Set yourself free from needing people to understand you. If you’ve tried once and they don’t get it, allow them to be wrong.
YOU don’t need to keep explaining yourself. You don’t need to convince them otherwise. You don’t need them to change their opinion. You just need to accept that sometimes people will be wrong about you… and that’s okay.
So the person who hurt you with their harsh words? Allow them to be wrong. The person who might think you’re not trying hard enough? Allow them to be wrong. The person who sends judgmental looks your way? Allow them to be wrong.
And the best thing? You can still love them while allowing them to be wrong about you.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how you can make a big difference for something you believe in without being a jerk. I like to think that I’m the sort of person who really stands up for what I believe in. But when the big issues come up in the media (and mostly social media), I find myself staying silent. Not because I don’t care, but because I care too much to risk stuffing it up.
It’s so easy now for people to share their message, which is a great thing for people who have an important message. But unfortunately it also makes it easy for people to share aggressive, pushy, condescending, dangerous and plain ignorant messages.
I don’t wanna be that person. So I consider the alternative views and do my research, but then things get so complicated, and I realise, this is not a message that fits into a meme, or a short angry Facebook post. And to try and make it fit just makes me look like the ignorant jerk I was trying not to be. So instead, I stay silent.
And then I find myself wondering if my silence is weakness. If I’m truly standing up for what I believe in if I don’t have the tendency to try and persuade others to see the same views. So I decided to ask a friend, who I consider to be the most gentle and effective advocate of important causes.
The gentle advocate
I met David Addison through a previous job. I didn’t know a lot about him, except that everyone liked and respected him. Over time, I overheard snippets of conversations and realised that he would he would probably despise me if he knew me.
This is a guy who only puts his wheelie bin out twice a year because he simply has no waste – meanwhile I’m bringing my sandwiches to work in cling wrap and throwing the whole lot in the bin when I get a craving for a kebab instead. (Please note, I don’t do this anymore… mainly because I don’t work near that amazing kebab shop anymore)
But the proximity of our working space meant that I got to hear more about David’s views over time, and I was surprised to discover that instead of continuing to feel disgusted in myself or to think that he was just some higher being, I actually wanted to understand more and change some of my own behaviours.
And the interesting thing was, I didn’t hear more about his views because he was pushing them on anyone; I heard about them because people would ask him questions and he would answer openly. He would just speak about things in his own life as if they were totally normal, and while he didn’t pressure anyone else to do the same thing, he gave enough positive information that they wanted to. He’s selective about the information he shares on social media too, so that it is impactful but factual.
When I asked him how he does it, he gave me the following points.
How to advocate for your cause without being a jerk
1. Stop and think why someone said or did something before reacting – everyone has a story
2. Reflect on your own mistakes before judging someone for theirs
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt and focus on behaviours rather than assuming their motives – but always stand up for what you believe
4. Play the long game – every interaction you have with someone will shape your next interaction with them
5. Try to think about the pressure others might be under when they act badly – not to excuse it but to understand it
6. It takes a long time to build trust but 5 seconds to lose it
7. Find excuses to compliment and thank people
8. Listen and observe more than you talk
9. Forgive – others and yourself
10. Laugh – mainly at yourself….
I love all of these points, but number 4 and number 8 really resonated with me, particularly when it comes it making change in a thoughtful and powerful way.
Stop being a jerk
Sitting behind your computer screen and sharing post after post of angry or hateful material just to make your point is not working. The people who you most want to understand are instead switching off to you. You’re only gathering more angry and hateful people on your side.
And you can kid yourself by saying you’re not being hateful, but when you’re harshly judging those who disagree with you instead of trying to understand why they disagree, you’re just generating anger. You’re saying you are right and they are wrong. And maybe they are wrong, but you aren’t going to help educate people by getting them offside.
So here are my tips on how to be more like David and make an actual difference in the world:
Just be a good person yourself. People will be drawn to you and will want to understand your views, and maybe they will change theirs in the process. This is what I see as ‘playing the long game’.
Always consider the other viewpoint. Even if you don’t agree with it, try to understand it.
Share (actual) facts and less emotive rubbish. Sure, emotion sells, but with so much emotion flying around the internet, your message can lose credibility. Do your research and present your information in a thoughtful and factual way. If the facts are powerful enough to generate an emotion on their own, that’s something you can build on.
Use your neighbour’s wheelie bin so you only have to put yours out twice a year (just joking).
What do you think?
I know there will be plenty of people who disagree with me and feel that having a loud voice on important issues is critical to making change. Please get in touch and tell me what you think. I want to understand your views on this too. I think it’s a really interesting thing to think about. How do you make a difference in the world?
You’ve been officially “an adult” for a few years now. Your friends are starting to settle down in serious relationships and some are even having babies. You have this ideal picture that you’ll be a mum well before 30.
So when he comes along and asks you out, of course you agree. He’s so masculine and so into you! Something about him makes you feel like he will protect you and you find him kind of exciting.
He’s so into you that he shares some of his vulnerability with you. His troubled childhood, his damaged heart. By this stage you’re pretty into him too, and your own heart aches for his painful history. You silently vow to protect him from ever feeling that pain again. You will love him and make sure you don’t hurt him.
So when he starts getting jealous about the time you spend with your family and your friends, initially you stand up to him and tell him he’s being unreasonable. He loses his temper and things get pretty scary. He points out how you’re just like all the others who have let him down. For a brief moment you’re stunned by how crazy he’s being. But eventually he turns on the tears or the remorse, and you realise that he’s not crazy, he’s just damaged. You decide you’ll be more sensitive in the future. So you limit the time you spend with your family or friends. Or you at least limit how much you tell him.
Some of your loved ones start expressing their concern. They’ve seen some behaviour or had some conversations that have raised alarm bells. They warn you gently and you brush it off. They don’t understand the complexity. And then they warn you more vocally and it actually kind of pisses you off. Things are good right now. Sure, it got terrifying a few days ago, but he’s sorry and now things are good, so don’t mess with it! You’re sure they’re totally overreacting – you are not one of those poor suckers in an abusive relationship. Are you…? Don’t be ridiculous.
And then it starts again. He’s angry at you. He needs to make you understand that it’s you who has the problem. Just like all the others! “You think you’re something special!” he belittles you. Despite his otherwise quiet nature, he’s really a very competent communicator when he needs to overpower you.
In a struggle to retain some of your self-worth, you might tell him what other people say about him. After all, in this moment, you entirely agree with them. You tell him that you should have listened to your mother. She was right – he is an abusive no-hoper who isn’t worth a minute more of your time.
And then he really loses it. Because not only have you enraged him with someone else’s criticism, you’ve proven his point. All those other people you love cannot be trusted. They’re all trying to turn you against him. And not only that, you’ve now hinted at the possibility that you may not stick around. So now, out come the big guns. Maybe literally.
Things calm down again, either because he’s sorry or because you’re afraid. Now that you’ve shared that other person’s judgment, you really need to be careful. His hatred for them has escalated and you don’t want him to be reminded of what they said, so you might distance yourself a little bit further.
Maybe you try leaving. But his anger or his sadness makes you return. He’s really very good at making you believe that it’s all in your head and you’re overreacting. He’s good at making you think it’s going to be different in the future.
And the cycle continues…
At some point you come to believe that it’s too late to leave. Maybe it’s because you think you’ve committed too much time to this relationship and you’ll have to settle for it to fulfil your “kids by 30” plan. Maybe it’s because you have no one left to go to for support because you’ve cut everyone off. Or maybe it’s because you’ve realised that he will not allow you to leave.
