10 Signs It’s Time to Hit The Reset Button

Life is a marathon, a journey that will inevitably bring many ups and downs. And, if you’ve been on this journey for any amount of time, you know that there are times when you just need to hit the reset button so that you can keep moving forward with strength, focus, stamina, and even passion in your life. 

For a long time, the thought of voluntarily hitting the reset button in my life was a little terrifying to embrace. Any time I had heard someone talk about needing a reset in their life, it was connected to something negative—a failure, burnout, a breakup or divorce, or related to a physical or mental health concern.

I had internalized the need to hit the reset button with failure. And, it didn’t help that most of the successful people I had seen on television or known in my personal life appeared as if their life was perfect. After a while, I started to realize that everyone, even those successful people I admired, had many moments when they needed to hit the reset button. Honestly, it’s normal and a healthy part of living.

One difference between people that are successful in life and those that are not is knowing when it’s time to hit the reset button. It’s not a matter of if we will need to, it’s a matter of when and how many times. If we can increase our self-awareness, we can learn how to hit the button before things spiral too far out of our control. Yes, there are factors that are out of our control in life, but there are also many within it. The key is to find and focus on those factors.

When I started realizing that the practice of resetting is natural, I began seeing it as a necessary part of life. Our skin is naturally regenerating and turning over new cells everyday. As our hair grows, trimming it creates the conditions for strong and healthy hair. These are just a few examples of how our bodies are trying to teach us the natural practice of resetting. 

If you have a cellphone or computer, you are used to receiving notifications that it’s time to reset for an important update. These devices analyze tons of available data, notice areas for improvement, and develop updates to ensure the device works effectively. If we intend to live our best life, it’s just as important to apply this practice so we can make greater long-term gains.

When it comes to any basic technology, you know it’s time for a reset when programs start running slow or applications begin shutting down without warning. Similarly, there are personal signs that it might be time to hit the reset button. The goal is to use what’s within our locus of control to reset before we are forced to. 

Here are 10 signs that it might be time to hit the reset button: 

  1. You feel like you are in a physical or mental fog. Just like our electronic devices slow down or glitch when it’s time for an update, you might find yourself feeling burnt out, sluggish, or like your brain is foggy, distracted, or cluttered. In some cases, you aren’t feeling any of these yet, but you can see the road ahead and know that this is possible if you don’t take action soon. 

  2. You are having more negative than positive thoughts about yourself and life. There is tremendous power in words and thoughts. Your thoughts become your words that then become your actions. Those actions become habits that build who you are, which then become your destiny. Want to change your destiny? Start by changing your thoughts and beliefs. 

  3. You have not been prioritizing your health (physical, mental, spiritual). If you have put any of these areas in the back seat for an extended period of time, you will definitely see and/or feel it eventually. It is important to make time for exercise and movement, self-care, reflection, prayer/mediation (in whatever way you chose), and check-ins on your mental health. If it’s been a while, it might be time to start incorporating new routines that include these.

  4. You’ve found yourself living for people’s approval rather than living in your purpose. It’s very easy to focus on people-pleasing and the expectations of everyone around you without making sure that your actions align with your unique path and purpose. Your purpose is to stay on your path and to keep discovering what that means for you. If you’ve been spending too much time in someone else’s lane, then it’s time to set new intentions and embrace what’s designed for you.

  5. You feel like your mental health is unstable. Emotional and mental balance takes a lot of work to maintain and life is great at challenging it. Life can throw you into negative thinking patterns and behaviors that compromise your mental health. If you’re feeling unstable, it might be time to take a step back to process your emotions and thoughts. If necessary, don’t be afraid to schedule time with a therapist or coach to help you come back to alignment within yourself.

  6. You realize a pattern of making the same mistakes in your life. It’s OK to take an advanced version of the same test at different points in your life. It’s not productive to repeatedly fail the same level test. If this happens, it might be a sign that you still need to learn valuable life lessons. Listen to your life. Consider it a blessing that you are noticing the patterns and find the lesson so that you can move forward. This might be a sign there are still places in you that need healing (and that’s OK). 

