The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Honesty

This week, my husband and I attended the funeral for his Grandma. It was interesting for me to contrast his family with mine because his family comes from money. I’d gone to a funeral for someone in my own family only a few months back, and the differences between the two were small, yet stark: cowboy boots and sneakers vs. black leather loafers and high heels or three-piece-suits vs. jeans and a button down. I don’t bring this up to put down my family or to shame his; I only bring it up to explain the following situation: During the reception, I sat next to his great aunt, and upon realizing who I was, she took my hand to look at my wedding ring then said “Oh, that’s some Denver jewelry.” I didn’t really know what she meant, and so in the moment, I had no response, but after thinking about it, I realized she was calling it cheap.

A similar situation has happened to me before; some vague comment about my ring that can’t necessarily be interpreted as an insult on face value, but when I take into consideration the entire context, I understand that more is meant by the broad-sweeping words. The real message is some variation of “Why didn’t your husband spring for a diamond?” or “How could you be caught dead wearing that unsparkly thing?”

Well, in truth, my ring wasn’t expensive and it doesn’t sparkle. It doesn’t have any diamonds and it’s not made out of precious metals.

But I don’t care. I love it. It’s the ring I wanted. I specifically asked my husband to buy it for me. Wearing the ring is a way of expressing myself honestly, and actually, for some reason, the ring is one of the few ways I’ve had as much confidence to express myself honestly.

While I don’t care if people like my wedding ring, I do often care if people like my opinions or if they approve of my job or if they think I’m lazy. I care so much about these things that I often find it difficult to be honest with myself in these areas.

I’ll think I’m being honest if the “truth” lines up with what I assume people want from me, but many times, my truth is different than these assumed expectations.

It was more painful for me when my husband’s great aunt asked me that dreaded question “What do you do?” than when she snubbed my ring because I stand by my ring and am proud of it, but it’s harder to stand by more personal choices. In the area of opinions and careers, it’s harder to express myself honestly, and make decisions about my life with confidence.

Recently, I was faced with the option of accepting a part-time job which I knew I’d love, or a full-time job that I didn’t want. I went to the interview for the full-time job and absolutely put everyone in the room to sleep because I already knew I didn’t want it, but I felt like everyone would call me foolish for not even trying to get the full-time job when I could have a meatier paycheck and arguably more stability.

Psychologist Courtney Warren says that the cost of self-deception is living life with painful regrets, and after I left the interview full of drowsy and dull college administrators, I knew that I would regret taking that job. I was honestly thankful that I never received a call from them because it meant I didn’t even have to make the choice, but if I had gotten that call, I like to believe that I would have had the courage to turn it down because I was starting to be honest with myself. After the interview, I didn’t try to find little lies about how the job would be great. I didn’t try to convince myself that the gut feeling I had was wrong or misleading. I just knew, and I went to the job I already had with confidence that I’d made the right choice.

This past year, I’ve been heavily invested in my own personal growth and self-improvement, which has forced me to be more honest because I’ve realized the costs of not doing so.

According to Dr. Warren, along with regret, two additional costs of not being honest are:

1. You hurt yourself and others

“We are deceitful and exploitative of others only insofar as we are in

some significant sense dishonest with ourselves . . .

2. You won’t be capable of change because you can’t change something you can’t admit

— but in so acting toward others,

we also offend against ourselves” (David Carr).

Pain and stagnation are some pretty high costs.

 

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Being honest isn’t easy, but it’s a worthy endeavor, especially when it means you can have a life with more fulfilling relationships and change that encourages growth and success.

For me, the costs of self-deception are: anxiety, indecision, long-lasting unhappiness, and strained relationships.

In order to consider the costs of self-deception for yourself, and learn to be more honest, three ways that you might begin the process of self-honesty are:

1. Learn to listen to yourself

Listening to yourself is going to require some of that good old self-awareness because if you’ve been caught up in performing a version of yourself that you think others want to see, then you’ve probably got a lot of voices that aren’t actually yours swimming around in your head. You’re going to have to do something scary and spend some time, and by some time I mean a lot of time, alone.