It’s not too late
By the time I was around 26 I had decided that having children was no longer an option. But neither was leaving. After 8 years of trying to learn how to make this the relationship I wanted, I realised it was never going to be that. But I also believed (after having a loaded gun aimed at me) that he wasn’t going to let me leave alive. So I grimly accepted that this was my life now and I just had to learn how to manage it in a way that would keep me safe.
From then on, I tried to stay out of his way and kept my head down when things got nasty.
I decided that if I was going to live this very lonely life, I was going to have to learn to love myself. Which was pretty hard, considering by this stage I believed I was worthless. I was lucky that there were quite a few people still in my life who believed in me and never wavered in their support of me (spoiler alert: I actually ended up marrying one of them). So I studied, and I did a lot of self-reflection, and I tried to improve myself – not for anyone else but for me.
Eventually, three years after my decision to accept that I was going to stay forever, I did make the decision to leave. Partly out of courage and conviction that there was a better life out there for me; and partly because I didn’t care anymore if I didn’t make it out alive – all I knew was that I couldn’t keep living this way.
I’m not going to lie. It was terrifying. For a long time. Still is, sometimes. But so was staying.
A plea to the woman who is back in the early stages of my story
If you have the personal alarm bells… if your family is expressing concern… if you are starting to change your behaviour and your other relationships to keep him calm… if you are trying to keep some innocent details a secret because you know it will upset him…
Please, please, please, seek help.
Your life plans may look a little different, but they’re different now anyway, right? This was not the life you planned, and deep down you know it.
Reach out to your family or friends. Reach out to local support services. Visit 1800RESPECT.org.au or phone 1800 737 732 for 24-hour confidential information, counselling, and support. Call 000 if you are in danger.
My life now
I am now happily married in a respectful and loving relationship. We disagree sometimes. We irritate each other plenty. Sometimes we fight. But it’s never nasty, it’s never disrespectful, and it’s never about power. We have a beautiful little boy and good jobs. I offer personal development coaching because I have seen how learning to love and respect myself could lead to such massive change. I want to help other people live the life they want.
Sometimes I still wonder if it was all in my head like he said… but some of those memories I couldn’t make up if I tried. You know as well as I do that it’s not you. Please seek help.
What are you putting off? What dreams and achievements and tasks do you just keep putting aside because everything else feels more important? Because everything else feels so damn hard, that you can’t even imagine pushing yourself that little bit harder?
What if someone out there is waiting for you to do that thing? What if they’ve heard about your idea, or they’ve seen a snippet of what you can do, and they want more? Maybe they don’t even know you, or know anything about your dream, but they need what you are going to offer. Perhaps they are just waiting for someone like you to produce the thing they so desperately need.
You are depriving someone by holding yourself back. You are depriving the world.
I know everything else feels hard. Believe me, I know. But push yourself that little bit harder and find your flow. It’ll be worth it.
What is it that you’re holding back? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And if you’re looking for some coaching to get you started, reach out and let’s chat!
P.S. Thank you to the beautiful reader who let me know recently that she was waiting for my next post. It was the nudge I needed. More will be coming soon. Xx
I want to challenge you to find the truth in your thoughts. Oh, but all your thoughts are true, right?
Nope. Your brain is one tricky little manipulator that makes you think your thoughts are true, but they’re not.
In times of stress and anxiety (like now, with COVID-19), we tend to spiral. You hear someone else’s fear and anxiety, and you start to think scary thoughts too. Then your anxious feelings start feeding your anxious thoughts. You begin to catastrophise and look for the worst case scenario. But you forget that you’re just imagining and start to believe that it’s all true.
Our brains do this because they like to know what’s going to happen next. But here’s the problem: believing the no-so-true thoughts can lead us to create the truth from them.
Our thoughts create our feelings.
For example, “I’m going to lose my job and not be able to pay the mortgage” makes you feel anxious, worthless, demotivated, and scared.
However, “I’ll need to work hard to make sure I can maintain my mortgage” might make you feel motivated and determined.
