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How to Do The Right Thing

Understanding the difference between what’s “right” and what’s “right-for-you” means that you can live intentionally, make choices that are fulfilling, self-motivating and ultimately help you thrive. This article first appeared in the July 2015 Edition of Paleo Magazine Insider

Do the right thing (3)Launa is a marketing maven with great professional connections whose talent is recognized and valued by all who work with her.  Despite her success she dreams of starting a life coaching practice, but can’t seem to get the business off it’s feet.

Jeanna is a relatively new mom whose baby girl is the light of her life. She is happily married, professionally successful and a beacon of positivity and inspiration for her friends and coworkers, but she can’t help but feel that parts of her life, and especially work are leaving her underwhelmed.

Chris works for a great company, where he has the opportunity to make real changes in people’s lives everyday. He is insightful, driven, creative and always involved in new and amazing projects. Yet, too often he ends-up feeling unsettled and eventually uninspired by those same choices.

What do these three people have in common? To the outside world they appear balanced,  satisfied, and happy, but they would tell you they are stuck. The choices they make although seemingly right, leave them feeling underwhelmed and uninspired. Why? Because they are not right for them.

It’s not about what’s right, it’s about what’s right for you!

A shift occurs in adulthood where we stop thinking about what we really want, and start simply reacting to the world around us. Instead of making choices based on our values and needs, we make decisions based on assumptions about what’s right, or worse yet we don’t think, we just react to events. This disharmony between who we really are and what we do is one of the prices of adulthood, and it leads to situations like the ones Launa, Jeanna and Chris are facing, where choices that seem right don’t lead to greater satisfaction or fulfillment. The price of adulthood is a result of too many demands, too many options, too much stimulation, and not enough down time to check in and consider how  how we feel about our choices and their effects on our lives.

[bctt tweet=”Right is what society tells you you should do. Right-for-you accounts for your dreams and desires.”]

This is where the concept of “right” vs. “right for you” comes into play. “Right” is what society and everyone else tells you you should do. It is the most logical, or responsible choice given a set a circumstances. Right, is doing what you need in order to achieve a goal you set for yourself way back when. It is the prescription that that health/life/professional/parenting/fitness expert gave you when you were trying to make a change. Right, is not a bad idea, but it doesn’t necessarily work for you. You know when you are making choices that are only right because they leave you feeling safe, responsible, and universally acceptable; but at best they are marginally satisfying, and at worst entirely unfulfilling.

“Right-for-you” and “just right”  often overlap – sometimes a lot, and other times very little – think of a Venn diagram (two intersecting circles with overlap), but “right-for-you” takes into account more than situational factors, societal norms and expert models. “Right-for-you” includes understanding what you need to feel fulfilled. It accounts for your dreams and desires, your values and your wants. “Right-for-you” means that the choices you make are in alignment with who you are and what you need TODAY. Making decisions based on what is “right-for-you” allows you to thrive. “Right-for-you” is best defined when you can answer this simple question: “What makes me feel deeply fulfilled?”

What if I don’t know what’s right for me?

Many adults struggle to answer the question about fulfillment, and actually become visibly anxious and uncomfortable when asked to provide a personal definition of happiness or satisfaction. As this awareness dawns on them, people are often shocked at how out of touch they are with their needs and wants. If youare one of those people, BREATHE, the answers you seek are right here. You can access them, but it requires a bit of time, some self-reflection and a shift from being reactive to becoming intentional.

In the Paleo and Primal worlds, we talk at length about being in-tune with our bodies, our guts, and our environment. Doing what is right for you is the next step in this process, it is about being in tune with your mind and your soul.

Am I doing what’s right for me?

For those who aren’t sure how to make the distinction between doing what’s right and what is “right-for-you,” here is a little exercise. During the next week, check in with yourself at the end of each day and answer the following questions:

  1. Are you tired? Probably, most of us are pretty busy.
  2. Do you feel overwhelmed? If you answered, yes, then this is a red flag. Regardless of how much we all love to broadcast our misery and hectic schedules over social media, feeling overwhelmed is not the same thing as being busy or tired. Being overwhelmed means that you are out of balance, and it is likely you are not focusing on choices/actions that resource you.
  3. Do you end most days feeling satisfied? This is a very personal and relative concept, but satisfaction can best be described as having a sense that life is good, that your day was worthwhile, and that there was something in there that for you. If you answered no to the satisfaction question this is your second warning. At this point, you safely say that at least some, ifnot many, of your choices aren’t meeting those fulfillment needs.

How do I figure out what is right for me?

Remember, the question you are ultimately trying to answer is “What makes me feel deeply fulfilled?” Understand that, and you will be able to articulate what is right for you. Most of us, however, will fall prey to the price of adulthood, and so freeing our minds to answer this question is challenging. We end-up censoring our thoughts and limiting the scope of our response. We confuse the issue; instead of asking ourselves what fulfills us, we ask what we could do to be happier now. That is the wrong question; because we are all subject to limited time, resources, and energy, when we try to answer the “what can I do now” question first the solutions we come-up with are narrow in scope, often uninspired and ultimately frustrating. The trick is to learn how to dream again, and then to use that fantasy to figure out what excites you. From there, it is hop, skip and a jump to creating a working definition of what is right for you.

Ready? Try this exercise next and create your definition or “right for me”:

  1. During the next week take five to 10 minutes each day to sit and daydream. Allow yourself to think about what you would do if you had all the free time and resources in the world. Don’t worry about how impossible, unrealistic or over-the-top your fantasies seem.
  2. When you’re done with your daydreaming, jot down your fantasies! Keep a record of the thoughts that stood out the most, this isn’t a diary, you don’t have to write everything down, just the highlights.
  3. At the end of the week review your notes, and look for repetitive themes? Is there one particular fantasy that stands out? Write these on a separate sheet of paper.
  4. Look over your list of themes, why do these particular scenarios seem so appealing to you? What is it about the themes or the particular fantasy that would be fulfilling? Answering this question allows you to get to your and needs. Once you are there it’s a matter of creating a realistic expression (future goals) of that need.

[bctt tweet=”The price of adulthood is paid when we forget to dream, to check in with ourselves and meet our needs“]

Dreaming is great, and I cannot stress the immense value of taking time to do nothing but daydream, this exercise, however, is about making choices and living a life that aligns with your needs. This is why your final step involves looking at theme and then asking yourself how you can express that theme in your current life. The goals you set, the choices you make will now be right for you, and right for you means that you will thrive.

Living intentionally vs. reactively:

We feel overwhelmed, uninspired, dissatisfied and stressed when our lives don’t align with our needs. It is far too easy in our over-connected, never shut-off world to get caught up in reacting to our environment rather than living. The price of adulthood is paid when we forget to dream, to check in with ourselves and to make sure that the choices we make everyday meet the needs and values of the person we are. Being healthy goes beyond eating properly, moving well and getting rest; it also requires being emotionally and cognitively in-tune. Understanding the difference between what’s “right” and what’s “right-for-you” means that you can live intentionally, make choices that are fulfilling, self-motivating and ultimately help you thrive. It’s the difference between following a diet and having a model for how to eat. It’s what allows you to make the right fitness choices so you don’t stop working out two months after the new year. It’s what will lead you to flourish professionally, personally and in your relationships, because the choices you make are ones that not only meet your situational requirements, but also feed your soul.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.



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