Alright, so 2020 sucked. It’s over now and we can’t go backwards. So, I’m putting on big girl pants and moving on. I can’t control COVID or elections. I can’t make hospitals bigger or people wear masks. But I can control how I spend my day and my mental energy.
Before we move into 2021, take a minute to find 3, 5, 10 or 20 things that went well in 2020:
In a recent post, I talked about whether to keep writing, whether to pay for help, etc. The feedback I received was helpful, heartwarming and encouraging. As you can see, I’m still here and I’m still writing. My husband and I decided to let my writing be a priority again in 2021. In order to keep me from worrying over this decision anytime I feel discouraged, I’ve prepaid all my peeps! Now, I don’t have to stress over that (this stuff is non-refundable!) and they will keep me accountable. Like the gym, if I’m paying for it, I’ll do it.
I feel more excited about 2021 than I have in a long time. My third book is coming along nicely – my character Abigail has a lot to say and she’s an angry young woman so she’s fun to let off the leash. I have a great writing coach, but I’ve also started to do some coaching on my own. I’ve got a non-fiction book simmering and I’m on-board to continue writing for Camp Abilities World.
I’m doing this writing thing and I’m going to do it like a professional and not a hobbyist. I’ve even started to proudly and confidently tell people I’m an author! I no longer feel like a fraud.
I have a new plan for this blog too and I hope you’ll get engaged. I’ve asked a group of women to share their most recommended self-help or personal growth books to me. The list was long and wonderful. I then asked a smaller group of women to vote for their favorite. Those votes narrowed my list to the top six. I will be working through these six suggestions with you (one book every two months). What I’m expecting is to open up some areas within self that I’ve avoided or need to excavate – isn’t that the point of personal development? As always, I’ll show you my authentic, messy self.
I will have guest bloggers this year! If you or someone you know has a story to share, please send it my way. I think my stories have helped some people – and any story shared may just be the one to help someone else !!
I started this blog asking you to find a few things that went well in 2020. I’m closing this first blog of 2021 asking you to list 3, 5, 10 or 20 things that you are looking forward to in 2021:
Would you be willing to send me your list? I’ll compile all our hopes for 2021 and share (no names). No matter your faith, I think we all agree that when we put goodness into the universe, it’s returned to us. Let’s put our hopes out there and let others in on our dreams – let the universe do its thing.
We’re on this journey together
So, let’s GET TOGETHER on this journey.
You sit listening to the whining for the thousandth time. But the person refuses your or anyone’s advice. Do you want to pull your hair out? Or, better yet, do you want to pull their hair out? My grandmother used to say she would “snatch me bald headed” – I get where she was coming from.
I’m not saying that my advice is always the best. But if you choose not to take the advice – or any advice – then you lose the right to whine, right? For goodness sake, try something!?
I wish I was talking about a friend. But, sadly, I’m talking about me. I’m the one who asks for advice, ignores it and then whines.
For example …
I complain to my trainer that my cardio is not hard enough anymore – he gives me lots of ideas. I do none of them and then complain again!
I know I’m more productive and happier when I get up at 530am. Many people suggested, wisely, that I get up at 530 every morning, seven days a week. Stay consistent so that my internal clock helps me. I have yet to do that and still I complain.
People have suggested that I do all the prep work for meals on Sunday. I know this helps me eat at home and make healthier choices. It’s Monday, I have not done that and later today, I’ll complain about having to chop bell pepper and onion.
I’ve visited several registered dietitians, and each has given me excellent advice. I’ll take their advice for --- um --- 2 days?
The list is endless.
As I write this, I realize I’m whining about whining! UGH!
Sure, I’ve been given bad advice (or bad for me) and that should be ignored. But I’ve also been given excellent advice by people who have my best interests at heart and/or who are experts I trust. What’s my problem?
Do I do this because I don’t really want to change? Too lazy to change? Afraid to change? Afraid I won’t be able to change and don’t want to face failure? Am I afraid of success? Do I like whining?
Over the last several days, I’ve made a mental list of advice given and not taken. I’ve looked at my bookshelf and noted all the books recommended that I bought, read the first chapter, and put back on the shelf. I’ve noted all the supplies I’ve bought and not used (think of the money I could have saved). I’ve made commitments, secured accountability partners. I’ve planned rewards for “good behavior”. And still …
It’s 2020 (yikes!). As most of us do, I’ve thought about what I’d like to do differently or to achieve this year. I don’t resolutions because I know I won’t keep them and then I start the year off in failure. Yet, achievements don’t happen without some conscious effort. Life moves on and we stay on the same trajectory unless we intentionally change that direction!
Here are some things I’d like to do/have/achieve this 2020:
I think this is a very doable list. The first two are already on their way to completion and I have the support to see it through.