  7. Your work and life balance are out of control. If you want to be on a fast track to crashing and burning, then ride the lack of work/life balance train. I’ve spent much of my career as an educator and senior manager, so I know firsthand what it feels like to work insane hours to tackle a never-ending to-do list. As a former sprinter, I know that it’s impossible to run miles at a 100-meter sprinter’s pace. It’s especially impossible to do that in every run. Life is a marathon; therefore, sprinting through life is not sustainable. 

  8. You are constantly comparing yourself to other people. There are times when you might find yourself spending too much time comparing yourself to other people. This can leave you feeling frustrated, stuck, and depressed. There is no doubt that constant comparison leads to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, depression, and/or frustration. So, if this is you, it might be time to hit the reset button and start focusing on learning more about who YOU are. Staying in this place for too long just delays you from finding your authentic path.
     
  9. You’ve lost interest in many of the positive things that you used to enjoy. The keyword here is “positive.” There are times when your interests and habits might change as a result of your growth and self-development. However, if you find yourself no longer wanting to be around people, places, and things that you love and know positively impact your growth, then it might be a sign that you need a mental health reset.

  10. You have stepped into a new space, role, job, or season that requires you to develop new skills, ideas, and/or capacity. This one is for those times when new doors, relationships, and experiences take place in your life. These moments create an opportunity to reflect and move forward with intention. Hitting the reset button helps you leave unnecessary baggage at the door. This is the perfect time to optimize your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

After reading through these signs, you might have discovered a few areas that need a reset. But, where do you start? How do you reset? 

Here are some steps I use to help me hit the reset button:

  1. Take inventory. Start by reflecting on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health, and any other life goals. Where do you notice areas for improvement? Write these down without judgement and move on to the next steps. 

  2. Check your WHY. After you have identified areas for improvement, consider why you want to improve these areas. The goal is to improve your focus, stamina, and productivity. If your reason is rooted in seeking acceptance, you are almost guaranteed disappointment and chasing many dead ends. So, before you move forward, make sure your why is rooted in principles, values, and a purpose that are enduring and inspire you for the long journey ahead.

  3. Gratitude. All opportunities to reset are a blessing. Life is either teaching you want to do or what not to do; both are great sources of data you can use to improve your life. Before you move forward, write down a few things that you are thankful for and a few lessons you have learned. 

  4. Journal. Manifestation and visioning are important parts of hitting the reset button. You need to envision what it will look, feel, and sound like after you’ve reset. What will be better and/or different? How will you know? Take some time to let your mind imagine an improved version of yourself. Then, you can focus on activating the faith to get there. 

  5. Make a plan. If you are going to change your thoughts and habits, you will need to make a plan to establish new routines and thinking habits. Remember, you should only focus on the things within your locus of control. For the things that are outside of your control, you can focus your energy on healing and dealing with your response and its impact on you. 

  6. Positive Self Talk and Affirmations. When things are going well, celebrate your efforts. Tell yourself you are proud of your growth. When you are struggling, still celebrate even the smallest progress. Tell yourself you are capable and worthy of more growth. Just be careful of spiraling into negative self-talk. Remember, words have power. Learn to be your own cheerleader when you are having a hard time and when times are great. If you speak positively about yourself long enough, you’ll start to believe it. If you start to believe it, you will become it. 

  7. Check-in on your progress. The most successful people I know practice the concept of failing fast. They don’t wait for things to be perfect before they start taking action; they take actions to learn fast and better assess when and where to adjust. Failure is just feedback and learning you can use to improve. Don’t wait for things to fail before you implement changes or upgrades. Proactively analyze the data (your life) and schedule a “reset” as needed. It’s not only important to know when it’s time to hit the reset button; it’s also imporant to schedule time to assess whether you are due for another upgrade. 

Life will unexpectedly throw challenges your way and that’s OK. You didn’t fail, you are just living. We have two options: be forced to hit the reset button or proactively pay attention to the signs that it’s time for one.

As we keep on living, let’s remember that every day presents an opportunity to hit the reset button, if we need it. You don’t have to wait for a new year or a special day. Keep looking for the opportunities to hit that reset button and improve your life. 

