Learning of an upcoming self-awareness workshop entitled, “Staying Grounded With an Expanding Perspective,” filled me with mixed emotions. The workshop, hosted by a friend of mine, launched us into a days-long discussion: sharing struggles with others, asking for help, accepting support from community, quashing judgment of self and others, situational patience, empathy versus sympathy, and recognizing the temporary nature of emotional states. Through a flight of ideas, or more accurately, confusion on where my own personal development stood, I ultimately concluded I had not fully organized a framework within which to facilitate these ideas – a framework of self-awareness empowering my own personal growth.

Admittedly, buzzwords such as “mindfulness” and “meditation” have lost meaning for me as of late. I think I am mindful. Aware, thoughtful, and considerate, I pay attention to my actions and how they affect others. I meditate often. I just happen to process my thoughts and emotions better while getting my heart rate up running, charging up a hill on my mountain bike, or writing. Being self-aware is work enough, remaining open to expanding ideas takes practice, but clearly defining that which is grounding is another challenge altogether. In fairness, many words and phrases lose meaning unless we explore how each of these actions serves us as individuals. So below, I offer my new framework.

Strategies for Staying Grounded:

1. Calibrate Your Moral Compass: Determining the core principles in life that we wish to be permanent is key to staying grounded. Through daily life our ethics are repeatedly challenged. However, a solid moral compass should always lead to our own right path. We all hear or read stories about unethical behaviors and easily judge with the precision of our retrospectoscopes. Facing ethical challenges head on is often less clear. Thinking of a time you were ethically challenged or imagining yourself in the shoes of others going through challenges can help strengthen resolve when real struggles emerge. Few people study ethics professionally, but most of us should know what core principles guide us to the decisions and actions we can live with throughout our lives.

2. Personal Non-negotiables: We have heard these things multiple times, but the importance of sleep, diet, exercise, and mental health cannot be stressed enough. It is one thing to discuss these habits and quite another to follow through, prioritizing them without compromise. Self-care is a much more effective preventive strategy than fix. Exhausted, one is much less likely to workout or to prepare a healthy meal. Burned out, one is more likely to adopt bad habits including alcohol and poor sleep, often leading to strained personal relationships. Even on airplanes we are reminded to put our own oxygen masks on first before helping others, but we often fail to care for ourselves first in this same way. When personally dissatisfied, the care and work we offer others degrades.

3. Focus on Healthy Relationships: Mostly we think of nurturing the relationships with those we love. This is not to be discounted, as a solid social and family network is hugely important to health and happiness. We less often think about severing relationships with those that drain us. Removing toxic relationships from your life is equally important to staying grounded. Whether in the workplace, in family, or in social circles, toxic relationships drain emotional reserves, increase stress levels and contribute to discontent. Removing toxic relationships allows the healthy ones to flourish and new ones to develop.

4. Stop Trying to Find Happiness: Happiness is not some chance event, some new person, or a big purchase. Happiness is your creation, your attitude, and your perspective. Finding ways to be content with your current state is more realistic. Start a gratitude journal. Understand the growth mindset – believe you can change your perspective. Work on a more positive self-image by loving yourself, forgiving yourself, and accepting your self. Put a stop to negative thinking about yourself and others. Practice kindness. Manage expectations. Happiness is a skill – practice.

Strategies for Expanding Your Perspective

1. Molt: Staying open to new perspectives, influences, and relationships requires openness and acceptance. Many of us have negative narratives in our life stories, which we have run through time and time again. These stories may be especially prominent when getting to know someone new. Question whether these stories serve you or limit you from moving forward, from expanding your perspective, or from being receptive to happiness. Being open and moving forward are much easier when not bogged down in the negative events of our past. Seek counseling as needed. Shed the effects of stories from the past and move deliberately toward opportunities for happiness.

2. Pity, Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion: Expanding your own perspective often comes while learning from others through sharing both positive and negative experiences. Recognizing someone’s suffering is pity. Caring about his or her suffering offers sympathy. Imagining you are in the shoes of the suffering person, feeling their pain is empathy. Working to relieve the suffering of others is compassion. Never stop at pity. Strive for compassion. Learn from the struggles of others to improve their life and yours.

3. Nurture your Curiosity: Challenge your own existing ideas and influences. Becoming more self-aware allows this challenge. Expanding your perspective does not occur without seeking new experiences and philosophies. Keeping an open mind, read, take classes, listen to podcasts, and find interest groups. Have discussions with friends and colleagues. Even if there is not the perfect answer, there will always be new ideas introduced, new people to learn about, and a sense of accomplishment for taking action.