Summary: How Are You, Really? By Jenna Kutcher
Summary: How Are You, Really? By Jenna Kutcher

Summary: How Are You, Really? By Jenna Kutcher

Feel Your Feelings

The truth is, sometimes we don’t listen to how we’re feeling because we can’t yet “hear” and we haven’t yet learned how. Sometimes the noise of the world just drowns out our souls. Sometimes we don’t wake up to how we’re feeling because we didn’t know we could set an alarm. But other times? We don’t listen because we don’t want to. The messages are not easy to hear.

Resentment rising in the back of your throat when you get passed over for a promotion. Invisibility sinking into your gut when your partner stays up late arguing on Twitter instead of coming to bed. Dread when you reach that date on your calendar where you overcommitted yourself. Doubt banging in your head when you finally get the courage to research that new position at work.

How long? How long are you willing to ignore the ping? How long can you avoid the hard convo or leap of faith? How long can you convince yourself that you are okay with sleepwalking through life? Is it one week? One year? One life?

There’s an old wives’ tale that, as we age, our bodies grow heavy from the unacknowledged lives within us. Our skin expands and sags from the weight of ignored emotion. Our joints scream at us to listen. To feel. As the story goes, crow’s-feet are just bird tracks from every single time we allowed ourselves to be walked all over.

The more we listen to the feelings when they speak, the clearer they get. Like learning a new language. And while the world at large has its heartbreakingly big needs, ones that require our activism, anger, and attention—those needs are not to be compared to your story. You do not diminish in their shadow, no matter how big or small they might feel by comparison.

Feelings don’t exist to be compared. They exist for you. You don’t need to write off your own pain because others are experiencing worse. Perhaps most importantly, you don’t need to waste your energy convincing yourself that what you’ve got is fine enough—unless, of course, it is.


Ditch the Supposed-Tos

It’s easy for us to start adopting other people’s visions for our lives and tricking ourselves into believing they are our own. This doesn’t just happen in an office, either. It can happen everywhere. The picket fence, the 2.5 children, and the minivan—we’ve mocked those clichés before, but we never got rid of them. It happens with the church choir, the book club, the fundraisers, or the way we talk about what retirement is supposed to look like. With cute kids who serve us mud cakes and mums blooming on the front porch, it’s no surprise we start to wonder if we’re crazy for not feeling fulfilled, for not feeling like it’s ever enough.

does this all leave us? Where do we go from here? Listen, you’re not wrong for questioning a life that was built on supposed tos. You’re not crazy for shuffling the stack of status quo and dreaming about what it might look like to play fifty-two card pickup with your life. You’re not ungrateful for acknowledging something just isn’t working—even if you don’t know what it is, or what to do next.

Here’s why: when you’re navigating an unfulfilled life and you know it, it doesn’t just impact you

It shows up in the way you interact with your family, the energy you bring into your work, and the way you experience the world. It pokes its head out in the way you treat the cashier at the pharmacy, the way you speak to your colleagues, and the way you scoff at the neighbor kid who picks a flower out of your landscaped front yard.

The way you show up changes when your external reality doesn’t match your internal desire. You don’t have to be a chemist to understand the reaction when these two warring notions meet: bitterness. And once you feel that? Once you wake up to that? Well, it’s time to make the decision only you can make.


Have Some Fun Again

If you need a place to start weaving a little more joy into your life, pay attention to your curiosities: the things you Google, the forums you could read for hours, the thoughts that nag you, the YouTube videos you watch, the visions you hold for a someday version of you. The things you are curious about or are aching to do are not random, they just might signal an area where you can try, play, experiment, and expand.

Do you want to learn how to whittle? Memorize a poem by Emerson? Learn to tango? Want to figure out how to make your own gelato? Dig for geodes? Knit a mitten or two? It doesn’t matter what thing you choose. The benefits arrive, no matter the medium. The pausing. The intense concentration. The full-on engagement of learning (or relearning) a task. The mental flow state we get from engaging in play is the absolute antidote to a distracted, passionless life.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. . . . The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” says positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “If the activity at hand happens to be something we enjoy and we’re good at, we achieve a flow mental state—and it can leave us feeling ecstatic, motivated and fulfilled.”


Listen to Your Body

Our bodies aren’t personality Tupperware, waiting to be shoved and stacked and squeezed into smaller spaces. Our bodies are soft, uniquely shaped, hairy-legged beings that need wide, vast space to birth dreams. To live long, to leave legacies. To do the work that ignites us in any and every way. To rest and enjoy what we’ve earned. To heal. And our job is to listen to what our body is telling us.

The problem is that most of the conversations we have with our bodies are simply us telling them what we want them to do, what we wish was different about them, or why they’re not good enough. When you think about these conversations, they aren’t really conversations at all; they are one-sided monologues rooted mainly in what we want things to look like.

Instead, ask yourself things like: How do I feel? How can I move in a way that celebrates my body? Where am I lacking? What am I craving? How can I be one with my body? When we can stop dictating and start conversing with our body like a trusted friend and ally, not just speaking at it, but asking it to speak to us, we can start to lean into the cues, signals, and requests it is begging us to notice as we move through our busy lives.

Your body knows. You know. And it’s time to listen.


Make Your Dreams Come True

Building your future begins with visualizing yourself going through the motions of what it takes to succeed—whatever that looks like for you. Psychotherapist Amy Morin writes, “The way you think is important—it affects how you feel and how you behave . . . [but] positive thinking only works when it’s combined with positive action.”

Belief pairs well with a glass of behavior. Which means that whoever first told you “practice makes perfect” definitely meant well but misspoke. I think practice makes power, meaning the action of stepping into the patterns of a life you want is the only way to create it.

Set aside the patterns of the life you have and focus on the patterns of the life you want. Let’s say you want to revitalize a particular relationship. What choices would the revitalized version of yourself make? What rhythms would already be part of your life if the relationship were already at its most vibrant and connected state?

Leaving love notes on the dashboard? Splurging for concert tickets to see the band you both love? Clearing your afternoon to bake a favorite dessert? Sending an encouraging voice text in the middle of the day? By living as if you’ve already established these habits—these small rhythms and daily choices—you’re moving that far-off goal into a real-life action today. You’re pulling the dream closer to yourself, instead of pushing yourself closer to the dream. Can you see how different that feels?

You don’t have to pick up your life and move zip codes away to step into a new dream. Start where you can, when you can. You don’t need to go big, but you need to go.

Your life is happening right now. It’s unfolding as your eyes scan this page. When your alarm clock went off this morning, you got another day of it. This is it, your one beautiful life. Kick off your covers. Get up. Forward is forward and slow progress is still progress.