2. Sit with discomfort

When you start listening to yourself, you’re going to be confronted with some uncomfortable truths. You’re going to want to resist that discomfort, but being uncomfortable is a part of honesty. That discomfort is why we resist it so much. Stop resisting it. While honesty is unsettling, it also offers a lot of relief.  A study out of Notre Dame even backs this up. “The Science of Honesty Study” shows that through the reduction of lying, you can improve your health. Participants in the study who aimed to reduce their daily lying, even in simple ways like not exaggerating or making excuses, reported fewer mental and physical health complaints.

3. Persist in consistently challenging yourself

Being honest with yourself is not a linear process. Just because you are as honest as you can be one week doesn’t mean you will have the psychological stamina to do the same the next week. And, even when you do build up a habit of honesty, new truths will come up at super inconvenient times, and you will experience new discomfort. Remember that with each wave of confronting uncomfortable truths, there’s an ever bigger wave of relief.

As was the theme with previous posts in this series, everything is connected. You have to cultivate a sense of self-awareness before you can be honest with yourself, and it might be a good idea to work on forgiving yourself before you come to the hard, critical work of being honest with yourself. Plus, being honest with yourself might also require some more forgiveness. Just like honesty is a non-linear process, so is personal growth. I’ve only prepared these topics in what I think is the most logical order, not the most linear.

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Do you find it easy to be honest with yourself? What about being honest with others? Do you think that we can ever fully represent ourselves honestly to others?

 

 

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The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Forgiveness

Last week, the fundamental of personal growth was awareness. This week, it’s forgiveness. As will be a theme with all these fundamentals, there will be some overlap. Everything is connected.

Forgiveness is important to personal growth because you’re probably harboring some contempt for yourself about the fact that you’re not who you wish you were.

You might regret that you aren’t more fit, or that you don’t wake up earlier. Maybe you regret that you don’t call your mom more, or that you’re terrible at remembering birthdays. These desires to do better are normal, but if you’re on a journey of personal growth then I have a hunch that you are holding yourself in much more contempt than simply having regrets.

You won’t get very far in your personal growth journey if you continue to believe that you’re an inadequate failure because you don’t live up to arbitrary standards.

This particular fundamental of personal growth is the one I’ve had to work the hardest at, and it’s one I’m still working hard at, and the biggest thing I can’t seem to forgive myself for is not being the person I want to be, or the person I believe I can be.

Self-forgiveness is about forgiving yourself for not always being the person you want to be.

To extend yourself some grace:

1.Identify Limiting Beliefs

Often times when we make a mistake, we respond with all or nothing thinking like “I always do that” or “I can never get it right.” Listen to how you talk to yourself when you make a mistake. Identify the particular negative form of self-talk you employ. If you can notice it, you can name it, and if you can name it then you can work on replacing it with something less harsh like “I’d like to improve in this area of my life,” or “I’ll do that better next time.”

2.Take Ownership Over Your Mistakes

Research psychologist Juliana Breines writes:

Self-forgiveness can have a dark side. Research suggests that while it relieves unpleasant feelings like guilt and shame, it may also—in some cases—reduce empathy for others and motivation to make amends. In other words, self-forgiveness may at times serve as a crutch, producing a comforting sense of moral righteousness rather than a motivating sense of moral responsibility.

If you can admit that you’ve made a mistake or done something you’re not proud of, then it will be easier to explore how you can do better moving forward because you’ll know how you don’t want to behave, or what actions are out of line with the person you want to be.

Without the recognition of wrongdoing, what would there be to forgive? – Juliana Breines

You probably know that it’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, but admitting to them can feel vulnerable because most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as failures, bad people, or immoral. I challenge you to consider this alternative:

Admitting your mistakes is empowering.

Doing something bad, or behaving in a way contrary to your core being, does not make you a bad person.

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3.Identify Your Values so You can Live by Them

This approach to forgiveness overlaps with stage 2 in the awareness fundamental because there are so many elements that can begin to fall into place in your life when you know your values. If you don’t know what matters to you then you won’t have a framework for decision making, and you’ll be more likely to feel bad about choices that you’ve made without knowing why or how to improve.

4. Express Compassion

A few years ago, I had a counselor who engaged in Gestalt therapy with me. When I first met with her I was nervous because I knew Gestalt to be an aggressive from of therapy (by aggressive I just knew it was more than simply talking about your feelings), but it ended up being the most helpful therapy I’ve ever received because it encouraged me to cultivate compassion for myself.

