Life Design and Strategy - Chapter 2 - Down Moments
Now that we’ve explored our memorable moments and the things that fill our buckets. The next part of this process is identifying the down moments, the things that empty our buckets
A few reflection questions to start with.
What are the things in your life that are causing you stress or anxiety?
What are the things in your life that make it hard to sleep?
What are the things that trigger negative moments?
What causes you to doubt yourself?
What do you fear?
Back when I used to smoke cigarettes, I could associate certain down moments by being aware of what triggered me wanting to smoke a cigarette. Doing a task I wasn’t aligned with, having an argument with my wife, feeling like I was in rut.
This is a really impactful exercise and it’s important to be vulnerable, honest and open. It’s about finding and facing your truth. Remember this process is about you. You don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s ok to feel selfish here, it’s ok to be honest with what you actually feel. The truth will set you free.
Be as open and honest with your down moments as you were with your memorable moments.
The people who I believe are the most successful in the world are those who are self reflective when things aren’t going well.
This exercise is nearly the most therapeutic for the people I’ve done this with. Being in a safe environment where you can get everything off your chest is liberating and one of the most important steps to achieving freedom. This exercise will set you free.
A few examples of down moments and truths.
Weight and body image - I feel overweight, I don’t feel good about how I look, I feel bloated, I need to lose weight, I’m too small, I need to gain muscle, I don’t have the time to exercise, I have bad eating habits, the way I look impacts my confidence.
Finances - job security, debt, not enough income, expenses too high, retirements, investments, gambling
Time - pulled in different directions, not enough time for myself to do what I love.
Things - home not big enough, house needs to be renovated, need a new car, clothes,
Relationships - conflict with loved ones, changes in relationships, worrying about loved ones, bullying, negative interactions, losing a loved one.
Health - illnesses, lack of motivation, anxiety, depression, addiction, a loved one is sick or passed away.
Fear - to make decisions, public speaking, asking for a raise, self doubt, imposter syndrome, I don’t feel smart or interesting, performance anxiety.
The above list is perfectly normal. It’s normal to feel and experience these things. It’s all part of life.
With one of my clients - it took us over 6 hours to figure out his ‘truth’, but once we did it changed his life. We realised that there was one thing that we needed to address and when we did it was a game changer.
A few examples of truths
I need to quit drinking alcohol
I need to move back to my home country
I need to develop my communication skills
I need to lose 20 Kilograms
I need to quit my job and start a business that I’m passionate about
I need to say sorry to my friend who I hurt
Again we will be using the 80/20 rule to identify the cause of our biggest down moment. What’s the one thing from my list that’s having the greatest impact? Take a moment or take an hour until you have an answer.
Before we work towards solving your down moment. Let’s get into the right mindset. I want you to look at it from a balcony view, remove yourself for a second. Imagine like a friend of yours was experiencing this down moment
I’ll let you in on a secret, all down moments are ‘real’ but they aren’t objective, they are subjective.
Let me explain how down moments are relative to the individual.
For example - let’s use body weight. For the past 4 years, I’ve weighed myself every day. In my head I know that when I’m under 66kgs - I feel pretty good. When I’m at 64kgs, that’s ideal. If I’m over 70kgs,, I don’t like the way I look, I feel like a failure, I feel undisciplined.
But let's put it in perspective, when I tell my friend Craig that I want to be under 65kgs and when I’m above it, I feel back. He laughs at how ridiculous this is, Craig is 6ft 5 and an athlete who weighs 100kgs+. To him my down moment sounds ridiculous. You see, our down moments and fears aren’t objective. They are only relative to us.
It’s the same with money. If person A has $1 million dollars and person B has $20,000. And they both lose $1000, it’s unlikely to impact them both in the same way.
I’m using measurable units here, to illustrate that even though the objective part of the unit (64kgs, $1,000) stays the exact same. The meaning changes significantly depending on the person and the situation.
The key here is to understand the down moments that are important to you but also to frame some perspective around them.
Here’s the simplest way to deal with down moments or situations that you feel are problem
Embrace and own it - make it a part of your story. Love it and utilise it. I’ve seen many people who’ve overcome great tragedies and they’ve used the experience to write a book, start a community or charity to help them heal. These moments can be the kindling that ignites change
Solve it - Take action - solve the situation. Write down what the problem is and take one action towards solving it.
Detach - just let it go, acknowledge that it exists, but detach yourself from it. Let it go. Think to yourself is this a problem right now that is worth my time and energy. This is a great practice especially to deal with things like an annoying email or a negative comment someone makes about you.
