Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aunty Fifi’s 10 Step Plan for Self Determination and Ultimately Kicking Butt

I wrote this about 3 weeks ago at the beginning of an 'offline' period, where I was feeling a bit lost, in need of direction, so here it is:

Started sorting through my old Blog posts today to see what I said I’d do follow on posts for and in an effort to re-focus Sun, Rain, Or..., since it seems recently not to really know what it’s purpose is. This has been an annoyingly persistent item on my ‘To Do List’ for way too long now, and besides, okay, the real reason I’m doing this is that I’m experiencing an unexpected crisis of faith today, finding it very difficult to figure out what to do and how and to focus on anything at all, so I needed something to do that I know I can do, something that doesn’t require new genius of me.

Yes, I love what I do, at least in theory and when I have the right tools and materials at hand, and most of all, to be honest, when the money is flowing forth from my efforts because beautiful things lose a bit of their shine if they don’t pay the bills. But right now, I’m in one of those smelly pits, you know, the ones you can see ahead and think you’re avoiding and then “Eeuuww!” you’re knee deep in it.

Experience has taught me that one way or the other, I’ll get out of it, that I know; but the problem really is that I’m getting mighty tired of finding myself in the shit pit. I should know better. No, I do know better, the problem is, I should DO better.

So what do you do when your plan didn’t exactly play out as it was supposed to in your grand design and now resources fall far short of what you ‘need’? When payments just don’t arrive when they were meant to and then logic and reason are hit out of bounds by the sweeping strike of that stubborn old self doubt that is still there ‘cos you haven’t really dealt with those issues that are causing it? What’s to be done to calm the storming panic and what’s to be done to equip this adventurer to chart a surer course?

Well? That wasn’t a rhetorical question, help me out here!

LA LA LAA LAA LAAA LAAA LAAA LAAAAAAA!- Noooo, I don’t want to hear any of those things!”

Ok, I know, I already answered myself with what the core issue is; I should DO better.

It’s such a seemingly simple answer, but as it turns out, not one that’s so easy to do.

But I’ve found over and over, that I am, surprise, surprise, my own worst enemy and there is always something I can do to wrest back control over my seemingly daunting life.  So here’s my plan – part what I have done before, part what I’m learning to do as I go.

Aunty Fifi’s 10 Step Plan for Self Determination and Ultimately Kicking Butt.

1)    Go meditate on calming my mind and spirit - and stomach. I won’t worry that I ‘can’t’ meditate, I know that all I need is to achieve some level of calm so that my mind can re-orient itself from magnifying all the ‘issues’ to filling me with a sense of peace, purpose and capability.
In recognition that I know I’m not alone in ‘not being able to mediate’, here are some of my in-expert tips:
a)    You can ‘mediate’ anywhere you are comfortable, (lying down in ‘dead people’ pose for me), sitting in your comfy chair, wherever – best a place that you won’t be disturbed.
b)    If your worries keep intruding, gently and purposefully put them aside each time they do. It should become less of a thought out process and more of an easy brush-off as you get calmer.
c)    Use a mantra if you have one (I used my ‘Peace, Serenity, Clarity’ today) and focus on your breathing – that gives your troublesome mind something good to focus on other than your worries. An ‘Empty Mind’ is not necessary for this to work!
d)    Take long enough to find some inner peace; don’t fret if it takes a bit of time if those pesky worries keep intruding. You’ll get there.
2)    Somewhere along the way, when I’ve achieved a comfortable level of calm (you’ll know when this happens, it’ll wash over you) I start to let thoughts of the tasks at hand float back in. I do this with the purpose of finding at least one task that is important and reasonably achievable and I also set my mind to accept that there are solutions to the things that have been keeping me from carrying out said task(s), and all I have to do is allow myself to see them.

3)    When I’ve identified the tasks and solutions, time to get up, ready for action. I find making a little ‘To Do Today List’ helps here.

4)    Now, if in going to take action you find yourself like me, still a bit unconfident in some areas, let your first activity be an achievable one that clears space – whether it’s mental space, computer filing space, studio space, living space, any cluttered area will do. In my case, I chose to go through my past blog posts.
The aim is to make somewhere more functional, change it from being an irritant to being a positive force. This helps build on the clarity you’ve already started to achieve by meditation, working to reveal more solutions, clear your path, build confidence.

5)    Now I reward myself. No, not with chocolate. Reward yourself with checking that task off your list and move on to the next task. One of the most self-defeating things I find myself doing is rewarding myself with things that don’t move me forward towards my goal – like checking email, stopping for coffee, playing with the dog. It’s not that there isn’t a time and place for these, but since we’re in crisis here, they’re not the things we need to be doing yet.