Why Focusing In Life is So Hard

You want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and ride your own wavelength of zen? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it… Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I wrote this post yesterday during a fit of frustration on the plane to a hopefully calming vacation in Las Vegas while attempting to read My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel amidst the cackles and clangor of inebriated passengers as they become new found airline besties.

The Story (and Lesson):

Listen, I’m all for freedom of friendliness, libation, and acquaintance; but by golly, do they have to be so LOUD? Then again this is a country built on freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the new found besties to sacrifice their hyperactive happiness for my peace and serenity. I mentally rummaged through all the fine print I read inside the safety manual. There was a lot of reassuring information about oxygen masks, life vests, safety devices, and “in the event of an emergency” situations, but nothing about being courteous to your neighbors. But wait, isn’t this an emergency? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers that have ever flown on a plane, ever? Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescuing?

With no way to politely ask these chatty birds to pipe down, I decided to make something of this experience and share the lessons this noise has forced me to tackle. What else am I supposed to do? Do you want me to risk a confrontation, get booted off the plane, and possibly get arrested because I had to defend myself against one of these tipsy passengers when they try to punch my lights out? No! I am saying no to violence and that’s my final answer, for now. Instead, I will take a deep breath and patiently hoped for some desperately annoyed passenger to do what I don’t have the gumption to do — ask them to shut up! Oops, I mean to “please, if you would be so kind, might you quiet down a bit?”

As I become more and more frustrated by each screech and shout, the feeling inside reminds me of moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my rather happy place. Those were times when I found it most difficult to focus on my journey. Right now, I would do anything to be able to go into my own head and turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode but nothing is a match for the voices of Godzilla. The more I think about ways I can tune these various conversations out is the more anxious and tense I am becoming. Under other circumstances I would have reveled in the opportunity to eavesdrop on the fascinating conversations around me. Honestly, they are discussing interesting interpretations of life. The two new buddies behind me are shifting in and out of intellectual conversations about love, relationships, passion, religion, happiness, spirituality, God, and new places to experience once we reached our destination. Our other friends across the isle are adding to the noise with topics including food, TV shows, etc. The problem isn’t them per se — well maybe it is because there is no need to shout at the top of your lungs if someone is sitting right next to you– but it is more the fact that I am not in the mood to listen to their stories at this volume at this moment. I want to read my book during this flight and then reflect on life.

Though quite terrifying– if you really think too hard about it– there’s something quite calming and spiritual about flying. The views, the perspective, and the fact that my life is in the hands of complete strangers surrounded by complete strangers for hours while thousands of feet above the ground is both unsettling and kind of magical. That is until turbulence hits and I am reminded that death could be imminent. Oddly, I am sure that fewer planes have crashed from turbulence than during take off or landing, but I could be wrong. Anyone know? Well, just as a wrote this paragraph I can report that I am entering the first phase of a full on panic attack, so let’s change the subject back to the chatterboxes behind me.

As I said before, in my mind this plane ride included a specific plan for my time– me, God, reflection, and a book, not writing a blog post about my frustration with the noise. I’m sure I would have found “the best method for tuning out deafening voices” in the book about anxiety but I was only able to get to page 32 before the voices of Godzilla destroyed my focus. Still annoyed but determined, I am deciding to start talking to myself — in a healthy way. “You’re stronger than this. Don’t let them distract you. You had a goal in mind, so stick to it!” Typically I would be completely oblivious to the loud mouths around me as they are drowned out by my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time! Thankfully my other-better-equal half is always thinking ahead and he brought an extra pair. Nonetheless, I didn’t planned on plugging my ears with noise-cancelling headphones; I planned on having an intellectually stimulating experience with my books. As you can surmise by now, their volume has reached the decibel that would interrupt even the most focused person’s brain frequencies! So, I am taking the headphones, but it is still not working.

I am asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to just focus? Why can’t you just push through? Is it really that hard to tune them out or are you just being petty?” Feeling defeated, I am reminded of the times in my life when I felt overwhelmed by the noise around me — times I’ve been focused on something in my life and then every voice begins playing in my head (again, not in the DSM-5 diagnosis kind of way). They are the times in which all the negative, positive, confused, logical, irrational, intellectual, and analytical voices/thoughts tell me how to be confident, worried, certain, and fearless all in the same frequency. Ay dios mios! As my mind is shifting to those moments when I’ve asked the same question –“Why is it so hard to just focus?” — I am beginning to recognize a parallel between my focus, life, and the challenge of tuning out noise. I am not sure I really want to confront it, but here goes. Simply realized, the more voices and noise in my head– including my own at times– is the more difficult it is for me to focus on my own life and my own journey.