My counselor had me imagine the part of myself that I hated, and talk to her. I moved across the room, sitting in one chair and then the other, talking to myself and saying out loud all these awful things I’d been thinking about myself. I saw this person who I hated as part of myself, and my counselor showed me that I could be compassionate to her. In my mind, I wrapped this part of myself up in a loving ribbon, and every time I started to think negatively about “Little Trisha,” as I called her, I’d wrap that ribbon around her. The process sounds a little out there, and I was resistant at first, but I’m so glad I eventually poured myself into it because learning to love Little Trisha was the biggest step in my personal growth journey.

[S]elf-forgiveness is not supposed to be easy, and without incorporating empathy it can feel empty. – Juliana Breines

The best effect from learning to love Little Trisha was that it was easier for me to love and express compassion for others. I felt less frustrated at my husband and approached our disagreements with empathy and understanding. Our marriage became so much more enjoyable because as I grew to love myself, I became more trusting. I grew closer to my family and friends because as I learned to stop judging, hating and resenting myself, I learned to stop doing the same to others.

I’m not perfect in these areas, and I still find myself holding grudges at times, but it’s now so much easier for me to let go and move on because I have started with practicing forgiveness for myself.

This practice of self-forgiveness and compassion can be tied back up into awareness.

If you can become aware, admit your mistakes and forgive, then:

[You can] begin to understand how [your] emotional and physical selves are connected and develop more self-confidence to start living a fuller life and more effectively deal with problems. (Gestalt Therapy)

Everything is connected.

 

In her Ted Talk “The Real Risk of Forgiveness and Why it’s Worth ItSarah Montana speaks about the power of forgiving others, but I think so much of what she says can be applied to self-forgiveness, as well. In particular, she says:

Forgiveness is the only real path to freedom

The thing about self-forgiveness as a practice in conjunction with self-awareness is that it cultivates a realistic view of the self. You can recognize who you are, in the present, and acknowledge the dream of who you hope to be without hating yourself for not yet being that person. You can find such cozy freedom within yourself that your body will feel like home.

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Have you learned to forgive yourself? What is your process of self-forgiveness?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Awareness

Through the past year of blogging and journeying through my own personal development, I’ve collected ten fundamentals for personal growth, which I’m going to explore in the last ten weeks of the year. I’m going to take a different approach, and use the you pronoun,

I’m tired of being inside my head. I want to live out here, with you.

– Colleen McCarty

I’ve mostly forbidden myself from you in this space, but I want to start getting out of my head with so much – I I I – I’m crowding myself out.

This week, the fundamental is self-awareness.

1.Self-awareness is more than knowing who you are.

When you ask yourself “Who am I?” you also likely come to the question “Who do I want to be?”

Self-awareness is being able to determine the gap between who you are and who you want to be.

Knowing that you might want to be a better version of who you are isn’t to say that you need to go changing the core of your being, but rather, it’s about aligning your attitude and presentation to the world with what you want, what you believe, and what you value.

2.Self-awareness is knowing what you value.

Ask yourself “What matters to me?” Pull the corners of yourself into those values like you’re folding a sheet.

When you know what you value, it’s easier to be true to yourself.

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Hermann Hesse

3.Self-awareness is about asking how and what.

Not why, why, why. 

Psychologist and researcher Tasha Eurich writes:

Asking what could keep us open to discovering new information about ourselves, even if that information is negative or in conflict with our existing beliefs. Asking why might have the opposite effect.

Asking why about ourselves is a big introspective trap, but asking what or how are questions which can lead to answers that facilitate action toward personal growth.

For example, instead of asking “why do I feel out of sorts,” ask, “what can I do to obtain alignment?” or as writer and style coach Stasia Savasuk puts it “inside-out congruency.”

Although Stasia means the term “inside-out congruency” specifically in regards to fashion, I included it because I think it is a much more visual term to define what I mean by alignment, which can sound a little airy and unattainable. Alignment brings the whole stage of self-awareness full-circle because it requires you to know who you want to be and what your values are. Alignment and inside-out congruency are really just terms to say that your behaviors and the ways you present yourself to the world are authentic to who you are on the inside; and that harmony is at the core of what it means to be self-aware.

