The Surprising Way To Uplevel Your Life

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What does it mean to uplevel your life

People who are drawn to the concept of wholeness for high achievers come to Umoya Institute because they know they’re smart, and capable, and already pretty successful, and they’re interested in mindset coaching to bring about an uplevel in one or more areas of their life – relationships, career, wellness, spiritual development, communication, you name it. What an uplevel means is just an improvement or increase in the level of skill or satisfaction in an area. And it’s inherently subjective – there is always more to learn, more to accomplish, more to grow and expand.

The shadow side of pursuing an uplevel

Too much of anything can be damaging, and that’s exactly what can happen with the constant pursuit of an uplevel in any area, so we want to be careful – if we’re always looking for a way to improve or enhance something without allowing satisfaction with where we already are, it’s a pretty sure path to burnout and dissatisfaction. I see it all the time.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve and develop in different areas of life, but it’s important to recognize that wanting to achieve something in order to feel a certain way  is getting it backwards – we have to focus on the feeling first, because the circumstances or the achievement only leads to brief, fleeting changes in feeling (positive or negative). It’s a paradox, I know. This is known as the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation. Basically our brains will return to a general baseline after a major positive or negative event. So how do we create lasting changes in our feelings? By changing our thoughts.

What the standard lists look like

If you Google “how to uplevel your life” you’ll pretty much get the same list of activities. This makes sense; human brains are very action-oriented. There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities. I actually do all of them myself.

Here’s a summary of that basic list, before we look at another point of view:

1. Meditate (I have this cushion in multiple colors)

2. Exercise (I’ve been doing more yoga lately – this mat is great and has held up really well over the years through lots of travel)

3. Eat vegetables (Bought this beautiful recipe book for myself and Alex thought it was a Christmas gift for him and it was his FAVORITE THING so no one tell him)

4. Give up caffeine (I still drink coffee but I’m also doing more herbal tea with my perfect mug also pictured above with my winter snowbird view – that’s my actual slippered foot!)

5. Buy something nice for yourself (I got this cute inexpensive purse for traveling and love it)

6. Keep a gratitude list

7. Travel the world and experience new cultures

8. Journal (I just free-write in a notebook but this journal also looks fun)

9. Read all the books

10. Listen to all the podcasts (I know Gen Z says these are out but I love these headphones)

A surprising way to start to uplevel your life

So do the things above, nothing wrong with any of them! But do them not because you think they’ll uplevel your life on their own. 

This is the surprising trick: Practice noticing your thoughts first.

Want to uplevel your relationship? The lists on Google will say to surprise your partner with a gift or a trip. The thought you might notice is “if I surprise them with this gift or plan this trip, I’m a good partner. I’m pulling my weight, they’ll want to reciprocate, I’ll feel good.”

Notice that you’re telling yourself that you need to do the activity before you’re allowed to think positive thoughts and feel positive emotions about yourself. 

The challenge is to recognize that this isn’t actually true – you can choose a thought before you take an action. If you practice thinking you’re a good partner and you’re contributing in ways that feel joyful for you in the relationship, might you show up differently? A bit more relaxed? How might that play out in the relationship?

It’s subtle, but that’s where the actual uplevel happens.

Being level is important too

Part of me wants to say it’s natural to want to constantly grow and improve, but I’m not sure that’s objectively true. There are non-Western cultures, and even individuals within Western cultures, where there isn’t a constant focus on self-improvement. I think it has to do with our Western obsession with hustle culture and being the best. And it all comes back to this idea that we think we’ll have “permission” to think certain thoughts. For example, I’m worthy of love, I’m good at my job, I have valuable things to contribute only get to be true after we’ve achieved certain things.

But what if we were more like nature, which exists and contributes what it’s naturally meant to, without needing to be the best? Trees process carbon dioxide and provide oxygen, shade and often other resources and nutrients. They also don’t worry if they are the best of their kind of tree. They’re here to live and contribute. Giving a tree a trophy for having the most leaves would be meaningless to the tree.

Obviously we’re not trees, but you get my point. It’s fun to pursue an uplevel when you’re curious about what it might be like to do it. Like how some people are curious about climbing Mount Everest, but it’s not for everyone. It’s exhausting to pursue an uplevel because you think it will finally mean you’re worthy of something valuable. Notice your thoughts, decide your true motivation, and allow the uplevel that naturally unfolds from those deeper realizations.

Photo of Emily Shutt wearing red scarf

Emily is a mindset coach and writer specializing in the habits of Millennial and Gen Z high achievers in the areas of money, relationships, lifestyle and travel.

She holds the PCC designation with the International Coach Federation and has been featured in multiple media outlets.

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