Another strategy is to reframe your down moment by adding some perspective.
“How many people would dream to experience my down moment”
“Have others experienced the same down moment and overcome it”
From here you can take the next step in addressing it and moving forward.
Going back to the weight example, here's a process to address it.
Identification and reason - A big down moment for me is my weight, I’m overweight, I feel sluggish and it impacts my confidence.
Perspective - If I was to survey 10 people I know or who are similar age to me. Where do I currently sit? Here you might realise that you’re actually not overweight or you will realise that you are and you need to address it.
What is one action that could address this issue. For example you could go and get the best personal trainer or nutritionist in the world and aim for an 8% body fat percentage or you could simply make a plan to lose 1 Kilo every two weeks with better portion control and a 30 min walk every day.
Confirm where you’re at and your goal (objective measurable) - I’m currently a size 16 and I want to be a size 12 or I’m currently 84kgs and I want to be 75kgs. If you can’t measure where you are at and your progress. It will be extremely difficult to achieve the outcome you want.
I often feel that people don't take these steps and create change in their life because they feel they are not in control. Let’s go back to the video game analogy, we’re often holding the controller playing the game while screaming "stop playing like that!" It's time to stop blaming the world, blaming others. When you blame others, you’re essentially giving your controller away. When you take responsibility and own your actions, you take the controller back and it’s time to play your way.
Another little secret, satisfaction and happiness rarely comes from the result. It comes from the feeling of progress, achievement and executing your plan.
Now for the mind blowing part
Using the weight example.
At the start we can feel so bad when we have the undefined thought of “I’m fat and overweight”. There’s no context, it feels like such a big hurdle to overcome .
But when we break it down in more detail and come to the realisation that wow!
I’m only two sizes or 9kgs away from where I want to be.
I’m only a few actions or habits away from changing direction.
The negative emotions from the start are quickly turned into optimism and excitement once we can see the pathway out of our down moment.
I’m yet to work with someone who hasn’t been able to turn their negative into a positive.
These are the moments in our lives that define us. The moments we look back on most fondly. The moments where we overcome our demons. The moments that define our hero’s journey.
You can be so close to getting what you want, but when it’s not framed properly and when we don’t have a plan to overcome the perceived barriers. The imaginary barrier can be so overwhelming and can cause so much pain.
I want to reiterate that if you have a negative feeling or down moment, you need to ensure that you can measure and define it in greater detail.
I’m overweight (what weight changes that?), I’m broke (what amount of money changes that? My life is boring (how are you measuring that). The toughest one for most people is losing a loved one (how will I eventually fill that hole that they’ve left or what will I do in their memory that would’ve made them proud?)
What is it exactly that I need to do to turn my negatives into a positive?
If all else fails, If you feel inadequate about something, here’s a little hack to make you feel better. Rather than measuring yourself against someone who has what you want, measure yourself against someone who has less than what you want.
If your father passes away, empathise with someone who’s lost both of their parents. If you lose your job, empathise with someone who’s lost a loved one. If you lose $1000 empathise with someone who’s just lost their house. This is another little tool to get perspective.
Put yourself in the shoes of others and empathise with what they might be feeling and how you would advise them if they were feeling the same way you are. Remember it’s all about perspective and detaching yourself so you have a balcony level view.
Again, our problems are only relative to us and the more we are attached to them the harder they are to overcome. It's important to acknowledge this and allow ourselves to move through it. Remind yourself that “this too will pass”.
There’s a flip side to everything.
Common Down Moments and Solution suggestions
Feeling of overwhelming responsibility
A big one for high performers and leaders.
Focus on the actions you can take and the problems you can solve.
Understand as a leader sometimes you have to make the right move and sometimes you’ll need to make a correction. A bad decision made early is better than the right decision made too late
Find the silver lining in absolutely everything.
Delegate some of the responsibility when you can. You might need to empty your cup, if you’ve taken on too much. Or just focus on one thing at a time.
The health of a loved one
Schedule in quality time and experiences with this person
Try to avoid any future regrets, by ensuring you say and do as much as you can with this person.
Understand that a lot of this situation is outside of your control. Control the aspects you can and do your best to bring energy and positivity to your loved one.
Fear of public speaking
Do a communication course
Understand that when you’re talking to a group, the audience generally wants you to succeed. And even if you don’t perform at the standard you hoped for, know that the audience is way too consumed in their own life to worry about how you spoke.
This goes for judgement in general. We over value how much attention people are paying to what we are doing. Most people are thinking primarily about themselves. And if they are judging you, it’s a reflection about how they feel about themselves.