 

Thinking about yourself is not akin to knowing yourself. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I have thought about myself a lot, and all that thinking never got me half as far as doing. While I can think that I value my relationships, for example, that value never feels like a truer part of my being until I show the people in my life that I love them with my actions.

While it’s important to start with self-knowledge, you will not have full self-awareness until you can point to how your behaviors and actions support your beliefs.

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What are some of the values you try to live by? How does aligning your behaviors with those values change your perception of yourself?

This is Not a Regularly Scheduled Post

I am only writing because 2 weeks ago I posted “How to Recover from Disappointment” and in my calligraphy image accompaniment, I spelled disappointment with only 1 p.

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I doubt anyone even noticed, but now you all know my egregious error. So bad. Such evil. Many unethics.

 

Being Sick is Like Hitting the Reset Button

Last week, my husband and I both got sick. It was one of those yucky head colds that verge on feeling just bad enough to maybe be the flu, but then also we were well enough to get out of bed, but also we could hardly breath through our noses and our heads felt like balloons.

I hate being sick, not just because it sucks, but because whenever I’m sick, I always struggle with guilt and doubt.

If I have to call into work or cancel plans, I feel like I’m lying about how sick I am just to get out of my commitments. While getting to stay home and watch TV or sleep is a benefit to being sick, the novelty of doing nothing wears off fast, and then I begin to realize that the worst part about being sick isn’t so much being sick, but that my routine has to bend so that I can rest.

I struggle between the knowledge that I’ll recover quicker if I rest, and the guilt of putting things or people on hold; the fear of losing momentum toward my goals.

I recently read an excerpt from Matthew Sweet’s blog post “The tyranny of the perfect day” that mirrored these frustrations I have with my routine being disrupted quite perfectly. It’s a little long, but it says more than I can figure out how to say about this topic:

A while ago I discovered my “perfect morning”. I liked to rise before the sun, meditate for a while, read whilst drinking a few cups of coffee, then write for a few hours. After that, I’d squeeze in whatever else my relationships, commitments and ambitions demanded of me. So, I thought, why not try to make every morning like that? I tried and it was surprisingly successful. But it also made me fragile. If I didn’t get up early enough then I felt the morning was lost. If my meditation session went terribly then it threw me out of rhythm. If I couldn’t focus whilst reading I felt annoyed. If I sat at the keyboard and nothing came to me, I’d wind myself up into a hybrid state of anxiety and fear. I was seeking uniformity in my mornings and Life was giving me the middle finger, thwarting my quest in mostly consistent, but sometimes unexpected, ways.

By Wednesday of last week, I had reached maximum grumpiness and laziness from being sick, but I could not convince myself that it was okay to rest because I wanted, so desperately, to get back to that perfect routine.

I know that it’s normal to be grumpy when you’re sick, but having to deviate from my routine made me feel like I was crawling my way back to dark places of self-loathing.

I could hardly let myself off the hook for a week of being sick.

Even writing it now, a week seems like way too long a time.

Eventually, through desperate journal writing to try and get myself out of a dangerous thought spiral, I came to these questions:

Have I really learned to accept myself, or have I just built up a routine that keeps me from feeling like a loser?

Have I just structured my life in such a way that there’s no room for me to be mean to myself because I never let myself falter or fail?

I think that maybe I have.

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I feel a little confused because I had been singing the praises of routines and structure, but now I’m seriously questioning routines for their fragile inflexibility.

At the end of Matthew Sweet’s post he says this:

I don’t fall into the trap of thinking that my perfect days should be uniform and repeatable. Instead, I labour under the assumption that perfect days can only be revealed in hindsight, not planned or prepared for in advance.

I think that I have reached the limit on introspection with this subject. Nothing will change if all I do is think about it. I have to make some tangible efforts to free myself from my own routine, and show myself that I am worthy every day, not just the perfect ones.border

Do you feel like your routine is too rigid? Do you feel as though all your progress or motivation to move forward gets reset when you’re sick?

How to Recover from Disappointment

One of my biggest fears is being disappointed.

I hardly even let myself get excited about things, because I’m afraid of being let down.

In my experience, disappointment is the most painful emotion. I think this is because, when I do get excited about things, I create vivid, realistic pictures in my mind about how amazing something is going to be.

