My Compulsion Toward Sensibility

My first pair of Converse All Star sneakers was an orange plaid pair.

I thought Converse All Stars were such great sneakers because they were both stylish and sensible. They were the shoes that everyone in my school was supposed to have, but they were also great shoes to wear all day and everywhere. I didn’t have to change them for gym. I could wear them with skirts. I could wear them with pants.

I’ve always loved being sensible.

I still have those orange plaid sneakers. I also have the other pair of All Stars I owned as a teenager: the black pinstripe pair. Even the kinds of All Stars I had were sensible; I had one colorful pair and one black pair to go with everything.

I only recently bought new sneakers because I needed a pair for working out. The orange plaid All Stars have been relegated to being my outdoor adventure/exercise shoes because they stink. Ever sensible, my new sneakers are black and pair well with anything.

I’ve been noticing this compulsion toward being sensible and have been wondering what it means about me and my daily habits. I’ve been wondering what it means for me in the grand scheme of my life – my relationships and my career – because my compulsion toward sensibility extends beyond my choices in shoes. It pervades pretty much every corner of my life.  On the surface, sensibility is a helpful quality, but what if it’s holding me back?

What if being sensible is keeping me from realizing my dreams?

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– Ryunosuke Satoro

At their core, dreams are insensible.

They don’t make a lot of sense to the standard of life a person has become accustomed to and they require a lot more effort than falling in line with the status quo.

Sensibility is a problem because if I ever want to realize my dream of becoming a published author, then I’m going to have to be a little insensible. I’m going to have to believe I can buck the odds. I’m going to have to put in more effort than I will get tangibly rewarded for. The sensibility in me cringes at that and shrinks away from it. The sensibility in me tells me to have plans B, C, and D just in case. The sensibility in me says it would be nice if I became a published author, but it shouldn’t be my dream. I probably shouldn’t even waste my time working toward it because it’s not sensible to invest in something that’s not a sure bet.

Being sensible has served me well in a lot of areas of my life. It has helped me to be generally wise with my money. It has helped me to stay healthy. It’s helped me to grow and become a better person, so I won’t be abandoning sensibility altogether, but I do see how I let it take hold a little too tight sometimes. I do see how it can be damaging and limiting and how it’s keeping me from going after all that I want. Dreams, after all, are not about being sensible.

Dreams are a bit foolish, but it seems to me that fools are pretty damn happy.

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Do you cling to the sensible choices in life, or do you take big risks in the pursuit of your dreams? If you’re compulsively sensible like me, what’s a risk you can take today, or this week?

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An Over-abundance of Advice, Tips and Hacks

 

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– Matthew McConaughey

There is too much advice online.

I find it confusing and frustrating and belittling, at times, but I have a confession to make.

I have a weakness for hack videos on YouTube.

If there is a video that promises to offer me advice to fix a problem, big or small, I am irresistibly curious if it’s going to be worthwhile. Even if the thumbnail assures me that the video will have nothing novel to present me, I still want to know if the creator has some secret tips to cure everyday stress or bad hair days or dirty bathrooms. (Note: I’ll be using the words advice, tips and hacks interchangeably. They all basically mean the same thing, anyway).

The thing is, I know hack videos are unlikely to teach me anything. I’ve watched a lot of lifestyle videos and have taken away very little because advice is rarely helpful.

Of all these videos I’ve watched, the most important tip I can remember is that I’ve been using bobby pins wrong my whole life (the curvy side goes down to better hold the hair), but  actually, that tip wasn’t even from a hack video, it was part of a parody tutorial!

Beyond my mindless consumption of hack videos, I don’t tend to seek out advice, but I’m not a total advice curmudgeon. It can be helpful and I’ve gotten some good advice in the past. For example, my sister encouraged me to set aside spending money for myself every month because I have terrible buyer’s remorse, and that was incredibly helpful advice that I utilize to this day. My mom encouraged me to spend more time writing and thinking about what I want from my future because I get too caught up in thinking about what I should be doing with my life, and that was a very thoughtful tip that helped me get out of a negative circle of thoughts.

I know not everyone has loving sisters or mothers to turn to for advice, and there are communities that can be formed online in lieu of familial support, but I’m not talking about advice from an Internet friend, I’m talking about the sludge of advice that pops up when you Google anything with the words “how” or “why.” That’s the kind of advice that gets under my skin.

tips-advice-hacksThese articles and videos always have misleading titles that lure viewers in with the promise of an easy solution. Even though there are so many of these articles and videos to choose from, they often say a variation of the same thing. Unless we want to look at Wiki How to learn how to best slice an onion or fix a household appliance, these “how tos” will yield very little positive results. If you’re anything like me, these  how to articles and videos in the self-improvement genre just increase any existing anxiety because there are too many “solutions.”

 

I want to further examine the varying tentacles of advice, so I’ve broken it down into four categories (or tentacles, if you will).

 

1.Should yourself

You should delete your Facebook account.

You should feed your children Organic produce.

You should wear a sleep mask to bed.

 

The inverse of each of these leads to a subcategory:

Contradictions

You shouldn’t delete your Facebook account.

You shouldn’t worry about feeding your children Organic produce.

You should never wear a sleep mask to bed.

 

What’s so confounding about this category of advice is that for every should, there’s a shouldn’t.

 

2.How it is

This category is similar to Should Yourself, except it relies on old adages that many of us have grown up being taught as undeniable truths.

“Early bird gets the worm” translates to:

You should go to bed early and wake up early.

 

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” translates to:

You should always eat breakfast.

 

This category of advice will vary depending on your family or what you heard growing up. Perhaps you grew up around people who questioned these “undeniable truths,” but I definitely grew up believing that breakfast-eating-morning-people have it figured out. Then I got married to a night owl who gets nauseous when he eats too early in the morning and I realized that not everyone fits into this category.

 

3.Wanna-Be Expert

This advice usually comes from well-meaning people. I’ll deny my cynicism here and say that even people who post this category of advice on the Internet probably mean well. They’re passionate about the solutions they’ve found in their own life and they think that because they’ve found something that works for them, that it will work for everyone else.

Have you tried . . .

What about . . .

I’ve been doing X for years and it works wonders. You should try it.

 

4.Dismissive

The category title makes this advice sound bad, but I actually think it can be the most helpful because it encourages us to figure it out for ourselves. Or, to find a counselor who can further encourage us to figure it out for ourselves.

Consult a professional.

Keep searching.

borderI have personally found the most success whenever I’ve trusted myself to know what’s best rather than collect advice from others and contemplate which tips make the most sense. I’m also a lot happier when I don’t click on those “hack” videos because they’re honestly 6-10 minutes of my life wasted – Every. Single. Time.

Have you ever found a truly life-saving hack from an Internet video? What’s some advice you resent getting? What has been the most helpful advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you? (I’m going to wildly venture that you didn’t receive the most helpful advice of your life by Googling it or from watching a hack video).

I Was More Decisive for a Week

 

Life Is A Matter of Choices

“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” —John C. Maxwell

Last week, I posted about how I was struggling to make decisions.

I came up with a 3 step plan to be more decisive. The 3 steps were these:

  1. Use the 5-second-rule in which I give myself 5 seconds from the moment I decide to do something to get up and go
  2. Follow my heart and/or stop overthinking
  3. Have fun

I also added a fourth step once I got going. It’s a very important step that kept me motivated and it was this –

  1. Each morning, write some variation of the mantra:

“I am capable of making decisions and sticking to them!”

Okay, so, how did the week go?

The 5-second-rule showed up more at the beginning of my week. I didn’t exactly think “5-4-3-2-1-GO,” but I did make quicker choices with the 5-second-rule in mind. I didn’t sit around and deliberate the order of my next moves or if I should or shouldn’t do things.