Hiking is a back pain and time issue. I’ve already mentioned to my trainers that I need to focus energy on strengthening my lower back. But I whine about the temperature (even though I live in Georgia and have clothes warm enough for an Alaskan winter). I like to say “I’m too busy” but I should say “I’m too lazy”. Even though I live in Atlanta, there are a myriad of hiking trails within a thirty-minute drive. I don’t need advice – I need to get off my ass and hike.
Body image and eating issues are on my list every year. As you can imagine, I’ve asked for and received excellent advice on how to address these body/health related issues. I’ve followed none of these for any consistent length of time.
Why Can I Not Do This?
I can do this! Of course, I can! The question is WHY don’t I do this? I look at my body and hate what I see (even when I’m thin). I have great advice on how to combat some of that. Why do I ignore it?
Those questions would be answered if I took the DAMN ADVICE!
I searched my mental list and my bookshelves. I’ve searched my heart and mind. My mind is willing. My heart is afraid.
A wonderful nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders recommended Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN. Over a year ago, I bought the book. I got all excited, jumped in with both feet. I read to page 27.
This is my pattern – get excited, jump into the deep end and drown. My father must have warned me about this a hundred times. I get bored, or I realize I made a choice that didn’t fit with my personality, or I say yes without thinking. I bail. I feel guilty for bailing. I do this again and again.
I’ve pulled Body Kindness off the shelf. I pulled a little notebook out of a drawer for the activities/journaling. I’ve looked at the book and I think I can do this in bite-size pieces (instead of jumping into the deep end).
Now, how do I make myself do it? I can already feel the resistance – my chest is tight, and I can feel anxiety moving into my limbs.
All I can do is try, right? Read some today and not worry about tomorrow, right?
I can hear my therapist now – “journal about how it makes you feel – keep asking yourself ‘why’” – advice I likely won’t take.
Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results ~ Einstein
I was in a group recently and a woman talked about wanting to be happy. The group leader handed her a set of Mixed Emotions cards (see below for a link). She asked her to select ten. In order to explain this better, I’m going to do the same activity.
Step One: I’ve gathered my Mixed Emotions cards.
Step Two: Grab ten cards to represent how you feel and how you want to feel. Don’t take hours to do this – flip through the cards and find ten that “hit” you. Today, I’m feeling very overwhelmed and discouraged because some of my writing plans are not coalescing. And, this is happening because I just don’t understand some important concepts. Based on how I feel and how I want to feel RIGHT THIS MOMENT, I chose the following ten cards:
In case you can’t read the picture, my ten are: inadequate, confused, overwhelmed, confident, proud, encouraged, frustrated, discouraged, hopeful, excited
Step Three: Put the cards in order from the most difficult emotion to the most wanted emotion. This would vary for every one of us. It would also vary based on the day or even the time of day. Today, I put them in this order:
inadequate – discouraged – overwhelmed – confused – frustrated – encouraged – hopeful – excited – confident – proud
Step Four: The woman I mentioned in the opening paragraph spoke of feeling despair and her desire to feel happy. She built her cards starting with despair and ending with joy. Between those she had eight cards that moved her one step closer to joy. Do you get the point?
We can’t go from despair to joy in one step. I can’t go from feeling inadequate to proud in the blink of an eye. BUT I CAN move from feeling inadequate (which is the worst) to feeling discouraged (which is slightly better). Then I can move from discouraged to simply overwhelmed.
I acknowledged I feel inadequate and I became INTENTIONAL in doing something to feel less inadequate. What actions can I take in the next few minutes to stop this inadequate feeling?
Just making this list makes me feel less inadequate. I’m not proud yet – but that was NOT my goal. My goals were simple – 1) be honest with myself about how I feel, 2) acknowledge that this particular feeling will not go away just by wishing, 3) find ways to feel just a bit better.
I’ve spent exactly 20 minutes on this activity (including writing this blog) and I feel so much better. My energy has returned. I have a tiny (very tiny) plan that I know I can handle. Once I’ve done that, I’ll reassess. I may drag my Mixed Emotion Cards back out. Oftentimes I’ve found that finding the most accurate word for my emotion is cathartic.
It’s 2018. Let’s not make crazy resolutions. Let’s resolve to be authentic. Realistic. Intentional. Let’s plan to move ONE SIMPLE STEP towards a better life.
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Last week I posted my (hopefully) well thought-out goals for the next three months. I’ve finished the “aggressive actions” for most of them – I posted one of those at the bottom so you could see what I mean. Now, the question is how to accomplish these actions.