Some noises are louder than others — fear, other people’s opinions, opposing viewpoints, societal and family expectations, cultural norms, and internal self-talk. At times, it can just be too loud, too confusing, too opposing, too headache producing, and too tiring to combat. Although annoyed at my clangorous neighbors, I am happy that I had the chance to look myself in the mirror and confront factors that at times make it hard for me to focus. Although a critical exercise, confronting these factors one time on a plane is not going make me a master at tuning out the loudest noises in my life. It is going to require mental maturity and mental martial arts!

Today, I am reminded that I have a lot more work to do. It would be great to block out the noise by creating a magical force-field around my head, but I’m sure that would not prevent me from concocting some ridiculous thinking within my own head.

Today, I have learned two things:

  1. I now understand why people invest in quality noise-cancelling headphones,
  2. no matter how noise cancelling the headphones, it’s much harder to cancel out the noise that exist — or you allow to exist — inside your own head, and
  3. be ready to listen and adapt when life speaks.

The good news is that this lesson has made me more of a noise-cancelling ninja and our neighbors alcohol consumption has finally caught up to them! The four amigos are quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book or at least enjoying the remaining moments of this amazing view in peace and quiet.

Comment below or chat with me!

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20 Questions for When You Feel Frustrated With Life

Dart board with three darts away from the bullseye

Do you ever get frustrated with yourself and/or life because you feel like you should be doing more or like life keeps throwing up obstacles just when you feel like you’re getting a few steps ahead?  

When the reality of life, work, responsibilities, stress, and our personal goals collide, they can often compete for our time and attention. If we’re not careful, these can cause frustration and throw us into a cycle of negative talk, lost perspective, and trigger poor physical, emotional, and mental habits. 

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about having faith in yourself. It was a great reminder that we have to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, it is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people can feel like they are working against us; but, it is also true that the person staring right back at you in the mirror has control over how they respond to that frustration. Perspective and peace are crucial in life, especially when frustration is active.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that we overlook our past and present victories. Yes, life is frustrating right now, but this too can and shall pass. Sometimes we need to slow things down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at my pace, or like things are not going as planned, I try to take some time to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. Listen, this little brain of ours is POWERFUL! If we let it, it will control our mood and energy, for better or for worse.

When things are starting to feel overly frustrating, I try to process using some of these questions: 
  1. What is within my locus of control that I can change right now?
  2. Where can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  3. Am I extending grace to myself in this situation or being extremely hard on myself?
  4. Am I creating more frustration in my life because my priorities are not in the right order?
  5. Is this situation more frustrating for me because I have not dealt with past frustrations and issues? Are there things I need to work on healing within myself? 
  6. Do I feel more frustrated because I am out of balance in important areas of my life?
  7. Is this frustration a result of comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. Have I been listening to life when it tells me to readjust my plans, reset, and rest?
  9. Do I just need to check my attitude?
  10. Have I contribute to this frustration by not monitoring my time and energy? 
  11. Do I have positive people around me or are people adding to my stress?
  12. Who and what do I need to take a break from in order to regroup? 
  13. Have I taken enough time to examine whether I am in line with my principles and values? Am I frustrated because I am in misalignment with my deepest self? 
  14. Do I have a plan or am I just winging it in life? Could this be adding to my frustration?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Have I been getting enough sleep and taking care of my body? (Believe it or not, this does influence your mood!) 
  17. Am I taking responsibility of my life or waiting to blame my problems on other people?
  18. Am I projecting my frustration in this situation and avoiding addressing the root concern(s) in my life?
  19. How willing am I to take different actions to have a different outcome? Do I secretly enjoy the misery? 
  20. To what extent am I living in a box that is too small for me? Is it possible that this frustration is really a catalyst to grow?

Before or after processing these questions, I encourage you to spend some time also recording a few things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the best thing you can do to start changing your attitude and mindset. It really is all that it’s hyped up to be. 

