We all know that feeling of being lost in our lives. It's the same feeling you get when you've fallen asleep on a train, woken up in a panic, looked out the window on to territory you don't recognise and think, ‘Where am I? Where am I going? Have I missed my stop?'
As women, there are certain life events when these feelings are common. One is when you become a mother. Another is when the initial shock of motherhood has passed and you start to settle into your new life, but desperately want to claw a piece of your pre-motherhood life back... a career perhaps, a hobby, or a part of your personality that you feel has been forsaken. It happens later when children leave home and the mother role, which has been such a huge part of your identity for so long, is now obsolete. What then?
At other times, illness can bring these questions to the forefront. Divorce. Losing your job. Not finding the right relationship. When life doesn't pan out exactly as you expect, it can force you to have a look at why that might be.
On the other hand, some people can feel like they have everything they ever wanted and more, and yet still experience feelings deep down of something being missing... a purpose left unfulfilled, an adventure not experienced. Shana Kad, master NLP life coach at Life Effective coaching (lifeeffectivecoaching.ae), says, "You get to a point where ignoring it is painful. Instinctively we want to run from pain and head towards pleasure by taking the path of least resistance. We can all take the quick-fix solution, but what we need to do is to shake up our reality and learn how to feel good about ourselves."
Saliha Afridi, psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia (lighthousearabia.com), says, "I have women of different ages coming to see me because they've gone through their personal checklist for their life, ticking everything off, and then realising that it's not actually making them happy. It derails their stability and forces them to be introspective. I call it a mid-life moment."
With these thoughts in mind, we asked six Aquarius readers who are feeling lost in their lives to join us and Shana for an evening of ‘Tinis and Tapas at Vantage, Pullman Mall of the Emirates, to talk about where these feelings come from and how they can be rectified.
What are your needs?
In the same way as we have physical needs, we also have core emotional needs, which we must fulfil. These are: certainty; uncertainty, or variety; love and connection; significance; growth; and contribution.
Shana says: "The order of priority you place these needs in will steer the direction of your life. Which ones stand out to you and how do you get them met on a daily basis? Significance is an important need for most of us, which we often get through our career. Hence, why so many full-time mothers struggle with feeling absent in their lives - even if the decision to stay home is one they have chosen. If this is the case for you, is there another way you can have this need met?
"Love and connection is another important need. Some of us get our connection from our husband but our love from someone else. For example, our kids, our friends, our family, our pets... others get their love from their husbands, but their connection from somewhere else, for example, their friends, the fridge, cigarettes, Facebook... For a healthy relationship, you need love and connection from each other.
"The last two, growth and contribution, feed the soul. If you're not fulfilling these needs, ask yourself, ‘What changes can I make to get them served?'"
Do you have it all but you're still not feeling happy?
Saliha says: "When people feel like this, they'll often go back to their checklist and start unchecking it; they'll get a divorce, or change their job or they'll look for a quick-fix solution - a new car, or a new bag - to numb the pain. But before you do that, sit with the difficult feelings and work out where they are coming from. When people come to me and say they have everything, but don't feel happy, I get excited because I know these are the people who are ready to evolve spiritually - who will go on an inward journey to learn about themselves. They've recognised that this worldly stuff gives them pleasure but doesn't define them any more. When you hear a whisper inside your head that says something's not right, don't ignore it, because it won't go away... and it will come back with fury."
Make changes right now
Check out Shana Kad's golden tips for change.
Take control "You are in charge of how you feel all the time. When we feel miserable, or we get sick, we have a decision to make. Either we learn how to get our needs served by acting in this way, or we decide to change our state and our behaviour."
Audit your beliefs "If you're not happy with how your life is looking, then audit your belief system. What do you believe about yourself? Are you living up to these beliefs? Why do people settle for less?"
Look at yourself for answers "Some people get caught up believing other people's opinions about them. For example, ‘My mother says I'm shy, so I must be.' Or, ‘My husband says I'm too old to be starting a new career and that it is better for our family if I am at home, so it must be true.' Shift your frame of reference so that you are looking to yourself for the answers about your significance and validation. When you do this, true feelings of significance will quickly follow."