Our feelings lead to our actions.
For example, feeling anxious, worthless, demotivated and scared might lead to inaction, procrastination, time wasting.
But feeling motivated and determined might lead you to work hard and really show your value. You might start setting up a side business. Maybe you’ll revisit your budget and start cutting non-essential spending, or putting more money away for your mortgage while you can.
Actions lead to results.
If you spend the next couple of months not doing much because you’re so caught up in your thoughts, then your employer may not remember your true value when it comes time to make those tough decisions.
But if you take this time to set yourself up and show your value, you’ll be in a better position regardless of what happens.
Finding the truth
So next time you’re having a thought that feels scary or creates any kind of distress, I want you to pick it apart. Be really critical of your thoughts and decide whether they are entirely true. Even if they’re just a little bit untrue, make sure you modify them.
For example, are you really going to lose your job? Or is it just a possibility? Change the thought to “I might lose my job”. Already, that feels different. Because it creates an alternative. Yes, you might lose your job. But also you might not. Now you can explore that truth too.
Will you really not be able to pay the mortgage if you lost your job? Or will you just have to modify your spending? Maybe you’ll have to talk to the bank to see what options you have. Maybe you’ll have to get another job, and sure, it might not be your dream job. But you’ve at least now identified that you’ll have options. And that’s already more empowering, isn’t it?
Need some help?
This is tricky work. But it’s so worth it. Forcing yourself to work out what’s true gives you the power to deal with things a bit more rationally. But finding the truth in your own thoughts can be hard. Even just identifying what your thoughts are can be really hard!
This is where coaching comes in. If your thoughts are getting out of control and you’re having a hard time, I can help you break it all down.
I’m currently offering FREE coaching, so it’s a great time to try it out!
Get in touch and let’s start finding the truth in your thoughts.
I love wine. These days I don’t often drink too much in one go. It’s usually one glass in the evening, or occasionally I’ll have a second glass if I’m really letting my hair down! But even with such a moderate intake, I feel like it sometimes builds up in my system and I find myself feeling dragged down and tired in the mornings. It also becomes a real habit for me; even though it’s only one glass, I’m having it nearly every day and often without even really thinking about it. I just get home, pour a glass, and get on with my evening routine.
I didn’t like how this habit was becoming so strong, so I decided to have a month without alcohol, just to give my body a break from it and see if I could break the habit. When I’ve done this before I’ve always felt heaps healthier and more energetic. I made it one of my #20for2020 goals so that I wouldn’t change my mind, and decided to do it in February so I could get it over and done with. Also, let’s be honest, February is a shorter month so that might have had some influence in my decision too.
I expected some health benefits, but was surprised to discover a few other things as well.
Breaking the habit
The first thing I noticed was just how ingrained this habit had become. Even though I mentally prepared myself for over a month before locking the cellar door, I still came home and went straight to the wine glasses before remembering that I wasn’t drinking. After a few days of this, the pull to the wine glasses was not as strong, and I found myself reaching for a cold glass of water instead.
Breaking that automatic pattern of behaviour was empowering. I do not like to be controlled by anyone else. Having habits that feel beyond our control is like having a little manipulative and controlling person inside you. My unconscious booze-hag was gaining a bit too much control of my evening behaviour, so it was time to reign her in.
Learning to sit with my feelings
Our unhelpful habits (eg. drinking, eating, Facebooking, bingeing on Netflix, gambling, etc) are like padding. We wear this padding so we don’t have to feel too much… or to do anything about our feelings. But when you drop those habits for a while, you find that the feelings aren’t actually that scary. Sure, at first they are. If you come home in a bad mood and can’t have your wine to ‘fix’ it, you’ll find yourself spinning a bit and wondering how on earth you will deal with this. But a bad mood is not going to kill you.