If we are willing to learn from our mistakes and successes in life, then we are growing and learning! The faster we learn the lessons, the less time we will waste repeating the same test(s). Life can change overnight (for the better or worse)–so what’s the point in being stuck in a frustrated mindset?

We will get frustrated; that’s inevitable. But, we overcome it, move forward, and find greater balance than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let the frustrations become the overarching theme of our lives. Let’s take back our control, power, and just take life one deep breath at a time. 

Having Faith in Yourself.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light even when the dawn is still dark.”

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. That concepts seems very vague, somewhat intangible, and also requires a significant level of trust. If I trust a person or object, I believe in their/its ability to be who or what I know them to be. Subsequently, I have faith in them or it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it was designed correctly. Therefore, I can say I have faith in the ladder. If a person has proven to be trustworthy in their character and actions over time, you might say you have faith that they will be there for you when you need them.

In general it is easy to have faith in other people or objects. But what about having faith in ourselves? What makes it so difficult to believe in our own ability as confidently as we believe in others’ abilities? Is it because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others? Or, is it because our defense mechanisms and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us? In my opinion, it is probably the latter. It is great to have faith in other people, but it should not outweigh the faith we have in our own capabilities.

Over the past two years, I have wondered even more about what I would do if I had no fears or doubts. I started praying that God would (1) allow me to continue to discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and (2) to have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. After a while, it was no longer a new prayer. My confidence to explore my interests increased, yet I was still doubtful and fearful. I knew some of my interests and goals were/are destined and ordained, but I was still hesitant to move forward without more reassurance from God.

Me: “God, I just want to know that you will be with me if I journey down this path. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out in my best interest. I trust you God.”

God: “Yes, this is path I ordained for you. I am with you and will always be with you”

Me: “Thank you God, but I just need to know that you will be there for me…”

Repeat this dialogue every day about the same goals and paths and that’s how ridiculous I sounded asking the same questions over and over again. Unfortunately, having repeated reassurance didn’t result in me running full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God.

I started to recognize a contradiction in the overall situation. I felt God signalling, encouraging, and supporting me to move down certain paths, yet I still kept asking for sign after sign that I would be successful. In some way I was looking for confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure — very unrealistic. If I had faith in God, then why would I doubt him so much? Why did I need to keep asking for reassurance? I finally realized that the problem was tangled somewhere within my fears, doubts, and insecurities. The problem wasn’t God; the problem was me.

With this realization I started praying instead for God to help me believe everything he already believed about me. He made me strong and intelligent (I believe), so I just needed to have faith that he knew what he was doing when he created me. I was not a fluke creation, but rather a destined life on earth. Ultimately, the goal now was for me to learn to believe the greatness he created in me and still sees in me.

Think of it like a parent-child, teacher-student, or coach-athlete dynamic:

Parent: “You are so capable, strong, and loved. I believe in you and I want you to reach for the stars. Just know that I will always have your back every step of the way. You will never be alone because I support you.”

Child: “I know. I know. But, I am still scared and afraid that things will not work out. I know you love me and believe in me, but I just can’t do it.”

Parent: “Trust me! You CAN do it and I am in your corner! Haven’t I always been there for you? Listen, I am very proud of you and I will continue to be proud of you even if you fail.”

Child: “Yes, you have always been there for me, but I don’t know what will happen if I fail. I don’t think I have enough in me to do this. I love you too, but I just can do it.”

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a sad dialogue. If I am ever having that conversation with my future children, I will wonder why my inspiration and encouragement doesn’t seem to garner even a little bit of faith that his/her goal is worth trying. I will wonder if my child trust that I will be there to catch them if they fall.

Coach:“You have so much talent and ability. If you are committed to the training, you will go very far. You can do it.”

(Athlete goes through weeks of training, is committed to the process, and begins seeing improvement in practice. )

Fast forward to game day

Coach: “You ready? Let’s do this! You are prepared. Now all you have to do is execute what we practiced, Go get ’em!”

(Athlete gets out there, observes the competition, and begins to doubt him/herself and the coach’s words).)

Fast forward to after the performance/match…

Coach: “What in the hell happened out there? You are better than that performance today.”