For example, I recently applied for a job I really wanted. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and hand-delivered my resume to the office, which was in a great part of town. I saw myself working there, walking down to the nearby coffee shop at lunch, or stopping by the cookie store after work to get me and my husband something delicious before I came home. I saw myself feeling confident and proud in a position where my work aligned with my values. I saw myself expressing my creativity, sense of curiosity, and adventure. I saw it so well that it felt like the job had to be mine. I imagined talking to the hiring manager on the phone the following week and setting up an interview. I played through the kinds of questions I might have to answer at that interview.

I had built a future in my imagination.

Then several weeks went by, and I didn’t hear anything.

I was so disappointed, and I chastised myself for ever getting excited in the first place. I told myself I should have known better than to think I could have gotten that job.

I told myself that my disappointment was unjustified because if I hadn’t gotten so excited in the first place, then I wouldn’t have felt so let down.

Disappointment really hurts.

There’s no way of getting around it, but there are ways of getting through it, and maybe even growing through it.

I used to let disappointment completely wreck me, but, even though I was disappointed about that job, I noticed that I bounced back from it a lot quicker than I used to bounce back from being let down, and I think that’s because I have made use of these strategies:

1.Accept

This has been a recurring lesson in my life lately; that it’s better to accept negative emotions and situations rather than constantly try to fight them. I accept that I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the job I really wanted. I accept that it sucks because I worked really hard and went outside of my comfort zone to deliver my resume in person. I accept that I wish it could have turned out different.

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2.Mourn

It feels a little elementary to say this, but I think we can probably all do with the constant reminder that it’s okay to feel sad. I don’t have to bounce back to my baseline level of happiness and energy immediately after being disappointed. I can mourn what I feel I lost for a little bit. I can hate on the world for a while, and begrudge all the disadvantages of being a young, freshly graduated person in a competitive job market.

3.Acknowledge personal responsibility and power

Though it’s perfectly healthy to feel sad and frustrated for a while, If I continue to sulk and blame the world, then I’ll continue to be disappointed. After I indulge in my “angsty-everything-sucks-parade,” there comes a time to pick myself back up and keep going. I have the power to persist. I have responsibility over my choices and emotions.

4.Don’t compare

When I get really disappointed, I am quick to compare my life to others and decide that they all have it easier than me. I’ll think about my colleagues from college who got jobs without even having to apply because they had social connections, and then I’ll let myself get bitter because I’ve had to work really, really hard, and have had few results. This is still something I’m working on. I’m getting heated up just thinking about it, but I’ll never get over it if I don’t confront it. So, while this is a step I’m still working through, it’s an important one. Getting bitter over other people’s successes doesn’t do me any good, anyway. In fact, it sets me back. All I can do is focus on what I want and need, and how I’m going to get there.

5.Keep going

Persistence is the only way I have ever achieved anything, and it will continue to be the only way I’ll ever achieve anything. When I feel like giving up, it just means that it’s time to change my approach or my mindset.

I will persistently feel disappointed, but I can’t let disappointment keep me from feeling excited because excitement wards off the looming sense of dread that keeps me from trying.

I may continue to fear disappointment, but I can be more confident going to battle with it knowing that I have the tools to recover and persist.

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Fearing disappointment is such an integral part of my life, so I’m curious to know, are you afraid of disappointment, or are you unabashedly excited about things in life without even considering that you might feel disappointed?

How to Escape the Burden of Time

Throughout the course of my day, I find myself frequently looking at the clock and thinking about what’s next. With the exception of the morning, when time feels limitless, I’m stuck on the numbers on the clock.

Time begins to feel like a cage.

This is a little contradictory to my post last week, where I mentioned that I like structure and routines, but I think that, like all things in life, there is a balance.

While I find freedom in routine, I also have a tendency to create harsh, arbitrary rules for myself within that routine.

I’m able to find some balance, and escape from this self-made prison, when I allow myself to live in the moment.

One way I can cue into mindfulness is by asking myself sensory questions about my surroundings:

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This particular set of questions is best for when I’m taking a break from my routine so that I might recharge and find focus again.

