a different outcome? Of course things can still go wrong, but I personally find it easier (and carries far less resentment) to recover from something that was my mess to create than clean up someone else's that I got involved in!!
What if I fall? (Yes but what if you fly?)
Yes, there is always that possibility, but as I said, I think I would prefer to know I tried my best for me in the process...and if you know what you want, and are taking positive steps to get there...what if you fly...at least for a little while...isn't that moment of joy better than none at all?
Our future is shaped by our behaviours and choices which become habits - we need to remember to take up our part in that by making sure those choices are ours.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt