Have you come to a stage in life where you’ve outgrown your old ways of doing things?

Maybe you don’t like the way you look. Or, do you hate the way you’re managing your job or family?

You might perceive that you need to reinvent yourself. Something isn’t working.

All of us need to sit down occasionally and take stock.

There are at least three key areas we all need to review. We need to examine issues concerning our health, wealth, and relationships.

In fact, your health and your money will deeply affect your relationships. For example, if you’re extremely tired or stressed out about money, it’s harder to enjoy your relationships.

Also, if your relationships are under strain, this can affect your health and your finances. For example, we all can neglect our exercise or overspend if we’re upset with our spouse.

These tips can help you examine your life:

• Look at your life in terms of your choices. Make a list of choices you’re glad you made over the years. Then, write down choices you’ve made that you’re not thrilled about.

• Decide what you can change. Make a list of things in your life you definitely can control.

This list might include saying no to working overtime. Or, it might include your ability to choose daily exercise over watching TV.

A woman we’ll call Teresa says she’s been a citizen of this country for five years. “I’m amazed at all of the choices I have over my life in the U.S.A.,” she told us.

“I don’t understand,” says Teresa, “how many native-born people don’t get this. If they’d lived in a Third World country – like I came from – they’d be so excited about how much control they really do have!”

Teresa told us that some of her neighbors laugh at her enthusiasm.

“They must think I’m crazy for smiling all of the time,” she remarks. “But I can get excited just thinking about free books at the library to enhance education.

“Also, grocery stores are full of healthy foods, which I find so wonderful. Yet, people pass up the vegetables and fruits and go for the junk. I don’t get it!”

One way to review possible new choices for your life choices is to pretend you’ve just landed in America. How would you reinvent your life if you’d just come from a very poor country?

Here are some of the choices Teresa swears by:

• She has mentors. She takes time to sit down for at least an hour every week to gain advice from knowledgeable people.

“My mentors have shown me how to improve my English, how to find free books and tapes,” says Teresa. “Good communication gives me lots of control over what happens to me.”

• She engages in positive conversations with her family members. Teresa’s husband, son, and parents came to America with her.

“What’s funny is that I used to argue a lot with my husband and my parents when I was very young,” says Teresa. “But here in America, I choose to avoid negative conversations with people I love. We fix our problems, but we try to do it gracefully.”

• She works on her health. “I take my vitamins,” says Teresa. “I do aerobic exercise. I cook balanced meals. I can work hard at my job and feel good about it because I take care of my body.”

It sounds as if Teresa – working on her health, job, and relationships – has her act together. She’s making wise choices and not taking anything for granted.

Paul, a policeman we know in Texas, says he improved his life after his wife died. “I looked at my life and realized that my life is the sum total of my choices.”

Paul spent months grieving over the loss of his wife, but then, he had choices to make.

“We can decide if we will improve our lives or settle for frustration and anxiety,” Paul insists. “I don’t care how wonderful your life is, there will come a time when you must do a life makeover.”

Paul continues, “I started volunteering at the Home for Children in my area. A whole world opened up for me. I’m happy again. I chose to pick up the phone and call a social worker. I chose to show up for classes that volunteers are required to take.”

But Paul knows that if he failed to make those choices, he wouldn’t have the kind of life satisfaction he now has. He knows the children look forward to his visits.

“I don’t have children of my own,” says Paul, “so naturally, I won’t have grandchildren either. Now, I have an extended family that I choose to be a part of. If I had failed to make the choices I did, I would be missing out on a lot right now.”

All of us will reach a point in our lives – probably at several stages along the way – when our former routines and choices don’t work anymore. We have to review what isn’t going to work and take responsibility for changing it.

Anxiety comes from feeling stuck. Energy flows when we create a plan to fix what isn’t working.

If you need to increase your income, decrease your spending, lose weight, or get a date, decide how you will take small steps to getting there. It takes the same amount of energy to work on a problem as it does to worry about it.

Spending time on your new choices will guarantee that you can change something.

As you take action to change things, your level of anxiety will subside. Taking action will instantly give you a sense of control.

Remember, too, that failing to make a choice is a choice by default.

Ask yourself, “How badly will I feel a year from now if I choose not to address my problems? How good will I feel if I take action and see positive results?”

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress management book for paramedics, firefighters and police, “Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress.” Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.


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