The Small Life

I’ve had a bunch of thoughts lately on how we talk to one another. Some people tell me I’m too defensive and I shouldn’t take things personally. Others try to motivate or inspire me by telling me that I’m not good enough. While it’s true that we each need to take time to process our thoughts before jumping to conclusions, I also think that personal matters are exactly that – they are personal. Heartfelt, intensely empathetic individuals such as myself, we feel everything very strongly. And while we can be taught ways to manage those emotions, I don’t see the need to stop feeling and/or expressing those emotions as long as the way we process them is constructive. 

Having said that, today’s thoughts come out of a place of intensely personal feelings as I navigate the world of both working for myself and alongside others. Over the years (especially since working with a cognitive behavioural therapist for 3yrs), I have been following many different positive psychology gurus, inspirational speakers/preachers, and I’ve pursued a few different modalities of thought in the process. Often words that were meant to have a motivational focus just didn’t sit well with me. 

I don’t believe that life coaches, motivational speakers, or positive psychology gurus have malicious intent. In fact, as their very focus is positivity it may seem a little “out of left field” for me to claim that their effects are quite the opposite. But please hear me out.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the following statements:

1. “Think big” http://blog.iqmatrix.com/habit-of-thinking-big

2. “Live bigger” https://www.amazon.ca/Dream-Big-Live-Bigger-Success-ebook/dp/B01DZ5K6VE

http://beyondmybluedoor.com/dont-live-small-lives/

3. “Success is just beyond the comfort zone.” https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/279569

Inspiration can be found in many places. For each of us as individuals it is found in different ways. Generally speaking, we know that introversion and extraversion are two very different personality types. Even for those who possess a bit of both, the needs associated with each personality type are undeniable. Extroverts are motivated, inspired and re-energized by other people, loud music, and large crowds. Introverts are the exact opposite – we need quiet times alone, a good book or article to read, and possibly some of our favourite chill tunes. This also applies to those of us battling mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, or cognitive challenges from PTSD, head injuries or other influences. 

That being said, it has come to my attention that the quiet and simple life of few material needs, disconnected from the busy-ness of society, and uninterested in the pursuit of “bigger and better” has somehow become equated with lesser value. The marketing messages of our world have bombarded our psyche and programmed our speech. Bigger and bolder are better.

However, if truth be told, some of us find strength in our safe places. We live quieter lives, with simpler and smaller goals and dreams. Some of us are content with less – less stuff and less connection to the outside world and the media’s frenzied pace and politics. And that’s okay.

If this is you, I want to encourage you today. You are worthy just as you are. If you are happy in the quiet, stay quiet. If you are happy staying close to home, then do so. If you are happy being less connected, then appreciate and enjoy that simplicity. 

Let us not become so focused on the pursuit of bigger and better that we lose focus on what is important. People should not be poked and prodded and belittled for thinking and feeling differently. Inspiration can come from small, gentle leading just as well as it can come from big, bold, drastic action. 

In a world increasingly promoting aggressiveness, I hope we can all learn to take a step back and remember that “bigger/louder/bolder” isn’t always better and “smaller/quiet/simple” is not worse. On this the very day we celebrate Martin Luther King, I hope we can focus more on love and kindness instead of judgment and aggression. ❤

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 

Motivation

Today is a great day for a short discussion on motivation: it’s rainy, my eyes are heavy from a couple late nights chatting with a friend, and my list of chores at home just keeps getting longer with every passing day. This is the perfect equation for staying in bed, going back to sleep, and avoiding the inevitable. Instead, however, I chose to focus on the positive energy from simply being alive. If I pay attention enough to my body, I can get a sense for what it needs. Yesterday I woke up at 8am and ended up going back to sleep for two more hours. This morning, despite a little waking grogginess, my brain is awake and alert. So I’ve chosen to focus that energy toward completing a handful of things. It feels good.

And now I allow myself a short break.

This is how my days go. I find I can focus for about an hour at a time before I need to take a break – So that’s what I do. I channel the energy and alertness and I focus on one task until it’s done. Slowly but surely I find myself working through my “to do” list and feeling a sense of accomplishment as I cross things off my mental checklist.

But what is it, you say, that drives me or motivates me to do these things? I guess you could say it’s the sense of accomplishment itself that motivates me. That and having a specific goal and time frame. Just like anything – whether it be weight-loss, cleaning the house, acquiring a new skill, or organizing ones’ finances – setting specific goals that are specific and measurable, realistic and attainable is key to seeing progress which then continues to motivate us toward further progress.

This week, for instance, I have planned to have company on Saturday evening. That means I have to have my list of chores complete in a certain number of days. Now, working around the other plans of the week is where breaking things down into smaller goals is helpful. Prioritizing these tasks and their importance is another extremely useful tool in the process. What is the most pressing task? First things first – take care of the necessary before the optional. In this way, you are almost forced to focus your energy on realistic and attainable tasks.

