“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” ~Dale Carnegie
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the art of living. And in the context of living on offense versus defense. In other words, how actively are you choosing your life, or are you letting life just happen to you?
Up until my late-20s, I was letting life happen to me. Playing defense. And the reason I know that is because I was often … on the defense! If something happened to me or around me, it was obviously someone else’s fault. I would complain that other people were mean/hurtful/incompetent/assholes, whatever, anything to deflect taking any responsibility. If something happened at work, it was someone else’s fault. If a friend did something I didn’t like, it was because she was selfish or rude. If my parents didn’t get me, it was because they were unreasonable and judgmental.
For most of my adult life, I lived a life of deflection, blaming and complaining.
How … small.
Living defensively keeps you from creating something you love, because it always feels like you have no say and that life is innately unkind and people are naturally malicious. Can you see how this stifles growth? Can you see how this keeps you scared? Always thinking preventatively, instead of possibility-ly?
As cliché as it is, living life on offense is truly, “grabbing the bull by the horns,” — you live consciously, you choose instead of endure, and you thrive instead of exist.
This takes a mindset shift, a whole lot of courage and a willingness to put yourself out there for potentially hard shit to happen to you.
But the payoff – creating a life you love in every moment and in every decision – is absolutely worth it. Here’s how I do it.
1) Have zero expectations.
This is such a hard thing to do, but honestly, it’s one of the best practices for getting yourself in a grateful frame of mind, versus a resentful one. Living life on offense is about detaching from what other people do and say. Not in a spiteful, eff-you way, but in a completely open and permissive way. When you’re operating with strings and expectations for others, it stifles you. It ends with you often being disappointed. The surest way to move from a resentful, disappointed, hurt energy to a grateful and liberated one is through removing expectations for others. When you stay open to outcomes, not attached to them, everything that happens is icing on the cake.
2) Catch yourself playing the Blame Game.
Defensive living is all about deflecting ownership. How can you ever create a life you love when you actually feel like your life is controlled by someone else — which is what you are saying when you blame others for your circumstances. Here’s the thing though — other people’s actions will have an effect on you, that’s always going to happen. But the key is regardless of who or what put you in that space, you always have a say in what you DO NEXT. You always have a say in your attitude and where you choose to go from there. And blaming and complaining are not solutions. They’re not actionable. They don’t move you forward. Vent for a quick minute, but then get objective and get busy.
3) Ask, Why is this happening to me?
One thing that I have seen over and over in my own life and with those whom I coach, is that if you are open to life’s lessons, they will present themselves to you — often in painful ways. When you are consciously creating your life, you can’t afford to be asleep to what’s going on. In other words, when you stay aware, you see that oftentimes, the things that happen that cause us pain, discomfort, fear, insert-negative-emotion here, are there because it’s a lesson we need to learn. And in my experience, those painful moments continue to come at us, prompting us again and again, until we turn and look our BS in the face. Your struggles are your lessons. Stay open to them. Pain and discomfort are not random — they are instructive. When you see the same theme coming up again and again for you, it’s not someone else’s to figure it out; it’s yours. Look inward, own it, eyes open, because that’s where the good stuff is.
4) Say yes to the scariest stuff.
I haven’t talked much about my recent solo travels, but in the last year, I became obsessed with one thought: “Can I do it?” A year ago, I wouldn’t have even gone out to dinner by myself, and here I am, a year later moving to Australia for a month alone, without knowing one single person. Or going to Italy for 2 weeks by myself without knowing the language. Why do that, you might ask. One simple reason: It scared the shit out of me. And even though making those plans was terrifying, it was one of the most transformative things I could have done for myself and my personal growth. I cannot explain the sense of empowerment I’ve felt as a result. Every time I said yes to something and then survived it, I got a little stronger. And then I’d say yes to something scarier, and I’d survive that. And now it’s a little bit of an addiction: CAN I DO THAT?? I simply started with a weekend getaway by myself, ha! Traveling solo is not for everyone, and I am not advocating it if it doesn’t appeal to you — but all I know is that a year ago, the thought would have terrified me. But now, I have so many fewer fears, it feels like I can handle anything. I’m on offense 24/7. Bring it.
“My biggest fear is that people stop trying new things.” ~Gary Vaynerchuk
5) Act first, think later.
“The worst decision is indecision.” ~Ryan Harwood
This is a hard one because thinking can feel like action. And while it’s wise to weigh options at times, I think too much thinking keeps us trapped in a world of fear and indecision. Too many considerations is often the problem. I saw this from Ryan Holiday last week, and I couldn’t agree more: “The future belongs to those who have the guts to pull the trigger.” I have said it many times, and it’s now a core value of mine — the person who has “the right” to do something is the one doing it. You don’t need permission. You don’t need to boost your expertise first. You don’t need more experience. You don’t need outside affirmation. You don’t need to wait for someone to call you an expert or authenticate you. You are perfect, capable, strong, right now, and thinking you have to attain some arbitrary status in order to do something is only holding you back from actively creating your life.
