I recently had tea with a friend who told me about her reflections on relationship contracts and how she realized that if we hold on to "outdated contracts" it can cause distress and relationship failure. This conversation prompted me to reflect on all of my relationships to discover where I have placed unwritten and oftentimes unconscious "contracts" on them. You can look to your own relationships to see examples of this; this is where roles have been defined and emotional expectations have been drawn out. It is easy to get caught up in the momentum of our daily lives as we continue to live in relationship with the original contract guidelines in force even if they are no longer serving us or the other person involved. Relationships are not a static entity; they are constantly in a state of change and evolution. Roles are adopted and dropped, sometimes children are born or they move out, the people involved shift and change. When we take the time to sit and reflect on how much a relationship has evolved over time it seems obvious that we would have to reevaluate some things in order to continue our progress forward. Just as reevaluating whether relationship contracts you hold with others are current and valid is important, it is helpful to take a look at the contracts we have made with ourselves. Actually, I would argue that the contracts we make with ourselves are the most important and the practice that follows can help you to rewrite the most important relationship contract in your life; the one you have with yourself.
1. Gather some paper, your journal, a pen, crayons or colored pencils and settle in, get cozy, turn off your phone and eliminate any distractions.
2. Think back to a time within the past 10 years in which you felt like you were in a good place. You were feeling successful and happily living your life.
3. Begin to list or draw what you see in your reflection. Who were you as a person? What were your admirable qualities? What were your strengths? Who did others see when they saw you? When this feels complete, move on to the next step.
4. Take a look at what you've listed or drawn...how much does your current self resonate with what is there? Look at the order in which you've listed your past self's traits; would you put them in the same order today? Would you add anything in or take anything out? How much of you now embodies those traits? Are some qualities that were more notable in your former self less notable now?
5. Use your pen or crayons to create a second list or drawing to illustrate who you are now; let your reflections from step four guide this. When this feels complete, move on to the next step.
6. Sit back and look at the two lists or drawings, breathe into your heart and notice if there is anything that arises. Look at the depiction of your past self alongside the one of your current self; look at the traits that show up in both lists or drawings. What did that trait represent to you then? What does it mean now? Does it hold the same amount of "weight" now as it did then? Can you see where some traits may have been enacted for outside validation and now they hold a different meaning? Allow yourself to truly see who you were then, your feelings about your traits, your motivations behind them in comparison to your self today. If you added traits to your second drawing that weren't on the first, what were they? What do these attributes mean to you and to your journey forward? Did they replace an old trait? Take a few breaths into your heart to truly honor your journey and the ways in which you've evolved.
7. Now is the time you reevaluate your contract. Can you see where you may be holding yourself accountable to an old role based upon a trait your former self held dear? Are you spending time and energy cultivating the traits that are currently important to you? What important information has been revealed to you through this practice?
Allow yourself the time necessary to let this practice integrate; sometimes it happens right away and other times it can happen over the course of a few days or even longer. Let the revelations that surface guide you as you rewrite your contract with yourself. Be sure to give yourself permission to release old outdated expectations that no longer serve the direction in which you are going and nurture the areas that will propel you in the direction of your growth. This is a practice that can be done seasonally, yearly, or every few years and it will continue to nurture your growth and teach you a great deal about yourself. Please feel free to reach out and share your journey; I would love to witness your unfolding.