6)    Ok, so now I have a few things checked off my list I can take a scheduled break:  It’s important to make sure that you don’t deprive yourself of normal breaks especially when they involve necessary eating and sleeping or time with family. Depriving yourself of these things is one BIG way to make sure you will head right back on course for another crisis. Believe me, I know; that false sense of never having time to relax is one of the worst things for transforming work you love into a big ol’ depressing chore. Basic relaxation and refuelling of the body and spirit is not optional, it’s mandatory. (I should probably chant that second part daily)

7)    So, it’s coming to the end of the day and it’s time to take stock of what I’ve achieved and what’s still left on my list for the day, re-assess what’s reasonably possible for tomorrow and generally feel better about the prospects.
Setting realistic goals is fundamental to maintaining your progress: A big part of why I’m not where I wanted and expected to be in June 2009 is that my goals were (still are) ill defined and unrealistic. I know that when I have a good plan, things go much better. There are a few things that can lead to your plan being off kilter and I know I have to take another look at what’s really going on here:

8)    Part of my ‘problem’ is because too much of what I have on my list needs input from others: I need payment for one thing to fund and begin another, I need approval for a proposal and those funds will underpin another part of my ‘plan’. This, it is painfully clear, ain’t working!
So, take a look at what you’re setting out to do in the longer term. How much of it is achievable without A, B, C, X, Y or Z that you don’t have?
If you have people or systems that you interact with that are already proven and reliable, then that’s fine, but in your goals, how much do you need input that you are not in control of, or that relies on untried waters?
It’s fine to have some of this, without a little life’d probably be very achievable and very, very unremarkable. But with too much, I’ve noticed that life becomes unachievable, still ends up unremarkable and to boot, it’s also unfulfilling and doesn’t pay the bills.
The big question here, ‘What can you do that will move you forward in the general direction you need to be going, and you can do with what you have on hand and, bar acts of God or nature, is in your control?
If I can come up with a decent answer for that and sketch out a plan using those things, then I know I will be on a better path.

9)    Then there’s one other little thing; dealing with things that I’ve been putting off for ages. Procrastination, the monster-maker; changing normal activities into beasts I feel I am just not able to deal with. This dogs me day and night, even when I’m not conscious of it, those left-back things are there, eating away at my energy and sense of achievement.
So I know I have to do something, but what to do with them? Well, I figure I can ignore them, as I have been doing, and probably still be alive and struggling this time next year, or…I can do something about them. It’s logical right, something, however small will still change the momentum of whatever beast is hounding me, even if it only slows the course, it will have changed it. And equally important is, I will have done something to positively change what seems like an inevitable and overwhelming problem. 
The key here being the difference between what seems to be, and what actually is. Our minds are very capable of being on our side or on the side of the monsters, and pretty much most of the time, we are the ones who actually decide which side they’re on. Seems that way to me.

10)    Rinse and repeat. Perseverance and steadfastness. Grief, that sounds like a pilgrim’s way, but much as I may be embracing the life of a creative, designing and making my own path, it doesn’t stop me from needing these core practices. I’m great at doing these 9 steps, okay, no, I’m great at doing 7 of them, no, 6, err, perhaps 5…Oh dear, I have a lot of work to do!

Which brings me back to the reluctant realization that as it stands, my greatest gift has also been my greatest bane in life: a wandering, exploring mind. For a long time, they’ve seemed inseparable, almost the same thing, but as the years turn on by, I’ve begun to recognize the difference and realize that the bane gets fat if I wander more than I explore; the latter being sentient and active, going somewhere, and the other being, well, lazy and I hate to admit it, a cop-out.
Granted, if you wander, you may happen into fortune, but much more likely - by far -is that you’ll stumble back knee deep into somewhere you don’t want to be.
Explorers on the other hand start with a purpose and a map, even if the far reaches are still unplotted, they have an aim and a map to set out with. Could it be time in my life to give the wandering mind a bit of a rest and give the explorer a good bit more recognition, support and focused energy deserved?

I’d better draw up a good ‘To Do Today List’ for tomorrow. And I better keep reminding myself that the reality of continuing on wandering is far more daunting really than actually exploring my way to success. Definitely time to refocus, not just tomorrow’s ‘To Do Today List’ but also the next few months and the remainder of this year.

Ultimately, Aunty Fifi will kick butt.

The Explorer

So I’ve said my piece, but I’d love to hear from you – and I’m sure my readers would too:

  • What do you do when stuck in a quagmire?
  • What methods do you use to get going again?
  • Are there areas in your habits that need kicking out or efforts you’re making that need supporting?
  • What challenges you most in trying to be successful?

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As a last chip in - here's a link to some free ebooks I downloaded ages ago from Mark McGuinness of and Lateral Action. I only read them during this recent offline clean-up time - good stuff, go get them, they're practical and well written, easy to follow (bar you being your own worst enemy that is:)