The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Adaptability

Last year, I made a goal to publish a post to my blog once a week.

And I made it! (all but 2 weeks, which is good enough for me).

I had a lot of fun working on this blog over the last year. I learned a lot about myself, and I gained some skills in writing personal essays, and in doing hand-lettering. When I go back and look at some of the first posts from 2018, it’s really cool to see how far I’ve come. I created a space with a specific style and format, but I also wasn’t afraid to experiment with something new for a few weeks in November. Turned out, I didn’t like the direct address style I tried out, so I went back to the personal essay style. A past version of myself might have given up after trying something new that didn’t work out, but I kept going, albeit out of stubbornness to achieve my goal, but still, I made it. I persevered when I didn’t want to do it anymore, but more importantly, I adapted.

The last fundamental of personal growth that I have for this series is adaptability.

In personal growth, adaptability is the ability to remain flexible in goals and plans and accept when it’s time for change.

Change, even when it’s good, stresses me out.

I think it’s a pretty normal level of stress, to be honest, but I focus so hard on it that I end up blowing it out of proportion.

I’ve always resisted change. I was that kid who didn’t want to grow up. I wasn’t excited to move up to junior high school or high school. I wasn’t excited about getting a cell phone (until I got one). I wasn’t even that excited about switching over to a smart phone (until I did). I wasn’t excited about learning to drive. My dad and I used to get in arguments over my driving lessons; he practically had to drag me out of the house. (Of course, when I finally did learn to drive, I was thrilled at the newfound freedom).

The pattern here seems to be that the hardest part of change is getting started, but once I take the steps toward it, even if they’re small, I start to feel excitement and even relief.

I’m currently at a place where I need to accept that it’s time for change. While I’ve had a lot of fun and success in working on this blog, I’m ready to do something different. I’m not sure exactly what, yet, but my interest in writing personal essays in the self-improvement niche has started to wane. The personal growth and self-help communities have served their purpose in my life, and I’m ready to focus more on my creative interests. I’d like to start taking my writing craft more seriously by spending more time working on my novel, writing short stories or picture book scripts, and engaging with books and essays about the craft of writing instead of the craft of self-help.

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I’m going to keep this space here on WordPress, but I have some percolating plans to transform it. I’m thinking I’d like to start writing about . . . writing, like essays about craft and the progress of my novel. I’m not positive what I’ll do yet, but I do know that I’ll visit this space less often. Posting weekly is a big commitment, and I often spent a big chunk of my weekend planning for this blog. I’m excited to have that time freed up and to experiment with how to fill those hours.

Awareness and adaptability are the perfect bookends for this series.

It takes a lot of awareness to admit when a goal or life path is no longer of service and seek to adapt it.

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What do you hope to focus on in 2019?

 

 

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Trust

When I finished my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I had a literary agent reach out to me and request a full manuscript of my novel. The manuscript wasn’t ready at the time, so I kept working on it, rereading, rethinking, and revising, until I had a solid, workable draft to send. I sent it to her a few weeks ago, and last week, she let me know that she wouldn’t be interested in representing it.

Of course, I was disappointed. It felt like a squandered opportunity. Like maybe I should have worked harder before I sent the manuscript because she reached out to me, after all, and maybe I had disappointed her. Maybe I missed a big shot. Maybe I missed my only shot.

Logically, I knew that wasn’t true, but still, I struggled for a little while with feeling like a failure. Rejection is a part of being a writer, and I will face it 100+ more times if I take the process of getting published seriously, but that opportunity felt different, and I let myself wallow a little bit. Eventually, I realized, that it wasn’t just the rejection that hurt, but the missed opportunity to accomplish something. I told my husband, as he was trying to comfort me, that what truly felt so bad was that I wanted validation through my accomplishments.

I started a new job last month, and it’s different from any other job I’ve had in that it isn’t focused on tasks. For the most part, I am in control of my schedule and I get to decide how to spend my time. I’ve been having difficulty acclimating to this because I go in to work feeling like I have nothing to do since no one has assigned me a specific task, and I leave work feeling like I did nothing to contribute to my team since I didn’t complete a specific task. The rejection from the agent came during the height of my anxiety about this new job, and the two experiences really held a mirror up to my insecurities.

Even though I’ve worked hard on self-acceptance and personal growth this year, I still seek esteem through what I do, rather than who I am.

If I’m too busy focusing on tasks and results, then I will miss chances to be creative and innovative.

When I started to rethink my approach to my new job, I gained some confidence to be curious. I gained some trust in myself to approach my supervisor with ideas, instead of asking her for more tasks. I redefined my work day as a chance to experiment, instead of an obligation to produce something.

That newfound trust is something I’ll have to keep working on in every area of my life. I’ll have to keep trying new things.

I’ll have to keep going for it.

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That trust won’t be static. Some days, I’ll still feel anxious. Some days, I’ll still ache for validation through accomplishment, and that’s okay.

When it comes to writing, this trust is highly valuable.

If I miss opportunities to create and innovate because I’m too worried about creating a product, then I miss the whole point.

If I trust myself to write the story that’s in my heart (sorry for the cheesy cliché, but I can’t figure out any other way to say that), then I’ll write something that matters; then I’ll know when enough is enough and my manuscript is ready; then I’ll trust myself to go for it.

Some days, I’ll let rejection wash over me, and some days, it’ll get me down. Some days, I’ll sit down to write and feel great about even just a few words, and other days I’ll feel shitty for not finishing something; regardless, I can keep training myself to trust in the process.

I can teach myself, through my words and my actions, that I’m valuable with or without an accomplishment to show for the day.

I can redefine what accomplishment means.

I can trust that my definition of what’s good is good. I can let less productive days be merely blips in my existence.

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What could you gain from trusting yourself? What insights could you glean from focusing on process over product?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Exploration

When I started this series, The Fundamentals of Personal Growth, I wanted to write in a different way. I wanted to get outside of my own personal story and do the typical type of “How To” blog post where I tell you what to do, but I don’t feel good about that anymore. I started this blog avoiding you, and I did that because I find the directive to be an egotistical way to write, as if I can ever tell you what to do. As if I have some answers that you have never thought of or sought for yourself. If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been deep in a rabbit hole filled with naturopath scammers and con-artists, and in this rabbit hole I’ve begun to wonder about the fine line of writing blog posts in the directive and pretending to be an expert. Now, I’ve never touted myself as an expert, but I do find it slightly uncomfortable to tout any level of authority over a subject which I can know only from my own personal experience. Personal growth is just that – personal – and so I’m going back to my original idea behind these blog posts, which is that all I can do is write about my experience and how I’m navigating my own journey of personal development and growth.

This week, the fundamental is exploration, or perhaps the process of finding myself.

I was a freckly, shy and quiet little girl.

I grew in to a freckly, shy and quiet teenager, and because of my outward appearance I felt as though people often presumed me to be a bookworm. I readily accepted that label (whether it was true or not) because it fit with my shyness, and later what turned out to be anxiety, which was really what kept me quiet. Truly, though, I couldn’t get through a book and remember anything I’d read. I had so much anxiety that reading was merely a façade.

I’d have a book in front of my face, and I’d be looking at words, and I suppose connecting them to their context in the sentence, but really, my mind was racing with other thoughts about how ugly or lonely I felt, or about where I was going to escape to at lunch time.

It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, when I took a college level composition class, that I started to wake up to myself a little bit.

We wrote five papers in that class, and we got to choose our own topics, which allowed me to explore ideas that mattered to me. It allowed me to try new things. For example, it was during that time that I tried going to a Unitarian church as research for one of my papers. I will forever attribute that class to being the catalyst for me developing critical thinking skills and learning to explore and communicate my own opinions.

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background image source: Seb and the Sun

It wasn’t until college, though, that the bookworm label felt like something that could be true for me. It wasn’t until Dr. Nye shared his passion for Milton and Jane Austen that I started to find some passion of my own. It wasn’t until I got to read YA novels for actual assignments, or when I got to write my own YA novel for my undergrad thesis that I started to find myself in that presupposed bookworm label.

The bookworm label (or idea of myself) was never really wrong, I just needed to cultivate some confidence and inner-peace, through exploring and communicating my own ideas, to find out that reading and writing were a refuge for me.

I remember having weekends dedicated to reading Jane Austen, and I no longer felt that dread that I’d felt in high school. I could finally relax enough to parse meaning from the words. I remember even looking forward to laying in bed all day with an Austen novel.

While I wouldn’t boil myself down into a bookworm, I would say that books have given me a tremendous ability to explore my interests and figure out who I am.

Writing has done quite the same, but this process isn’t done, and it will never be done.

This fundamental requires a lot of experimenting, and that can be hard for me sometimes. I’ve built up quite a complex over feeling like a quitter, and exploration ends up in a lot of dead ends. I’ve had to learn that giving up is a lot different then moving on. Sometimes I try something new and it just isn’t right for me and I move on, and that’s okay.

Moving on, though, can feel bad too because sometimes I get this crazy idea in my head that if I can just get to a point where I have “found” myself, then I will truly be happy. If I have to move on, then it must mean that I haven’t found myself. I’ve come to realize, though, that happiness lies in that process of exploration. Sometimes fear and anxiety lie in that process, too, because self-exploration requires me to go outside of my comfort zone, but there isn’t some golden pot of aged-to-perfection happiness at the end of the process because the process never ends. For that reason, I don’t have a four-step plan to share about this fundamental. There are no steps because self-exploration is a part of every step I take.

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What does self-discovery look like for you?

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?

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 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.

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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).

I Really Like Being Alone

A friend of mine recently told me that I’m really good at being alone. If that sounds harsh, let me assure you, she meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one.

I absolutely love to be alone.

Of course, I still struggle with it in certain circumstances, but for the most part, if I’m choosing between a social event or being alone, I’d rather be alone.

When I’m alone, I can watch whatever I want on TV. Listen to whatever music I want. Watch YouTube videos that meet my daily quota for mindless entertainment. I can read without distraction. I can journal. I can write.

Solitude is precious because I can decide exactly what I want to do, and I can go at my own pace.

If introvert is defined as a person who recharges by being alone, then I definitely fall into that category. It’s exhausting to be around people. There are maybe only three people in the world who actually give me energy when I’m with them, and that’s my husband and two best friends. Everyone else tires me out.

Solitude is precious because my energy isn’t being drained by navigating social relationships.

I have learned, though, that being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with others.

While socializing is draining, I still crave it. I still need it because I’m human.

I’ve come to view socializing and cultivating meaningful friendships as a part of my self-care practice. I have to make a conscious effort to do it though, otherwise I won’t. I’ll settle into my routine of being alone by telling myself that I’m happy with my family and the friends I’ve sustained over the years, which is true, but they don’t live where I do and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like – as often as I need to in order to tend to my social need.

Solitude is precious because it reminds me that I do need to see people, and more importantly, I do need meaningful relationships in my life.

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A few ways that I have found to meet this social need are:

1.Bumble BFF

This is an app that helps you find friends in your area. I connected with a friend through the app that I’ve been texting with every week since we first met up.

2.Local events

Even if I don’t talk to a single person, like the time I went to a concert alone, it can still be enough for me to simply get out and participate in a local event to see people out in the world, participating in gentle humanity – to remind myself that not everyone is an idiot on the Internet.

It’s also a great way for me to challenge the possibility of connection, like the time I went to a poetry group at my local library and thought I might never go back because the guy sitting next to me was getting on my last nerve.

I have a tendency to discount experiences when one element isn’t quite right and thinking like that is a fast way to stay isolated.

Instead of making up my mind to never return, I wrote down my contact information to be reminded of the next group and, at the end, I thanked the group leader, who gave me a hug.

3.Connect with people online

A while back, I started using social media as a place to engage with others, rather than a place to passively exist. I have been 100% happier with my experience online since I started doing this. Sometimes, I leave a comment on someone’s post or ask a question at the end of my own posts, and they get lost in the void, but sometimes, I receive meaningful replies. It doesn’t matter if I get a response or not though, the point is that I’m engaging. I’m making an effort to make connections and that’s a hell of a lot more fulfilling than never even trying.

4.Be generous in working relationships

At the start of the summer, I began the process of getting hired with VIPKids to be an online English teacher. A woman in my community hosted an event to help new teachers get started. I ended up being the only person interested, but she still agreed to meet with me and be my mentor through the process. When I was hired, I treated her to coffee. We discovered that we have a lot in common, and though the job with VIPKids hasn’t panned out exactly as I had hoped, my mentor and I are now friends!

5.Express gratitude for the relationships I already have

I have a wealth of meaningful relationships in my life. I met my best friend when I was only five-years-old and we still see each other at least every month. I think that’s something to be incredibly grateful for, and I tell her often, in our own non-sentimental way, that I’m grateful for her friendship. When I reach that point where I’ve been alone a little too much and I get that wave of loneliness, I don’t need to rush out and make new friends, all I need to do is give my husband a hug, drive up to see my parents or make plans with my sisters, go for a walk with my granny, or text one of my long-time friends who will reply, without a doubt, in no less than a day.

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How do you make socialization a part of your self-care routine? Or, does socializing come easy to you?