I’ve read several articles that suggest creating and keeping a goal tracker (or using one of several apps). In my usual impulsive zeal, I jumped right in. I can’t show you my personal tracker and I’ll explain why later in this post. But, here is the model I copied:
I loved it for exactly two weeks. Then I missed a few of my habits and couldn’t color in the boxes. Oh no! That “failure” turned my negativity mind into the “on” position. For the next few days, my negative thoughts were dim – just loud enough for me to hear when I missed another habit. By the end of that third week, I was missing more and more boxes and my negative voice got louder and louder. As I began to spiral, I missed more habits.
I made the decision to stop using the tracker at all. Sadly, I didn’t rip it up. Even though I didn’t flip to the tracker page in my calendar, subconsciously I knew it was there and it screamed accusations.
The habit tracker, whether I looked at it or not, became tangible evidence that I was a disappointment, a failure. If you’ve read many of my posts, you’ll know that that one word – disappoint – is a major trigger. Needless to say, I started into a downward spiral. But, after so many years of therapy, I was able to:
My point is that what works for many may not work for me. I know what I need to do to be healthy – I also know that creating a way to judge myself is NOT helpful. Other people like – and need – that type of accountability. It’s ALL ABOUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU and being HONEST ABOUT WHAT DOESN’T.
Back to my goals for 2018. Some of my goals are straightforward and need no further planning or explanation or resources/support. For example, mindful eating is just that – turn off the TV, put down the fork between bites, chew slowly and “taste” the food, etc. All I need to do is remains conscious of this goal.
Other goals need more active strategy and development of mini-goals. I need to define the aggressive actions but I need to do this in a way that doesn’t set me up to be judgmental. Here are my mini-goals/aggressive actions for the “Start Cleaning My Own Damn House” goal:
Okay, can you see that I’m setting myself up to fail like I did with the goal tracker? I’m going to have to be very careful! I’ve defined the mini-goals so I don’t need to review this list again – until April 15 when I reassess all of my goals. My brain can hold these activities so I threw away the paper where I listed these mini-goals. The truly important/workable mini-goals will just become part of me and my routine. If I kept that paper, I’d use it to beat myself up when I missed a step.
There is nothing LEGAL about my list of goals or my aggressive action steps. If I miss some or all – SO WHAT! If I do them all and achieve greatness in keeping my own damn house clean – SO WHAT! I’m enough either way! That’s my new mantra … I’m enough either way!
So are you!
In yesterday's post, I talked about developing a campaign for myself. I listed several potential goals that I want to analyze and consider carefully before I choose to apply "aggressive activities" that direction. With that in mind, I created the following questionnaire for myself and wanted to share it with you. It's a living document and will likely change once I start using it but I think it's a nice beginning. It might seem like a lot of effort just for goal setting but I'm thinking of it more as a road map for my future -- and that deserves all this effort.
Will this goal make my FINAL CAMPAIGN? YES NO
While I won't bore you with all of my analyses, I will share a couple so that you can see how my brain and body are working together to chart a course that helps ACCEPT MYSELF and CHOOSE ABUNDANT LIVING.
“….. he ran a campaign of discipline not impulse.”
Do you campaign for yourself? Before you roll your eyes at the absurdity of such a statement, read one of the definitions:
Campaign: a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purposedictionary.com
Let’s break this definition down.
Do you have specific purposes for your life? Or, like me, does your life often just happen?
If I look at my life – how I spend my time, what I worry over, where my money goes – what campaigns do I support? Do I run a campaign of discipline or impulse? Do I run a campaign where I win or lose? Are there energies, resources and efforts I need to shift or refocus?
It’s 2018 and in last week’s post, I promised myself that I’d ACCEPT myself. Acceptance is acknowledging that in this very moment, I am where I am. Acceptance allows me room to choose a new place for my next moment. Acceptance does NOT mean living a life I don’t love. I ACCEPT that I suffer from bi-polar (or whatever juicy label I have today) but I can CHOOSE how to handle this. I ACCEPT that I cannot eat what I want when I want if I want to be healthy. I ACCEPT that I like to lily-pad and I need to structure my life so that I can do this (watch for a future post about lily-padding).
I ACCEPT that if I want to have a life I love, I must set a course.
One of the things I hate most about political campaigns is that most candidates tell us why we should not vote for their opponent rather than why we should vote for him/her. In other words, I want a candidate to tell me what platforms she supports – what are her agenda items, what systematic course is she committed to?
I’ve decided to develop a campaign for myself. If I had to create a political ad, what would I promote, support, fight for? But wait ….
Every candidate, every person, has skeletons in their closet. For me, these skeletons will start to rattle the very second I decide to get serious about my campaign. Past failures will pound on the door. Unkind words will again have volume. My negative side will get louder and louder. Even as I write these words, one corner of my brain is reminding me that I’ve failed so many times. The exact words I’m hearing are:
I ACCEPT that my mind is often my enemy, my opponent. I CHOOSE to fight that. I ACCEPT that I will lose some of those fights and will sink into the abyss from time-to-time. I CHOOSE to keep climbing out.
If I designed a campaign ad, what would be on it? Let’s make a list – don’t justify your list, don’t censor yourself. Just write a list of all the things you’d like to have/do/accomplish/be. Think small. Think huge.
I’m going to do this “real” time – I’m going to write a list for exactly five minutes (setting my clock now):
Time’s up … these are the things that hit me at 8:15am on January 1. Certainly the list is not exhaustive or all inclusive. Because I want my campaign to succeed, I’m going to take the next week to refine my list. Questions I’ll be asking myself:
I can’t believe I’m going to talk about this … it’s so “gooey*”. But, I have come to understand how much my body tells me. As I think of these goals, I get an immediate bodily reaction. For example, when I think of volunteering, my shoulders tighten and I have trouble taking in a deep breath. For me, that’s a warning sign that I need to acknowledge and listen to.
Campaigns don’t start after one day of thought. While it’s January 1 and I’d like to have my campaign poster on my refrigerator today, I’d much rather have a campaign that I can win. In order to accomplish that, I’m going to slow down, do some homework and come back to this next week.
I can’t do it all – maybe you can but I ACCEPT that I have a limited amount of energy, time and resources. I also ACCEPT that my mental health requires dedicated self-care that limits me to some extent. For the first time in my life, I want a campaign that I can fully support and execute completely. I want to win!
My list only took me five minutes. I can’t and shouldn’t finalize my campaign based of a five-minute session. I want the final outcome to be ME – the ME I CHOOSE to be … in order to accomplish that, I need to:
Monday/Tuesday: add to this list – make it as long as I want. I will also go ahead and strike anything I know is a “should” or that my body rejects. I will discuss this with my husband – he knows me better than I do and he also has some goals that I need to incorporate.
Wednesday/Thursday: create categories. For example, many of the goals could be categorized as “physical health” or “mental health” or “career”.
Then I’m going to do the hard work: as I write each goal, I’m going to listen to what my brain starts to say and how my body feels. I’m going to write EVERYTHING down – by doing that I can identify the enemy. There may be some enemies so strong that I don’t want to fight them right now – and that’s okay! I ACCEPT that I only have a limited amount of strength and skills at this moment in time. If I choose battles where the enemy is too strong, I will fail and that will create a domino effect where all of my goals crash. I’m strong enough to admit that to myself and structure my life accordingly. Of course, one of my goals will be to continue to build my mental, emotional and physical strength so that one day I can fight any enemy. But, I’m not there yet and that’s OKAY!
Friday: trim the list and discuss again with my husband. Then, I’ll trim it again. And again.
Saturday: FINALIZE my campaign platform. I’m going to go so far as to design a poster – I’ll post that next week!
Sunday, I’ll begin to develop my list of “aggressive activities” for each goal. This will be the subject of my next post.
I’ve had a very difficult December (see my post from December 31). What I learned during that time is that I need to be intentional in ACCEPTING myself and all my “issues”. The abyss is a hard place to be and even harder to climb out of … I’m going to be more careful about avoiding the abyss and I think that starts with being realistic with myself about what I want and need out of life. It starts with campaigning for myself.
I hope some of you will join me and share your experiences with this LIFETIME project.
*gooey -- I prefer to live in my mind, so when I'm told to listen to my body (somatic experience) or to meditate, I think of those activities as "gooey" or "woo-woo". I used to avoid them. While I still don't like them, I totally recognize their importance in staying grounded and balanced.
Affiliate disclosure: I wanted you to be aware that I am part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program where I will earn a fee if you choose to purchase using the links presented in this site. Please know that if I recommend the resource, I have personally read it.
This year, I will continue to write about my goals/ habits/ trials/ success/ anguish. I will let you into a mind that suffers.
I’ll continue to crack myself open so that YOU feel safe to be who YOU are, feel what YOU feel, realize YOU are not alone, trust YOU are valuable just because YOU exist. I will strive to create a “non-judgment” and “authenticity” zone.
But on this first day of the New Year, I wanted to tell you my most important goal:
Happy New Year! Let’s get to work on ACCEPTING who we are while also BECOMING who we want to be!
Last week, our daughter called to tell us she was struggling with a class. She’d already dropped this class once so she felt some serious pressure to get through it. And, she’s a people pleaser through-and-through so she is serious about getting good grades and keeping that GPA up.
I take credit – and blame – for some of her need to do well in school. As a former school teacher, I impressed upon both my kids the importance of doing their very best. It’s not that I expected straight As ….but…. okay, maybe I did expect that.
As we discussed how best to get the necessary support, I heard myself say: “Sydney, you will never use this class in your career. Companies don’t look at GPA. They want diplomas and graduates. Just pass it. Who cares what the grade is?” Basically I told her not to push for excellence but to push for good enough. Was I wrong?
I really thought about this over the course of the next several days. I was not wrong. The fact is we don’t have enough time/energy/resources to pour excellence into everything. We must choose how best to channel our excellence. It’s important she graduate. It’s important she be able to find a job in a career that excites her and uses her unique talents. It is totally unimportant if she makes an A in this class (or a B or even a C – she just needs to get the credit).
Sometimes we need to revisit our goals and values to remind ourselves how to channel our worries/efforts/focus. Her goal is to graduate. Her goal has never been to graduate with a 4.0. If she can remember the true goal then the pressure in this one class will be reduced – and likely by reducing that pressure, she’ll actually do better. Make sense?
Where do I put too much pressure on myself? Where do I pursue Excellence when Good Enough will do? In order to answer this question effectively, I must again look at my goals/dreams/desires and then compare that to how I’m spending my actual time and my worry time.
Or… ugh … where do I put too much pressure on my husband, my kids, my friends?
Yesterday I did my Orange Theory workout. I was tired from a sleepless night, it was really early, and I simply did not want to be there. As I was pushing myself – and I mean pushing myself – this topic resurfaced in my mind. Immediately, I lowered the incline and the speed. I still worked but I didn’t reach for excellence. Yesterday, good enough was good enough. Instead of trying to “get all that I could” from my exercise, I decided to be satisfied with the fact that I moved. One of my life goals is to be fit and healthy so that my husband and I can do some cool things together. Excellence with physical fitness is important. But, good enough is good enough from time-to-time.
I just sent my first novel out to ten beta readers. It’s not perfect. It will NEVER be perfect. If I strive for perfect then I will never reach my life goal of being a published author. Eventually, I will have to decide the novel is good enough. If I hold out for perfection, then I’m basically using that as an excuse not to move forward – which I think is a form of fear.
As my novel sits on a shelf for two weeks and then as I receive and incorporate the feedback, I will complete one last re-write to make it as close to perfect as I possibly can. Then, I will close the file, begin the publishing process and call it good enough. I think my next novel may actually be titled “Good Enough.”
I’m going to force myself to embrace the old adage: Perfection is the Enemy of Done
I hope I can instill this in my daughter – I’m a bit afraid that the perfection I’ve already instilled in her will be hard to carve out. I doubt she’ll make an A in this class – maybe I can show her that the world did not cave in, that life did go on – maybe I can show her that good enough was good enough.
Now, what I did not tell Sydney was that she shouldn’t work hard or do her best. What I’m trying to say is that doing our best is the best we can do. Doing our best is our excellence – regardless of the results. And yet, sometimes, I don’t think we need to do our best. I folded clothes just a few minutes ago. I did not do my best – I threw the socks together in a loose pile, I tossed the underwear in a huge pile in the drawer. Who cares? Maybe you care – maybe that is important to you – cool! It’s not important to me and I refuse to feel badly that I didn’t do my best.
In this blog, however, I am pursuing excellence. But what does that mean anyway?
Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is not even a test of quality.
Excellence is a moving target … it’s about growth and maturity. For me, excellence is mostly about authenticity. Excellence for you may be something totally different. But, whatever it is, personal excellence changes as you change.
I’ve done some Internet research looking for a definition of excellence. Here is my distillation:
Excellence, then, has nothing do with an A in a class, a GPA, a best-selling novel, a clean house, perfectly folded clothes … it’s more than all of that … and less than all of that …
I think this may be a topic of several blogs … it’s pretty deep!
The ego has a primary job – to make you feel self-important. The ego accomplishes this by showing you where you are “better” than others and beating you to death with how you are “less” than others. Your inner critic is the voice of the ego. That part of you that thinks “well, at least my kids don’t do that” or “at least I’m not that fat” or “my car/house/clothes are better than hers” is also the ego.
The ego learns someone is CEO of XYZ and tells you that 1) they are better than you and 2) they know they are better than you. If the ego spends time judging others, it assumes everyone else’s ego is judging you! And, guess what, it’s true. For ten seconds! I’ll admit I make a judgment about people and then ten seconds later I’m worried about my crap again.
All these people we are worried are judging us spend ten lousy seconds thinking about you/me. How much time do you spend worrying about it?
The Ego is STRONG, LOUD, OBNOXIOUS and WRONG! The ego goes to great lengths to prove its importance and veracity.
The soul tells you what matters to you – what really matters! It does NOT tell you what society thinks is important. It does NOT tell you to obey the “shoulds” in this life. Your soul tells you WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU ARE MEANT TO BE DOING. Your soul is the home of your values. The soul knows your VALUE … a value you have just because you exist. Your value – according to your soul – is inherent to your beating heart.
