Swaay (Andrea Marcellus)
The exhaustion of uncertainty in so many realms, challenging financial climate, and information overload keep the amygdala of our brain, the fear and anxiety center constantly activated and ready to protect us. Like our muscles, whatever part of our brains get the most exercise grow stronger. So, if the goal is to be happy, recent years have caused many of us literally to grow the “wrong” part of our brain. When faced with a challenge, our default is to protect rather than connect, and our minds start churning fearful reasons “why not” rather than optimistic positive possibilities - the cornerstone of mental wellness.
Everyone is feeling the mental burden these days, and our bodies are reeling from the physical side effects of modern life’s constant pressures. Solutions abound on the internet and in bookstores, but many are impractical to apply when we need them most. The fact is we need more anywhere, anytime lifestyle solutions for throughout the day when we’re most likely to be triggered so that we can train our brains to strengthen against stress the same way we strengthen our muscles with weights. The Rule of Awesome is a technique that activates positive brain centers in the face of challenge and choices, instead of doing a rinse and repeat about our woes in a mental spin-cycle of doom-speak.
The Rule of Awesome is incredibly easy to apply, and it goes like this: If it’s not awesome, don’t do it.
But don’t let the simplicity fool you. Applied strategically across all areas of life, this concept fosters a profound sense of deep confidence and self-worth that will invigorate and empower you by turning anxiety into inspiration, uncertainty into curiosity, and fear into fuel. The word awesome is defined as: inspiring wonder and curiosity. The practice of filling your life with choices that fit the Rule of Awesome standard will activate your positive brain centers throughout the day, essentially retraining your brain to sideline stress more easily. Ingrained as a habit, the Rule of Awesome will create time for fulfilling activities instead of worry resulting in a default “possibility mindset,” and a life characterized by deeper gratitude and greater joy.
Every decision of what’s “worth it” in life is a simultaneous signal to you about your own worth. The idea is to consistently make choices that build up our self-worth by optimizing our smallest daily habits - are they expanding our possibilities, filling you with confidence and curiosity, and resulting in a life that feels fortunate? Or are they constraining you within stagnant patterns, limiting you with shame, and adding to your ever-increasing sense of anxiety?
Here are some simple ways to lift your life and train your brain toward positive possibility using the Rule of Awesome:
Food - for one week, note moments when you feel lean and energized - what did you eat for the meal right before, and the one before that. Figure out what foods make you feel awesome and stick to those for the quick daily meals we often don’t share with others, like breakfast lunch and snacks.
Clothes - what were you wearing the last time you were most productive? Most happy? Most excited? I guarantee it wasn’t old sweatpants with holes in them. For one week, wear only clothing that makes you feel like you’re putting your best foot forward and see what it does to your overall outlook and productivity in other areas of your life.
Work - think of a time when you felt awesome at work - what kind of project were you doing? Who were you working with? Make an effort to realign your responsibilities to include tasks that are a guaranteed interest and excitement boost for your brain, and do your best to transition draining projects to someone better suited for them.
Relationships - when was the last time you felt awesome with your partner? What were you doing? What happened in that moment that made you feel seen, heard, appreciated and adored? Your partner is not psychic. Make an effort to let your partner know what he/she/they do that makes you feel your best, and follow-up by asking how you can reciprocate. Feeling seen, heard and appreciated in our relationship is the holy grail trifecta for most of us. So a small conversation to set each other up for success can go a long way toward taking an “ok” relationship to awesome, leveling up your life in all realms by default.
Bottom line: the Rule of Awesome is about practicing purpose-driven discernment and non-punitive economy in choices about relationships, career and professional goals, food and exercise, clothing and accessories, social scheduling, household organization, and everything else that’s not an outright obligation or responsibility. The result is in an authentic, uplifting lifestyle that retrains your brain to better handle stress and literally grows the “right” parts of your brain needed for improved wellness, both mentally and physically.
For more information about the Rule of Awesome and other quick brain-training strategies, check out Andrea’s LifeLift online course on andlife.com.