Is the life you’re living today ideal in all areas? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes we get to experience periods where all is right in our world. For most people, however, those are rare windows. This means we are often experiencing gaps between how we’d like things to be and how they are now.
The gap between where we are now and our ideal is always a doorway to opportunity. It is an invitation to choose to make changes that move us closer to the life we imagine for ourselves.
By now, you’ve probably learned to handle whatever comes your way. You cope, you make things work, and you manage. But that doesn’t give us an extraordinary life. Here are some critical steps to minding the gap:
Consider the areas of your life that are most important to you such as:
Fun and enjoyment
For each one, ask yourself: “Am I making it work or am I living my ideal in this area?”
Identify your top one or two that you’d most like to move closer to ideal.
Ask yourself: “What is one thought you could shift or action you could take that would create a change that results in moving closer to your ideal?” Remember to be patient with yourself and create small steps as you are working toward closing the gaps. We sometimes have to overcome long time patterns and beliefs to create these changes. It took time to get where we are so allow yourself time to move into a new way of being.
Focus on the new thought or take the new action and then observe the impact that has in the area you’re working on and make an adjustment if you didn’t quite get the outcome you were hoping for. For example, if you feel reducing stress at work would get you closer to an ideal work environment for you and those around you, create your strategies for how you will do this. You may decide to give yourself a few minutes every few hours to step away and recenter yourself. You could set up calendar reminders that show up with inspiring messages throughout your day. Spend a week practicing this new behavior and then evaluate the impact it had.
Repeat what works. If your strategy worked, keep incorporating it in your day. If it didn’t, experiment with a new approach. Focus on only one or, at most, two areas and trust that changes you make in one area will usually have a ripple effect into other areas. If you change too much at once, it becomes difficult to know what made the difference or to sustain the changes.
How does minding the gap lead to sustainable change? When you learn to check in with yourself on a regular basis and assess what’s working and what could be working better, and when you implement a new approach and observe the impact, then tweak, if necessary to produce a change. You can see improvements and build confidence that you have the capacity to successfully achieve results that change your life.
How can this help your patients and those you care for? When others in life are struggling in one or more areas, being able to ask them, “what would you rather be experiencing right now?” helps them identify the gap. You can then ask them what one small change they could make in that moment to move at least a little closer to their ideal. Even the smallest change will bring some relief and sense of having more control and choice than perhaps they thought they had.
Over time, repeating this process helps to not just identify what we want but moves closer to it and sustains the changes we make along the way to our ideal.
Several years ago, while dining with Matthew Zachary, the founder and CEO of Stupid Cancer, the world’s largest nonprofit for young adult cancer survivors, he offered some sage advice to an eager newbie wanting to make a difference.
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