I don’t consciously analyze each of my choices in a day anymore. It just happens naturally that I break down my bigger goals (ie cleaning my house) into smaller more manageable tasks and then specifically plan them into my day. It is a little bit of extra work as planning and organizing itself takes energy. However, now as I go along I am consciously aware of my progress and specific accomplishments on a smaller scale which then further motivates me to work toward the larger goal. In the end it is all worth it.

And one of the most important things I do as a part of this process which helps fuel the motivation is I allow myself breaks or a change of tasks. I know my brain is more efficient in the first hour of focus. So by taking a short break after that first hour, I can assure that the next hour is just as effective. This way I never feel too tired which would impede my motivation. In other circumstances this may look like an extra rest say in the work-out schedule, or changing tasks at work to keep the brain fresh. For me this week it means waiting an extra day to get the dishes started. But I did get the kitty litter changed, myself fed and showered to start my day, AND I wrote a blog! I’m on a roll!! 🙂

Knowing our own needs in any given situation is the best thing we can do to help ourselves. Know when you need a break and allow for it. Know when you need to sleep and when you can push through the grogginess. And stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people, positive energy (upbeat music, motivational messages), and fill your mind with positive thoughts (acknowledge your accomplishments along the way, no matter how small, and remind yourself how great the end success will feel).

When your motivation comes from inside yourself, you take responsibility for your own success. And that’s exciting! You have the power in your hands – don’t let anyone tell you differently.

…this is my life…

The 3 P’s from Pastor Mark

Another crazy week…busy, focused, intense, exhausting. My mentoring partner teased this week that I was letting my blog-writing slip – and she’s right! But sometimes it’s just the way life goes. Survival is more of a priority “in the moment” than explaining my method of survival to the world. Lol

Today’s sermon at Church of The Rock was about the three “p’s” of living a life of faith: see from God’s perspective, allow for the expression of God’s power and be confident of His purpose for your life. I truly believe in this combination. Seeing the bigger picture helps prevent us from taking things personally and gives us daily motivation knowing we’re working toward a greater good. Allowing for the possibilities, avoiding putting God in a box, gives us access to a much greater power than we could ever know on our own. And along with both the perspective and possibilities comes the understanding and appreciation that this journey is actually a part of a much bigger purpose.

I truly believe that it is because of these three things that I have experienced such success in my journey. Because of them (perspective, power, and purpose) I can wake up every day being grateful – grateful for the journey itself, the people who are a part of it (both good and bad), and the destination to which it will bring me.

Sometimes “Rest is Best”

Writing from experience, I am convinced that not enough of us acknowledge that sometimes rest is best. Having put myself through college, worked several different jobs, and participated in countless activities or commitments since my brain injury, I have known what it is to strive….to give 150-200% and push every physical, emotional, and psychological boundary to accomplish a certain task or just to make it through the day.

Yes, sometimes we just need a swift kick in the butt or a gentle nudge to get us motivated, to take that first step, or to keep us going in the right direction. But sometimes “rest is best”. And to each of us that balance will look different. Only you will know when you’ve pushed yourself – or been pushed – too far.

Even the rest itself will look different for each individual. For one person it might mean at least one nap per day – maybe more. To the next person, however, rest might mean simply existing in the quiet but actively engaging the mind by reading a book or writing in a journal. Or it might change from day to day! It might even mean removing one activity or another from ones’ life for a brief period of time – a hiatus from the gym, from participating in a club, or from some other routine in life – or possibly removing it altogether.

Whatever “rest” looks like for you, know that no matter what anyone else tells you – only you know your own body – and IT is the gauge to know what to do for rest and for how long. Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking otherwise (Obligation is a silent killer.) Think of “the body” as referring to both the physical entity and your mind. Either way, I’m here to tell you that “it’s okay to rest!”

This might be difficult for some to wrap your heads around. Our society is so goal-oriented and action-driven. Rarely do we consider the “refueling” stage of the process as significant or valuable. Today’s blog is a reminder…whether or not you have a “challenge” of some kind, your body and mind NEED renewal. So allow for that. Honour your body and learn to give it what it’s asking for.

And this applies to other areas as well. Learn to distinguish hunger from thirst, whether your muscles need movement and stretching or passive rest and relaxation, or even the difference between positive and negative energy to affect your mood and mindset. Use journaling as a way to observe and document to assist your awareness. Spend some time every day in reflection. These tools of increasing awareness will be your best bet to combat stress and to equip you for more focussed, effective activity in life.

So I guess the admonishment is twofold. Learn to know what your body needs and don’t be ashamed to honour that. Sometimes rest is best.

…this is my life…