Your heart may race. Your stomach may tighten. Or the opposite--you may feel tension glide off of you or your breathing may become calm. This kind of dissociation from your body can make it very difficult to identify what your body is telling you or to determine where you feel certain emotions. If you're using substances like alcohol or weed to mute your feelings, they may remain totally out of your reach. Choices here are guided by a vision or goal beyond personal interest. Many regard this level of functioning as being highly actualized, because it transcends everyday life as you may make choices that are designed to deal with someone or something that you perceive as greater than yourself. You make choices that reflect that you realize that material and ego needs are often transient and may only be momentary. You order your decisions so that your spiritual needs, while difficult to measure by objective means, are focused upon. It shouldn't be hard to understand why these choices are often not the focus of your life if you are dealing with more immediate needs, such as survival. It is sometimes difficult to invest in the spiritual pursuits when your energies are absorbed in feeding or protecting yourself or your children. I'm not saying that that is right or that it is universal cross-culturally; I am just saying that it "is." Those with deep religious convictions would disagree with this pursuit being only at the top of the hierarchy. My response is that those with a deep spiritual focus, in the absence of well-met needs at the other levels, have transcended the worldly measure of whether those needs are met or not, and are in fact "evolved" in their choice making. Rather than feel ruffled by feelings of dissatisfaction, we can courageously accept the call that our dissatisfaction presents to us and design our lives in better alignment with our innermost values and desires. When we are dissatisfied we intuitively know that there is more to life waiting for us. Our spirits are encouraging us to move towards the bliss and joy we sense is possible for us. When we live our own lives in our own way with a firm focus on what truly matters to us, not what matters to those whom we might wish to please or impress, we find the deep and lasting satisfaction we seek. Stepping up to dissatisfaction with action is a truly satisfying course. Another common and confounding feeling we can face is a sense of purposelessness in life. We may question why we are here, and what the point of our lives really might be.

In my eyes, experiencing a sense of purposelessness is our invitation to acknowledge that we are significant; that our spirits matter; and that our contribution matters. It is a call for us to connect and reconnect with the miracle of life and our oneness with life and each other. Rumi reminds us that in being human we are not just a drop in the ocean, we are the entire ocean in a drop. The entire universe is within us, empowering and fortifying us with magical energy, moment to moment. Find out what it is that ignites your inner sparkle by noticing when you feel joy. Allow your joy to illuminate the purpose of your life's energy. By doing what we love and doing it lovingly while caring for others and our earth, we swiftly reconnect with a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. The first step in the expectation therapy model is to identify and clarify your core expectations. This stage frequently involves soul searching and introspection. It is a phase many of us naturally go through as adolescents, but this reflective process can occur at any age. As I recount my journey, think about how similar formative experiences may have shaped your expectations. Also, ponder the expectations that excite your passion and stir your spirit in the present moment. Needless to say, it's challenging to have faith when life isn't going one's way. Even though ages nine through sixteen weren't my favorite years of life, they did not leave me bitter. It's during the worst times of life that we have the potential to be tempered into the person we're meant to become. Even negative situations can yield positive lessons. You gain perspective from setbacks, and so much of life is how you perceive it. When you seek to learn from experience, as opposed to cursing your fate, you better yourself. The more you glean from self-reflection and honest examination, the higher your expectations become across the board. You come to love the learning process because of the wisdom and value it has.

You also come to realize that with enough self-knowledge and understanding, anything is possible. What's more, the mind is the single most important tool you have. And if you want to use that tool properly, you must train the mind. Stoic philosopher Epictetus put it best: "The life of wisdom is a life of reason. It is important to learn how to think clearly. Clear thinking is not a haphazard enterprise. It requires proper training." The problem is that we don't know how we must get proper training, as Epictetus put it. For most of my life, my thoughts were out of control. I never thought about thinking. That mess you see up there is how the inside of my mind looked like. It was pure chaos. Just a mush of positive, negative, sad, happy and, above all, confusing thoughts. I always thought to myself, "Why can't my brain stop? Where's the pause button?" Looking back, I didn't know how to use my brain as the wonderful tool it is. If you're still having trouble with more-intense emotions, find one that's easier to feel. Let's say you felt disappointed when your basketball team lost the state championship and you easily remember how that felt. Practice asking yourself questions about it: Where do I feel it in my body? What color or shape could it be? Sit and be with how it feels to be disappointed. If you can allow yourself to remember fully how it felt, that's practice for doing the same with more-intense emotions that are harder for you.

