Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Viewing Your Life as an Outsider

I’m a big fan of Andy Andrews. Andrews is the comedian, speaker, and most importantly a brilliant author. His book The Traveler’s Gift recently sold its millionth copy in the United States. The one thing I have taken seriously from Andrews is how important it is to read biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. As a result of reading over two hundred of these literary works he developed what he calls “The seven decisions”, the key to a healthy and successful life. If we take his recommendation to read this literary genre, but add a twist what happens?

Consider reading the story of your life. I’m not suggesting you sit down at your computer and write your own autobiography. I am suggesting that you begin to explore your life as if it were a third party. What would show up if you’re book club was reading your story, what would be the high points, the low points, and the what were they thinking points?

It’s obvious that we’re entrenched in our own lives. We have a skewed view of our lives because we’re vested in the outcome. Our need to be the hero in our own story is strong and that may get in the way of overcoming adversity when it presents itself. It’s time to learn from your life, not simply look at it and feel helpless that nothing will change.

I’m amazed when I take a step back and do my own life review ( a term and process often used with the elderly). Challenges will present themselves and being prepared with as many strategies for overcoming adversity is important. This life review process can be done at any age, even young folks, it just means the process may be shorter given the amount of time they’ve lived.

Start out asking yourself, what do I hope to accomplish by engaging this life review process. When I engage in the process I am looking for the things that have helped me resolve physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. I look for strategies that become my own universal principles. One of those principles for me is to engage in art when I’m challenged emotionally. When I’m challenged physically I’ve tightened up my health and healing regimen. I’m in contact with my doctor(s) to shorten, relieve, and resolve a flare of my autoimmune disease. I’ve lived long enough to know my body’s circadian rhythms and the things that lessen the pain and anguish of a health relapse.

I guess what I’m really asking you to do in this process is “meet yourself for the first time”. Perhaps I’m borrowing the Buddhist philosophy of a beginner’s mind, but it works so use it. This process isn’t about nitpicking the mistakes made in life, but looking for the best practices that have given your life meaning and pleasure.

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