After writing my intentions for 2016, I wondered what to focus on first to kick off the year. The nudge I received in response was, "Do your inner work."
Inner work? You say. Uh-huh... so what is that, exactly? I'm glad you asked.
Inner work means focusing on your spiritual and emotional self -- your thoughts, feelings, intuition, and attitudes -- the energies that fuel your whole human being.
Think of yourself as if you were a piece of technology: Your body is the hardware and your energy is the software. Doing the outer work is taking care of your body by paying attention to your eating and exercise; inner work is taking time to update your inner being -- the software that feeds your inspiration and energy to create new thoughts and ideas.
Just like technology, if software is running old programs, the device won't work properly and may produce jumbled data -- or in a worst-case scenario, crash the entire system. Similarly, repeating old beliefs, mulling over unresolved issues, or harboring negative thoughts affects our mental and physical health... and we crash.
I first began to understand this process when I chose to start making significant changes in my life 20 years ago. I recall the major shifts that took place on the outside of my life: relocating to the Pacific, re-creating myself in a completely different environment, and finding a new family of friends.
I also remember the major changes taking place on the inside of my life: experiencing new levels of awareness, learning lessons, and releasing the pain that came with processing old issues and memories. I often felt like giving up but remembered being told by my friend Grant to, "Do the work." I learned that lasting change comes from the inside out.
Doing the inner work is just as important as doing the outer work.
Here are some pointers for starting your inner work:
Pay attention to people. Become aware of those people who build you up vs. those who bring you down. Mom was right -- you are the company you keep. Choose your companions carefully and see how you feel.
Notice your thoughts. Take note of any recurring thoughts that are negative or critical and practice reframing them with uplifting or hopeful messages. You always have the choice of which thoughts you focus on.
Refill your spiritual tank. Reconnect with the people, music, movies, places, and other activities that bring happiness and that full-fill you. The body needs food for fuel; the spirit needs positive energy.
Listen within. If your body is telling you that your exercise or eating is out of balance, make small changes. Try changing one thing at a time, course-correct (if necessary), let it stick, and then change something else when you're comfortable with the new change.
Take breaks throughout the day. Take a refreshing walk, eat a healthy snack, find a friendly conversation, or take a music break. Give your brain a break once in a while and your productivity will increase.
Do something fun for yourself. Plan a movie night; go out for dinner; buy tickets for a concert or play -- get out of the house (and out of your mind) and enjoy something fun and different on a regular basis. The variety will refresh your mind and perspective.
Find more tips for reconnecting with your natural balance in 21 Days to Better Balance, or another book from Michael's collection at michaelsunnarborg.com/books