Thank you for the good stuff – the baggage can stay where it is

My morning was rough. Not terrible, just rough. Just wearing. Just emotional. My afternoon and evening were long.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes, but…” But I wish things were different. But I haven’t had time to process my morning. But I had a long day and I feel sad now.

I was carrying stuff. Some stuff was mine. Some stuff belonged to other people. I had to put down their stuff. That’s someone else’s to carry. Someone else’s judgement isn’t mine. So I’m going to stop carrying it. Someone else’s disapproval doesn’t belong to me. Let it ruin their mood, not mine. I’m over here, minding my own business, carrying my own stuff. If I am carrying around someone else’s approval or disapproval of me, do I have space to give myself approval first? Not really.

I’ve been reading Never Broken by Jewel. If you knew me in high school, you knew I loved her songwriting. Years later, I also love her memoir writing. In the chapter I read right before going to bed, she talked about feeling gratitude. She carved out time each day during her troubled childhood/teen years and felt gratitude. Even in adversity, she found something to say thank you for.

What was going on for me was miniscule compared to people with significant problems. I knew that. But that didn’t make my feelings less real. I turned out the light and began to list things I was grateful for that day. Support of family. Running into a good friend. Meeting new people. The first signs of spring. I kept listing until I fell asleep.

What happened next surprised me.

I woke up in a decent mood. I didn’t notice until I was pulling my car out of the garage to head to work. My motivation was higher and my mood was lighter. By the time I got to work, I was inspired to thank someone who was nice to me the day before. Then I thanked a coworker who was nice enough to organize a party for someone. Saying thank you to the universe inspired me to say thank you to specific people. My appreciation spread.

I looked at the stuff that I had carried the day before. It didn’t even look familiar. Why was I carrying that again? It doesn’t belong here.

I have been trying to show more gratitude in my life. Some days are easier than others. Remembering to feel the gratitude is difficult sometimes.

All I know right now is I saw a positive change in myself through being more conscious about what is good in my life and what is mine to carry. Some days revelations come after lots of practice, some days they come after an experiment. What better motivation to keep such a practice going than observable change?

Now I’m trying to examine my gratitude more regularly. I am also trying to vocalize it with greater frequency.

If you’re still reading, thank you for being here.

Who can you thank today? Whose life can you improve?

It might be your own.

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When Everything is Priority #1

What didn’t you get done last week? Or yesterday? Did you skip your workout? Maybe you didn’t work on your side business. Or perhaps you didn’t spend as much time as you intended with your kids.

Something came up. Work was crazy. You had money on the playoff games on Sunday and you wanted to know if your wallet was going to end up heavier or lighter. Maybe you were going to “just take care of this one thing because it only takes a minute” and it distracted you from the moment you were in.

I did some of that last week.

I’m sure lots of people did.

My laundry didn’t all get done. It wasn’t a priority because I had other things to do and sufficient clean clothes. I got distracted instead of staying present and accidentally hurt someone’s feelings. I skipped my workout because I didn’t feel well.

I was running too fast and multitasking too much and still behind on what seemed like everything. It was tiring and frustrating and I just wanted a nap.

Then I asked myself where my priorities were. I didn’t write more because I didn’t make it a priority. I didn’t exercise because taking care of my long term health wasn’t important enough to me. It was uncomfortable to say, but deep down I knew it was also true.

How to change that script?

I made a list of everything on my plate right now. Work. Planning a wedding. Packing to move. Preparing to sell my house. Writing ideas. Business ideas. Skills I want to learn. All of it got written down.

For everything I wrote I asked myself if it was critical to do right now or if I valued something else on the list more. Now I know my top five things that are important at the moment. If my options are work on one of my top five things or work on something else, top five wins.

That being said I have an appointment to check in with myself in a few months to see where my priorities are again. Some things on the list will drop off for sure and leave room for something else to become a priority.

In the mean time I can now forgive myself for not learning that new skill. It’s not top five for now, but later it might be. For now I’ll do what matters most and leave the rest for when my priorities shift.