On the second day, I didn’t feel caged by time and I felt content with the choices that I made.

That contentment came from following my heart. Though I find that advice frustratingly vague, there is something to it. It’s very similar to the 5-second-rule in that you don’t give yourself a lot of time to make decisions, you just do.

When I was able to make choices without overthinking or analyzing, I had more time to take action and I felt at peace with the decisions I did make.

On the third day, I opened up an honest conversation with someone and I found it difficult to shake the emotions of the situation. Normally, I would be frustrated with myself for letting my emotions control me in that way, and it was frustrating, but I chose to step away from what I felt I needed to get done that day and focus more on enjoyable tasks. It’s a decision that would normally make me feel guilty and incapable, but instead, I felt like I’d chosen well for myself.

I also changed my mind on day three. It was a small decision between watching a show or heading to bed early, but I’m pleased with myself for finding the balance between sticking with a decision and recognizing that sometimes the first decision we make isn’t quite right. I had turned on the TV and was getting ready to wind down when I realized that I was way too tired to stay up for another hour so I turned off the TV with ease. I took the dog out and went to bed early.

On Day 4, I followed a self-made routine.

I absolutely loved the freedom within the structure.

The structure allowed me to make decisions about how to spend my time with ease because my morning was planned. While a routine doesn’t necessarily seem to fit in the “follow your heart” territory, I found the structure gave me more opportunities to follow my heart. I felt accomplished by noon so after lunch I felt free to go with the flow because I didn’t have any guilt about not getting a lot of work done in the morning.

On Day 5, I woke up with a headache and felt really frustrated when I couldn’t find any relief from the tension because it seemed like I  was straying from my new-found routine way too soon, but I acknowledged that discomfort and found a compromise. I stuck to half of my routine, and then took a nap since none of my other efforts at calming my headache were working. I made the choice without guilt or fear that I was doing something wrong and when I woke up, I had relief from the headache and was able to enjoy the rest of the day.

On day 6, I traveled out of town to see a friend. I hadn’t driven to her house in a while and I couldn’t remember with 100% clarity what road I needed to turn on, but I made the decision to trust that it would come to me as I drove, and it did!

That evening, once I was home, I made quick decisions about how to spend the rest of my day without my usual careful and annoying deliberation.

On the last day of this initial decisive experiment, I made quick decisions about how to spend my money when purchasing a gift for my sister and a workout package for myself.

Money is the area where I struggle the most when making decisions.

I understand that quality purchases cost more, but I also experience a lot of stress about spending large sums of money at once, but it was important to me to splurge for my sister since she’s celebrating a big accomplishment this May when she graduates from college. The workout package was an unexpected splurge for myself as well, quite honestly, but I’m glad that I went for it because it’s a bundle of workout classes that I will enjoy and it’s an investment in my health.

The 5-second-rule wasn’t something that I practiced with a lot of mindfulness, but because I made an intention to be more decisive, I made decisions that worked within a 5-second-rule-ish ideal.

I chose an action and went with it, rather than overthinking. Because I didn’t spend a lot of time analyzing my decisions, I ended up following my heart and having fun.

The three steps I created had an unintentional domino effect that made following them quite effortless.

There are some decisions in life that will require careful deliberation. It would be irresponsible of me not to say so. I’m a firm believer in researching big purchases like computers or cars or other items with hefty price tags. When I graduate and start interviewing for jobs, it will be important that I make a mindful decision because in the past I’ve jumped into jobs simply because they were offered to me, and that never works out too well. Like all things in life, there’s a balance. However, there comes a time when careful deliberation gets stretched too thin and you just have to make the leap.

While none of the decisions I made over this week had an earth-shattering impact, the practice of making decisions without distress is what I wanted to get out of this experiment. If I can make decisions fluidly when it comes to the small, everyday stuff, then it will be easier to make the bigger decisions, too.

