Category Archives: Discipline

Need More Time? Make Decisions Less Often

I mentioned in my recent blog post, Wake Up, Write (Right), that my goal was to write first thing in the morning. I have been doing a fair job of forming that habit. However, in order to enhance my chance of success- I need to make a few more changes.

Morning is a very busy time that requires me to make a lot of decisions: What to eat for breakfast; what to wear; what do I need to accomplish today; what to bring for lunch and so on.  It can be challenging to focus on writing when there is a whole day to prepare for as well.  How can I get the peaceful, productive writing time that I need every day?

I believe the answer may be to make as many of those other decisions in advance, as possible.  If I prepare all my lunches for the week on the weekend before, then I can just grab and go each day.  I can do the same thing with my clothes.  If I plan and assemble all five five outfits needed in advance, including jewelry and accessories, I’m saved from making all the tiny choices involved in getting dressed each day.

Paring down decisions, thereby saving time and energy, has been practiced by many successful people including Albert Einstein and former President Obama.  They both simplified their daily decisions by each buying several of the same suits.  So, all they had to do was put them on; no thought required.  The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, was also famous for his daily uniform compromised of jeans, a black turtleneck and sneakers.  These gentlemen were aware that humans have a limited capacity to make good decisions over time.  So, they eliminated having to make certain choices like what to wear. Thus they were able to fend off decision fatigue longer.

Decision fatigue, quite simply, is one’s diminishing power to keep making good decisions, the more decisions you have to make.  Have you ever watched the TV show Say Yes to the Dress? There was an episode where a man surprised his girlfriend with a proposal and then dropped her off at Kleinfeld’s Bridal right after to buy her wedding dress.  The woman was so overwhelmed with the enormity of having decided to get engaged, there was no way she was going to pick out a wedding dress the same day.  She probably had trouble picking what to have for dinner that night. Forget fatigue, she was decision exhausted!

My hope is that by prepping my week properly in advance and eliminating as many of the daily decisions as possible, I can wake up and write with abandon every single day.  We shall see…

Wake up Write (Right)

“Write everyday at the same time,” is the advice you hear given to writers over and over again.  I have always felt guilty that I have not established an effective daily writing routine.

I have tried writing at all different times: morning, evening and even my lunch hour but nothing stuck for long. My lifelong dance with insomnia made it difficult to write at the same time every morning. My lunch hour was inconsistent as well.  I could probably write at the same time every night but I am too drained at the end of the day most of the time.

To some people, I know this sounds like I am just making excuses but I am sure there are other writers that struggle with the same dilemma. The goal is not to construct the perfect prose every time you write  but you do want to give the best you have to it each day.

I was watching Joanna Penn’s interview with Sarah Painter yesterday. Penn posed the proverbial question about when and how often to write.  A few things stood out for me in Painter’s response. Painter said that she established writing as a daily habit by making it automatic.  She decided to do it first thing when she woke up.  She keeps the computer on the bedside table and grabs it right after opening her eyes.  Her lovely husband brings her a cup tea every morning. (I’ll have one of those, please!) So, she is all set to go. She doesn’t even get out of bed. There is no choice about whether to write.  In fact, the only choice would be- to not write.

The idea of making writing automatic was fascinating but then I thought,  “what about when insomnia keeps me up for half the night?” Painter’s very next words, as if on cue, were, “the reason I like writing first thing in the morning so much is because I am less awake, I’ve got less resistance.” She also pointed out that since the day hasn’t really started yet, there are no distractions.

I read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, so I was familiar with this process of using a cue (in this case: waking up) to change a habit but hadn’t considered it as a way to establish a writing routine per se. Often people use it to stop doing something like smoking or to remember doing something like flossing after you brush your teeth. I was curious to see if Painter’s routine might work for me.

All day long yesterday, I kept thinking to myself, “wake up, write. Wake up, write.” (I was delighted when the play on words hit me: “wake up, write. Wake up right!” How perfect a mantra is that for establishing a new habit?) I was excited to test it this morning.  As is often the case, I did not sleep well. I was awoken by the phone ringing. So this morning the routine was more like “wake up-talk to Mom-write” but I did it. In fact, you are reading the results right now. I feel comfortable calling day one-albeit not perfect-a success.

