Guest Post by Stephanie James
What does it mean to live a “spark-filled” life? It means being lit up from the inside, learning how to befriend yourself and make yourself a priority in your own life, and it means being fully alive and living your life full of authenticity, purpose and passion.
But how do we get there? We’ve all heard the expression, “Just be your own best friend!” but after 30 years in the mental health and personal development field, I know, it just isn’t that easy. It truly starts with the art of learning to befriend yourself first.
Just imagine when you meet a new friend. You don’t instantly trust them with your deepest, darkest secrets, nor do you automatically feel you can rely on them to be there for you when times get tough. A friendship like that takes time to cultivate. The same is true when you are growing a relationship with yourself. You have to begin by being someone that you can rely on; to know that you have your own back and will show up for yourself when you need to.
A great way to do this is to establish a morning routine that is focused on self-care. Use the first hour or half hour of your day to exercise, meditate, and write in a gratitude journal. Write the things you are thankful for each day, even if they are small and seem the same each day. We can be thankful for our warm bed, having hot water in the shower, and having food to eat. This doesn’t have to be big things. Then, when you are finished, put your hand on your heart and allow yourself to marinate on these good feelings. By focusing on these feelings, you are actually telling your brain, that likes to purge information unless it is useful for our survival, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important! File this!”
Make this sacred time. I use a wall calendar to mark off when I show up for myself like this and instead of crossing off the day, I put a heart on the calendar. It is wonderful to see a full month filled with hearts and see how I have been truly loving to myself. When you show up for yourself each morning in this way, you begin to build a relationship with yourself; you begin to build trust with yourself and can begin to rely on yourself to have your best interest in mind.
I have worked with hundreds of people who find the simple act of establishing a morning self-care routine truly transformative. It is one of the least selfish things you can do. By making yourself a priority and taking care of yourself, you are giving to yourself in a way that will create more resiliency, calm, and well-being and you will be sharing with others from a place of fulness, rather than from a place of lack.
The next thing, I find that is really important in igniting your sparks, is to take time to truly explore what it is that lights you up! One of the ways I encourage clients to explore this, actually might seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but it is amazingly helpful. I encourage people to first get in touch with what their limiting beliefs are that prevent them from living the kind of “spark-filled” life that they would like to have. We often don’t realize that our words and actions are being driven by these unconscious beliefs, that are often pick up in childhood when we were in theta brain wave state and we took others opinions of us to be the truth. These beliefs can go so underground, that we don’t even realize what they are, we just know the outward manifestation (such as, I don’t have the job, relationship, self-esteem, etc. that I desire in my life.)
The way to begin “unearthing” these limiting beliefs, is to grab your journal and write a list of the areas in your life: relationship, career, finances, friendships, health and fitness, body image, spirituality, and self-concept. Now, write down where you see yourself in all of these areas in one column and in the next, write down where you would like to be. When you look at each area, begin to notice the beliefs that come up in-between these two columns. I worked with a man whose father had told him as a child, “Rich people are really unhappy!” Without realizing this, my client had internalized his father’s words and they had become a self-limiting belief that had kept him from being truly wealthy. Subconsciously, he had adopted the belief that if he were to become rich, then he would also become unhappy. When he became aware of that limiting belief, he then had the power to change it.
Now the fun part. Take each of your limiting beliefs, and on a totally separate page, write down what you would like to believe about yourself instead and put a couple steps of action underneath each. An example would be:
“I am healthy and fit.”
- I work out 30 minutes per day.
- I eat healthy and nutritious foods.
This then becomes an Affirmation Action Plan that you read out loud to yourself each day that begins to prime your mindset and change your belief structure. Research tells us it takes 21-30 days for something to become a habit; that’s why so many exercise plans and diets are 30-day plans. In 30 days, your brain begins to automate the information and it becomes easier and easier to follow through (and believe.)
Lastly, one of things that can help you ignite the sparks within yourself, is to write out a list of the things that bring you pleasure. With all that is going on in the world today, it is easy to get distracted and forget some of the simple things that bring joy to your life. I have clients begin their list with bringing in all of their senses; such as, “What tastes bring me pleasure? What smells bring me pleasure? What sights bring me pleasure? Etc.” As you begin to write your list, let yourself marinate on the good feelings that arise. When we hold up images in our mind, our mind experiences them as happening “Now”; just as when we are thinking about the future and we feel anxious- it’s not happening now, but physiologically we are experiencing it as “Now.” The same is true for our pleasurable memories.
Let yourself write as many things as you can think of, utilizing all of your senses. The first morning’s sip of coffee, petting my dog Jewels, and opening the curtains in the morning so the light floods my house, are all simple but wonderful pleasures in my life. It is also a principal in physics that whatever you focus on expands. What you focus on, you will notice more of it. When you focus on noticing what lights you up, you will find yourself feeling more illuminated internally.
The spark is truly who we are inside; our true essence. Sometimes we just have to do a little excavation to let that light truly shine through. Through befriending yourself, rewiring negative beliefs, and focusing on what truly brings you pleasure, you will be well on your way to experiencing greater well-being and creating a more meaningful, spark-filled life.
A seasoned psychotherapist, a dynamic public speaker, published author, and filmmaker, Stephanie James delivers her message in a powerful way to help others find their own internal sparks and create their best lives at the next level. Nominated for Fort Collins Woman of The Year in 2014 and a graduate of the University of Denver, Stephanie has an unrelenting commitment to help others ignite their best lives and to become the best versions of themselves.
The Spark with Stephanie James is a world-wide weekly radio and podcast created to help you live your best life. Her guests are luminaries in the fields of psychology, inspiration and motivation, science, entrepreneurialism, and more!
Her book, The Spark, Igniting Your Best Life, is available on Amazon. A compelling and inspiring book, The Spark is an excellent guide. Step by step, Stephanie James shows how to examine beliefs that don’t serve us, ways to develop more authentic and rewarding relationships (including with ourselves), and how to approach each day with zest.
Stephanie has a passion for connecting with people from all walks of life and continues to fulfill her personal mission to bring as much love and healing to the world as possible. Her soon to be released film, When Sparks Ignite, is about the challenges we all face and how those challenges can actually become the match point that ignite something amazing within us that then can become our gift to the world.