The other benefit from this experiment that I hadn’t anticipated, was how much more content I’ve felt. It’s exhausting to constantly be deliberating over every decision every day.

Sometimes it takes a bit of extra effort to get going with a decision, but ultimately deciding and acting is less effort than deciding and analyzing.

Do you struggle with being indecisive? Does indecision negatively affect your life? How might you coach yourself to turn decision making into a less stressful process?

Go forth, will you, and be decisive. You are capable of making decisions and sticking to them.

How To Be Decisive

Okay, here’s the thing, I can’t tell you how to be decisive.

I don’t even know how to be decisive myself, but I’m sick of feeling indecisive so I’m going to try and figure it out and if you still want to stay even after I betrayed your trust with the title, then you can come along for the journey with me.

When I’m home and I’m ready to relax, I have a list of ideas running through my mind. I’ve done this ever since I was a kid. As a kid, I even wrote these ideas down. I remember having a list of activities that I could do indoors and a list of activities that I could do outdoors.

I spend more time thinking and planning about things to do than ever doing any of the things!

When I don’t have anything I need to do and I can choose what I want to do, here’s what the script in my brain looks like:

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I then open up a debate with myself about what activity would be the best use of my time. Reading a book would be better than watching television. I should write. I should always want to write with my free time. I should take a bath and relax my sore muscles. I should cuddle the dog he looks lonely. I should play a video game I have so many I have started and never finished.

(Please tell me you relate to this. I feel ridiculous that this is a problem).

I feel overwhelmed with the simple task of making the initial decision.

I spend so much time trying to decide that I end up with less time to do any of the things I might want to do, and then I feel anxious about having wasted so much time. Often, I end up watching reruns because those are familiar and I don’t have to expend a lot of energy in making the decision about what to watch when it’s an old episode of The Golden Girls.

I make decisions into a strategy game.

Doing this at home is infuriating because it shouldn’t be so difficult to relax, but I do this everywhere. I’m probably the most annoying person to go shopping with. It’s a good thing my husband and I almost always do that task together because when I go shopping alone . . . I mean, I’m just surprised I haven’t combusted in the condiments aisle yet.

Indecision drives me nuts in other people, too. Because of this, I find that when I’m faced with either being the one to make the decision or saying “whatever you want” to my co-worker or friend over and over again, I step up and make the choice. It’s in my personal life where decisions become such pernicious beasts.

This personal indecision shows how much I doubt myself.

Indecision shows how little faith I have in the present moment to work itself out, and although I average out choices in an effort to curb anxiety, it actually increases it.

I don’t know how to become a better decision maker, but if there was a magic potion to take away all the doubt and fear I have about decisions, then I would take it immediately before I could even have a chance to think about the pros and cons.

There is no magic potion, however, so I’m going to try the following strategies:

1. 5-Second Rule

The 5-seoncd rule was created by the motivational speaker Mel Robbins, and it’s a way to curb the overthinking that drives indecision. When hesitation toward taking action arises, begin counting backwards from 5 and then GO. The idea is that the more time you give yourself to think about what you’re going to do, the more time you have to back out of it. Having only 5 seconds to take action means that you can’t overanalyze.

While The 5-Second Rule is designed with big goals in mind, I think that it can work with small tasks as well. Author Thomas Koulopoulos puts it like this: “The key is to activate and then do, not activate and then think about doing.”

2. Listen to my heart

I’m not going to lie, I HATE this advice.

I don’t know what my heart is telling me. How am I supposed to hear it?

I think that’s part of my problem, though. I end up in the endless analysis loop so often because I’m trying to make a decision that makes sense, not a decision that is simply a thing to decide. When I’m choosing between reading a book or watching television (for the most trivial example), I’m not choosing to let someone live and let someone else die. There are not huge consequences behind the choice so there doesn’t need to be so much effort put into choosing.