Without the wine, I found myself better able to think about why I was feeling certain things. Whether I was feeling sad, irritated, totally pissed off, or even joyful, it was helpful to think about what thoughts had led to that feeling. In some cases it meant I could do things differently from that point forward, rather than just having a cycle of negative feelings. But in other cases it was actually just helpful to realise that feeling bad was okay sometimes.
Having more confidence in myself
There were so many points in my non-drinking month where I thought about having ‘just one….’. Some of my triggers included: Going to a party where I didn’t know anyone, being invited to happy hour at my parents’ place, going out for a lovely meal with friends, and staying in a hotel by myself for a whole weekend. All of these occasions were incredibly tempting, but I resisted each time. And each time I resisted, I realised I have a pretty strong will.
By the end of the month, I felt confident. Confident in myself, and in my goals and my ability to achieve whatever I want. Resisting a habit can be the perfect stepping stone to achieving greatness. Every single time you succeed at something, you build confidence. So every time you resist a temptation, you feel more confident in your ability to do it again. And after a while, that confidence can transfer to other things. Sure, I can resist drinking for a whole month, so I can probably also commit to a new habit like getting up early to build my business. When you believe that you can commit to something, you’re more likely to do it.
Increasing my productivity
That glass of wine at the end of the day is like a signal in my brain that it’s time to wind down. By the time I get through the glass, dinner is done and the kid has (hopefully) gone to bed. Next it’s time for my cup of tea and I curl up on the couch to watch my latest Netflix addiction. But when I wasn’t having that glass, I found myself still thinking and pottering around getting stuff done. I had more energy and focus, and it was easier to keep going at the end of the day.
Look I’m going to be honest with you – I was glad to see the end of February! Even with all these positive outcomes, I wasn’t quite ready to give up alcohol completely.
But I’m now more comfortable with enjoying a glass on weekends, and having several booze-free days for the rest of the week. There are nights when I’ve put the toddler to bed and realised I ‘forgot’ to have that glass of wine I’d been looking forward to earlier in the day. When I have negative feelings, I’m better able to stop and think about that before reaching for the ‘padding’ that will help to soften the feelings. And when I doubt my ability to achieve something, I remember that I am the one in control of my behaviour and if I want to achieve it I bloody will.
How about you?
Do you have unhelpful or unproductive habits? Think about setting a short period of time where you will resist the habit and see what happens. See if you get that spark of self-confidence. You never know – it could be the first stepping stone to astounding success. Or it might just be proof that you have the power to control your own behaviour.
If you’re having trouble with some of your habits and want some coaching, get in touch. I’m currently offering 2 free sessions per person with no strings attached, so there is literally nothing to lose. During this weird time of COVID-19 isolation, think about how you want to come out the other side of it. It’s easy to indulge in our bad habits even more than normal while things are so hard. But it’s also a great opportunity to start building your success story.
It’s taken me a few weeks to process my thoughts on the crazy state of the world. Who would have thought that in our lifetime we would live through a pandemic that would restrict us to our homes, threaten our livelihoods, and take away our vulnerable loved ones? It’s like something from a sci-fi movie. A bad one!
Like many, I’ve felt really up and down about things.
Being able to work from home every day: WOO!!!
Fear of losing my job: WAAH!!
Not having to go to that boring party: WOO!!!
Having to cancel my Fiji holiday: WAAH!!
Look, to be honest, I’m still processing my thoughts on this every day. Aren’t we all? But mostly I’ve arrived at a good place for now. I had one really bad day where I let the anxiety and stress take hold, and I’ve gotta tell ya… it sucked. I felt physically ill, I was an emotional wreck, I couldn’t focus on anything productive, and everything felt doomed. But I pulled myself out of it. Because I remembered that I have the power to do that. And so do you.
I want to share my thoughts and my processes with you, but I’ve been really conscious of the fact that everyone is going to experience this differently. Some will lose jobs, others will lose parents, and some will just completely lose their minds from having their kids at home all the time.