It takes a little bit of effort to stall the racing thoughts in my mind, and redirect my attention to the world in front of me because my thoughts have become so routine and habitual that they feel familiar, even when they aren’t comforting. The effort to focus my thoughts is well worth it, though.

When I can bring myself to the present moment, time becomes less relevant.

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In the practice of mindfulness, my heart rate slows, I appreciate each sensation for what it brings me, and I gain energy.

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I find the eternity in the moment when I’m reading a good book, finding my flow in a creative project, cuddling my husband, snuggling the dog, watching the clouds, graciously sipping coffee, marveling at nature, or spending time with the people I love. Where do you find your eternity?

How to Spend Time Meaningfully

My husband likes to give me a hard time about supposedly not being able to relax. Whenever I fall a slight bit ill, he is quick to blame it on my stress.

The thing is, while I acknowledge that he is partially right, I also find it hard to totally agree because I have had a tendency to merely maintain an appearance of business by wasting time, rather than actually working to get anything meaningful done so that I can fully relax later.

I have to give myself credit, though, because I’ve been getting a whole lot better with time management as I’ve been seeking employment, as I’ve become more serious with my writing, and as I’ve gotten to know myself better, but wasting time is still something that plagues me. Now, though, it’s more because I have a broad definition of what it means to waste time, than because I’m actually still sitting around wasting a lot of time.

When I’m honest, wasted time is only time that’s spent on things that don’t bring me joy.

When I’m being a harsh self-critic, though, wasted time is anything that doesn’t produce some sort of quantifiable result.

This is where my husband likes to prod at me about relaxing, and this is where I can agree that he’s right.

I picked up this desire to remain ever busy, or appear to be ever busy, from my dad, who picked it up from his dad. I admire my dad and grandpa, and I want to make them proud, but they are a little too extreme in their efforts to spend their time purposefully.

My grandpa has been the property manager of a block of apartments for as long as I can remember, and he always has a project to do over there. When he’s not working hard on the apartments, he’s got a project at home. My dad has a long list of projects, too, lest he be caught idle for one second. I have a distinct memory of him, having just barely recovered from back surgery, hastily planting a tree in the backyard. He didn’t further injure himself, but if he had, then he really wouldn’t have saved any time by getting to work on the yard sooner than the doctor recommended.

When I was younger, if I didn’t have something that I had to do, I was constantly bored.

I even had a list of activities, much like my dad and grandpa have their lists of projects, so that I could stay busy when there wasn’t anything to do. But, I didn’t usually enjoy the way I spent my time. It always felt like I was doing things just to fill the hours until there was something I had to do, which is a habit that stretched long into my adulthood.

As I’ve discovered more about myself through writing and challenging myself to try new things, I’ve grown less anxious about wasting time.

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This is largely because I’ve developed hobbies that aren’t mindless scrolling or binge watching, and because I actually enjoy these hobbies, I’ve stopped seeing them as ways to waste time.

I can now sit down to read, more often, without thinking “I should be working harder on my own novel,” or I can sit down to write without thinking, “I should be doing the dishes,” or I can sit down to practice my calligraphy without getting antsy to clean the house, or do those chores that I used to feel were more important.

Plus, in getting to know myself better, I’ve learned that I thrive in a more structured, routine environment, and I can relax better at the end of a day if I’ve accomplished a few goals. Sometimes those goals do involve cleaning, but more often, now, they’re creative or personal goals.

I’ve been able to create an effective structure for myself with these four strategies:

1.Set Intentions

At night before I fall asleep, and/or in the morning while I journal, I make a plan for the day. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, and it’s usually nothing more than: “Today I will ___ and ____ and ____.” But, even having a few intentions for the day helps me to accomplish meaningful things, which helps me to relax easier when I’ve fulfilled those intentions.

2.Limit or eliminate multi-tasking

I’m terrible at multi-tasking, as I think we all are, but it’s always a good to have a reminder to stay present in the moment and focus on one task at a time. The more energy I put into the task-at-hand, the more I can get out of the process, and the sooner I can move on.

3.Experiment

I’ve tried different kinds of daily routines, different browser applications to block the Internet, and different timer techniques. Nothing has stuck, but I continue to experiment. Some days, I need to set a timer to get things done, and some days I don’t. I used to have email and other distracting sites consistently blocked for several hours during the week, but I would just find workarounds by going to different browsers, so now I only use the option where I can block the Internet for an hour or more at a time when I’m really struggling to stay focused, but, to be honest, since I took the daily block off the Internet, I haven’t needed to to block the Internet much. I guess it’s the whole, what is forbidden becomes more appealing concept.