The soul tells you that YOU MATTER – that’s it. YOU MATTER.
If you are valuable simply because you exist, then it stands to reason that what you do/own/accomplish is irrelevant. Do you see the tug-of-war? Your body/mind/soul are in constant battle.
Sadly, not only is the ego much louder than the soul, the ego gets a lot of support. Our society values exactly the same things the ego values. Maybe one day that will change. In the meantime, we have to learn to lower the ego’s volume and increase the soul’s.
In tug-of-war there is an anchor. Remember playing that – the anchor was always the big kid, the strong guy. The ego is strong – it’s the 200-pound gorilla. If we aren’t intentional in creating an equally strong anchor for our soul, we will end up in the mud time and time again.
What is the mud I mention above? Debt is one. Unhealthy relationship is another. Addictions (food, spending, exercise, alcohol, drugs, etc.) The constant obsession about what other’s think. Paralyzing fear. Analysis paralysis. That job you hate but gives you a decent paycheck. The kids being so busy they can’t breathe much less bond. Reading other people’s minds. Arguments over stupid stuff. That car you just can’t afford. Saying you are ‘fine’ when your world is going to shit! Disassociation. Living with hate.
I could spend a few minutes justifying why we should listen to the soul more than the ego. But, seriously, don’t we all understand that? The mud is a hard place to live. We all recognize that society’s values and the ego’s messages are not as important as honoring who we are at our core. Instead, let’s discuss how to hear the soul and follow her guidance.
What we need to do is find a strong anchor for the soul. What could that be? I think the choice of anchor is individual. But I do KNOW we must be INTENTIONAL in choosing and using an anchor(s).
Maybe it’s your faith. Maybe it’s a dedicated time to listen to yourself (through journaling, yoga, meditation). Maybe it’s taking care of your body through healthy eating and exercise. Maybe it’s a good therapist or a true friend. Maybe it’s art or nature or music. Maybe it’s being alone. Maybe it’s classes or books that make you think more deeply. All of these are great IF IF IF you are committed to using them and using them intentionally to LISTEN TO YOUR SOUL.
I’m an avid exerciser. It is NOT an anchor for my soul. That’s because when I exercise I’m actually feeding my ego – telling myself how good I am to exercise, how much better I look, how much better I am than the heavy-breathing guy next to me.
One of my anchors is this blog. This blog is forcing my soul to the forefront. In order to create this post, I have to listen to what my soul is thinking. Another anchor is my therapist and a passion/purpose group. When I write this blog, go to my therapist or participate in my group, I INTENTIONALLY open myself up and listen deeper. I allow people to tell me what my ego is speaking. I give advice that reminds me to make changes too.
How do you anchor your soul? Do you lean on this anchor enough? Do you need to develop new anchors?
If you want to live an authentic, passionate, satisfying life then you must shove the ego aside and let the soul dominate. This will only happen with honesty (that deep, dark, hard honesty), intentional time with self, boundaries, and continuous diligence to guard against that sneaky ego.
Recently, I was tasked with creating a pie chart of how I spend my day, my week, my month. This activity forced me to see that I do not build in enough time to feed my soul. It showed me that I let “society rules” guide how I spend my time, my money, my energy. There was not enough balance. The ego still had the 200-pound gorilla and my soul’s anchor was a skinny little wimp.
Now, I build in a way to anchor my soul every day! I don’t have hours upon hours to spend loving myself but here are some of the ways I’m being more intentional:
Go build a set of anchors – put them in place – find the life that VALUES you for being YOU.
Over the last two posts, I’ve worried over good habits that just don’t stick. One thing I realized is that I had some habits that I don’t need right now. For example, in the last post, I analyzed the goal of eliminating soda and realized that that habit doesn’t really support the overarching goal of good health. Now, that may not be true for you. I’m not saying soda is good for you. I am simply saying that for me, at this point in time, the energy I’m spending on that habit is not balanced.
The overarching goal of completing my novel IS WORTH MY ENERGY and yet I keep stumbling. Let’s just jump in with the analysis.
Goal: Finish my Matt/Kath novel and get it published!
Get the second draft finished … which requires:
I’m going to stop this post right here today – this is a great example of how Excess Emotional Energy works … writing this post is causing my heart to race because I am so scared of 1) finishing that novel and being told it’s no good and 2) NOT finishing that novel and condemning myself for the rest of my life ….
Something about this novel is creating mass chaos inside me.
My anxiety is rising. My fear is starting to take over. I want to run, to hide. I desperately want to go on Amazon and fill my cart. I want to open my favorite book and re-read. I want to do ANYTHING other than analyze what’s happening in me right this minute. I’m near tears. That’s not true … I’m in tears.