I don’t want to be that person who tells you to “look on the bright side – you have plenty of time to exercise now!” when you may have lost a beloved grandparent or parent to this vicious virus. I think it’s so important to try and find some blessings in every single day, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that for some people, this is not just about being locked away at home for several months. It’s about fear and loss and unimaginable grief.
So here are 8 ways I am coping with COVID-19 isolation, and if you can take something from this, please do.
8 ways I am coping with hard times
Picturing my future self
When we come out the other side of all this, I want to look at myself and see a strong, resilient, resourceful, and happy woman. I don’t want to be broken, depressed, or trapped in a heap of bad habits. So when things are feeling hard and I’m tempted to curl up on the couch and scroll through Facebook, I think about which future self that is more likely to lead me to. And in most cases, that’s enough to get me off for a walk, or into the kitchen to prepare a meal for my family.
I have been doing a short meditation using Headspace every day. It only takes around 5 minutes or so, but the techniques I have learned from that pop up throughout the rest of my day. When I start feeling stressed I can take a moment to focus on my breath and feel the weight of my body sinking into the chair beneath me. I listen to the noises around me and notice the feeling of the air on my skin or the smells around me. It’s an instant relaxation technique and it brings me back to the present moment where I can then take control of my thoughts.
Controlling my thoughts
Reminding myself every day that the only thing I can control is my thoughts. And it’s my thoughts that will create my feelings which will lead to my actions and results. When I start to feel anxious or upset, I force myself to slow down and analyse what thoughts are making me feel that way.
Acknowledging my fears
When I feel afraid or anxious I don’t try to make it go away. But I do try to think about the fear and how rational it is. One useful question when analysing your fears is, “so what?” As in, “so what if that happened? What would you do then?” Quite often this leads me to realise that while it might be bad, it won’t be the end of the world. In some cases it might even present an opportunity.
Moving my body
Especially when working from home, it’s so easy to sit at my desk all day and not move. Getting up and moving every day helps to keep me active, pain-free, and most importantly, in a good mental state. Just going for a quick walk to get some fresh air and get the blood pumping through my body has been enough to completely change my mindset. I was in huge pain with my back one day and wondered what would happen now that I can’t go to my chiropractor. I did a yoga session from YouTube and voila – my back was better!
We hear about gratitude all the time and how much difference it can make. But I’m always blown away by how much difference it makes! And now more than ever I am finding so much to be grateful for. Thinking about things you’re grateful for can lift your mood, but writing them down or talking about them with someone else really amplifies the feeling.
Look, to be honest with you, I actually don’t mind a little bit of social isolation. My introverted self was secretly dancing like Elaine from Seinfeld when we were first told to isolate.
The hardest thing for me though, is being “cut off” from family. But when I feel sad about that, I remind myself that we are not “cut off” at all. We are keeping them safe, and in the meantime we have so many options for staying connected. Messages, phone calls, video calls, sending letters etc… it just takes a conscious effort to pick up the phone and stay in touch.
Not allowing boredom
Many years ago I heard the phrase “only boring people get bored”. And since then, I have not allowed boredom to ever be a part of my life. In fact, I can’t even imagine being bored! On the rare occasion that I find myself at a loose end, I ask whether there is actually nothing to do (ha, as if!) or if it’s just that I don’t feel like doing anything. If I don’t feel like doing anything, it’s probably because I feel like having a rest. And that leads me to intentionally having a rest, or finding something that I do feel like doing (or needs to be done).
Please reach out
If you are struggling with isolation, fear, grief, or boredom, please feel free to get in touch. If you just need someone to chat with, I am here. I am also offering free coaching* sessions with no strings attached. Why would I do this? Because it’s one tiny way that I can contribute to the world at this mad time. I want to help you get control of your thoughts and set a clear path forward.
If you’re interested in this, contact me and state in your message “I want free coaching!” Tell me a bit about what you’re looking for support with, and I’ll be in touch to book you in.
