Imagine that, after recognizing your spark for living a passionate life has been withering inside of you, you’ve finally given yourself permission to start something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, something that really matters to you. It’s a nudge from your soul you can no longer ignore, and you’re tingling with anticipation. Maybe the art class you’ve longed to take is being offered close to your home, or you’re fired up to start training for a half-marathon, or you’ve been harboring an idea for a new business you know in your heart of hearts will succeed.
You begin taking your first tentative steps…then you’re walloped with an avalanche of harsh criticism from everyone close to you: your partner, your mother, your women’s circle, even your best friend. They’re aghast at your naïveté, sure that you’re making a big mistake and speaking to you in no uncertain terms about the risks of your undertaking. They’re convinced you just don’t have what it takes. Every time you mention your dream, they overpower you with their alarming prophecies of failure. They’re very convincing, relying as they are on statistics and stories they’ve heard of other people’s bad experiences – maybe even their own – and the immutable logic of how your family will suffer if you take this on.
You start seeing things their way. “Good God, what was I thinking?” you mutter to yourself, incredulous that you could have entertained such a ridiculous notion. You sigh, then shove your dream into the recycling bin. And you get back to your real life, the one that’s lacking a certain zest but is at least safe and manageable.
And you wither a little more on the inside.
Time and again my clients have this soul-crushing experience. Except the naysayers are not people outside of them (although occasionally they are). It turns out that the most potent voices of criticism and negativity arise from within, and they’re every bit as damning and paralyzing as anything our nearest and dearest could say to us. We stop ourselves before we ever really get started, practiced as we are at focusing on what could go wrong and lamenting all the inner and outer resources we seem to be lacking.
We could ask ourselves why we’re so practiced at self-judgment – and the conversation could be illuminating! – yet the “why” is really outside the scope of this article. And in truth, spending a lot of time trying to figure out why we sabotage ourselves can often, itself, be another delay tactic. The important thing to recognize is that we’ve formed habits of thinking and habits of focusing our attention that are not aligned with our innate creativity, brilliance and passion.
So we need to learn new habits. And I want to tell you about one that I have found to be powerfully life-changing. I call it the Eyes of Love journal, and the very purpose of keeping this journal is to help you cultivate a loving and wise voice that supports your dreams and affirms your worthiness and talent in pursuing them.
The Eyes of Love journal is different from a gratitude journal, although expressions of gratitude are of course welcome. This journal is for recognition, acknowledgment, appreciation and celebration – of you and all of your amazing qualities. Especially the qualities that your dreams are calling you to cultivate.
Here is the basic idea. On a regular basis – ideally every day but at least weekly – sit down in a quiet space with your journal and pen. Consider the past day or week and ask your Wise and Loving Self to show you how your experiences during that time look through her eyes. Specifically ask to recognize things you can really appreciate about yourself, things you can genuinely honor and congratulate yourself for, no matter how large or small.
This is not about pumping up your ego and pointing out all the ways you are better than others. (The Eyes of Love journal is all about you, not about anyone else – except to the extent that they reflect, validate or affirm something in you that you value.) This is about intentionally connecting with the part of you who longs for a fulfilled life and knows you’re worthy of living one, and giving her a voice. It’s about cultivating a habit of thinking and focusing your attention in a way that supports your dreams rather than denying them.
If you’re like a lot of people with whom I’ve worked, you may be attracted to this idea – but speaking to and about yourself in this way is so foreign to you, you don’t quite know what to say. So here are a few ideas to get you started:
• You can write in the first or second person, whichever feels more intimate and real to you. If you write in the second person, try using the format of a letter, such as “Dear Brenda, It’s so good to connect with you! I wanted to tell you what a great job you did on…”
• Ask yourself these questions to stimulate your thinking:
• What went really well for me yesterday, and what part did I play in that?
• What are the qualities I think are important for the life I want to live (e.g., confidence, clarity, creativity, humor, focus, kindness, perseverance, self-trust, etc.)? How might I have demonstrated any of those qualities yesterday?
• What compliments, validation or expressions of appreciation did I receive from others? (Then let yourself take a minute to really feel the truth of those comments.)
• What did I accomplish that I feel really good about?
• When did I experience joy or happiness or deep contentment? How did I create that experience? (Remember that being open to receive is something to note and appreciate!)
• If the day was a challenging one, look for any new awareness or insight the challenges generated, and also see if you can name several inner or outer resources that are available to help with the challenges.
You may want to begin and end each entry with a personal affirmation that genuinely resonates with you, such as “I have what it takes to succeed” or “I am worthy of being fully supported in doing the work I love” or “I am lovingly guided to make healthy and prosperous choices.”
Again, nothing is too small or too large to be captured in the Eyes of Love journal. In fact, the more ”small” or specific you can be, the more real this becomes for you. You might write things such as, “I love the outfit I put together yesterday – I got so many compliments on it!” or “I am so pleased that I maintained my sense of humor during that difficult conversation with my son…” or “When Tom said he really wants to work with me because our businesses are successful and growing, I realized he’s seeing me the way I want to see myself.”
You get the idea. Oh, and although I think this is obvious, let me say it, anyway: this is not a journal for complaining or worrying or dissecting a difficult conversation or venting your feelings. More often than not, that type of journaling devolves into some form of negativity or judgment or perhaps feelings of righteousness or resignation – the old conditioning takes over and you’re seeing and writing about things through a lens of “what’s wrong” or “what’s missing.” The whole point of this journal is to see with fresh eyes – the eyes of love – and to condition yourself to focus in ways that strengthen and expand your capacity for joy.
Are you in? Okay, then let me give you a specific challenge: write in your Eyes of Love journal for 30 days in a row, then see how you feel. Just commit to doing it, and don’t miss a day. After the 30 days you’ll probably want to continue daily, but don’t turn this into a rigid task. (Most people find it’s something they genuinely look forward to doing.) Find your right frequency and rhythm, but find a way to keep it going after the 30 days.
And let me know what happens. I’m willing to bet that, if you take this on with genuine willingness and commitment, you will feel stronger, more confident and self-loving than you have ever felt. You will notice that your life is flowing with greater ease and joy. You will begin to feel that you really do have what it takes to follow your dreams.
And you will be right.