What if it sucks? What if I can never get it done? What if I’m sitting here next week, next year, in five years, without accomplishing this one thing? What is my purpose in life? It’s so hard to have once had a career that you know was what you were supposed to be doing and now …. ????? Now, now … everything scares me. I can’t make a decision. I can’t “land” on anything. So many ideas but nothing done!
So many people have abandoned me – and so many of them are “Christians” that even God has abandoned me. My husband goes to this great job, interacts with people and I sit here all alone – I speak only to the dog for days on end.
What is the point of ME?
I went to exercise this morning and was not able to get my “points” even though I felt like I was working myself to death. I’ve been in tears since. No “positive affirmations” are getting through. My novel is sitting right next to me and I’m scared to go there – Deep breathing is not helping. Writing this is not helping.
I’m supposed to follow-up with a lady today about a small teaching job – but if she rejects me … I keep telling myself that’s not rejection of ME but that the class idea is not right. That’s not helping. I can’t call her. I just can’t.
I desperately want to go take a nap (it’s 9am). My therapist would tell me to “sit in it”. I’m trying, I really am.
That’s the hardest thing for me – this constant fear of rejection of not being any good. I’m so tired of feeling “less than” and overwhelmed and afraid. This constant fear that I’ll break down again and never get back up. I can’t survive it all a second time.
All my ideas just careen in my head and never fully solidify. Even this blog is not quite what I wanted b/c I can’t define what I want – or I can’t trust what I want is any good. I CAN’T LAND. I WANT TO LAND … I WANT A DIRECTION AND THEN I WANT TO STICK TO IT … I want to believe in myself.
This was all type in 3 minutes – that’s what Excess Emotional Energy is like. It’s a tornado. It’s exhausting.
I’ll get back to the “real” post soon … have to rest for a few. Have a good day!
Last week, I started to talk to you about keeping good habits – or, more accurately, why we don’t keep good habits. I’m going to keep this theme going because right now I’m really struggling to re-build some good habits and stop some bad habits that have crept back in. I don’t think I’m alone!
I’ve discovered that many people make goals and start an action plan …. and then it all goes south. Think of the number of New Year’s Resolutions NOT met! How many diets have you started? How many exercise plans? Have you promised to do a gratitude journal and stopped? Maybe you committed to not watching TV or playing silly electronic games or sitting on Facebook so much. Maybe you decided to do Morning Pages every day. Maybe you decided to slow your spending or stop going to fast food places or stop drinking soda … I’m sure you can find something you wish to change or create in your life that has stumped all your abilities.
As I open myself to people, I’m learning that people who struggle with Excess Emotional Energy (or whatever mental health label you choose), use these setbacks as a excuses to beat themselves to death or just give up. I know I do it. Sometimes I wonder if I sabotage my own success because beating myself up is more comfortable. That’s sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Why would beating myself up be comfortable?
Do you like to receive compliments? Do you get all gooey and warm? Or, do you immediately begin to refute and back away (mentally or physically)? You may say a simple, “Thank you,” but what’s going on inside? Most people don’t feel comfortable receiving compliments.
What about internal compliments? Yesterday I completed more than I had expected. I started being all peacock-y and internally telling myself how awesome I am. That lasted about 20 seconds (or two seconds) … quickly I turned to a review of all that I had NOT accomplished and how what I had done wasn’t necessarily my best work. I moved from there into all the goals I have for myself that I’ve let crash and burn. The bat got a great workout.
It seems I’m more comfortable being critical that I am with praise. I don’t think I’m alone. So now what? (We can talk about ‘why’ we use beat on ourselves in another post.)
JOIN IN: Before you keep reading, please identify one goal you’ve tried to accomplish that just won’t stick. Jot down that unrealized goal. I’ll be using “eliminate soda.” That’s an easy one. I have much more difficult unrealized goals. But for demonstration, I thought I’d use something simple. If you want to discuss this process with my more complex goals, just send me an email. I plan to work this process on my most troublesome goals. Hint: for now, focus on a good habit you want back rather than a bad habit you want to stop. We’ll get to the bad guys later.
In my group therapy this week, I mentioned my struggle with not meeting goals and the subsequent beating I give myself. We started by strategizing on ways to meet the goals:
While the answers are complex, I want to demonstrate using my goal:
Goal: Eliminate Soda
Helpful – sort of. But, I had implemented all of those steps and kept the obstacles in mind on a daily basis. My problem, my worry, was that I couldn’t seem to make anything stick.
My therapist turned to me and changed tactics (she loves to do that). Ready to plunge in with me? Here are some rapid fire questions to consider (go with your gut answer – you can analyze and think more later). My answers are in red.
Take a few seconds to read your rapid-fire answers. Do those answers simply scratch the surface OR are they your “should” answers OR are they just complete crap? This analysis will take longer and may be excruciating … push through.
