© Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Jan
Hanson, L.Ac., 2005
Finding Your Footing
Obviously I know what I'm supposed to be doing hour to hour in a day,
but in terms of the big picture, I feel like everything got turned kind
of upside down since I became a mom, like where I was headed in life --
and this has all gotten more confusing since I went back to work . . .
natural to feel pulled in a million directions when you're a mother.
And, unfortunately, some important goals or needs of yours can get
pushed to the back burner indefinitely. To deal with this, it helps
a lot to have some sense of your guiding purposes and priorities.
This is not lofty and abstract, but a practical, daily matter; it's
like having a roadmap for your life: then you know where you are
OK, so first
things first: Are you for yourself or not? It may seem like a dumb,
obvious question, but actually many people have a hard time
seriously getting on their own side, so that they feel mobilized to
reduce their suffering and increase their happiness. Here are some
- Reflect on how
being for yourself - so that your well-being and functioning
improve - will help other people, especially the ones you care
- Reflect on how
you want to treat others with ordinary consideration and kindness.
Then apply the same standards of fairness and decency toward
yourself that you would naturally apply to anyone: why not you,
children in general and your stance of care toward them. Then get
a sense of yourself as a child and apply those feelings of caring
to that child you once were - who is still deep inside you.
- Inside your
mind, wish yourself well, in the form: "May you ____________ ."
Such as, "May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you be well.
May your heart be at ease. May your body be at
When you're for
yourself, you want to support the virtues and priorities that lead
to a good life, and contribute mightily to others.
- In your mind or
on paper, list three or more important virtues that you routinely
embody. A single word will often do, but it's OK to have more.
Then go back over your list, and for each one, take a few seconds
for the sense of it to sink deeply into your heart.
- Next, list
three or more important virtues that you would like to live by
better. Do some soul-searching here. Sometimes it helps to be a
little quiet in your mind and ask your innermost being - or even
God, if that's meaningful to you - for what it thinks. But
remember that you are being a good person in your willingness to
acknowledge where you could be even better. Some classics:
Patience. Restraint of anger. Courage. Sobriety. Cheerfulness.
Determination. Love. Generosity.
clear about these, think about what would help you live more by each
one. Then see if you can make a commitment to doing that. For real.
- In your mind or
on paper, make a list of major areas of your life. Like Health,
Spirituality, Love, Pleasure, Marriage, Childrearing, Career,
Creative Expression, Finances. Have a few broad or many specific
areas, however you like.
- Next, make
yourself put that list in priority order. Sorry, no ties are
allowed. It's just an exercise; in real life we tend to pursue
- When you have
your priority list, take an honest look at it, and tell the truth
to yourself about how you are and how you are not living your life
accordingly. Let that truth sink in even if it is uncomfortable.
Recall your feelings of being for yourself.
- Then make a
real plan about what you could do, concretely and practically, to
live more by your true priorities. Stare at that plan and see if
you can really commit to it.
To be blunt, we
generally end up where we've been heading. So it's vital to head in
good directions, and keep telling the truth to ourselves about
whether we're still actually on course. Then we have the best
possible odds of ending up with the family, the children, the
marriage, the life that we deeply want and long for.
(Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is
an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and
son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the
authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind,
and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their
website at www.nurturemom.com or email them with questions or
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org; unfortunately, a personal reply may
not always be possible.)