I continue to experiment with ways to avoid distractions, and I have found so much freedom in allowing myself to try different techniques, rather than relying on one.

4.Stop to reflect instead of deflect

I mentioned something similar in my last posts about goals and procrastination, but I’ll mention it again because it has been working so well! When I start getting incredibly distracted, it’s most helpful when I shut things down or turn things off, and consider why I’m having so much trouble focusing, because when I deflect, I waste time.

It seems like reflecting would be the real time waster, but it’s not.

Maybe I’m working on the wrong thing that day. Maybe I need to take a prolonged break. Or maybe I just need that moment to reflect, and then get back to working on something meaningful (or those occasional obligatory tasks).

Having a structured routine in which I can accomplish some goals has, paradoxically, given me freedom.

When I went about my days without any intentions, I was much more rattled by anxiety about “getting things done,” and by the evenings, I would feel bad that I hadn’t accomplished more with my day. While I don’t think it’s wise to only permit myself to do things I enjoy after I’ve accomplished a certain amount of things, I do find so much more joy in relaxing and exploring my hobbies when I’ve worked at a few goals or fulfilled a few intentions. When my husband badgers me about relaxing, he’s not saying that I should sit around and do nothing, he’s saying that I should invest my time in things that bring me joy, and I can agree with that.

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I’m curious to know about your relationship with time and routines. Do you find yourself worrying over wasted time, or does it not phase you? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

5 Reasons I Procrastinate

To be honest, I typically don’t procrastinate. I am very alert to deadlines and have never operated well under last minute panic. I am often ahead of schedule, when there is a schedule, but in regards to tasks with nebulous or extended timelines and goals, like writing a novel, I find it difficult to stay ahead of the game.

I’ve observed the reasons why I procrastinate because the ways in which I procrastinate, like watching mindless YouTube videos or staring off into space like I’m searching for life’s answers, only add fuel to the anxiety around getting started on whatever it is I’m working on. The more I procrastinate, the less I want to get started. The less I want to get started, the more time I spend procrastinating.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley

The five main reasons I seem to procrastinate are:

1.I’m afraid to face the emotional work

This reason for procrastination came up in the past week as I was applying for a job that I was genuinely excited about. My qualifications were a great match, and I was excited by the company’s values. As I started drafting my cover letter, however, I began clicking in and out of my web browser, scrolling through YouTube or checking my email. The rest of the week I’d been very focused in writing my documents for job applications, so I wondered – what was different with this one?

“Procrastination is your body telling you you need to back off a bit and think about what you are doing.” – James Altucher

I clicked out of my browser to explore what was happening and I realized – I didn’t like how excited I was getting about the job because I didn’t want to have to feel disappointed if it didn’t work out. That fear of disappointment, consequently, is another big reason why I procrastinate.

2. I’m afraid of being disappointed

As a reason for procrastination, this doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

I’m always more disappointed when I allow the fear of disappointment to keep me from even trying.

Nevertheless, this fear still ensnares me in its gnarly teeth more often than I’d like. However, becoming aware that this is an issue makes it much easier to push through and get started, even if I’m worried about the emotional consequences.

It always seems counterproductive to me that acknowledging negative emotions is the key to moving past them, but it always works. When I faced the emotional baggage holding me back from putting my all into the cover letter for that job, I was able to buckle down and write a pretty damn good cover letter, if I do say so myself.

3. I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is

This one used to get me in college all the time when I had to write essays. I’d have an essay due on some obscure topic like the emotion of sound in a novel and I’d think, dear god, how am I ever going to argue that point, but then when I finally got started drafting my thesis, it would always come together with much more ease than I anticipated.

I still get hung up on this one today when I’m working on my novel. I’m in the revision stage right now and when I hit a particularly challenging spot, like if I need to reorder some chapters and I’m not sure how, or if the plot point is faulty, I doddle pretty hard.

When I finally get started, though, it’s always so much easier than the mountainous trek I had built it up to be.