Things I Tried in 2016

BOOKS

I actually successfully completed the Goodreads 2016 challenge. My goal was to read 52 books last year and I read 53! I haven’t officially checked, but that might be the first time I ever completed the challenge. Part of my goal included reading a certain number of books on writing and creativity. On Writing by Stephen King was by far my favorite. It is a good book for writers and non-writers alike. I’m not going to do a “best of” list (at least not in this post) but I did end up with a few new favorite books in 2016.

Podcasts

I started out the year getting caught up on Welcome to Night Vale. That was in part due to tickets I had to an author discussion with the creators in late 2015 to promote their book of the same name. Of late I have not stayed on top of their podcast updates, but I did appreciate it for Twin Peaks-like storytelling. Lately I’ve been listening to the James Altucher podcast. I don’t listen to every guest, just ones who sound super interesting. When he releases a new podcast, he also teases with a blog post listing several things he learned from the latest guest. I click over to listen when I want to learn something from his list too.

Habits

Speaking of James Altucher, I started a practice in 2016 he strongly recommends. Every day write 10 ideas about anything. He claims doing this has drastically changed his life every 6 months. I haven’t made it a daily practice yet, but I have noticed that I am taking action on ideas I generate on my lists. Not all of these ideas are good. Actually a lot of them are terrible. Chances are I would not have come up with my good ideas if I didn’t write the bad ideas too. This has led to blog post ideas, new creative project ideas, and new avenues in writing projects. I’ve also used this at work when I get stuck on a problem to find alternative solutions when they aren’t immediately evident.

At the end of 2016 I also started a habit tracker to promote good habits in health, mind, soul, and creativity. Results have been mixed. From what I learned in December I need to make more time for fitness and writing.

Meditation

This has been something I have tried on and off since reading 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I try for a daily mindfulness practice for just a few minutes, though lately I haven’t been very consistent. Meditation is something you build. Just like your idea muscle with your 10 ideas. This is your mindfulness muscle. I have noticed that I feel the need to get back to my practice when I am feeling most out of line in my life.

Blog

I revived this blog towards the end of 2016 with the goal of posting every Wednesday morning. About that… Anyway, it’s Wednesday and I’m back. I’m going to keep plugging away at this and see what it turns into. The blog, just like everything else I tried in 2016 is an experiment. I’ll try and I’ll tweak and I’ll figure out what works for me and ultimately do that.

Thanks for hanging with me.

Happy 2017. Are you trying something new this year? Are you keeping up with a new habit from last year?

My November Experiment

I’m trying new things. I want to feel more positive. I want to let go of some of my anxiety.

In November I tried to build new habits. I was inspired by habit trackers shared by avid bullet journalers on blogs and Instagram. I tried one of my own. (I’m not posting a picture because it is not nearly as pretty as the one I linked to). Every day I tracked progress on Physical, Mental, and Spiritual health goals… and sleep. Sleep was a priority for November because I was dealing with nightmares and sleep disturbances that were making it hard to get up in the morning.

Verdict after 30 days of habit tracking: I need to eat more greens and stop looking at my phone before bed.

The best thing about my habit tracker in its pretty Moleskine notebook is not the tracker, it’s the next page. The next page is a list of November 2016 “Best of” moments. Any day something good happened, I wrote the date and a single sentence or phrase.

November 1st 2 years with Matt

November 6th re-launched the blog

November 17th went shopping with friends

I did not have an entry for all 30 days, but I did get an entry for more than 50% of the days. For December I will try for 70%.

Writing down the good forces me to reflect on what went right that day. If I can’t think of anything or forget one day it’s okay. However on the days I think are garbage, I have a list of great things to look back on. I can see at a glance good news, people I love, and life milestones. Good things pass us by in a few moments of happiness but the bad things seem to gnaw at our minds. At least they do for me. The Best of List makes the bad things get in the back seat for a while.

Oddly this list was an afterthought. I looked at the blank page and asked myself what could go there. Since I was working on my gratitude habit and our anniversary happened to be the first day of the month, I wrote it on the top line on the page. I thought I would write down good things on the same page over the course of months. In less than 30 days, the page is nearly full. It turned out happy news was all around. I just had to open my eyes to see it.

For December I am revamping the Habit Tracker. And I am looking to filling my “Best of December” page.

How do you remember the good in your life?