On occasion, I will be posting thought related to our Journeys to find a life well lived on Psychology Today.
Our stories, and the challenges we experience in our lives, seem so unique to us, yet in reality, these challenges and the resultant “pings” on our mental wellness can have both short-term and longer-lasting impacts. No matter what our station in life or the stage of our journey, there are five important “lands” that we can visit to ensure that our journey to mental wellness is both effective and lasting.
1. The Land of Stories
Start with a meaningful scan of your inner and outer life. Ask and answer the question, “How am I really showing up?” in both your relational world with others and your inner world of emotions and self-talk. What are the microscopic truths of your life, the impacts on others, and the perceived obstacles you continually encounter? Most importantly, how do you discover these traps and identify them as such? One way is to ask some folks you trust for their feedback and explore this with them.
One of the tools that I use with my clients is to ask them to write three stories about themselves. The first is called the “persona story.” This story describes how you hope to be perceived in the outer world. This story would answer the questions “Who are you?” and “Do you do what’s important to you?” The interesting thing about these questions is that the answers emanate from your ego. This may not be an accurate representation of who you show up as, but it is what you hope to be putting out into the world.
The second story is called “the inner story.” The inner story is the self-talk that exists in the private chambers of your mind about who you are and the life you lead. The third story is “the story of possibility.” This story represents your vision, your values, and the hopes and dreams you have for your life. It is, in a sense, the resolution of the first two stories.
2. The Land of Questions
The second land that we can visit in our journey to improved wellness answers some all-important questions: “Why would I want to improve my wellness?”; “How do I want to show up in the world?”; “What are some goals that I have for myself?”; and “What’s at stake for myself in making these changes?” These questions parrot an important relationship between the first land and the second land. It lies in the intersection of the two that we can hold our vision of the life that we hope for and intersect it with the reality of what our current life looks like. The gap between the two becomes an important propellant for change. If that propellant is strong enough, has enough of a sense of urgency to it, and you can create enough focus, then the opportunity exists that you can actually make the changes you hope for in service of your wellness.
3. The Land of Origins
The third land represents the origins of the repeating patterns of behavior that have an impact on our wellness. When we can look deeply at our core beliefs or the recurring triggers of negative behaviors in our life and the core causality of those factors, we can begin to change ourselves from the inside out. Examining the root cause of ongoing challenging behavior patterns allows us to create change in ourselves that is lasting and meaningful for our wellness.
4. The Land of Learning
The fourth dimension in our journey to optimize our wellness is that of identifying and considering skill upgrades in our life. We can’t expect to change or become better if we continue the same behaviors or mindsets that got us where we are now.
Learning new skills sets the table for behavior change in a positive manner. There are inner skills that we can acquire, like self-reflection through journaling, and there are outer skills that we can develop, like better listening. Identification and development of new skills to support our overall wellness is critical to its optimization.
5. The Land of Lasting Change
The fifth area we will visit is called “Land and Expand.” Here, we attempt the most difficult move of all in the optimization game: “sticking the landing!” Sticking with and finally achieving our goals is the most difficult of all accomplishments in the wellness arena.
How do we stick our landings? There are several things that research shows us need to be present. The first and most important is a sense of urgency about changing. Along with urgency, we need a strict focus, that is, knowing exactly what is needed. Lastly, all of the positive change we bring to our wellness is for nothing if we cannot measure success, get feedback on our progress, and celebrate our wins.
The last action that you can take, which is often overlooked, is to teach others what you are learning. I call this the “T3 Model,” where you are the learner while someone teaches you, and then you, in turn, teach someone else, giving them the benefits of your newly acquired skills. This approach goes a long way to solidify your commitment to the value of the change and your steadfastness to stay with your plan and goals.
In conclusion, having a process like the Five Lands to visit on your journey to optimal mental wellness is critical to your ultimate success, and your travels to those lands can be exciting and rewarding. The prize is expanded mental wellness and all of the gifts that accompany this awesome state of mind.