It’s pretty universal to say that most of us want to live our happiest life: a job that is fulfilling, strong relationships, and good health. Yet, there is usually something holding us back from achieving our best existence. How do we figure out what’s holding us back, and how do we let go of it?
If you ask Meredith Atwood, author of The Year of No Nonsense: How to Get Over Yourself and on with Your Life, “The problem is that we often do not have a clear picture of what Health, Happiness and Success really are for us. We know what the world is telling us, but we haven’t defined it for ourselves,” Atwood says. “Once we have a clear picture of our definitions, it’s easier to see the Nonsense standing in the way of our forward progress.”
What is “Nonsense”?
Nonsense, according to Atwood, is something that is holding us back from our highest Health, Happiness, and Success. Those things are subjective, and you have to define what is Nonsense to you. Nonsense is anything that is standing in the way of you living your best life. Identifying and then dealing with your Personal Brand of Nonsense is a big theme in the book.
Take Atwood, for example. To anyone looking from the outside in, here’s a woman who was married with two healthy children. She was a flourishing lawyer, an Ironman triathlete, a successful author, a triathlon coach, and public speaker. What could possibly be wrong?
For Atwood, it was a lot.
“I was heavily into drinking, self-loathing, and I had not dealt with the trauma and issues from my past. When I decided that I could not spend another second suffering, I decided to try an experiment: ‘What if I had a Year of No Nonsense? What would that look like?’”
What Nonsense might look like for you
Sometimes the Nonsense is obvious – you hate your job. Atwood went to school to become a lawyer because it made her parents proud, and she felt like it was something they wanted her to do. But by studying and practicing law, she wasn’t living a life that was true to herself. In tackling her year of No Nonsense, Atwood gave up a “great” job at a law firm to become a writer and speaker full time. Is your job Nonsense? Is it making you unhappy? Find another job. Not always easy, but certainly do-able.
Some of us do feel sad and depressed, or maybe self-loathing like Atwood did, and need to really examine what the Nonsense is in our life. But what if you think – hey, this is the bed I made, I need to lie in it?
“We are all doing some things that we wish we weren’t,” confides Atwood. “We are all struggling in some way with something. The biggest Nonsense in our lives are the things, habits, behaviors, people and places that are causing us the most pain. We are all unique; you have to find what is causing you the pain and work to get to the heart of it, and then past it.
So Nonsense can take many forms. It can be excessive eating, drinking, smoking, or shopping. It can be staying in toxic relationships with family or “friends.” It can be people-pleasing, self-sabotage, over-analysis, unworthiness, fear of failure, fear of success, comparison, racism, creating drama, living in the past, giving away your power, and so much more.
How to ditch Nonsense this year
You thought you were fine until you read that list, right? If these things have been holding you back, make a vow to let go of them in 2020.
“The beautiful thing about Nonsense? Once you know it, you know it, and you find yourself no longer interested in entertaining it—from yourself OR others—in the ways that you previously did,” Atwood says.
Getting rid of the Nonsense can feel daunting. You have to really look at yourself and your life with intense honesty and maybe make some hard decisions about what things aren’t positive in your life and are causing your pain. The work to do so may feel so overwhelming that you can’t even bring yourself to get started.
This means taking a look at your habits, the people in your life and your childhood. Take a look at the lies people told you when you were growing up (“you’ll never amount to anything!”). Examine the lies you tell yourself today (“I’m not worthy of a man to treat me well.”). Which of those things is leading to unhappiness, suffering or shame?
How do you get to the truth? As Atwood says, truth is an onion. The Truth Onion keeps on stinking and getting stronger as you peel closer to its core. But that is where you find your answers and discover how you have to deal with them. What you find is the Nonsense you need to throw out of your life.
“When you are ready, you will. Like most things in life, when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change, we will do something about it,” Atwood says. “I am hoping to cut down the suffering timeframe for people, though. If you can read the book, you will find some things that you can deal with [in the short-term] that might be palatable. Once some things change, then it’s easier to build momentum to tackle the really hard stuff.”
Ready to let go of the things that are holding you back and make 2020 the year you start living your more authentic life? Me too! Let’s do this!