I get hung up on this one because it seems to me that if I listened to my heart all the time, then I wouldn’t be doing very much with my life. My heart is that of an old retired man. I like to watch birds and television and drink coffee all morning long and wake up early and go out for breakfast before most of the people in the Mountain West have even used the bathroom.

When I get real with myself, though, I know there’s more to my heart than that.

I have dreams and goals and I don’t want to sit around watching birds and drinking coffee all day every day.

Some days, that is all I want, but that’s not what I want every day. My heart has its depths.

3. Focus on having fun

A lot of times I get hung up on choosing to do something because I want to actually relax. I make writing a chore and I continue to read books that I don’t like. No wonder I feel hesitant to start those tasks when I’ve made it so that they’re not very fun. If I want to spend more of my free time reading and writing, then I need to spend more time simply having fun with those things. I don’t have to always put the arduous work into my novel if I’m going to write. I can write poems or short stories just for fun. I can take my characters out of the novel for an adventure. I can also put down books that are boring or enraging. I don’t have any required reading anymore, why am I torturing myself?

I want to be more decisive about these small, every-day things because I’ve been living for the next moment rather than in the present one.

I want to choose and commit. I want to activate and do.

That’s it! Those are the 3 strategies I’m going to try to be more decisive. I’ll check back in next week about how it goes and I’d love for you to try them, or any of your own strategies, too.

What decisions do you struggle to make? How do you stop overthinking and just do?

How To Deal With a Lack of Motivation

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Every now and again, I reach the edge of my energy.

I walk right up to it and look down into the abyss of exhaustion and apathy. It’s not a welcoming abyss. But then, what abyss is?

Since I’ve started becoming more aware of my positive moods, it’s been more frustrating to take the deep dive into this abyss. I am fully aware of the joys that come with heightened energy, excitement, and low levels of anxiety.

I know how great it feels to feel great so when I don’t feel great, it feels insurmountably un-great.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been feeling incredibly unmotivated lately. I’ve been waking up tired and wanting to go to bed at 8PM. I’ve had little desire to do anything but stream Hulu or watch YouTube videos or sleep. I’ve even taken a few afternoon naps and I never take naps! I kind of hate naps, but I’ve had high-levels of anxiety lately which is making me exhausted, which is then making me unmotivated. It’s one of those vicious circles.

This has got me thinking, what are some strategies to emerge from this abyss? Can I hand myself a rope to pull myself up? Do I even need to try to get out, or do I just need to let it pass over me?

Here’s what I think – as with most things in life – it’s a little bit of both.

We can get out of the abyss with a bit of acceptance and a bit of effort.

Here is my self-curated list to get out of the abyss. As I don’t like to give advice, I would encourage you to make your own list. Though, I would advise anyone to include the first step of my list, which is this:

1. Accept it.

This is how I feel right now. I feel unmotivated. I don’t like it, but it’s how I feel.

2. Work on dismantling the shame.

When I feel unmotivated, I feel incredibly guilty. I feel like I’m simply lazy.

That is the big trigger for me – feeling lazy. I was talking to my husband about this a few days ago and he was probing me to admit to what I was really feeling. I said that I think he thinks I’m lazy. He assured me that he doesn’t. To that I said, “well, you should think I’m lazy.”

Thankfully, I was able to laugh at the ridiculousness of that.

3. Recognize that I have responsibilities that I need to fulfill, but that I can prioritize my schedule to focus on those necessary tasks.

For me, necessary tasks are those required tasks relating to personal hygiene (you know, shower, brush teeth, etc.), nutrition (eat food), sleep (get enough), my relationships (don’t completely withdraw from everyone), education and work (bare minimums).

4. Make a prioritized to-do list.

It might look something like this:

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5. Don’t put any expectations on feeling better.

