Escapism - or living each day?
When the annual holidays are everything
He really lives for his holidays. They are all important to his life; as is the preparation for them.
He and the family will go somewhere different each year, sometimes more than once a year, and he will research the location and the country in great detail and for months in advance.
In effect he is enjoying the holiday for months before he gets there. And once he returns be begins planning the next one.
They often go away two or three times a year so he can be either on holiday or thinking about holidays most of the time.
He’s not alone. Many people in the UK begin planning their summer holiday just after Christmas. And some begin planning their winter holidays when they return from their summer holiday!
Escape from everyday life
If you have the time and the money, holiday-making is great – up to a point. And that point is where it becomes an escape from where we spend most of our time – in everyday life.
Yet so many of us find our lives humdrum, boring, and samey that we need to have such breaks ‘to look forward to’. When everyday life is not fulfilling the temptation is to live in a never-never land of escapism – this is why holidays are so popular. They help us escape.
So we plan our annual holidays. Now we can spend a few months anticipating how great these will be. And, when we return, spend a few weeks looking back on them and telling others about them. And we then begin planning the next one.
It’s not just stroppy teenagers who have the ‘I’m bored’ attitude. Many of us keep this going into adult life. And to get away from this we live our lives through others – we live vicariously.
We get excitement second-hand. In gossip magazines. In gossiping about people we know. In TV soaps. In ‘reality TV’ programmes which pry into others’ lives. And especially in watching the endlessly on-going variations of the talent knock-out TV programmes.
We have a ‘get through the week’ attitude. Since everyday life is not providing us with good feelings so we live for the future, or we live in our memories or we seek mind-numbing escapism. As the poet Shelly put it ‘We look before and after, and pine for what is not’.
What’s the alternative?
The alternative is to plan to be happy – through identifying the feelings you want to have in your life and then planning your days and your weeks to experience these.
It’s a reasonably straightforward process and one which we experience in all of our NLP Practitioner courses.
Yet, like a lot of valuable NLP processes, learning how to be happy is not taught at school. So we do not learn the skill to make our everyday lives enjoyable. It seems that this, along with the skill of developing good relationships, is not important enough for school curricula.
Everyday life becomes boring and mundane when it doesn’t give us good feelings – when it does not fulfil our values. And the solution lies in recognising that
We feel good when our personal values are fulfilled
We need to know our personal values to be able to feel good – by design
Designing our lives based on fulfilling these values is the key to feeling good more of the time.
1. Identify your values
2. Get them into a hierarchy – because some values will be more important than others
3. Have lots of different ways of fulfilling each value
4. Plan your week to that your top values are fulfilled at least every week or two.
(1) Identify your values
Keep things simple: consider a value to be simply a feeling which you want to feel more often or less often. For example you might want to feel a sense of fun or relaxation more often or to experience pressure or loneliness less often.
So over a few days build up a list of all of these feelings -- the ones you want to feel and the ones that you don't want to feel. Aim for a list of 10-15 values.
(2) Get them into a hierarchy
Sort your list in order of importance i.e. according to which feelings are more important to you.
For example from the list above which is the most important to feel or not feel -fun, relaxation, pressure, or loneliness? This is your No. 1 value.
From the remaining list which is the most important? This is your N0. 2 value.
(3) Have lots of different ways of fulfilling each value
This one is very important because if you only have one way of fulfilling a value and this only occurs once a year or so (as in the case of summer holidays) you won't get the feeling very often.
Let's say both Jack and Jill have as No. 1 value Avoiding Loneliness. If Jill only gets relief from loneliness when she spends time with a close friend who she meets every month then she will spend a lot of the time feeling lonely. And, if Jack has many ways of fulfilling this value – of not feeling lonely -- including talking to people using Skype, relating to people through Facebook, meeting people at the yoga class, taking part in community activities, volunteering for charities, etc he won't experience loneliness nearly as often. (The matter of enjoying your own company – of feeling at ease with yourself - as an antidote to loneliness is another matter and for another newsletter.)
(4) Plan to feel good every week
Knowing your values and having a hierarchy is useful. But this also needs to be actioned so plan your week so that you have ways of fulfilling your Top 5 values each week.
And have a good holiday too
Living your values on a weekly basis doesn't mean you cannot enjoy a good holiday -- or watch an ongoing TV talent programme. The difference is that now these can enhance the enjoyment of life rather than make up for a lack of enjoyment.
These become the icing on the cake – rather than the cake.
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