What to Do When Your Life Isn’t What You Imagined

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Does your life look the way you thought it would? Claire gives you a tip on how to get clarity on what you really want in life and how to go about making that your reality. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who feels addicted to anxiety.

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Claire  00:00

Does your life always look the way you thought it would? No? Same. Hi, I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Now in your feed three times a week. Our goal here is to help make your life a little better one episode at a time, you’re still going to get the episodes you’re used to, but on a different day, every Friday, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, you’re going to hear a new practice from me, and questions from you. I’ll share something that’s been meaningful to me, and that I hope can have an impact in your life. And then I’ll dive into some questions you’ve sent in. So for today’s practice, do you ever have those moments when you throw your hands up in the air in frustration because your life does not look the way you thought it would? I definitely have this experience from time to time. And years ago, I started practicing a little thing that you might find helpful. What happens for me is that I get pissed off, because I hate the way that things are going in my life, I get stuck in a cycle where I’m just reacting to everything that’s being thrown my direction, both good and bad. Half the time, it’s stuff I don’t even want to be doing. And the other half the time I’m into it, but I can’t keep up. So what I finally realized and started doing is getting more proactive about creating and pursuing the life I want, rather than just reacting to what’s coming my way all the time. To do this. First I asked myself, What do I want? Often I find that I’m feeling frustrated that things aren’t going as planned. But in reality, I’m not even sure what it is I want things to look like. So I spend some time pondering, what do I really want? Is it more time, a trip somewhere, better relationships with my kids or husband? Sometimes it’s not even big stuff. But simple things like the perfect pair of jeans that I can get away with wearing every day. The thing I realized is that when I actually get clearer about what I want, then I can start making the changes to get there. So I started making goal lists, and I’ve become obsessed with this activity. First, I make a six-month goal list, it’ll usually have stuff on it like more time to read, start running again, send some notes of gratitude to people I love. Then I make lists of things I want to be different in a year. These lists have included things like build a stronger community of friends, declutter my closet, check in with my husband about our end-of-life affairs. By the way, he’s the one really putting that one off. Then I even go as far as to do 5- and 10-year plans. And these include things like career goals, writing more books, becoming a better public speaker. But also stuff like taking my kids overseas, maybe even moving to a new house. I came across an old list recently from a journal I was writing in years ago. And on my five-year list was a goal to live in the very town I’m now living, which I wasn’t at the time. It really hit me when I looked at that goal, that writing it down, it helped me look ahead and get clear on what I want to be moving towards. I know that because I had a clear goal ahead. It helped me make choices to move in the direction of that goal, rather than just hoping it would someday happen and dealing with all the other shit that gets in the way as I’m going along. Okay, your turn. I know you’re on your phone right now. Get out your notes app, start making that list.


On our Monday and Wednesday episodes, I answer your questions. Here’s one from Liz in Boston. “Sometimes I feel like I’m addicted to anxiety. I’m miserable when I’m in a panic, but I can’t pull myself out of the cycle that creates anxiety in the first place. It’s like I can’t stop doing things the hard way. I’ll avoid a task because it makes me anxious. But then I’m even more anxious because it’s looming over me. How do I stop setting myself up for this?” Oh, Liz, this is such a good question. I love to talk about anxiety. And this is a really fascinating part of anxiety. We do get addicted to it for multiple reasons. One of the reasons is because our brain literally creates new neural pathways that reroute as constantly to the anxiety, if we’re not doing some work around that. And we’ll get to that in a minute. But the other thing that we do that I think is really interesting is that we become worried to not worry, when we think about not worrying about things, it makes us feel anxious, or it makes us feel like we’re not doing something or we’re not going to be prepared. And that’s when you kind of start to take a look at that and you start to ask yourself, Is that really true? If I’m not constantly worrying about everything? Are things going to fall apart? The answer is no. The answer is that you’re keeping yourself in a heightened state of alert that is causing a lot of stress on your body and probably your life and relationships. So Liz, there’s a few things that we can be thinking about here. You know, catastrophic thoughts are one of the big things that happen with this kind of addictive anxiety we start seeing the world through a catastrophic lens. Like after my parents died, I constantly saw the worst-case scenario and everything. You know, my husband’s coming home late from work. I’m sure he’s dead in a car crash. I have a pain in my side. I’m sure I have colon cancer, and I’m going to die next week, you know, these kinds of things. And when I began to do my own work on it, what I would do is I would find myself, you know, in this worst-case scenario, I would be playing it out in my head, and I would catch myself, I would pause, and then I would recognize what I was doing. And then I would make myself picture in opposite scenario. And I would make myself do it with as much imagery and emotion as I had the negative one. So if I’m picturing myself dying in the hospital and saying goodbye to my kids fun, I know, I would then make myself picture like 20 years from now being at one of my kids’ weddings. And doing this kind of pivot really started to take some of the power away from the negative thoughts, which was a big game changer. For me. The last little part of that with the catastrophic thought changes is that I had to have a little self-compassion for myself as I did this work, I had to recognize like, it’s okay that you’re having this anxiety, Claire, it’s okay that you’re struggling with these catastrophic thoughts. And that was really part of the thing that helped me start to move away from them. As soon as we can start to break that cycle. That’s where we can change that addictive behavior. For you thinking about tasks. Two, I think it would be important to do some meditation. I think sometimes we procrastinate. And we fill up our lives with all kinds of things, trying to stay away from tasks that cause us anxiety. Taking some time to meditate to step away from all the anxious thoughts, get clear for a minute can help you reset, come back to the things at hand. It’s also great to ask for help, let people know you know, let your partner your roommate, your best friend, tell them I have a really hard time with this particular task. Can you help me out with it? Can you stay on top of me about it? You know, I think that would help. I also recommend Gretchen Rubin’s; the four tendencies book it really helps us look at our personality in terms of motivation and procrastination. Lastly, I would recommend my episode with Janis Whitlock, we have a lot of great anxiety resources there. But let’s remember that anxiety is here to tell us something, lean into it, get to know it, externalize it and start slow. I really think just making small changes to your behavior and these patterns. It doesn’t have to feel that overwhelming. And that’s the way you’re going to start to work on this addiction piece. But thank you so much for your question, Liz.

Claire  07:29

Do you have a question you’d like some advice on, you can send me an email at newday@lemonadamedia.com. You can sign your name or asked to remain anonymous. Keep it brief or spill your guts to me and then keep an eye out for all three new day episodes in your feed each week.


NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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