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I think something's missing from my life, but I can't change now!

answered 10:04 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
anonymous anonymous
I feel like my life is passing me by like a blur but I am so busy and stressed out all of the time trying to manage a job and 3 kids and a heavy mortgage and all of the driving to hockey and ballet and tae kwan do every minute of every day that I do not know how to slow things down. I feel discontent is the best way to put it but there is nothing wrong with my life from an outsiders perspective I am living the dream. Slowing down isn’t an option for now and I don’t think I can or want to do anything drastic but I don’t want to look back on it all later and realize I should have listened to my inner voice and did things differently. I feel uneasy most often at night and when I wake up in the morning before I get too busy to think about it anymore.

Art Matthews Says...

Your one paragraph neatly wraps up your conundrum, but I don't actually see a question there. If I have it right, you are dissatisfied with the life you're living and want something different than what you have. Or you think you do, you aren't certain. You even think you know what that something is (to slow down and live a more enriched life, rather than walk through it), but you are trapped due to the fact that "Slowing down isn't an option."

Anyone facing a need to change something in their lives, faces traversing the Stages of Change: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation/Determination, Action/Willpower, and Maintenance. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website defines the stages as:

Pre-contemplation: Avoidance. That is, not seeing a problem behavior or not considering change.

Contemplation: Acknowledging that there is a problem but struggling with ambivalence. Weighing pros and cons and the benefits and barriers to change.

Preparation/Determination: Taking steps and getting ready to change.

Action/Willpower: Making the change and living the new behaviors, which is an all-consuming activity.

Maintenance: Maintaining the behavior change that is now integrated into the person's life.

At present you are in the Contemplation Stage, knowing that there is a problem and weighing the pros and cons of change but the risks of changing outweigh the benefits of changing for you at this time. And -- this may sound cruel -- you might have to suffer a bit more before you are spurred into action.

Those times when you are able to pay attention to how you feel and you feel the most dissatisfied are times when you aren't preoccupied with the needs of others. So this is time when you can pay attention to your needs and the greater needs of your family. Take that time at the beginning and end of the day to reflect quietly on what you would imagine life would look like were it to slow down. How would you see that different life looking; how would you all be behaving differently? What are the barriers to achieving this different life? Are they real or imagined? Are you just following the path you are on because of inertia, the force that keeps an object moving in the direction it's heading? Or do you actually have what you think you want, but you aren't living in the moment to appreciate the good in what you have?

Before you can consider making changes, you need to know what your goals are and what can reasonably be done to make it happen. It might require considering if everything you are doing is really that important to everyone involved. Because this change will also impact other people, there may be pushback or a lack of control you will experience in getting change to happen.

My recommendation (even though you haven't really asked for one) is to find a counselor who works with Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Motivational Interviewing or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. These three different approaches will allow you to problem solve the conflict you are having, develop the motivation and determination to make changes if you see fit, or to reduce the stress you are experiencing due to your hectic life so that you can engage in it and appreciate the good in what you have.

I would not discount this feeling you have. This awareness is akin to driving a car and suddenly catching yourself not paying full attention. Perhaps you almost bumped the car ahead of you at a stoplight. If you continue to drive in this state, a serious accident might happen. It may be time to bring yourself back to awareness and focusing on exactly what you are doing while you are doing it. If you are like most people though, you might slip back to the Pre-contemplation Stage one or more times before you come to believe the problem really exists and that you are going to do something about it. That's typical and perhaps even necessary for a person to commit to the change for good.

My best to you as you contemplate a different and hopefully more fulfilling life.


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