Don’t Give Up | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity, Writer's Craft

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength
of their determination fades with time.
The important thing is not that your resolve never wavers,
but that you don’t get down on yourself when it does and throw in the towel.
~Daisaku Ikeda

23 down. 7 to go:

I have made a commitment to write (and share) every day for 30 days. Some days it’s been a joy – especially those days when I have time to truly craft or be playful on the page. It’s also rewarding when I’m feeling a bit righteous and want to make a little noise about something on my heart. Unfortunately, not all days are sunshine. When I’m tired, or my day simply hasn’t gone as planned, I often debate skipping and just catching up the next day.

But so far I haven’t done that.

It’s difficult, continuing. I think it’s important to just acknowledge that. Even if you enjoy something, you may not enjoy it the same every day. And even if you’re committed to something, your commitment may not look the same every day. But here’s the thing… even though we acknowledge something is not as easy as we’d like, I think we owe it to our commitment not spend too much time lamenting.

Lamenting is the magic expander. It makes everything loom larger than it actually is. This is so hard, we think to ourselves over and over again. And suddenly we’ve made the thing heavier. We’ve made the task larger. And then it becomes too much! We mop our brow, woozy from the imagined strain. Tomorrow, we think. Maybe I can manage it tomorrow.

Just when I’m whipping out the handkerchief, ready to call it a night, I often realize that I have the same power to shrink the task as I had to enlarge it. And I tell the lamenter thank you, but your services are no longer needed. I remind myself of my original goal, and go from there.

My goal is to build a writing habit. That means I simply need to write. Something. Anything. Even a five-minute freewrite.

It all counts.

That doesn’t mean there won’t come a day when you really don’t have it in you. Not five minutes. Not five words. And that’s okay, too. On those days, be gentle with yourself. Who deserves your love, if not you? Don’t give up on your original determination. Don’t give up on you.

And this makes 24. 9:53 p.m. Home office.

I am a Renaissance Soul

Productivity, Temple Building, Text Talk

The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just OneThe Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed rediscovering this book. A friend (Ratogi) suggested it years ago when I was having a bit of a professional identity crisis. I bought it right away, but I didn’t get very far for some reason. I held on to it the past six years, never giving it a second thought. As of late, I’ve found myself at a professional crossroads (again) and without intending to, I stumbled across this book on my shelf. I flipped to the introduction and recognized myself in the first few lines:

  • Do you feel a pang of envy when you hear someone say, “I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do ever since I was a kid?”
  • Do you get down on yourself for being a “jack-of-all trades, master of none” because you are fascinated by many subjects but have never become an expert in any of them?
  • Or are you an expert in one or more areas but feel trapped by other people’s expectations that you will stay in your current field for the rest of your life?

And on it went. Right from the start, Lobenstine identifies key traits that makes one a renaissance soul, and I found them to be a welcomed affirmation of self.

Lobenstine has written a practical book, chock full of specific steps renaissance souls can employ in designing a satisfying life. I read the book rather quickly, refusing to get bogged down in some of the longish sections, and ignoring those which were obvious or irrelevant (the chapter dedicated to undergraduates, for instance). She has lots of exercises, some of which I’d figured out on my own over the years, and others which will be great additions to my repertoire of strategies.

I recommend this book for anyone who has wildly divergent or ever-evolving interests, and yet feels unsure of how to proceed in life without starting over or sacrificing self.

View all my reviews

Cultivating Inner Discipline

Personal Narrative, Productivity, Spirituality, Temple Building

People often remark how disciplined I seem as if I woke up one morning and it just happened. It didn’t. And truth be told, I’m not equally disciplined in all areas of my life (who is?).  Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.

No Victory is Too Small
Being disciplined is the result of daily effort – but not Herculean effort. For me, the smaller, the better.

I take baby steps. I may not accomplish everything I want today, but I can be accomplished today. I can move forward today. I do this by finding the one, small, specific item I know I can do. I set my self up for success by making sure I have the time allotted to accomplish whatever that small, specific thing is. With a clear understanding of the task, I go for it.

Keep Moving Forward
Spending time and energy lamenting what you aren’t doing, doesn’t magically cultivate inner discipline. In fact, I find it to be a deterrent. Beating myself up (known as self-slander in Buddhism) is a sure-fire way to sabotage my forward motion. An oft-heard retort: “But you can’t move forward without self-criticism.”  No, you can’t move forward without taking a step forward.

You can, however, be reflective and honest, without being negative to yourself. After that honest reflection, you can decide on a small action, take that small step, and praise yourself for a job well done.

Praise is Karma, Too
We can devote plenty of time and effort to complain about what we aren’t doing, but for some strange reason we can’t spare a high five for our accomplishments. Especially something we view as small. We equate small with inconsequential. We shouldn’t.

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. ~African Proverb

It’s so easy to recognize the significance of small steps when babies take them. But suddenly they “don’t count” when we expect we should have mastered self-discipline {or insert topic here} by now. The inner you is starting from the beginning! We don’t yell at the toddler taking her first steps, “that doesn’t count!” We say “yay!” We give smiles and hugs. We are full of congratulations. We offer encouragement for the baby to continue because she’s doing something right! She’s on the right path. When you’re taking your small step, so are you!

People often characterize karma as negative. It’s something bad that happens in response to our bad deeds. This is inaccurate. Karma simply means action. To that end, every thought, word, and deed count. What kinds of actions are you accumulating? Your negative self-talk? It counts. Those baby steps? They count, too. Every action is of consequence.

Where Are You Now?
Cultivating inner discipline means starting from where you are and taking a step. And then doing it again. And again. There’s no need to lament last week or yesterday. Don’t be overwhelmed about next week, or even tomorrow. Start from the current moment. Move forward today.  And that small step you’re planning? Congratulations in advance!

On accountability partners.

Personal Narrative, Productivity

Do you have an accountability partner?  I do. In fact, I work with groups and individuals to help hold myself accountable to my goals. It’s one of my personal victory strategies, and I talk about it with Ben over at Literature Review HQ.

This link takes you to Ben’s site. There you can play the podcast from his page or download it for later.

Wherein I respond to a writing prompt.

Productivity, Writer's Craft

“What are you putting off that would make your life better if you did it?”
What’s a concrete step you can take towards that goal?

Although I take issue with the phrasing of the question, the spirit of the question is basically, what are you dreaming about, and how can you start to accomplish it?

Answer? I’m dreaming about writing novels. I can go write one.

I’m giggling because that’s a bold statement on many levels, but it really boils down to action. I don’t need to think about it. I don’t need to wonder about it. I don’t need to keep researching it. I just need to start (or continue, because I have, at least, begun).

Easier said than done. A recent Facebook exchange illustrates my thinking on the matter. “Him” was impressed by my unwavering status updates about exercising.

Him:    You are my hero :-). I wish I could become as motivated.
Me:     Ha. I think motivation is a byproduct of commitment.
Him:    I’m definitely committed… To eating.
Me:     Lol. Exactly. I bet it’s easy to get motivated to do it, too. 🙂

In short, I’m coming around to thinking that the motivation to continue comes after the decision (and action) to start. Actually, I would extend that and say, the motivation to continue comes after repeated decisions followed by repeated actions. Sometimes, you just have to do it, motivation or not. You have to will yourself against the inertia of inactivity.

I’m torn with my own revelation. I do many things based on inspiration, gut feelings, sixth senses, and the like. If something doesn’t feel good, or not quite right, I often won’t do it, continue it, etc.

The flip side is, sometimes I don’t follow through on things that do feel right. In those moments, I use procrastination, confusion, or many other tricks of self-sabotage to avoid doing the thing I claim I really want to do.

It begs the question… if I’m working this hard not to do something, is that thing really for me to do? Without getting into the psychology of why we prevent ourselves from doing things we actually want to do (I’m not a psychologist), I’ll say yes. That thing is often still for you, despite your reasons, excuses for not getting to it. And this is where my commitment first idea comes into play. A brief diversion is necessary to explain my point.

I have not always exercised daily – opting instead for three days per week. This was fine for a level of fitness, but it created many opportunities for procrastination. I mean four days off per week!? But I started to notice that the days I pushed myself to exercise anyway, I was always SO GLAD I did! And the days I didn’t? I was sluggish all day. If I had those choices to do over again, I’d drag myself kicking and screaming out of bed most of those off days.

Since I already knew the reward, or the benefit of exercise, the only thing missing was my commitment to it. I already knew I’d be happier on the other side, but getting over the hump was the trick.

Deciding to exercise, no matter what, and following through, no matter what, paid in dividends that made it EASY to continue! There was that previously elusive quality – motivation – in abundance! I had momentum on my side, the wind at my back, and all of that. Once I was committed, the motivation was there.

I hope this makes sense to someone other than me.

So back to the novel writing, or whatever it is you’d like to do…

Sitting around waiting for motivation to strike first is like waiting for the perfect breeze on a summer day in Georgia. It may come if you’re lucky, but then again, maybe not. For the daily grind, the motivation to continue comes after active commitment to begin.

I sometimes avoid writing like the plague. Even though I love it! Once I get in a groove, I’m in it, man! Once I have written a satisfying piece, I’m overjoyed. Even in the midst of thinking my way through a piece, when things get messy and confusing, I still enjoy it. I’m excited. I’m – you guessed it – motivated!

But getting started?

Hell no.

So should I wait until I feel like it to start? Welp. Let’s just say a certain 200 page document might still be unwritten if I had only worked the days on which I was “motivated” at the outset.

But here’s the deal. Clean water won’t flow through barely used pipes until the rusty water flows first. And no water, not even dirty water, is flowing through a closed tap.

So sit down. Open the tap. That small action, that active commitment, is what (eventually) creates the motivation. Your life, like that thirst-quenching water, is simply waiting on you!

Spinning Wheels

Personal Narrative, Productivity

Let’s make big goals.
Every day, be clear about
the task at hand.
Ambiguity and ambivalence
are the cause for spinning one’s
wheels and getting nowhere.
Challenge yourself unremittingly
until you seize victory and success.

~Daisaku Ikeda, Nichiren Buddhist philosopher

Lately, I have not been clear about the tasks at hand. I have neither reviewed, revisited, nor reconsidered my goals, big or otherwise. There are certain tasks I must complete for my job, and those are easy to acknowledge and accomplish. But it’s the personal work I’ve neglected as of late. My writing. My teaching. Healing work.

I’ve let things slide.

The result? Days like today: a day in which I have the time and freedom to delve into pleasing topics, but no sense of joy because I’m rather unfocused. Haphazard. Today felt as though I were driving around in circles. I was obviously moving, but wasn’t really going anywhere.

I’ve talked a bit in recent weeks about what I’ll now call personal victory strategies (PVS). I conceive of them as strategies that work for sure. When you implement them, you are productive and are able to accomplish great things.

For various reasons, we I often engage in a bit of self sabotage. Fully aware of what works, I choose, inexplicably, to turn a blind eye and do something else!  One tried and true PVS is listing. I’ve made lists since I was a kid. In fact, I used them religiously, much to the consternation of my mother who thought I was a bit too obsessive with them.  “Are you okay?” she’d sometimes ask when she saw me brooding over yet another list.

Listing is my favorite PVS.

No one taught me to list. I simply thought of all the things I wanted to do in a given time period (hours, days, weeks, or even years), and I jotted them down. It was natural to me. I always knew exactly what to do, and I could just go do it. I’d cross things out, and when I got about half way through it, I’d rewrite it, revising as needed.

I remind myself of this particular PVS when I feel out of sorts, and after a day like today, it’s definitely time to implement it once again. Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be reviewing, revisiting, reconsidering my 2012 goals. I’ll list specific action items so I can move toward my goals with clarity and focus.

So tell me, what are some of your personal victory strategies?