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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Breaking with convention: 10 protective factors to help you dance joyfully on the path of freedom

The laws of physics fascinated me as a teenager. It was partly the fact that we could describe the systems that governed our universe but also that the conventions and units were completely made up. That’s fine when there’s consensus among the scientific community. But when a radical paradigm shift in scientific theory is involved with implications rippling into wider society and coming up against old powers, things can get tricky. Galileo’s trial is the quintessential example; not to mention poor monk Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition for similar scientific views to Galileo. And so it is with your mind. When one part of you surrenders to the evidence that something else is possible in your life - that it’s time to break with the convention of your current life - all manner of havoc can be unleashed. Doubt. Fear. Clinging to the past. Entering or leaving a job, career, relationship or country are big life changes. Your wider circumstances will undoubtedly change including your relationships. It would be foolish to think that you can transform a major part of your life without it having an impact on others. But the point is – a major break with where you are now, shouldn’t be a reason to stay where you are… You’ll just need to be equipped for the change. PROTECTIVE FACTORS Here are 10 things that helped me navigate (a greater than average amount of) change in my life and stay sane, safe and happy. These are 5 principles and 5 practices based on scientific thinking, ancient wisdom and personal experience. 5 PRINCIPLES: 1. A world view: "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe." Einstein A world view isn’t the absolute truth, it’s just a map to guide you in the tough spots. It can be anything from a global spiritual tradition or your grandmother’s home truths. A key ingredient is accessing a sense of compassion and friendliness in your life so you can relax and trust that things are working out one way or another. 2. Community or tribe: There’s nothing like having co-travellers who understand you. It’s very helpful when you start to miss the tribe you left behind. 3. Mentor/Coach/Role model: Someone who can see further than you but is willing to meet you where you are to help you figure out your next step.

4. Internal boundaries: “People overestimate what they can achieve in six months, and underestimate when they can achieve in ten years” Tony Robbins. Don’t overestimate how far you can travel in any one chunk of time. 5. External boundaries: “Nature abhors a vacuum” Aristotle. If you feel a little lost and directionless while on the journey with none of your old, conventional reference points available, many will come to enrol you in their own agenda. Beware. 5 PRACTICES 1. Faith: The antidote to doubt is commitment. If you’re lost, commit to being lost (for now) and stop trying to be found or scrambling for premature answers. 2. Energy: When you remove the constant external stimulation and excitement of the news, personal dramas and addictions, you’ll hit a sense of boredom. Learn to generate enthusiasm from within - you’ll be free forever. 3. Focus: Keeping your mind’s eye focused on your true North is a skill that will reconnect you with immense power to achieve what you want. Focusing on kind, supportive thoughts rather than critical, self-sabotaging ones will also help. 4. Sensitivity/awareness: Being in tune with your context (which is always dynamic), will tell you when and how to course-correct. Breaking with convention doesn’t mean there’s no path, but that you’re sensing a different path – one that is more authentic for you.

5. Wisdom: Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions. See what’s in front of you in the moment (not what you’re anxious about in the future or what you regret in the past) and respond with skill. There’s your safety pack. You can leave the comfort zone of convention knowing that you have principles and practices to fall back on. Whether you’re in the midst of uncharted seas of change or thinking about setting off for new shores, the principles and practices are the same. You can’t really get it wrong. You’re finding the answers as you go along: your answers. Have a great week, Amina

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