My plan is to stick with Painter’s writing routine and “Wake up-write. Wake up right” every day!

How to Find the Flow

I mentioned last week that even though I need to write that I tend to resist doing it. Often, my biggest excuse is that I am too tired.  Sometimes, the little battles of life wear me down.  More often than I care to admit, I am too pooped to do anything but watch TV at the end of a long, hard day.

Watching TV might be a comforting distraction but it doesn’t do anything to improve my life and it’s not going to provide me with the satisfaction that I get from being creative.  Also, I know that if I do write that chances are, I will feel better.

Today, I asked myself, “how can I get into the flow?” This is what I came up with:

1. Remind myself that my intention is to write.

2. Pray for help to get into the flow of writing.

3. Sit down and write.

I tried this new ritual out today.  Then I finished a chapter and started the next in a novel that I began writing many months ago.  Today is Saturday.  The real test will be mid-week but  I would call that a good start!

What do you do to get in the flow?

How to Master Life

I am a life-long procrastinator when it comes to personal projects. (Work for anyone else- I’m a mule!) It’s something I am really trying to tackle in 2019. I had an epiphany about it this morning and realized I have been going about it all wrong.

I have been trying to overcome procrastination by becoming more efficient. I have been studying how to establish good habits. I have been watching endless videos on effective morning, evening and writing routines. I have been trying to establish these good habits and efficient routines, only to get derailed by life events and end up feeling like a failure.

Oddly enough, it was my new favorite hobby that led to this epiphany that changed everything. I started learning how to crochet last April and I LOVE it! It’s one of my favorite things to do. Although, I realized that when I crocheted for a long time, as much I enjoy it, there was still something amiss.  There was a little nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “you know, you haven’t written anything in a really long time!”

It was then that it occurred to me that there are things you need to do like eat, sleep and maintain good hygiene, things you love to do like crochet and then there are things you are meant to do- and for me- this is writing.  The things we are meant to do, often, seem to be what we resist the most to our own detriment.

The truth is when I don’t write anything at all, I don’t feel quite well.  Life is literally draining out of me. I realize that sounds dramatic but there is probably something in your life that produces the same effect.  I enjoy crocheting and it adds a lot to my existence but nothing makes me feel quite as alive and purposeful as having written.

So, why do I avoid it?  Why do I procrastinate? Steven Pressfield writes about resistance in the War of Art as if it is a real life bogeyman who quite literally wants to kill us. Whether this is actually the case or not, it’s really the only compelling explanation I have found to demystify the phenomenon of procrastination.

What are you meant to do? What have you been resisting?

Learning to Love Life Again

I mentioned in my last post that my luck has not been so good lately.  As the saying goes, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”  At least, that’s how it has felt.  So, when I saw a workshop titled, Love Your Life, I thought, “I should probably take that.”

Love Your Life is based on a book, The Passion Test, by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood.  The gist of both the workshop and book is to help you gain clarity on what you are passionate about.  This is achieved through an exercise where you identify 10 things that would make your life ideal.  With the help of a partner you narrow it down to five through a questioning exercise.  You then set goals or markers to achieve those five items.

While I found that part of the workshop interesting, identifying my passions has never really been my problem.  The second half of the workshop was about commitment and overcoming obstacles.  I found this very interesting because I often get distracted from goals because of life circumstances and-this is hard to admit- fear.

Our facilitator, Christina Loggia, had us write down our negative self-talk.  Then she had us “re-language” these sentences into something more positive. As a writer one of my fears is that no one cares about what I have to share.  I re-languaged that negative statement into “the right audience finds and appreciates my work.”  I felt my mood shift when I read this new statement.  Feeling better about it, somehow, made it seem more possible it could be true.  Affirmations are not new to me but I had never made one that was so goal-specific before.  It was like a little fear-seeking missile!

My other big takeaway from the workshop was about committing the time and energy to achieve what I am passionate about.  Christina shared with the group that one of her passions is yoga.  She said that everyone in her life knows when she practices and teaches yoga and that they know better than to ask her to do something during those times.  I have been very sloppy when it comes to setting boundaries around my passions.  I intend to change that going forward.