I’m still working on this Deeper Still analysis for eliminating soda. But here are my first thoughts:
I shouldn’t have to give it up. It’s only one a day for God’s sake. I gave up so much to lose this weight, do I have to give up everything? It’s just not f-ing fair that Dave can eat and drink whatever he wants without any consequences. I drink so much water ... surely that makes up for the soda thing. I already do so much for healthy living – food choice, exercise fiend. Maybe I should just be satisfied with where I’m at! Why do I always have to find more and more ways to be healthy? Am I seeking perfection? Why am I spending so much energy worrying over something so minor/so insignificant? Do you just want to have something hard so you can fail? Why can’t you just be satisfied with who you are in this moment?
This went on for a lot longer but would bore you to tears.
This analysis was so useful because here is my ultimate decision:
Eliminating one soda a day is NOT worth it to me at this time in my life. Since drinking one soda is neutral toward my REAL goal of good health (in other words, one soda will not make me unhealthy and eliminating one soda won’t really make me any healthier), I’m going to bag this goal completely for now (I can always bring it back).
And, I’m not going to get out the bat because I understand my decision – I was both rational and emotional! I was intentional. Life didn’t happen to me … I designed my life.
Now, there will be other goals that won’t get eliminated. For example, one of my goals is to complete that novel – this requires some major daily steps that I keeping avoiding. Today, I’ll be analyzing why I’m struggling. Next week, I’ll share this analysis because it will be much more significant/painful/revealing than this simple eliminate soda goal.
A goal today does not have to be a goal tomorrow. Just make the decision intentionally!
It’s my desire that this blog become a safe place for all of us to share our struggles, our strategies, our analyses. If you are willing to share about a goal that just keeps knocking you down, please send it to me in an email. I will eliminate anything that mentions your name and post it.
A SIDE NOTE: My wonderful husband in coming home for lunch with a soda 🙂
“Act the way I want to feel.”Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin
You have a great habit – a habit the works for you – why would you stop?
For weeks I did Morning Pages (see below for an explanation of Morning Pages). Taking the time to do these pages radically helped me work through difficult choices and emotions. It was shocking how much that simple task kept my emotional energy level and productively channeled. Then, a day came where I didn’t have time. The next day, I used the same excuse. It’s been 3 weeks now, and I haven’t opened my Morning Pages notebook. YET I KNOW HOW HELPFUL THOSE PAGES ARE!
That’s not my only example of stopping what works. I know a green smoothie makes my body run better, look better. For weeks I had a green smoothie every day and I can promise you the changes were radical. I haven’t had a smoothie in 3 months. Why? It takes 10 minutes, it tastes good …. Why, oh why, did I stop doing something with such powerful and positive results?
I had made it through the several days of suffering when I stopped drinking all soda product. Then, I drank one. Now, I have to decide whether to face the suffering again to eliminate soda OR just give up on that positive habit change.
I know with 100% certainty that if I eat without distraction (no TV, book, etc.) that I eat less, eat more slowly, actually enjoy what I’m eating. I loved my morning quiet breakfast – it was a time to just relax before the volume of life starts rising. Yet, I’ve started watching TV while eating. UGH!
Let me be clear about an important element …. I was very conscious that I was choosing NOT to do something good for me. I would say to myself, “those Morning Pages are helpful, go do them,” or “that smoothie will give you the energy you need, go make it”. It was as if my Rebel Dragon would huff off with a teenager’s attitude – “it might be good for me but you can’t make me”.
“We don’t think our way to proper action. We act our way to proper thinking.” It’s a great quote – except it’s NOT RIGHT.
When I’m not doing what I need to be doing then I MUST THINK … I must answer the deep, dark question of why.
The excuses I use are irrelevant. What is relevant is WHY I do this? What story am I feeding when I stop a good habit? Maybe …
Today I made a pact that I would face the Morning Pages and try to really see what I was feeling and what I was avoiding. I’ve now been up for 6 hours and I am fighting myself tooth and nail. WHY??????? Why is something so wonderful freaking me the heck out????? I do not know the answer … all I can do is explain how I’m feeling as my Morning Pages notebook sits next to me ….
That last statement – fear – is key. WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? No one reads my morning pages (I throw them away). As a matter of fact, the few times I’ve shared some of what I’ve written, it has really helped me communicate effectively.
My emotional brain just gave me the answer --- and I mean that it gave me these words as I’m writing this post – YOU ARE AFRAID TO WRITE THOSE PAGES BECAUSE YOU KNOW THINGS WILL COME OUT THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH.
Ooooh, that’s a punch.
I need to do the same thing with other excellent habits I’ve abandoned … but, I think the revelation I just received is enough for me today. I’m promising myself that my next task WILL BE the Morning Pages. Right Now! Wish me luck!
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