Athlete: I felt (insert lame injury or excuse here)… and when the referee (insert lame scapegoat excuse here) it threw me off!

(Or maybe the athlete will be more reflective and say…) “I felt great today coach. I don’t know what happened.”

Well, I will tell you what happen dear athlete: Doubt made you question you preparedness. You questioned whether your coach was just pumping you up because that’s his/her job and you froze! You didn’t have faith in yourself, your abilities, or your coaches words.

A few weeks ago I reached out to an old friend to touch base about a new project I am working on. For the most part I was super excited and confident that I was going to do a great job on this project, but of course my insecurities, doubts, and fears needed confirmation that my strengths were indeed strong enough to outweigh my weaknesses. To make a long story short, after chatting with this person for a while, I realized that although they had many great suggestions and resources to offer me none of the information outweigh the preparation and lessons I learned along the journey.

In essence, in that moment I realized that everything I went through — both the good and bad — had prepared me for exactly where I was/am. I didn’t need reassurance or more resources, what I really needed was to have faith that (1) God would not give me this path if he/she/it (whatever you what to think God is) knew I was not prepared for it and (2) that even if I hadn’t learned the lessons along the journey (as I was supposed to) that God would be there to support me when I fall. Therefore, success seemed to lie in whether I not only had faith in myself but also in his plan for me.

I have many weaknesses, but the good news is that I have many, many more strengths. Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us; it is just a matter of whether we start believing the idea that (1) we are strong and (2) that God and the universe — already knowing our weaknesses — still thinks we have enough strength inside of us to positively impact the world around us. Maybe in the end embracing our weaknesses as much as we embrace our strengths is what makes us unstoppable.

Photo Credit: Zhao

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Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

Section 1: CHEMISTRY

Organic chemistry: The thing that everyone desires in matters of lust and love and the class everyone despises in college.

I was 16 when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. Well, there were three guys who wanted to date me, but I was nervous at the thought of heartbreak. In an attempt to protect me from heartbreak and teen pregnancy (I am assuming here), older women at church kept telling that “boys only wanted one thing–sex.” So, I was determined to be very careful with whom I gave my love to since I didn’t want the big bad boys to crush my heart and innocence!

Anyway, I remember being confused about which of the boys I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that would most likely be my husband some where down the line. I know, very naive and silly. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future to figure out which one would last that long! I had different kinds of chemistry with each one and needed advice from someone that I thought had a great marriage. So, I sought advice from one of my mentors.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two… but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think that you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You are going to have chemistry with a lot of different people in this world– even when you are married– but don’t confuse having chemistry with meaning you are supposed to date that person, never-mind spend the rest of your life with them.  A great relationship needs to have strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. And listen, since you are such a gorgeous girl with an amazing personality, a lot of men might likely want to have a relationship with you throughout your life. Don’t be fooled…You might feel chemistry with them, but chemistry is biological and real love and true commitment is something much deeper than chemistry.”

Ha! Well, I picked the guy I thought would be the best choice for me and it last 6 months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and really internalized what my mentor said. Through experience, I later would come to understand exactly what true love and commitment really is and also what it is not. I would also come to realize that possible lifetime relationships could have “worked” with a lot of people, but there is a noticeable difference you find the one that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

From dating to flirting, marriage, divorce, cheating, and everything in between, it is safe to say that “chemistry” lies at the center of it all. It is important, but it is not everything. In my opinion, there are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. To some degree, a great relationship will have at least 3 or more and relationships with more “issues” will likely have fewer. I am aware that I am making a huge generalization here, but for the most part I think it is true.

Sometimes, however, once someone discovers they have “chemistry” with another person they are tempted to jump into a relationship without first considering all the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to become overly excited– or overly desperate (we have all been there)– in love and wrongfully allow “good chemistry” to make us…

  • believe the relationship is “meant to be” causing us to put large amounts of energy into something that we should not be in to begin with.
  • try to force the person to change the negative aspects of their personality into what we desire since the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”
  • sit in silence and unhappiness about ways we are treated because we don’t want to lose that “great chemistry.”

