Logic isn’t everything

Snoopy-writing

Automatic writing is the process of allowing your thoughts and feelings to flow out onto the page with as little conscious thought, and maybe most importantly, as little judgement, as possible. It’s a really useful process for discovering deeper thoughts and feelings, and trying to answer some of the big questions in life, like what’s my purpose? why do I care so much about what others think? what’s truly important to me?

A while ago I talked about morning pages, where you write three pages first thing in the morning every day to try to clear your mind before the day starts. Recently I’ve been experimenting with different times of day, locations and ways to write truly automatically. It’s not always easy when your thinking, logical mind is desperate to take over!

I thought I’d share some ideas of methods that might make automatic writing easier, though of course the process is different for everyone, and I guess sometimes it might just be writing more frequently whenever and wherever that finally helps to reach deeper emotions.

snoopynightwriting1. Time of day

I’ve found that, for me, writing in the evening seems to be more effective than writing first thing in the morning. From the moment I wake up I already find myself thinking pretty logically, so I can much more easily get to my emotions in the evenings.

2. Sleep on it

Reading or writing something you want to think/write automatically about just before you go to sleep can give your subconscious time to think it over in your sleep. This can be combined with then writing morning pages, though I sometimes think of things in the night and scribble them down in a notebook on my bedside table.

3. The great outdoors

Writing outdoors, in open space, maybe out in the countryside, sometimes helps me.

4. All the time in the world

Writing with hours of free time ahead of you can help to free your mind from thinking about time constraints to writing.

5. Provoke your emotions

I find that writing in answer to provocative prompts helps me to get to deeper feeling and emotions. Pose yourself controversial, biased or critical questions to bring your true feelings out.

6. Make use of existing emotions

I only recently realised how freely and automatically I can write when at work -I think the boredom and frustration leads to letting other thoughts and emotions out.

7. Music

I’ve also tried writing with music on, it probably depends on what you’re listening to, but music can bring up strong feelings.

 

SnoopyGive automatic writing a try – just keep writing, whatever rubbish you feel you’re scribbling on the page, write fast and with as little thought as possible. You can extract the deeper meaning and logic from your ramblings later.

Remember, it’s not about judgement, it’s about getting to your truth, not what you think sounds right or normal or good, but what’s real for you. I think it’s working for me.

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You’re only lost when you run out of petrol

road-trip3-edit

I read that quote on my old university’s alumni Facebook page – a past student had added it to the end of a little piece of advice to this year’s graduates. As long as you have the hope and motivation – the petrol – to keep going, to keep searching, then you’re never truly lost, or at least not permanently lost.

I enjoy driving, and I’m not the sort of person who worries too much about planning a route before heading to a new destination. A quick look on Google Maps, memorise or scribble down the roads, then off I go with about 10 minutes added to the journey time just in case I should get lost (which of course is highly unlikely).

But, inevitably, I do get lost. First I continue to drive, I turn around, thinking I’ve missed a turning, or keep going hoping it must still be ahead. Then I finally give in, pull over and get out a map. Except now I’m watching the clock worried I’m going to be late, so it’s a glance, guesstimate of location and how to get back on track, then I’m off again, full speed ahead. But my hurry often means the journey takes longer than necessary, when I miss the turning again, get in the wrong lane at the lights, or realise I wasn’t quite where I thought I was…

Wow. The more I think about it the more this feels like a perfect analogy for my career (or lack of it).

It’s funny because right now what I want more than anything is to quit my job and never go back. And in order to do that I need to find a new job. Except despite my extreme desire to resign (which increases every day I go into work), somehow I’m not in a hurry to make a decision and grab hold of another job. I want to make sure my next choice is the right one for me – not me pretending to be sorted, me pretending I’ve found something different when it’s actually just a variation of what I currently do and dislike, but me knowing that I’ve thought about my next move, planned it and made sure that this time it’s different. This time I’m taking a very good look at the map.

lost.Because when you’re pulled over at the side of the road, you might still be in the wrong place, and not all that happy to be there, but it’s worth taking that extra time to make sure that when you head back on the road to take a different turning, you’re taking the right road – the one that’s going to get you to where you want to be, not another dead end.

And something else to remember: dreams are journeys, not destinations. As soon as you take one tiny little step towards a dream you’re already living it. You’re already no longer lost. I came across a great post about this by Paul Angone: The big lie about your dream.

So I may feel pretty lost right now, but I’ve definitely got the energy and motivation to get moving, and becoming un-lost could just be a matter of one or two tiny little steps in the right direction. It’s all about taking a good look at the map before getting started.

Without a plan

goalplanwishThey say that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re unlikely to get there. That’s pretty much how I feel right now: lacking a plan.

Now I’m not saying  that I and all other 20-somethings need a detailed life plan to get anywhere. Not at all. But I do feel that I need at least an outline of a plan, because right now I’m a little bit stuck, and no matter how small the step, I’d like to feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

I can’t help but feel like I’m heading down the wrong path, but I’m struggling to see a different route. I want to do a u-turn; start afresh. Try something new and different. Take some risks.

But I am taking action and enlisting help, so there will be lots of planning ahead.

First new thing to try? Morning pages. That’s three pages of writing anything that comes into your head, first thing in the morning. (Great explanation of the potential benefits here: 5 reasons why you should start writing morning pages – right now!). 

This isn’t so much planning, more an attempt to clarify my thoughts so I’m able to make some kind of clear and authentic plan in the near future. It might be a long journey to create and shape a good path, but I want to be achieving goals, not just hoping for the best, and that isn’t going to happen without a plan.

The book I needed to read

So looking at my last two posts they’ve been pretty negative. Overly negative. My job situation could be a heck of a lot worse and my colleagues are nice enough really. I’m just frustrated at my current situation and feel so far away from where I want to be.