You can use every sense you have to deeply connect with it. Then you can return to the more-intense emotion and follow the same process. If you can't connect with any of your emotions after you've tried to do these things, you may need to consider that you've become clinically depressed, a symptom of which can be a flat or blunted emotional presentation. Check back into Chapter 2 to help you make that determination, and reach out to a therapist or physician to further discuss. We don't begin life with the privilege and responsibility of making choices for ourselves. Typically, we don't even begin to differentiate ourselves from other living forms until the age of two. Your dependence on your parents or other adult authorities means that, during your crucial years of growth and learning, they were the people who made your choices for you. Questions about what to eat, what to wear, what your living environment would be like, and which schools you'd attend were probably answered with little or no input from you. The adults in your life worked these things out and they did so either with your interests in mind--or not. They may have heavily influenced your choice of friends and your ultimate choice of a career. In fact, if you had agreed to all the "wants" they wanted for you, you might still be busy helping them implement a long program of deciding the rest of your life. Too often, parents forget that one of the most important aspects of our growing up is learning how to make choices for ourselves. It is a skill to be learned and one that is exercised with confidence when the authentic self is the platform from which one makes those choices. What rules or guidelines did you learn as a child that equipped you to make good decisions? What did your parents teach you that served as a framework for your saying yes or no to the options you have had in your life? Did they instill in you a sense of confidence about your ability to make choices for yourself? Unless your parents identified it as an explicit target, a goal that they consciously incorporated into their child rearing, then whatever skills you have today as a decision maker you have learned by trial and error. Tragically, some people never learn these skills at all, because they live with the fear and doubt of a fictional self that operates without substantive connection to you and your strength. In addition to calling upon and cultivating our emotional intelligence to fortify and enliven our sparkles, balance our moods and refresh our states of mind, it is important to nurture ourselves physically in order to support the wellness of our spirits. Our bodies are after all our mind and spirit homes on earth, and when our bodies are nourished our sparkles may flourish all the more.

Choose quality, natural whole foods, drink ample fresh water, enjoy fresh air, digital detoxes, time in nature, healthy, uplifting personal rituals, and rest and relaxation. Daily self-care practices such as these can swiftly, deeply restore our freshness and clarity for life. Should uneasy states of being become stubborn or persistent, you may wish to explore the possibility of biochemical imbalances, food intolerances, allergies or compromised gut health. These physical things can directly and profoundly affect the mental, spiritual and emotional states we experience. While some food cravings are due to biochemical imbalances in the body worth exploring in terms of dietary change and supplementation, powerful metaphysical explanations may also shed light on food cravings. Sweet cravings often manifest when we lack sweetness in our lives. We might ask ourselves, How can we experience more sweetness and joy in our lives?' Junk-food cravings can call us to heal our self-sabotaging habits. <a href=''>We</a> might ask ourselves,How can we feel more worthy of our own love and care?' Overeating can be our way of protecting ourselves from pain by stuffing down' our challenging thoughts and feelings. <a href=''>We</a> might ask ourselves,How can we support ourselves to courageously see and rewrite our stories?' Under-eating can call us to appreciate and care for ourselves with true tenderness and compassion. We might gently ask, `How can we see our own strength and beauty? How can we fall more in love with ourselves?' When we quieten down our busy thoughts, tune in and ask our bodies what they truly want and need, we may receive profound intuitive guidance. Concerns around food are often calls to explore the hungry parts of our emotional bodies that need our honesty, compassion and attention. We can accept such invitations courageously, learning to satisfy our real hunger for life in nurturing ways that allow our spirits to blossom. Ultimately, the probability of your dreams coming to fruition is a choice you make. Will you put forth the effort to make it happen? I did, in no small measure because I looked at everything as a lesson ("Never a failure, always a lesson," as the phrase goes). With that perspective, even the toughest times fit into my high expectations because of the benefits that inherently accompany learning experiences. We all have had these moments. "What if I had done this, or what if I had done that? Would life be different than it is now?" You bet it would.