*Two sessions per person, subject to available appointment times, ends 30 June 2020.
You will get through this
For some people, especially those who have lost an income or a loved one, this could be the toughest time they endure in their lifetime. Others will only have to endure isolation and changes to their lifestyle for a while. Especially if you fit into the latter category, it’s important to be grateful and be kind. We will get through this, and the world may look different on the other side, but that may not be such a bad thing.
I frikken LOVE
staying in hotels. I don’t know what it is, but the excitement I feel when I’m
heading to a hotel is ridiculous. I would gladly go on a holiday and not leave
the hotel room. Well, except to let them refresh all the little bits and pieces
and make my bed all nice and crisp again. (I even often make the bed before I
leave but I still like that they come and do it properly and fix my sloppy
I’m staying in a hotel while writing this post. I have a conference to attend so the next two days are going to be big. Full of people and learning and networking (argh!). I’m feeling totally unprepared for the conference because all I’ve been able to think about was the hotel room.
A bed all to myself,
no toddler waking me during the night, no chores to do, no clutter.
That’s it. That’s
what gets me all zazzed about hotel rooms! The clear, quiet space and the
freedom to relax without guilt.
Which got me
thinking… why can’t I create a space like this in my own home?
But it doesn’t
always feel like clutter. Pieces of this “clutter” feel like
memories, or tokens of love, or safety nets. Some of it is worth money but I
haven’t had the time or energy to sell it. Some things are simply big and bulky
and I don’t know what to do with them. So I try to ignore it all and tell
myself it’s all “necessary” clutter.
But then I so
desperately look forward to a weekend away in a hotel where I don’t have to see
any of it, and that brings me to my senses.
So when I go home,
I’m going to make a note next to that goal on my list. Rather than decluttering
my whole house, I will focus on my bedroom. And when that overwhelms me, I will
break the bedroom down into the wardrobe, the bedside tables, the drawers, etc.
Once the room is decluttered, I will buy some nice pillows and dressings for
the bed. I will create my own little hotel room where I can escape from the
world and totally relax. I’ll probably have to share the bed with my husband
and be woken by the toddler every night, but you know I do really miss them in
this quiet hotel room, so that’ll probably be okay.
Do you have a space that feels totally relaxing? Do you love hotels or hate them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
For the last couple
of years I’ve been setting myself a goal to write every day. All my life I’ve
dreamed of being a writer, and one thing I know about a lot of professional
writers is that they write every single day. They don’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. They pick up
their pen, or sit at their keyboard, and write billions of words of utter
rubbish. And somewhere among all the rubbish, they come up with beautiful gems.
Each time I set this
goal to “write every day”, I reason with myself that it only has to
be a small chunk of writing. It’s not like I have to write an essay or a novel
every day. It can just be a brain dump of all the cray-cray stuff that whirls
around my head day in and day out.
For example: “I wonder if my pepper feels smug that it gets used more than the salt. Or does it feel overworked and resent the salt? Does the salt feel unloved? Maybe I’ll put some salt on my veggies tonight.”
But despite the very
low bar I’ve been setting for my daily writing, I found that I just wasn’t
doing it. Until a few weeks ago when one morning I decided to just write. I had
nothing interesting to write about, so I decided to go with a stream of consciousness
style. This is the type of embarrassing drivel that you hope no one ever comes
across in your notebook. It’s completely uncensored, often nonsensical, and
entirely boring to go back and read through.
In the process of this first day of my “every day” writing, I was crapping on about how I just haven’t been able to achieve this goal in the past and I didn’t know why. And then I asked myself, “what if you did know why… what would the answer be?” And I came up with a gem.
The gem wasn’t in
the beauty of what I had written, but the process of writing it. I was able to
dig up the answer to my problem. The reason I haven’t been successful in this
goal is because I didn’t feel like it was a valuable use of my time if I wasn’t
writing something that could be published. It felt self-indulgent and pointless
to just be writing a mundane journal entry. I didn’t see the value in just
writing for the sake of writing if I didn’t have something specific and
interesting to say.
