Are you truly engaged in your life? When I say “engaged” I’m talking about feeling a degree of fulfillment and feeling “in synch” with yourself, your interests, and what you value. I’m talking about the lack of feelings of emptiness, chronic uncertainty or confusion, tension, anxiety, or distraction.
In my practice I often talk about “The Bicycle of Life”, in which there is a “Work Wheel” and a “Love Wheel”.
Roughly speaking, the theory goes like this: to live a truly fulfilling life, you must have some sense of four very basic fundamentals which are as follows
1) what you like
2) what you don’t like
3) what you want
4) what you don’t want
I call the sum of these four things your “True Self”.
If your life reflects these four things, then you are living a life that is in line with your True Self and you will have more joy, more energy, less depression and anxiety, more creativity, and more emotional generosity with others (including your family.) You will be truly engaged with your life.
If your life does NOT reflect the four components of the True Self, then you are “out of synch” with yourself, which leads to more conflict (both inter- and intrapersonal), more anxiety and depression, less energy, and less of the real YOU available to the world. It can also lead to acting out behaviors such as infidelity, inappropriate spending, drinking and drugging, excessive gambling or other risky behaviors, etc., all in an attempt to fill the emptiness and disconnect within yourself.
“So”, you ask, “where does The Bicycle of Life idea come into play?”
Glad you asked.
The concept of The Bicycle of Life, complete with its Work Wheel and Love Wheel helps us to conceptualize our lives in terms of how in line we are with our True Selves (i.e. what we want, what we don’t want, what we like, and what we don’t like.)
The Work Wheel includes all of your efforts in the “work” realm. These include any vocation, avocation, hobbies, chores, etc.
The Love Wheel includes all of your relationships, including with your children if you have them, your spouse, friends, neighbors, coworkers, family of origin, etc.
Now, here comes the leap. Are you ready?
Through the Work Wheel and the Love Wheel of The Bicycle of Life, we have an opportunity to find out who we really are; in other words our True Selves.
Most of us lose touch with their True Selves somewhere in childhood, when our primary caregivers, try as they might, failed to use an LVAC-type approach in raising us (LVAC= Listen, Validate, Ask, Commentà see previous posts or visit http://www.LVACNation.com for more on LVAC), thus helping us disconnect not only from them, but also from our True Selves.
(Ever notice how sublime and self-assured children are up to a certain age? They have no shame, excessive guilt, overwhelming fear, hesitation, self-censuring, or self-loathing– until we teach them all those things with our anxiety or anger-driven Comments and lack of restraint. They are simply in line with their True Selves, until we inadvertently help mess that up for them, God bless us all!)
But thankfully, for both ourselves and our children, we have, as adults, these two tremendous opportunities (i.e. the Work Wheel and Love Wheel), to find, or re-find our True Selves in order to live lives of full engagement despite our early childhood experiences with our primary caregivers.
So, remember, every experience you are negotiating in your “work” or “relationships” today is really all about YOU. You will come up against YOURSELF first in all of these things:
Trouble with your boss? Learn about what he/she is triggering in YOU and where it comes from.
Afraid of taking a chance on a project? Find out more about your fears and what they are really about.
Feeling a disconnect between yourself and your spouse? Schedule 15-20 minutes each evening just to talk with each other once the chaos of the day finally abates.
Chronically overwhelmed or angry with your kids? Chances are that these sticky points or “buttons” are the same ones your parents had with you, so you never learned how they were supposed to be negotiated appropriately. Try doing the opposite of what you normally would do; or watch how your spouse handles these situations after you share with them what’s being triggered for you (it’s fairly uncommon that both spouses will have the exact same triggers with the kids, which means that while you may be vulnerable to acting inappropriately in a given circumstance, your spouse may not be.)
Starting to date (online dating, offline dating, blind dating, etc.)? Remember that everything you are experiencing with your dates is really about YOU. Instead of trying to second guess the other person and give them what you think they want by behaving or looking a certain way, focus on being honest with yourself and with them, and let the rest be up to your True Selves. It will either work out, or not.
On this last note, you might imagine that many people come to me either in the midst of relationship problems, or while involved with the dating scene. And you’d be right.
It never ceases to amaze me how badly these good people want to appear to be a certain way in order to “succeed” on the date or to “not get rejected”.
And with the advent of online dating this phenomenon has become even more patently observable. People will literally ask me how they should respond to emails and other materials in order to move forward on to the next step in the dating process as if it were a series of exams meant to prove some sort of minimum competency or certification.
I have to remind them that how they handle the questions and other interactions with a potential mate, and, in fact, how they feel about the questions themselves is what’s most important. It’s the process itself which brings us back to the True Self, not the result.
We are supposed to, in a sense, use these experiences to learn about ourselves more than we should be worried about whether or not any particular person will want us.
Stay true to yourself, and use your experiences in the Work Wheel and Love Wheel of The Bicycle of Life to help you reconnect with your True Self. That’s the goal of a live well lived, and it will affect both you and those around you in profound ways as you experience and share who you are really meant to be.
Unlock the power of engagement with your life and feel the surge of energy, creativity, tranquility, and assuredness that comes with it!
All The Best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.