Shana says: "As we go through the different stages of our life, we have to shift our realities. If you make goals at age 20 and then have children, and you don't shift your reality and realign your goals, how painful is that? Remind your subconscious that your life has shifted and be kind to yourself. Remember that you don't have to live by anybody else's rules."
Saliha says: "Part of growing up is accepting that there are some dreams you are never going to achieve. It's sad when you realise your abilities, time and efforts are finite, but it can allow you to achieve depth of experience in what you can do."
Shana says: "I'd rather not limit you by giving a straight yes or no answer. This comes to thinking about what you can have, but don't have. And what you think you can't have, but do. Take five minutes to really learn from this. Focus on how grateful you are for what you have. The fact is that there is no right or wrong way to live your life. If you are happy, that's great. If not, are you willing to do something about it? If there's something more you want from your life, you've got to decide how compelling it is - what will happen if you get it and what will happen if you don't?"
Saliha says: "I believe we can have it all, as long as we build our life anchored in our values. It's like having a compass - everyone's is different. If you make decisions using your own compass rather than your husband's, your mother's, your culture's or society's, then you will make decisions that are right for you and right for your life."
Shana says: "Our thoughts are relayed to our subconscious mind in pictures, so when you say things like ‘my career came crashing down', you are drawing this picture in your head and your subconscious mind will always associate this feeling and image with the situation. Also, these words make it sound like the situation happened to you and you had no say in the matter. If you said you chose to have children and embraced being a mother, but that you are ready to excel in your career again, you will feel empowered to take control."
Saliha says: "Many women give up work when they have children because they want to, or because they think they should. But we get a lot of meaning from our work, so you're not doing your children a service by giving up work if it makes you unhappy. Becoming a mother is a time of big adjustment, but you don't have to choose between being yourself and being a mother. It requires more commitment, but it is possible. We're the first generation of helicopter parents who think we need to hover over our children 24 hours a day. If you don't take time for yourself, you'll end up feeling resentful."
Shana says: "Thinking about what you don't want is like looking for something in a dark warehouse with a match. When you work out what you want, it's like turning on the lights. It's possible to not consciously know what you want, but with clever questioning during coaching, you can work it out. I am not a genie - I don't do magic - but we all have the resources we need in our mind to do everything we want to do."
Saliha says: "This is a good starting point, but now you need to work out what ‘this' is. What would be fulfilling to you? If you don't know, try different things and see how it goes. If you still don't know, it's worth speaking to a professional about it."
Shana says: "You need to think of your subconscious mind as a four-year-old child, meaning you need to get specific and tell him exactly what you want. Asking vague questions puts you in a passive role where you don't question your behaviour, choices, or state, and you're just waiting for something to make you happy. Instead, try thinking that you get to be happy regardless of what happens, because you know what you want and you are going for it. If you are on a journey, but you don't know where to, you'll see everything as an obstacle to blame rather than something you can learn from. Don't look outside yourself for answers - the answers are inside you. Things happen and people come into your life at certain times for a reason - recognise what you can learn from them. Don't underplay your role in your life. You are important and you make a difference."
Saliha says: "I think feeling lost is an exciting time because in order to be found, you first have to be lost. It means you've recognised that what you've been doing isn't working for you any more - whether it's numbing yourself with shopping, eating, relationships or a career... If you sit with these feelings, there's a wisdom behind them. It's not about a happy feeling that lasts for an hour, it's about finding your truth - what your soul yearns for - and the soul will know your truth when it sees it. It's about finding happiness from the inside out, rather than the outside in."
Shana says: "It reminds me of myself before I became a coach. I was doing well at my job, but I'd come home and die on the sofa, and eventually I became sick. My mentor said to me, ‘We can talk about your dreams, or we can make them happen.' It was as easy as that. If you know what will make you happy, find a way. It is possible. Someone else has already done it. Take your skills and apply them to a job you want. I like a quote by Henry Ford who said, ‘Whether we think we can, or we think we can't, we are right'."
Saliha says: "Work out what it is about volunteering that makes you tick. We all need three things in our lives - pleasure, meaning doing things we enjoy; flow, which is the feeling of being engaged in your work; and doing something for ‘the greater good', being part of a bigger picture. If you're good at your job, but not feeling like you're contributing to society, this ‘greater good' aspect could be what's missing. Try transferring your skills to a paid job at a non-profit, fund-raising, or CSR initiative."