The best way to find out if you can do it is to do it.
6) Have the hard conversations.
Tough conversations and clear communication are so challenging because we’re often scared of what the other person is going to do or say or think about us, as a result. We don’t like enduring painful emotions — whether our own or another person’s. Of course we don’t. We don’t like seeing people upset or hurt. We shy away from the pain, discomfort and uncertainty of the tough conversations because in the moment it’s easier to just shelve it. Brush it under the rug, pretend it’s not a big deal. But those short-term fixes only fester. The issues get bigger and bigger, and as a result, you get smaller and smaller, walking on eggshells, changing who you are to please, trying to “keep the peace” all the time. Can you see that shying away from a tough conversation keeps you literally living someone else’s life out of a fear of ruffling feathers?
Initiating and enduring a tough conversation has everything to do with self-trust. You have to trust that YOU can handle the fall out (you can!) and the cool thing is, the more you have them, the easier they get! It just becomes your M.O. and you see that they don’t have to be as big of a deal as you’re making them in your mind. And this is not about bomb-dropping and telling the other person they suck (see #2 above), but instead about showing up with your honest feelings, being in your integrity and authenticity, and allowing the chips to fall — whatever that looks like. Having a tough conversation where emotions are involved is like ripping off a Band-Aid. It’s painful for 2 seconds, but after you do it, it’s liberation city. And to me, it’s really the only way to deepen a relationship. Relationships based on placating and appeasing and hiding your true feelings aren’t really a relationship at all.
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” ~Tim Ferriss
7) Invest in yourself.
This is such a big piece of creating your life. Investing your time, effort and yes, actual MONEY into yourself. Doing this sends a message to your higher self that you are worth it. It’s a declaration that you have value and your future is worth putting some skin in the game for. This is a mindset. And one I didn’t really learn until about 5 years ago. I always felt like investing in myself, with coaching or training or education was a waste, and that I could figure everything out myself. But the only thing that did was keep me in a holding pattern. Investing in getting yourself to the next level with actual real resources is making a conscious effort to create your next step, rather than letting your next step happen to you (offense versus defense). You might consider investing in that thing you’ve been on the fence about. Put yourself first for once. And then see what happens as a result. I think you’ll be blown away.
8) Shitty stuff will always happen. Trust that you can figure it out.
Living life on offense is realizing that sometimes there’s no one that can help you. That’s actually what you’re for. And things will always come up, there will be painful things, uncertain things, tough things, things that will make you feel like you just can’t handle it. And yet — you will. You will handle it.
One of my fav quotes from Byron Katie is, “Life never gives you more than you can handle.” And here’s the beautiful thing: the extent to which you agree or disagree with that statement CREATES how you will see the world! Your belief about the world is exactly what shows up in your world. If I believe that there are things that are so big and so bad that I can’t handle them, well guess what? Things will show up that I feel like I can’t handle. My belief system about my competency predicts how competent I’ll be! Amazing right? Your self-belief is everything. Your ability to trust YOU is everything. When I trust that I can do it … I ACTUALLY DO IT.
9) Take responsibility for your tribe.
You’ve probably heard that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. In all things: intellect, finances, risk-taking, success, whatever. I believe this whole-heartedly. And actively assembling a team of people who are on the same page with you is key. Ain’t nobody got time for low vibes. Life is too short and you have too much to accomplish to spend time concerning yourself with people who insist on living defensively. And that’s not a judgment so much as an awareness.
Some questions to consider: Are the people around me possibility thinkers or preventative thinkers? Do they see opportunities or obstacles? Are they operating with an abundance mindset or a scarcity one? Do they get jealous, competitive or insecure when I’m doing my thing? Do they support me, and do I want to support them with zero expectations or strings? Am I able to consistently show up as myself and practice clear communication? Again, it’s not a judgement of you versus them, and who is “better,” it’s just an acknowledgment that if you want to play life on offense, you need to either teach people how to treat you in a way that moves you forward (don’t blame, take responsibility!), or find a new tribe. This is simply a recognition that the people around us impact us. And for me, it’s GOOD VIBES ONLY PLEASE.
Are you living life on offense? Are you putting your trust in you? Are you questioning “the rules” and living life on your terms, showing up authentically and confidently? Let me know on the JillFit Facebook page! I’d love to hear your process and where you’re at with this! Xo, Jill
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