The last point I wanted to mention was that I realized nothing has to be achieved overnight.  I think I have been inclined not to set goals in the past because I didn’t think I would have the time or financial resources to achieve them.  Our society is so inclined toward instant gratification, it can be hard to work toward something if you don’t when exactly it will come to fruition.      Christina gave an example about trying to sell her house and how it was taking longer than hoped.  It doesn’t mean it will never sell.  It just hasn’t been the right time yet.  The important thing is to stay clear on what you want even when success seems elusive.

 

Naturally Confident: 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days MISSION COMPLETED!

I took a training class about six months after I fell. We were asked to draw a picture of what we wanted our lives to look like within a certain time frame. I was completely flummoxed. I really didn’t know what to draw. I did the best I could. When the time was up, I looked around the room at other people’s drawings. They were crowded with people, new houses, where they wanted to travel to and major life events.

When I looked back at my own, I saw myself sitting alone on a yoga mat with my eyes closed in meditation. The only other thing on my drawing was a smile with dollar signs around it.  Dental reconstruction has been foremost in my mind.  If I had more time I probably would have drawn my dog Chauncy sitting next to me. Clearly, after falling down the stairs and the hurricane, I had gotten out of the practice of setting goals.

Going through major life events can give you valuable insights. I mentioned before that while I was driving in the hurricane that I had a feeling of peace, knowing that as long as Chauncy and I could safely get to our destination; I was okay with losing what was back at my apartment. There is a flip side to that though, there is an almost constant awareness that anything and everything can be taken from you at any second. That chilling realization will spur some people into immediate, hard-core, relentless action and make other people VERY cautious. I fall into the second camp. (I always hold the handrail now!)

“Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.”

– Asha Dornfest

I think this challenge of writing and putting up a new blog post every day for the month of August has been really good for me. I set a goal for myself and followed through on it. While I didn’t cure cancer or do anything similarly monumental, I did do something that wasn’t exactly easy either. Posting every day with my job and commuting schedule, challenged me. Sometimes, other things like my yoga practice were sacrificed in order to keep this promise to myself.

I learned that I could rise to the challenge and meet it. I also learned that I do need to write every day. I learned that I do not want to post what I write EVERY day. I want more time for editing, proofreading and polishing my work. I also want to do other types of writing. I learned that it doesn’t matter what response I get, it’s about committing to the work, trusting that what comes out is enough and then following through.

My new plan (Ooo, look who has a plan!) is to post weekly. I may post more often than that but I feel comfortable that I can keep to that schedule and maintain a satisfactory degree of quality in my writing.

I want to thank all of you who have been reading my posts during this August Adventure Post-a-day Blogging Challenge. I have received some really wonderful support throughout this process and I am very grateful!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

 

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justdragonfly

 

Naturally Disciplined

Discipline. (Sigh!) Discipline and I have a very, well, undisciplined relationship.  It’s not Discipline’s fault at all!  I take full responsibility.  Discipline is not the one with commitment issues.  It’s all me.

I am conflicted.  I love the idea of daily practices and rituals and see the value in them.  Yet, I also detest the idea of living the same day over and over.  Afterall, what’s natural about practicing, rigidly going through the same steps repeatedly? NOTHING!  Plants don’t need discipline to grow.  The wind doesn’t need discipline to blow.  The rain doesn’t do reps!

Alas, I am not a plant, rain or the wind (…but how cool would that be?)  Growing as a human is more than just physical; we strive to accomplish goals and achieve our passions.  These feats require discipline,  I have accomplished goals in my life, throughout my on again/off again relationship with discipline but I know I can do more.  In fact, I want to do more.

So Discipline… I’m ready to committ finally!  Let’s start with writing, an area I have been particularly lax in lately.  Every day for the month of August, my intention is to put up a new blog post.  This should be interesting, depending on what else is going on.  Some posts might be quite short.  Some may be a trifle too long.  Some might suck!  Maybe some will be helpful and enjoyable.  I hope so.  Time will tell…

Please join Discipline and me for our August adventure.  Check up on us often and see how we are doing.

Many blessings,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly