Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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The Only “What If” Question We Ever Need to Ask Again

I cannot count how many times I wonder things like, “what if this happens” or “what if that happens” and “oh my god, but what if…?!”

These questions and focusing on the future are not nearly as helpful as I want them to be. Instead of getting answers and feeling better about things, I often end up with more questions and feeling a lot worse.

So … I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best to refrain from asking any “what if” question EXCEPT for the only one that actually helps me experience more peace, ease and flow in my life. One that actually provides me with more answers and feeling better than before I asked it.

Wanna know what the one “what if” question is ….?

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WHAT IF IT ISN’T TRUE?

I imagine many of us have stories that we tell ourselves on a daily (if not hourly) basis that limit us or hold us back. These stories usually aren’t fairytales or even awesomely powerful “I can do it” stories.

They are more often than not stories that tell us how we aren’t good enough or why things don’t work out for us or why we could never do this or that.

It is these stories that make up our belief system — about ourselves and about the world around us.

And it is our beliefs that beget our actions and behaviors. So … if we want to change a behavior, the first place to look is at the stories we tell ourselves and what beliefs we carry.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

If we want to start moving the needle in the direction towards global sanity, we need to start by looking within at the beliefs we each hold that are driving the same ol’ behavior over and over again.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start this process.

Acknowledge that a story and belief even exist.

Before we can change anything, we must first admit it exists. We need to admit that the beliefs we hold to be absolute truth are just based on stories that we have been telling ourselves for as long as we can remember. And while these stories are based on our personal experiences or the experiences others have shared with us, they are still our creative interpretation of reality which started to form our view of ourselves and the world. Before we can do anything else, we need to take the first step (albeit possibly the hardest) and say, “This is a story I keep telling myself.”

Question the belief.

Now that we have acknowledged that our beliefs are nothing more than stories we made up and reinforced time and time again, we can begin to question them. We can start to ask ourselves, “what if this isn’t true?” Another way to do this is to question what other possibilities exist? And one of my favorite ways to reframe our beliefs is to ask “who would I be without this story?” This helps us take more responsibility in how we are behaving based on the story or thought we choose to believe. The more often we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat and make powerful, conscious choices on what we believe and how we act, the more often we will experience peace, ease and flow in the world.

Replace your stories with new ones.

Once we start shifting our perspective and see that there are other stories that are equally as valid and probably even serve us better, then we can start to form new beliefs. This can be done by establishing some positive habits and rituals like gratitude, affirmations, setting soulful intentions and focusing on that which we want to bring more of into our lives.

The great thing about stories is that they can be rewritten.

I get it — we like our stories. We think they are who we are. They are comfortable and we know them all by heart!

But when they hold us back and limit us from being our best authentic self, then it is time to get out the red pen and start making some edits. It might even mean scrapping the whole story altogether and starting over from scratch.

What is one story you keep telling yourself over and over again that you are willing to acknowledge, question and possibly even replace? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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3 Dangerous Myths We Live By

How many times have you heard one of these before? 

“You haven’t lived until you’ve…!” 

“Happiness is the key to life.”

“Live up to your full potential.”

While these are often said with the best intentions to inspire, encourage and uplift, they judge reality and place unrealistic expectations on people.

What if I told you there was another way to find the “key” to living a full life?

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I’ll be honest; I bought these “truths” hook, line and sinker for many years. Then I became familiar with a different perspective — all we have is this moment. And, by doing my best to live in each moment fully, I no longer need to chase after these falsities to live a full life.

So, what’s the “key”?

Be present in each moment. And, dispel the myths we keep telling ourselves.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these myths and explore another perspective that is less harmful and more empowering. 

“You haven’t lived until you’ve…”

For starters, this statement insinuates that someone currently alive is somehow not “living.” How can that be? Each time we take a breath we are living, right?

It also seems to insinuate that my living isn’t as “worthy” as someone else’s simply because I have not done something. And, well, that’s just plain silly.

I prefer to accept the life experience I have than to compare myself to others or think that somehow my life isn’t worthwhile because I haven’t climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

How about a new phrase? “You haven’t lived until you’ve become aware of and accepted each and every moment as it is.” Still a little dictatorial — and a little wordy, I know — but hopefully you get the point.

Happiness is the key to life.

While I have nothing against happiness and creating more of it, I worry that an over emphasis on one emotion can set us up for disappointment.

Happiness — like sadness and anger — is a part of being alive. And, while it’s great to cultivate more moments of happiness in life, at the end of the day, no matter how hard we try we won’t rid ourselves of the other emotions.

I prefer to be at peace with whatever emotion or situation presents itself in the moment — by observing, accepting and expanding what is — than strive to always be happy (which is impossible).

New phrase? “Peace is the key to life.”

Live up to your full potential.

Again, not intentionally negative, but potentially depression-inducing to believe that if I don’t get that promotion or become the next Oprah or have two kids and a white-picket fence then I’m not living up to my full potential.

How in the world are we to measure our full potential? “Potential” is something yet to occur so we will never know just how big — or small — it can be. So, to strive to fulfill our capacity to become or do something in the future is, well, quite insane.

I’d much prefer to live up to my “full potential” in each moment by being 100% present in whatever I am doing whether that is listening to a friend, doing the dishes, giving a presentation, reading a book or saving a life.

Strive to do this each day of your life, and you can confidently say that you are “living up to your full potential.”

Okay, so you might be thinking, “Can’t this chick just relax and not take everything so seriously?!”

Well, no. I can’t.

It is getting clearer and clearer to me how much unnecessary suffering we cause on a daily basis. And, much of this comes from our beliefs that our lives aren’t “good enough,” that we aren’t “happy enough” or we haven’t achieved everything we “should have.”

The silver lining?

We can all live full, peaceful lives by dispelling these myths and replacing them with living in the moment and accepting what is.

What other myths might be harming our experience of life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Limitless Beliefs – Lesson #4

Evolution is a process. Life is a journey, not a destination. Transformation takes time. As I continue growing, changing, learning, evolving, I find that sometimes I “fall short” and need to be reminded of the lessons I am trying to learn and strategies to move me forward. This week I am going to share one “lesson” a day that has recently come in handy for me and might serve as a helpful reminder for others.

Who would I be without that thought?

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There are countless times when I limit myself with my own beliefs. Instead of being true to myself in the moment, I find myself saying things like “I always go with the flow, so that wouldn’t bother me” or “I’m a person who really doesn’t like change – I need security and to feel comfortable.” When these sorts of thoughts cross my mind, I pause and ask myself gently, “Who would I be without that thought? How would I act if I didn’t believe it?” This helps me come back to being in the moment and respond in a very present and authentic way by not responding based on how I’ve done things in the past or how I think I should do something, but rather what feels right for me in that moment.

What limiting beliefs are you holding onto? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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The Present Driven Life

Thousands of inspirational books have been written to help people realize their “true potential” or find meaning in life. While the concept behind this is intended to encourage and uplift, I have started to notice that this thinking can actually be quite stressful and lead to a lot of self-doubt and depression. When we get lost in the idea of our goals or the results or even our own potential, we lose sight of the action itself taking place in this moment.

What if the purpose of your life is simply to be fully present in whatever it is you are doing right now and have a willingness to enjoy and learn from the life happening to you?

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Many times in my adult life I have asked myself if I am living up to my “true potential.” This happened again recently as I found myself once more shifting gears and changing careers. I found that as I questioned my potential and whether or not I was fulfilling it, I felt stress and angst about life. Then I listened to a Byron Katie podcast and heard something that changed my life. She reminded me that by being 100% present no matter what I am doing — whether it’s washing the dishes, listening to a friend, or teaching a class — I was “reaching my full potential.” I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It seems like many of us struggle at times with this idea of finding a life’s purpose or knowing if we are realizing our full potential. I would like to share a few thoughts from Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer that helped me shift my perspective and feel less stress and anxiety about trying to figure it all out.

  • “It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.”
  • “Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
  • “There may be things to be attained or acquired.…Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
  • “When you are free of ‘becoming’ as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear.”
  • “Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.”
  • “Don’t waste a moment of life trying to make other things happen; appreciate the moments you are given.”
  • “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” 

When we believe we are living a life without meaning or feel anxious when we do not know what our purpose is supposed to be, we can get into a spiral of negativity. But when we make a choice to be present and accept what is, we can begin to fully experience the life we have and, by doing so, lead a “meaningful” life.

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to “I’m Not Living Up to My Full Potential” with Byron Katie for additional perspective on this topic.