All of the above are things NOT to do simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good organic chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone being in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. So in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

In my opinion and experience, in order to have a great relationship one must really consider more than chemistry as important. Choosing a life partner should include more “life” related things like how the person fits into your life purpose(s), what individual goals you each have, whether you are both confident and clear on/in your own identity, both of your work ethics and resiliency, and how flexible you both are to compromising as each individual person grows and changes.

Section 2: COMPROMISE

Is there room for the both of us [to be happy long-term]?

I will be the first to admit that sometimes relationships are not honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have ever been in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that from time to time relationships can feel like there is not enough room for both of you to be happy. Arguments, drama, misunderstandings, apologies, compromises, limited schedules, hectic jobs, and other responsibilities can make it seems like in order for one person to be happy the other needs to be unhappy. This is not true, but it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Momentarily, it feels like it is the end of the world, but typically a few good conversations yield a great compromise that makes both people walk away feeling like there is room for both of their feelings and voices to be heard.

In even the best relationships, there will never be good times all the time! I think in some weird way a good partner helps us grow, so reasonable friction is good– enough for iron to sharpen iron, but not enough for two sticks to start a fire and burn down the whole house every other week! For me, the important part was/is to never allow “there will never be good times all the time” to act as an excuse to tolerate someone’s nonsense.

There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious as in cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry and can only be considered on a case by case basis. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, you definitely should discuss your thoughts with someone that you can be completely honest and open with (and who has a great long-term relationship). Maybe they can help you figure out if it is time to move on, if there are some steps you might take to repair or improve the relationship, or if maybe you are just overreacting or manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating room in a relationship for both people to feel loved, be happy, and to have space to grow requires both people to be willing to make that a priority! And on that note, let’s just point out that the “room” in the relationship should be an equal amount for both parties. It should look and sound something like this:

“I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, and you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. We may not lay down the same baggage, but we are going to lay down equal amounts so that the other person has an equal chance to experience the love God created for them to receive.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a warped definition of love that the other person created for me. Please, love me the way God loves me and love me the way I need to be loved in order to become the best possible version of myself. That’s another problem: sometimes we want to love people they way we want to love them or the way we are used to loving other people (even exes). Leave it up to us and we will try to play God in people’s life and love them how we think they need to be loved, not the way God intended for them to be loved. But, I digress.

The key to creating room for people to experience the greatest love they ever will in their lifetime is quite simple yet challenging to apply. The key is to compromise in order to maintain a harmonious balance– meaning both people have equal chance to be happy in the relationship– but never compromise yourself, your character, your long-term happiness, or mostly importantly, your purpose. Love and relationships should be about two people deciding to share their love with each other and, maybe eventually, their life together (if they so chose). Making room for two people to co-exist in love together is not easy, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming challenging.

In my opinion, healthy relationships are those that require two whole people. I can say from my experience– both personal and observed– it takes two emotionally and mentally whole individuals in order to have a great relationship. Of course, initially you may not be completely there yet, but both people must accept and be actively working on bettering themselves in order to be the best people that they can for each other and the world. Without each person being mostly whole within themselves, it makes everything in the relationship that much more complicated.

Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves in the rut of a series of bad compromises. I have been there and done that so I bare no judgement. However, after compromising your preferences and happiness enough times, your heart will begin telling you that it’s had enough! At that point you are faced with having to make the necessary decision to (1) come back into balance as a couple, (2) to end the relationship, or (3) to stay in a dissatisfying relationship with irreconcilable issues and unhappiness (the ultimate compromise).

I have been in all three positions: the one making the decision to leave, the one being left, and the one wanting to leave but being too weak to to follow through (until all the issues back me into a corner and I had no choice but to say goodbye). The good news is that there is a fourth position to be in: a relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for you and themselves without compromising the internal happiness of either party. If you have found that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, trust me it is possible. So in terms of compromise in a relationship, there IS room for everyone (everyone here = only the two of you) if both people are equally committed to making equal room for each other. 

Note: This is Part III and the final post (for now) in a series around a critical question: Is There Room for Everyone? I invite you to read Part I on Race and Racial Identity and Part II on Success and Competition.

Would you like me to continue this series? What other topics would you like me to write about?

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Photo Credit: Petteri Sulonen