If you could give me one word that would tell me what is causing the majority of your stress, what would that word be?
Although I don’t think that there is ever one thing that does, or ever could be, the reason behind every frustration, sad moment or disruption, I think there is one theme that, if you were to let it go, could free you from a lot of unnecessary anguish.
Before I get into what that theme is, I’d like to share the quote that prompted this blog:
If it is costing you your peace, put it down.
If it is robbing you of joy, leave it alone.
If it is disrupting the flow of ease in your life, let it go.
No more settling because you think you have to…you don’t.
~ Alex Elle
A wonderful friend of mine sent me this yesterday and it hit it’s target, I was struck by an epiphany, as any good quote is meant to do.
It was the last sentence that ”because you think you have to…” that got me. I realized in that moment that what the quote is referring to and one of the biggest reasons why we suffer mentally is from a sense of obligation.
The more I thought about it form the perspective of my 18 years of hair clients, my coaching clients and for myself, the more I recognized that if we could let go of the feeling of being obligated, we could reduce our stress immensely.
Obligation is defined as an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment or a debt of gratitude for a service or favour.
No wonder that word causes us so much stress and unease, with defining words such as ”bound”, “duty”, “commitment”, and ”debt”, it feels so damn heavy!
One of our basic human needs is freedom and everything about the word obligation contradicts this need, so it’s no wonder that even the idea of being obliged to do something is enough to give most people a “pain in the gut”.
Here’s the good news that Oxford Dictionary has failed to recognize in it’s definition, it’s the one aspect of the word that could change everything and free us from the heaviness of being obligated…
Obligation is also a feeling!
If we can also see it as a feeling, we can then add some flexibility and even some freedom around it.
Feeling is defined as an emotional state or reaction or a belief, especially a vague or irrational one. The words ”state”, “reaction” and “belief” are all words that indicate that anything deemed as a feeling has with it a sense of impermanence. Something changeable. States can change, reactions differ and beliefs evolve. In this way of looking at obligation, as a feeling, we give it the flexibility we need to free ourselves from it!
Why? Because the feeling we get as a result of anything is based on our perception of that thing or event. The feeling directly comes from the meaning we give It.
For example, one person may have a feeling of positive expectation to going out to dinner with friends while another may be feeling dread for the exact same event and is only going from the feeling of obligation. It all comes down to how we see it, to the meaning that we have given it.
I think we can all agree that the preferable feeling from the above example would be to have a positive expectation of going out to dinner with friends. Can the second person get to positive exception instead of feeling dread?
Here’s where the flexibility comes in! If the person who feels obligated chooses to shift their pattern of thought from seeing this as an obligation to seeing it as an opportunity, everything shifts. If they choose to focus on the positive aspects that could come from dinner with friends, they’ve moved from a feeling of obligation to a feeling of, in the very least, hope, maybe even excitement. They‘ve completely changed the meaning they have given the event
I recognize that, in the above scenario, there does not have to be a heavy commitment to having dinner with friends, there are options such as saying “no” and choosing not to go. There are times in life when what we see as an obligation, is not really an obligation at all, we’ve just labeled it as such and by recognizing that, we free ourselves.
And then there are times when we are legally bound to do something and, in that, are forced to oblige.
No matter what the situation, there is always choice. We have the choice in the meaning we give it, how we choose to view it, where we choose to focus and in that comes the freedom we desire and the letting go of obligation.
I understand that changing the meaning we give something may not reduce all of the stress that comes with it, but it’s a great start to finding more peace in ours lives, especially when it comes to the times when the feeling of obligation is the cause of our unease.
Keep in mind, you will not always have success in gaining a new perspective or creating a new meaning for your obligations and some will be easier to do this with than others. You are not a failure if it seems too much to bear because sometimes it is, and that’s when you should seek help. You don‘t have to do it alone.
This is a reminder for those situations in which it is possible to create new and positive outlooks and, with that, find more inner peace.
How have you found ways to create more peace in your life? Are there things you’ve learned to let go of for your mental wellbeing? I would love to hear from you.
🤍 Your Coach