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5 Keys: Guideposts for Intentional Living

Photo Credit: Tatum Pfieffer, DarlingRansom Photography

I sometimes find it difficult to keep a healthy balance in life. Every day on my way to work, I ponder things about myself I’m trying to fix and sometimes that alone can be overwhelming. I’m finding out that introspection is not my friend most times… but that’s another story for another day.

At work, I need to be “on.” As a personal trainer with 26 clients, I have to make sure my smile is real, my encouragement is genuine and my brain is functioning at top tier quality. Every client is unique; everyone needs a different kind of encouragement, every person comes with their own special flaws and amazing personalities, and each has high expectations for the service I provide.

As an introverted extrovert, it’s not always easy for me to be “on.” I have to learn and practice becoming more emotionally available and stable. It was like a muscle I had to build, a boundary I had to expand. As I get older and healthier emotionally, I am learning the most rewarding life comes from sacrifice. Pain and struggle are actually your friends if you work with them. I want to share 5 Keys I am learning that help me in my journey, since it really is that. A journey. I’m not perfect (sometimes I think I am, though) and I’m nowhere near “done.”

Here are my golden keys I’ve discovered in my 28 years on earth so far. Trust me, I am no expert on these, and am still living this out daily. If you have mastered these, please give yourself a high five.

And a cookie.

1. Listen.
Really listen. And don’t listen just to give a response you were formulating while the other person was talking. Ha! Everyone loves to hear themselves talk but not everyone has practiced listening. The art of listening will serve you well, find you favor and open doors. It makes people feel loved and valued, and you will never be at a lack for interesting stories.

2. Shoot for Excellence
Whether it’s with a client, in a relationship, at school, at work or doing someone a mundane favor when you really don’t want to do, it matters. I am one of the top trainers at both gyms I work at, not because I know everything but because I work hard, I push myself to figure out what’s wrong and I don’t give up. I ask my clients questions and I spend hours each week creating customized fitness plans for people instead of doing it on the spot like many trainers I see. I dedicate time to getting better at my craft and I ask my managers how I can improve. I look for feedback, whether positive or constructive and I choose to work hard. When you strive for excellence and not mediocrity, it will bring you to the top. Which brings me to my next key..

3. Work on your character
Your reputation is something you build for 40 years and can destroy in five seconds. What you do when no one’s watching is what really matters. What you do with what you’ve been given is your responsibility. What comes out of your mouth is a result of what’s in your heart, so work on what’s in your heart and what comes out of your mouth will change.

Don’t compromise your values, and if you don’t know what they are then figure out what your foundational beliefs are. Foundational beliefs, or “core beliefs,” are the building blocks on which you stack your life. Strong positive core beliefs are things like, “I am worthy of love just the way I am,” and, “There is always enough.” On the other hand, negative core beliefs can sound something like, “People can’t be trusted,” or, “Something is wrong with me.” One way you can work on increasing your capacity for better foundation beliefs is dig deep within yourself, write down five fears then contrast those with five positive opposing beliefs. Read and repeat those 5 positive beliefs out loud until you actually believe them.

One of my foundational beliefs is that I will always have hope. A favorite quote of mine from Steve Backlund, a pastor out of Redding, California is, “There are no hopeless circumstances. There are only hopeless people.” If I live out of that, and truly believe it, it will show up in every area of my life. There are still character issues in myself I don’t like, but I don’t give up on working on them or let them fester. I invite counsel from trusted mentors to tell me where I’m messing up and how to fix those messes, and then I do it. Character isn’t something you achieve overnight. It takes years of consistent choices based on your foundational beliefs. So figure out what you believe and stick to it.

4. Let Yourself Feel
This took me 25 years to figure out. My entire life I felt disconnected and lonely, was extremely depressed and emotionally numb. The eating disorder I lived through for nearly a decade made all these feelings worse, and by the time I chose recovery, I felt completely destroyed inside. I was at the mercy of my tidal waves of emotions. I had spent the majority of my life covering up major foundational root issues like shame, fear, control, abandonment and rejection with things like drugs, relationships, cutting, intentional disconnection and suicidal fantasies. I spent most moments trying to avoid feelings of pain, which unbeknownst to me, actually made them worse.

I remember the first day of my recovery; I got out a small journal, sat down on the couch and let myself feel. It was awful, yet beautiful at the same time. Before I started, I felt certain that if I actually sat there and allowed myself to feel all of the pain I was avoiding, it would crush me- I thought I would literally die of anguish. But I forced myself to sit there, over and over again, day after day, and write the feelings that were coming up. I chose not to judge myself for them and I just wrote them as they came. I learned that feelings are messengers, and when you sit down and accept their packages and read their letters, the feelings become less and less intense, and eventually, you start to feel good things again. It takes time. I’m not even 4 years into this process and still, my tendency is to run from pain and negative emotions. But this was one of the best things I ever did, and am still doing.

5. Forgive
Forgiveness is crucial. Forgiveness is freeing. Forgiveness is not saying that what someone did was right, or that you should just suck it up and get over it. It’s letting someone off the hook so that hook leaves you as well. Someone once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” Yikes, how true is that. Sometimes it is so hard to forgive, and that’s where I choose as an act of my will to forgive someone and let it go.

Even harder still is forgiving yourself. I spent years forgiving people who wronged me, abused me or spoke harsh things over me, but I found it ten times as hard to forgive myself. It wasn’t a one-time event, and that’s okay. Most of the time, it’s a process. But it’s worth it. Holding onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness is only hurting you. Choose life. Choose freedom. Choose forgiveness.

My hope is that now you will have new strategies and ways of thinking that are different than your normal mode of operation. You can become the person you needed when you were younger and the person you envision yourself to be. It just takes time and humility. I have not mastered these, and maybe I never will. But I am allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.

So are you.

My name is Jessie Conway, and I am a freelance writer in the Bay Area. I provide blog posts, articles, and website content for businesses and individuals. I’m an expert in natural and green living, fitness and exercise, health, wellness, and nutrition. Contact me for more information on my writing services, and I look forward to working with you!