Surrendering expectations is difficult because I have a tendency to wallow. “Oh, I feel so bad why don’t I feel better yet?” but it’s not helpful to have any thoughts about when I’ll start to feel better. While it might be a good idea for me to pay attention to how long the negative mood lasts in case it becomes a bigger issue, it’s not a good idea to say “tomorrow I’ll feel better,” because if tomorrow comes and I still don’t feel better, then I’m disappointed on top of feeling unmotivated.

6. Celebrate every success.

If I get up off the couch and do something besides zone out and give my life away to television series and YouTube videos, then it’s a cause for celebration. I don’t have to throw a party or buy myself a present. I can simply celebrate by noticing that I made an effort in the right direction. Feeling good about a small effort makes the big efforts easier.

7. Don’t hate.

It’s really easy for me to get down on myself during these periods when I’m feeling unmotivated. All the good self-talk I’ve rewired myself to practice goes out the window and I start saying things like “I’m stupid” and “I’m lazy” all over again. I have to make a conscious effort to say no to those tempting cruelties. However, it’s easier to say more average things about myself during this time like “I can figure it out” rather than “I’m so smart,” or “I’m trying” rather than “I’m hard-working.” This way, I believe what I’m saying to myself and I don’t argue back.

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I’ve been practicing these steps and today, I think I am climbing out of the abyss. What are some of the steps you take to work through a lack of motivation?

Go forth, will you, and consider what your own list of steps to get out of the abyss will look like.

I’m Afraid of Failure

Fear-of-Failure

I have avoided failure all my life.

I’ve done this by staying in the “easy zone.”

What I mean by “easy zone” is that space when you’re learning something new and everything flows easily because there’s excitement and you’re just learning the basics and fundamentals and then – inevitably – the challenge comes. The depths and intricacies of whatever you’re learning begin to unravel and you can’t stay in the easy zone anymore.

If you want to continue learning, you have to move away from what’s easy and challenge yourself. You have to work harder to understand.

There is one area in my life where I can truly observe myself going past the basics and fundamentals, and that is with writing. I’ve begun to push myself to keep learning and understanding and stop giving up when it gets difficult, more than I’ve ever done with any other interest or hobby or career pursuit. I distract myself and goof around a lot when I’m feeling uncomfortably challenged, sure, but I don’t give up. Until it comes to actually doing something with the finished product.

Doing something like submitting to publications more often than once in a blue moon. Reading my pieces aloud, like, to an audience. Finding a writing group. Sharing my writing with others. Improving my blog.

These are the points where I give up, because it all feels too real.

When I think about this kind of tangible success, I recoil in fear. What if what I submit gets rejected, again? What if I read my piece aloud and all its errors suddenly become apparent and everyone is watching me and I can’t stop reading until the time limit is up, but now I hate everything? People are dumb and self-aggrandizing and I don’t want to be in a writing group, anyway. If I improve my blog, then won’t I have to give in to making annoying, regurgitated content that fits into neat keywords and categories?

Sometimes my fear presents itself as what it is, fear. As in, what if I get rejected? Sometimes it presents itself as resistance. As in, I don’t want to create anything that remotely resembles content that I don’t like.

Either way, the root problem, the core of what’s holding me back, is fear.

I’m afraid that I’m not good enough. I’m afraid of being embarrassed. I’m afraid that I can’t sustain a project of any kind for longer than two months. I’m afraid of doing something that goes against my values or ideas of what’s worthy. I’m afraid that I’ll quit. I’m afraid of being seen (and yet, I want to be visible). I’m afraid that my ideas are rudimentary and hardly worth exploring.

I’m afraid of how life will change if I aim to be successful. I’m afraid of how life will change if I succeed.

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Fear can be a great motivator, but it’s usually a giant road block for me. I’m working on challenging what scares me and finding ways to work through the resistance I feel. One way I can do this is to reframe my thoughts from “that’s scary,” to “this will be good for me and it will help me grow.”

Go forth, will you, and consider your fears. Which fear do you most need to overcome for your own success and fulfillment?