What is one thing you have done recently and did the best job you could in that moment? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

 


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A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Overuse

Have you ever found yourself rehashing a conversation you had with someone? Have you ever spent hours wondering if you should say something to a certain person or what might happen if you do? Have you ever spun for days on all of the possible outcomes or scenarios of a specific situation?

As humans, we have evolved this amazing tool called the “mind” and along with it the ability to hypothesize and create stories. This served us very well on the savannah, say, when we saw tracks in the dirt. This desire and ability to figure out where the track leads and what might lie at the end of it probably saved our life. Unfortunately, most of the stories we now create in our minds not only DON’T save our life, they can be quite harmful to our overall health and well-being.

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One of my favorite past-times is to play the “what if” game. Even those of us who are self-aware and seeking peace in our lives can get trapped in this cycle. A certain amount of questioning and analysis can be useful and is the very thing that got me to where I am today. However, as Eckhart Tolle says, “Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking.”

In my experience, we tend to over-analyze things in the hope that we “figure out” what it means or the “right thing” to do. The thing is, we cannot predict the future no matter how good we are at hypothesizing. And, “If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body.” (Tolle) 

So, why not end the incessant thinking and instead remain present and create space with our awareness? Here are a few things you might try:

Become aware of any feeling in your body. Sometimes that is all the data we need to make a decision.
Create space by observing your thoughts, not judging them, and breathe. For more information on this, read The Untethered Soul
Ask yourself “who would I be without this thought?” Byron Katie has some helpful tools as part of “The Work” which teaches us how to inquire our thoughts.

We cannot know for sure what the outcome will be no matter how much we analyze it. We cannot change what we have done no matter how much we think about it. All we can do is be in this moment; create space by bringing awareness to our bodies, thoughts, and feelings (where thoughts and bodies meet); and make choices in the moment that have integrity for ourselves and those around us.

What tools have you found successful to “power off” the mind? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Leave Roller Coasters to the Theme Parks

My sister recently went to a theme park and shared with me that as she gets older she is not able to recuperate as easily after riding a roller coaster. This is how I feel about the emotional roller coasters we choose to ride on a regular basis. While the ups and downs can seem exhilarating (or even necessary) at times, they are actually quite stressful to our bodies and overall psychological state. I don’t know about you, but I would rather ride the lazy river through life and leave roller coasters to the theme parks.

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I have a tendency to feel things strongly and have spent much of my life experiencing the extremes of a situation. There was even a time when I thought I was bipolar. As I get older, I have less tolerance for this dramatic up and down — both in theme parks and in my mental and emotional life. I desire to be at peace as often as possible and not allow any high or low to debilitate me.

Stoics and Buddhists figured this out thousands of years ago — life is full of more ease and joy when there are fewer ups and downs. There will always be happiness and sadness, highs and lows, moments of ecstasy and moments of doubt but being mindful of a few things can help us shorten the gap between these moments in our lives and instill a more constant sense of peace. Here are a few things you can do to help shorten the gap.

Ask yourself if you have expectations or are attached to a specific outcome. Challenge yourself to let go of those expectations. This is another Buddhist principle — the fewer expectations we place on things, the happier (or more at peace) we can be. We could all do well to heed Gay Hendricks’ advice from his book Conscious Living, “By opening your heart to all of life — but clinging to none of it — you are participating in life fully.”

Ask yourself if you are judging the moment or outcome. Try to avoid labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong. It is sometimes hard to know the purpose of a moment until the moment has passed. Byron Katie says, “What you’re believing is what you take with you.” If we believe that this is the worst (or best) thing that could happen to us, then that is what we will experience. We can just as easily believe that this is just the way it is, acknowledge the moment and any emotion we feel, and just be.

Remember that everything is impermanent and that “this too shall pass.” Recite this phrase to yourself when you find yourself at the pit of despair — and even use it as a reality check when you are on Cloud 9. Once we accept that nothing lasts, it is easier to move through this moment to the next.

Now this is not to say that we should not feel happiness or sadness, pleasure or pain. We will feel all of these things many times throughout our life. The goal for me is to acknowledge those emotions as what they are and not let them control me by placing judgment or attachment on them. I now prefer to flow with the ups and downs rather than let them spin me around and turn me upside down.

What is your initial reaction to living a life free of emotional roller coasters? What is your biggest challenge or concern with this concept? Join the discussion by leaving a comment.