4. I’m afraid it will never be good enough

(aka – the fear that I’ll never be good enough)

If I’m honest, this reason is probably at the core of all these reasons.

The fear that I’m going to fail, or that I already am a failure, haunts me from a dark place inside my mind.

It would be so easy to give in to that fear and never do anything again, and I think procrastination is a twisted way of testing myself.

Will I give in to my fears? Will I decide that I’m unworthy? Or will I decide that I’m good enough?

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Thankfully, I’ve learned that even if I procrastinate, it doesn’t mean I’ve already given into the beast of self-doubt. I can always still decide that I am, in fact, worthy of the effort.

5. I don’t have an action plan and I don’t know where to start

A lot of times when I sit down to work on my novel, I have no idea where to start. There are a million places I could start. How am I supposed to know which is the best place to start? If I start in chapter five and something changes in chapter 3, then all the work will be moot, anyway, right?

I can get caught in that loop of figuring out the best place to start for way longer than I care to admit. When I create a plan, or at least come to my writing with an intention, then I am able to jump right in and not even hesitate over clicking open my word document before anything else.

. . .

There are a lot of reasons why I procrastinate, and many of them are not nearly as profound or emotionally deep as the five reasons listed here. Compliment this blog post with my Medium article “The Real Reasons I Procrastinate: Internet, dogs, and coffee.”

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I’m curious to know, are you fueled by last minute panic, or do you generally operate ahead of schedule? Leave me a comment and let me know!

I Like Working Toward Goals – 19 Before 2019

I like doing nothing. I like having no plans.

My favorite weekends are the ones where I stay home and do whatever I want whenever I want.

On the other hand, I like feeling accomplished. I like knowing that I’ve completed something.

I’m incredibly task-oriented and I feel exhilarated by crossing something of a to-do list.

But, I am a very inconsistent person.

Having goals and plans also causes me anxiety.

Realistically, it’s a normal level of anxiety. It’s completely manageable, but sometimes the pressure of having something to do keeps me from setting goals.

The more I learn to manage that anxiety that comes with having goals, though, the more I want to set goals. The more I want to accomplish something worthwhile, or truly, just anything at all.

When I worked at the library, one of my jobs was to shelf read, which was exactly what it sounds like. Each month, I’d be assigned a section of the library to keep in order. This wasn’t my favorite job, but I became motivated to do it as I learned to appreciate the beauty of a freshly read shelf. All the books pushed forward. All the spines in line. Mmmm. Such a beautiful sight.

I’ve learned that I am happiest when I’m working toward something.

It doesn’t have to be huge or earth- shattering, having a freshly organized row of books on a shelf certainly isn’t changing anybody’s life, but I like that feeling of making progress on a project or task.  I like that feeling of stepping back when it’s all done and seeing the results of my hard work.

I don’t use to-do lists to get that exhilarating feeling of accomplishment much anymore, because of the aforementioned anxiety, but I have begun the practice of setting intentions before I go to bed at night. It might seem like this practice in it of itself could cause anxiety, but I limit myself to only choosing three things I’d like to do the next day, and it is  a helpful practice because it ceases any worries I have about tomorrow and knowing that I have a plan allows me to rest my mind before sleep. It’s also helpful for waking up in the morning because I’m motivated by the intentions I set.

For the next 3 and a half months of this year, I’m motivating myself beyond daily intentions with the mega to-do list – 19 before 2019.

19-before-2019

My intention with this to-do list is not to panic over getting these things done. Most of the tasks I’ve put on here are simple tasks that can be completed in an afternoon or less (3 and a half months isn’t really that much time, anyway), and the ones that aren’t quick to complete are tasks I had intended to do anyway, like finish my novel and send out 5 queries! Now, I simply have the added bonus of being able to check that box when I finish it.

I’ve done a strange thing all my life, which is to resist my desire to be organized and accomplished. I attribute that to paralyzing perfectionism, but I’m learning to fail without it completely stunting me from ever trying again. I may not finish all these 19 tasks, and that will be okay. The point is to give myself something to work toward.

The point is to learn and grow.

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What are some goals that you’ve set out to accomplish before the new year? Or, are you waiting around for that fresh-start feeling that comes with January? Or, have you transcended the temporal and markers of time mean nothing to you? (Please tell me your secret).