My grandma lived on an island and the only way to reach her cottage was over a long causeway. But every childhood visit was heightened by the expectation of making it across. High tide, bad weather, jellyfish blooms-well not really but in my imagination they swarmed-rendered crossing the causeway impassable as it lay beneath the murk of the sea.
Causeways link two distinct places, island to island, island to mainland, one land mass to another. But unlike bridges they are far more vulnerable to the elements and forces of nature. If the tide was high it was a long wait in the car until the cold grey waters of East Anglia receded enough so we could cross.
Sometimes the links between thoughts and actions are firm and definable like bridges. You can cross back and forth as you please. But sometimes they are like navigating causeways. You have to wait for conditions to be right.
The desire to cross a predictable bridge with swift passage from A to B is strong, well-trodden, easy. But so often these aren’t the roads we face. The times we are in find me waiting for the tide to go down and to be accepting of that. Around me are the flat damp mud flats of the mainland, across the causeway and through the jellyfish is the light of a cottage.
I’ll get there but it’ll take a bit longer than expected. ©
My brother told me about a conversation he had with my niece. She wants to enter a fiercely competitive field, full of people who seem so much more qualified and suitable for it than her. He stopped her as she talked herself out of it, mid-sentence of self-doubt, mid flourish of the tendency to accept failure before we even begin. And simply said to her, ‘Why not you?’
Of course he then went on to list all the reasons why she should try, why she was as competent as the next person and so on. But it was those three words which struck me.
Most people I meet are a lot more talented, creative, hard-working and loving than they give themselves credit for. We are pretty realistic too, so often the things we aspire to are not way out of reach. If we can just make the leap of faith to try, or in some cases feel we are worthy, then who knows where we might end up.
To believe in ourselves enough to attempt the things we want is tough. There is absolutely no guarantee of ease and success. Rejection and failure happen and are good reasons not to put yourself out there. Sometimes the things we seek are not realistic but isn’t hanging onto what we can’t achieve a way to avoid what we can. Yes, the trip could be a disaster, the relationship awful and bruised with regrets, even the career you’ve worked so hard for may be full of disappointment.
But what if it wasn’t?
Want to feel that sparkle not the dread of the unknown? The glow of satisfaction that your hard work is paying off. The promise of possibility and optimism which brings us to life. The readiness to make a difference? In which case, ‘Why not you?’
You know sometimes we are so bombarded by where we should be finding inspiration that we can forget to look around us. We become so preoccupied with that greener grass, tempting us from the other side of the fence, that we ignore our own backyard. If you find yourself daydreaming more than doing, wishing more than appreciating, have a look for your inspirations close to home. Be mindful of your current environment, be present, and allow yourself to experience it in as many sensory ways as you can.
- Your local natural world is a wonder. A garden, a park, a beach, whatever is near you, observe it. Albert Einstein summed this up so beautifully, “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
- Find a possession which you love. A painting, a book, a plant. Something, which every time you see it, you feel lucky to have. Imagine the journey it took to create it, the hours, or the passion which inspired it.
- Remember feelings of accomplishment and achievement, find the items which remind you of your successes. A photo, a card, a present. They are our symbolic trophies, so stop and reflect on the work it took to receive them. Let them be a source of future inspiration.
- And listen to your own personal soundtrack. Music takes us to the good times and the bad. It allows the mind to wander which can lead to a new path.
It is often the smallest, most mundane of things, which combined correctly, produce the greatest of things. The details of the world give an authenticity to creative work. And, who knows, your next great inspiration could be a lot closer to you than you think.
Love your thoughts…
Art work by @Dana Kinter- a wonderful artist who inspires me.
“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young
Procrastination is a sneaky thing and you can find yourself doing it without even realising. We all have things we are putting off and I’m giving myself a bit of a shake down because I know I’m procrastinating.
When I got my first teaching contract the class teacher I took over from told me the children had a busy book. I wasn’t sure what that was but on closer examination it was a book where children could work on tasks when other work was finished. After a few days I realised the busy book was a great distraction and that busy work was a great way to avoid harder more demanding activities. I think we are all a bit guilty of doing busy work which often mimics the things that need doing. We are doing something but if we’re honest it’s not always the stuff we should be.
So if like me you’re using busy work to delay a job, task or project it’s probably time to break down why.
Worried about outside influences and opinions. This is a very real reason for procrastinating. No matter how much intrinsic motivation we have most of us do care a bit about what others think. We may not want to offend, we may be worried about criticism, or we simply don’t want to put ourselves out there. Sometimes doing nothing is easier than facing the hard stuff. But in the long wrong are we only putting off the inevitable.
Not knowing where to start. You’re staring up at a mountain with no idea how to climb it. So you can either run back to the chalet or just begin. I’ve decided not to look at the top because that’s way too overwhelming but instead gaze a little bit higher than where I am standing. A different perspective does make things more achievable and I’m more inclined to try.
Not quite ready for the hard work. Doing something challenging is not easy and often the things we procrastinate about are difficult for us. They may be so close to our hearts we don’t want to try in case we fail. But if this is the case than the not doing can be even more soul-destroying as a bad outcome. If we don’t try we can be on the slippery slope to self-sabotaging and no one wants to go there.
By honestly breaking down the reasons why we are procrastinating we can address them. Busy work is more than happy to get in the way of tackling something important or necessary. But by starting on the things we’ve been putting out off we are beginning our escape from the avoidance trap. And it feels so much better…
Last week there was a black out in the city where I live. Plunged into darkness as the lights went out across the whole state, families and individuals had to change plans. We had to come up with inventive ways to tackle the problems of no power and ways to entertain ourselves without technology.
Once the terror of having no internet had passed, the world didn’t stop and people didn’t sit round like pumpkins waiting to be picked, on the contrary we found other things to do. Over the next few days there were stories of how families had played games together, how neighbours had rallied around the one house with a gas cooker and shared meals, how people helped strangers and the needy. It did get me thinking about why it takes an event like a power outage to make us do what we really like to do anyway; family, community, sharing.
Perhaps it’s more a question of balance. Technology makes our life easier in so many ways. Once you’ve had access to it you realise know how hard it would be to be without it. I’d wrestle any pickpocket who tried to take my smart phone. But the trick is we can, and maybe we should, put technology aside a little more often. In the blackout a lot of people went back to small pleasures, reading a book by candlelight, playing an instrument, board games with children. The fix it folk rigged up ways to heat and light homes and a lot of people went to bed earlier.
The power came back on, modern life resumed, but it showed how resourceful we can be and the entertainment we can find when we go off the grid for a little while.
You know recently I’ve been second guessing my decisions and worrying over choices I’ve made. From big things to small things that annoying voice of doubt is getting a bit too loud for my liking. And while the inner critic can keep you in check it is not the boss. We are capable people but every so often we lose our way and it is at this point we need to reaffirm trust in ourselves.
Sleep is nature’s restorer and if I’m honest I haven’t been getting enough. There is nothing more invigorating than waking from a good night’s rest. Your head is clearer, your body feels fresher, and if you’re a night-time worrier everything seems better in the daylight! Making a concerted effort to nurture ourselves through sleep is a practical way to empower and ease tension.
Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves because we take on too many other people’s opinions and desires. Their energy and voice can leave us struggling to find our own. So if this is the reason you’re floundering respect your own wants and needs. If choices and decisions are our own we are much more likely to believe in them.
Feeling out of sorts about choices we are making can come from being out of touch with our own core values. It is often this mismatch between the actions we take, which do not reflect who we are, that can leave us second guessing. If we are making choices that do not reflect what we believe or stand for it can leave us in a state of turmoil.
Or maybe our self-confidence has taken off for a while. Without self belief we are more prone to question and doubt and that leaves us unsettled. If your confidence has taken a bit of a hit recently and you have lost trust in your decision-making, regaining self-confidence can be a powerful remedy. As our belief in ourselves grows so does our capacity to trust the choices we make.
Go to bed earlier, be around people who validate who you are and what you stand for, and be firm with doubt.
“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder.
I was at a party on the weekend and was desperate for a glass of water. A lady was standing by the sink sipping on a cocktail and as I turned on the tap she asked me, “What are you doing?”
“Having a glass of water. Would you like one?”
“Hell no! Have you seen what that stuff does to ships!”
We laughed and in a way she was right, what may be good for my inner organs certainly rusts out a lot of other stuff. It got me thinking about perspective. For me the water made sense but for her not so much. And it wasn’t the water itself but the different attitudes we brought to it.
So, here’s the thing, we cannot help but bring our own perspective to anything. And that’s okay because it’s these things which make us who we are. But the problems set in when we hang onto them so tight that they become big giant monsters of self-righteousness, huffing around in an I’m right, you’re wrong corner.
The stand-off differing perspectives causes can be exhausting. And whether it’s with family members, partners or out in the wider community unresolved issues are unhealthy. If we keep spending all that energy on feeling misunderstood we’re not doing ourselves any favours because we may be missing solutions only a tiny side step away from what we think.
So we have choices we can accept the other person’s perspective, reconcile it and move on. Happy days. But sometimes no matter how hard we try we cannot accept it and then we have to let go of the indignation and call a friend! No seriously after the call we do need to try and move on. We can listen to their point of view and if we don’t agree it can be a buffer, clarify a situation, or maybe even be a call to action. Sometimes we don’t like their perspective because it challenges our sense of self but no matter how much we want people to see things our way the truth is they may not. The only thing we can do then is manage our response.
Sometimes I really struggle looking past my own interpretation of situations but when I can it’s a bit like climbing a hill. We don’t just look one way when we reach the top we look in every direction, take in every view. We do look a little longer at the view we like best but at least we do see the whole panorama. As Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Hard but worth a try?
When I was little I often visited ornamental gardens with my family. On one such day trip I discovered a summer house. It was decorated in the richest, most glorious wallpapers and fabrics, which just sung out at you. They were the creations of William Morris, the celebrated C19th British textile designer. But what was wonderful about that summer house was the composition of the rooms. No clutter, everything was in its place.
Physical disharmony and clutter can be very unconducive to creativity and action. Mess bombards us with distractions. We forget where things are and waste time looking for them. We get sidelined into dealing with the consequences of our disorganization, and that’s time consuming. By decluttering you significantly lessen the attention grabbers.
The clutter that evolves around us can be a visual sign of our own procrastination. It can be overwhelming to decide what to keep or where to move things to. So start small, if you cook declutter cupboards in the kitchen, if you garden try the shed, if you work from home, your desk. By tidying, donating, recycling, we create an energetic living space and can celebrate our active decision making.
Clear away to refill. If a jug is full you can’t keep pouring more water in it, there’s nowhere for it to go. It’s the same for our home environments. Hopefully, we’re alive for a long time; fashion, tastes and technology changes, we need to make room for the new phases of life. Which also means we have to deal with the old.
Now, I’m not advocating a frenzied attack on all possessions. The history, sentimental value, and relevance of belongings to our identity should always be preserved; but anything other than that really does have a shelf life. As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Making the big decisions is one of the hardest things we have to do, especially if they effect relationships, career or health. Maybe this springs from our desire to control, maybe we want the cake and to eat it too, maybe outside pressure is backing us into a corner. But whatever the reason, being in that state of flux isn’t good. You get swept up in the world of what if and as the poet Edward Young said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”
- So give yourself a time frame or the situation may possibly have one. Of course there are some decisions you can’t rush. Circumstances need time to play out. But don’t fool yourself, there always comes a point when you need to decide. Putting it off any longer than that is just making excuses.
- Ask the advice of a friend. One who knows you really well, warts and all, and one who’ll be honest with you? It can be tricky asking for advice and then not acting upon it. But advice is like a present, we should give it freely and be able to receive it without obligation. A good friend has your best interests at heart and wants what’s best for you.
- Weigh up the pros and cons. Don’t be afraid to make a list. Writing alternatives down focuses thinking. This makes options more concrete rather than random swirls of thought which come and go.
- And follow that hunch. There’s a lot being written about the power of our inner voice. And sometimes if we allow ourselves to shut out all the other dialogue we can hear the answer we need.
When the decision is done you really do feel lighter. Take comfort in the fact there are no guarantees, because no matter what you decided you cannot control the outcome. The most interesting people I know have made some decisions they regretted but others which have transformed their lives.