But in that very
entry I had proven to myself that there could
be value in just writing for the sake of writing! I had answered a problem that
I’ve had for years.
Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Wayrecommends writing “morning pages”. Morning pages are just three pages of hand-written stream-of-consciousness (AKA drivel) every single morning. It clears all the rubbish out of your head and makes way for creative and clear thinking. Cameron explains that morning pages help us get “to the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.”
So for the past few weeks I’ve been writing morning pages every day and I think I’m now on track with achieving this goal from my 20for2020 list. I allow a bit of extra time in the mornings so that I can write these pages in my car before I head into work. I’m sure I look like a total creep sitting in my car in the dark underground car park with my notebook, but hey, it works for me!
Most days the three pages are utter crap and I would be mortified if anyone ever read them. But there have been a few entries already that have produced gems – solutions to problems, brilliant ideas, and seeds of thought that may grow into something amazing in the future.
Whether writing is
your jam or not, I encourage you to give this a go – even if it’s just for one
week. See what kind of magic comes out of your mind when you give it access to
ink and paper. Maybe you’ll solve some problems that have been bothering you,
or maybe you’ll set free an amazing idea that has been brewing in your
unconscious mind. If nothing else, you might just unload some of the rubbish
that’s been rattling around in there so that you can think more clearly. It
gets easier (and kind of addictive) once it becomes part of your daily routine.
Let me know if you try this and if you uncover any gems.
“You have to
start taking responsibility,” my exasperated dad would cry to us kids when
we were younger. We would roll our eyes and mutter “whatever” as we
tried to skulk away from his complaints. Whether it was leaving our stuff lying
around, avoiding our chores, or being general shit heads, “taking
responsibility” seemed to be what we were lacking.
Taking responsibility has been a recurring theme in things I’ve been listening to (Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School) and reading (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson).
But it’s not just about picking your stuff up and doing your chores. It’s about knowing that you are responsible for how you think, feel and act. Sure, things happen in life that are way beyond our control, but what we CAN control is how we think about those things and respond to them.
It was taking me a
while to get my head around this concept. When someone suffers any kind of
abuse it’s important for them to understand that it’s not their fault. And now
we’re going around saying they have to take responsibility?! Mark Manson has
explained this so clearly: Fault and responsibility are two different things.
Someone else may be at fault for something they have done to you, but it is your responsibility to respond appropriately to that action and move forward. Some will remain traumatised and take on the identity of a victim. Taking responsibility means accepting that even though you didn’t ask for this event to happen, it did happen, and now it’s up to you to get through it.
My theme word for the year
My personal theme for the year 2020 is “Responsibility”. I’m working on taking more responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions.
No more blaming
other people for how I feel. Every time I catch myself resenting someone or
feeling as though they have caused me hurt or inconvenience, I remind myself to
take responsibility. It doesn’t matter what they have said to me – I’m the one
who has taken that on and made it mean something hurtful. I’m the one who can
either let it drag me down or let it go and continue living my good life. I’m
the one who needs to take responsibility for my feelings.
In The Courage to be Happy by Fumitake Koga and
Ichiro Kishimi, they say we need to stop talking about “that bad
person” or “poor me”, and instead talk about “what should I
do from now on”. I love that! It’s so much more hopeful and uplifting than
rehashing the crappy stuff.
Taking responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions, is actually super empowering. It helps me feel more in control of my life and less like a victim. But it takes work! It’s like constantly having my dad in my ear: “You have to start taking responsibility!”
A late addition to this post:
As I was finalising the draft of this post, my dog heard a noise outside our house and barked as he leapt across my lap. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I half-dropped my laptop, pressing a number of random keys as I tried to grab it. So while I’ve just told you how I’m going to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility, I do blame my dog for any random typos in this post.