The New Year is right around the corner, connoting renewal and resolutions to make positive changes. Why is it that we wait for the first of the year to reflect upon and intentionally make changes in our lives? What are we doing during the other eleven months?
Many individuals seek therapy because something feels “off.” Figuring out the “what” becomes part of the therapeutic work. Sometimes, we are able to pin point our distress to a particular area of our lives. Dissatisfaction in work and love come up frequently, and for good reason.
We spend a lot of our time at work. While the money helps, it does little to make us feel better during those particularly boring or challenging workdays. When we’re not working, most of us are spending time with friends and family. The quality of those relationships undoubtedly contributes largely to how we feel about our lives as a whole. The need for both purpose and connection drive us toward many major life decisions. And so now with the New Year approaching, you ask yourself, am I making the right ones?
There’s certainly no rulebook to this game called, “Life,” and even if there were, it could never apply to each and every unique individual to walk the earth. So how do we learn to navigate our own unique lives, making the right decisions for ourselves, to ultimately make it count?
It is my contention that our “E.O.S.,” or, Emotional Operating System, is the key to living a fulfilling life, full of growth, purpose, connection, and meaning. That “off” feeling that I described earlier, is your system’s signal that something in your life is not aligned with your values. Perhaps the feeling comes up whenever you’re bored at work and thinking, “I was meant to do more than this. Why aren’t they giving me any larger projects to work on?” Or maybe it arises when you’re post-fight with your spouse yet again, and thinking, “This can’t be necessary. I can’t keep living like this.” Your E.O.S. is at work sending signals, and will continue to do so as long as you continue to act out of accordance of your value system.
You see, your E.O.S. communicates directly with your value system on a daily basis. Have you ever paid it forward in a small way? Perhaps you’ve paid for the coffee for the person behind you in line, only to get that warm feeling within. Your E.O.S has sent the signal that you’ve done something in alignment with your values. Conversely, your unique E.O.S. will send signals to you in the form of disconcerting feelings when something is awry.
Before I became a therapist, I pursued a career in film working in editing and music supervision for movie trailer houses. Each day was a battle to get out of bed, but I brushed it off as a “normal” experience to working. At night I was left with a nagging feeling of mixed anxiety and general unease that I would then choose to escape through distractions. The nagging feeling never went away. In fact, it got bigger, and more persistent. “This work is not fulfilling, and I cannot spend so much of my time in this way.” There it was, the big, scary, thought that I tried to pretend didn’t exist, but did exist.
When I finally decided to face that uneasy feeling, I was reluctantly forced to make a big life decision: to do what I truly wanted, and what I truly wanted was a job with more meaning. This was no easy choice, which is why I fought my E.O.S. for years before giving in. Choosing to listen to the signals my E.O.S was sending out ultimately forced me to pull a “180” on my life. It required me to get an additional degree in psychology and to go on to graduate school.
But since making that choice, my E.O.S has stopped sending the uneasy feelings. I’m thankful that I can rely on my system to alert me when I’m not living the life I desire to live. Especially today, we so frequently box ourselves in to lifestyles and circumstances that we think look good on paper, or would make our parents happy. We sacrifice our own happiness and satisfaction with the current state of our lives, and to me, that is one of the greatest losses anyone can experience.
So I ask you, what signals has your Emotional Operating System been sending you? It can be incredibly daunting to tune in and listen, because it may force you to take action. To that, I say, you don’t have to go at it alone. Therapists are trained individuals who can provide support when you decide to confront the signals and make some changes in alignment with your own values. New Years is right around the corner, but it is always a good time to upgrade your operating system.