NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
As you know, the tagline for Recovering Shopaholic is “Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life.” Thus far, the majority of my posts have focused on the first part, the full closet. With a closet of over 300 items and an out of control shopping habit, I felt the need to begin by paring things down and getting a handle on my compulsive buying. While both of those endeavors are still “works in progress,” I now feel the desire and need to give more attention to the “full life” portion of my tagline and mission.
In my recent post titled “Boring Wardrobe – or Boring Life,” I admitted that my life isn’t nearly as fulfilling as I would like. I think this is true for many shopaholics, as our shopping behavior frequently serves to either fill the emptiness we feel inside or as a means of distraction from the painful feelings and situations we don’t want to consider (see “The Reasons We Shop Too Much“).
A Three-Pronged Approach
I wholeheartedly believe that recovery from compulsive shopping must be at least a three-pronged approach. We need to “stop the bleeding” (in my case, stop the continual “revolving door” of clothes in and out of my closet), figure out what created the wound in the first place, and cultivate more constructive ways of coping so we can have a more well-rounded life.
My goals, rules (which will soon be revisited and revised), and Project 333 have been highly beneficial in terms of “stopping the bleeding.” I have been successful in paring down my oversize wardrobe (an updated closet inventory will be posted next week), sticking with a more reasonable shopping budget, and addressing my “wardrobe benchwarmers” (an update on those soon, too).
Working through the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” should be helpful in enabling me to discover the genesis of my over-shopping behavior. Although I already have a lot of insights in this area, the comprehensive work involved in that book will allow me to delve deeper and fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Defining “A Full Life”
With a plan of action in place for prongs one and two, it’s now time to look more at prong three, cultivating more constructive coping mechanisms and creating a fuller life. In order to design this “fuller life,” I first need to define what a full life means to me.
In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on this matter thus far. Hopefully, what I have to say will resonate with you and be beneficial in your efforts to develop a life that “makes your heart sing.” As always, I welcome your thoughts on this topic and always learn so much from what you share.
Three Things We Need to Be Happy
In considering what it means to live a full life, I was reminded of a quote I heard recently:
Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” – Rita Mae Brown
I heard this quote on the “Happiness Hour” on Dennis Prager’s radio show (I don’t agree with all of his views in general, but I do love his theories on happiness). I listen to this hour every week and have also read Prager’s book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem,” a number of times. Both the show and the book have benefitted me immeasurably in terms of my attitudes and behaviors around the vast and complex topic of happiness. As someone who has struggled with depression on and off since childhood, I’m always on the lookout for tools to assist me in feeling happier in life.
Someone to Love
The quote above really resonated with me and provided some insights into why I haven’t been very happy in recent years. Although the quote is quite simple, if one examines it in greater depth, there is a lot of wisdom there. When I consider my life, I see that all three areas are only partially fulfilled.
I am immensely fortunate to have my wonderful husband to love, as well as my two adorable and lovable cats. However, as I mentioned in this post, my other relationships are mostly distant and/or superficial. Clearly, I need to cultivate deeper and more meaningful connections.
Something to Do
In terms of “something to do,” my various career pursuits in recent years have risen to mediocrity at best. My most recent endeavor, wardrobe consulting, has not been as fulfilling or lucrative as I had hoped and I am not sure how to proceed with it at this point (more on that in a future post).
However, there is a silver lining in the “something to do” department. Writing this blog has been incredibly fulfilling and I have been dedicating increasing time and energy to this effort in recent weeks. I enjoy writing and am excited that my thoughts and words have been able to touch more people than I had originally envisioned upon starting the blog in January.
Something to Look Forward To
When I think about “things to look forward to,” that is on the upswing as well. I consider how I might be able to improve this blog and expand my reach, and such thoughts are exciting. I would love to be able to help people around the world with compulsive shopping issues using not only my writing skills, but also my psychology and coach training as well (I have a Master’s Degree in psychology and am a certified life coach). I’m also excited to discover compelling volunteer work and potentially make new connections through that avenue.
I feel more hopeful in both the professional and personal areas of my life than I have in a while. While I don’t yet have concrete plans for how I will earn more income and cultivate lasting social connections, I feel a sense of “possibility” in both areas and that feels good.
Key Life Values and Happiness
Another powerful consideration when contemplating “a full life” is one’s key values and the extent to which they are being honored. A while back, I participated in a women’s workshop that included a values visualization exercise. We were asked to envision and describe a peak experience from our past. As we recounted the specifics of that experience, a partner wrote down the values she heard in our description. From the values captured, we were then asked to select our top four or five. We subsequently created a “values collages” using imagery that represented the values most dear to our hearts.
I described my month-long honeymoon in New Zealand and how much I enjoyed that beautiful country and the adventures my husband and I experienced there. Most of my key values were evident in that experience, but another important guiding principle for my life was uncovered through further discussion.
My Top Five Values
I determined that my top five values are:
- Love (connection and friendship would also be included here)
- Spirituality (to me, this encompasses gratitude, wonder, connectedness, and transcendence)
- Growth (includes learning and self-awareness)
I probably should have added “Health” as a top value as well. We often take our health for granted, but my recent bodily woes have really shown me just how important health is to happiness and life satisfaction. If we aren’t feeling well physically, it’s very difficult to express and realize our other key values.
Below is the collage I created during the workshop. I have it hanging on my bathroom wall and look at it every day while I’m doing my hair and make-up (which isn’t exactly a short activity). It’s a powerful visual reminder of what’s most important to me and what needs to be honored in my day-to-day life.
Resources for Values Definition
I highly recommend that you do a values definition exercise if you are at all in doubt about what’s most important to you. Here are some helpful resources to assist you in identifying your key values:
- MindTools: What Are Your Values?
- Steve Pavlina: Living Your Values
- Your Career in Focus: Core Values Exercises
- Values, Decisions, and Inner Peace: Who Am I and Where Am I Going?
Are You Honoring Your Key Values?
Once you have listed your key values, it’s helpful to consider to what degree they are being honored in your life. Often when people are unhappy, it’s because one or more of their top values is being ignored. For example, as a person with a key value of “freedom,” I was very unhappy working a standard 9-5 job with only two weeks of vacation per year. Although I have struggled in my freelance and entrepreneurial endeavors, I am much happier doing this type of work than working a traditional job. Conversely, a person with a top value of “security” might be very unhappy doing freelance work for which income is usually quite variable.
When I look at my top values, I feel that I am doing well in honoring freedom and growth (although I would like to cultivate some new hobbies…), but I need to step up my efforts to foster love, spirituality, and contribution in my life. I need to enhance my connections with others and do more to make a powerful difference in the world and for causes that matter to me. In doing so, I will likely create what I consider a fuller – and more fulfilling – life for myself. I’m guessing that once I have a fuller life, what I have in my closet won’t matter as much to me and I won’t feel as compelled to shop. Fingers crossed!
How Do You Define “A Full Life”?
I’m sure I will explore this topic more in future posts, but hopefully my insights have provided some food for thought for you. I would love to read your views on what it means to have a full life and what one can do to create a more fulfilling life experience. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I always love hearing from you!