I first heard about Paul Angone’s book over at StuffGradsLike, then shortly after came across it again at Working Self. With these great reviews I thought it sounded like a pretty good read, but it exceeded my expectations.

I finished it in two sittings (would’ve got through it in one if it wasn’t so late and I wasn’t so tired when I started!). It was such a page turner and just felt so completely relevant to where I am in my life right now. Parts were genuinely funny, and others led to reflection and thinking about things in my own life. It just made me feel so much more positive, and much less alone.

secret#2101 secrets for your twenties

by Paul Angone of AllGroanUp

The great thing about this book is the balance between optimism and realism. Yes your twenties might be hard, and you’re not on your own in feeling like this, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for a mediocre life. You can follow your dreams, it just might not be within the time frame you’d like (secret #19 Our plans aren’t the problem. Our timeline is).

My personal favourite secret is #2 The possibility for greatness and embarrassment both exist in the same space. If you’re not willing to be embarrassed, you’re probably not willing to be great. I fear embarrassment, but I know it’s something that I have to overcome if I’m going to take risks and achieve anything great in my life.

There’s so much good advice packed into this book, yet it never feels like Paul is telling you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If you’re in your twenties (or even if not!) and feeling a little lost and confused, do get hold of a copy. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Overcoming the greatest fear

I’ve just finished reading a book on appreciating life, written by a man facing death.

Death is scary. It means change, loss, finality, the unknown.

But the main point the author makes is that until you face and accept your own mortality, you can never fully live.

enjoyeverysandwichLife is an adventure; death is unknown

(Enjoy every sandwich, living each day as if it were your last – by Lee Lipsenthal)

Lee says that he got to a point in his life that any day would be a good day to die. He was happy, fulfilled and peaceful, despite having terminal cancer. He clearly embraced life and got past the fear of death.

Three things I take away from his story:

  • Gratitude is the ultimate expression of hope

When we start to recognise and appreciate things – even the little things in a life that doesn’t seem to be going to plan – we begin to look for more good things and think more positively, according to Lee. His advice? Every night write down 3 things that you are grateful for that happened that day – from a good meal to a great joke, or simply a smile from a stranger. After a few weeks you’ll find yourself actively looking for things during the day to write down later. I’m going to start doing this.

  • Not everyone values science over spirituality

Lee was both scientific – he studied medicine and worked as a doctor, and spiritual – he practiced meditation and was a great believer in things greater than those we understand. I feel that too often people refuse to believe that science and spiritually can exist in harmony. For me, science is the how, spiritually is the why. Science can never explain why, just as spiritually can’t explain how. It’s refreshing to hear from someone scientifically knowledgeable, yet open to so much more than the narrow scientific view of life.

  • The ‘one-self’ – the world is a bigger place

The chapter that refers to this immediately reminded me of a post by Raimy over at Creative Guru: If I’m not who I think I am then who the hell am I? Lee talks about how the body can’t define the self due to its constant changing, and due to the fact that we are more than our component parts. He describes an exercise where you repeat the following to yourself:

I have a body, but I am not my body

I have feelings, but I am not my feelings

I have desires, but I am not my desires

I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts

I am the self, the centre of consciousness

I really struggle with this concept, but it fascinates me.

inspiration2The desire to change has to be greater than the fear of change to move forward. It’s pretty inspiring to read about someone who overcame what could be described as the greatest fear: the fear of death, the unknown.

It can be really difficult to see the bigger picture, to remember that feelings, desires and thoughts are fleeting, and to focus on the ‘one-self’, the bigger picture, but getting past fear opens up so many possibilities.

The 4 career-searching personalities

LongleatMaze_ROW2078107117_20100808

I’ve been thinking about different attitudes to building fulfilling career paths, and I’ve come up with these 4 categories:

Decided Undecided
Starter Know where they want to be and on the path to get there Don’t know but are exploring options proactively and linking interests
Settler Know but unsure how and/or unwilling to put the work in to get there Don’t know where they want to be and aren’t making an effort to work it out

The decided starter – you know the type, have known since childhood exactly what they want to be without even needing to consider other options out there, usually studying something vocational, e.g. medicine, teaching. These people can be pretty irritating. Who wants to hear from someone who has their whole life planned out and is completely content with their decision? Well actually it is kind of nice to know there are people in this world who know what they’re doing. Good for them.

The undecided starter – now you can’t be annoyed with this type, they don’t have a clue but they’re doing their best to work it out. I’d say these people are pretty inspiring, they admit they’re not perfect but they’re not just sitting back and hoping for the best, they’re out there trying things out and building a path for themselves. And this is one major way in which they differ from decided starters: they’re creating their own path, not following a predefined one.

The decided settler – this type is frustrating, they know what they want to be doing, you know they know what they want to be doing, but they’re not doing it. Why? Fear of failure, lack of encouragement, laziness? Whatever it is it’s not a good enough reason for them to settle for something that’s not on the path to what they really want. You want them to make the effort, to work at their dream, but it feels like they’ve just given up and are simply sitting back and waiting for something to fall into their lap.

The undecided settler – they don’t have a clue, and because of this you do feel for them, finding the right path for yourself isn’t easy. It’s discouraging to come across this type, they seem lost and unsure where to start. But it’s a small step to go from undecided settler to undecided starter.

I know which category I want to be in.

Starting vs settling

settlingAfter reading How to customise your life and not settle by Katie Robinson at Ask the Young Professional, a blog I’ve only recently discovered and look forward to following, I just had to share my own thoughts.

Katie makes such an important point, and one that I’d never considered before – understanding the difference between starting and settling. It’s really helped me to to think differently, and hopefully more clearly, about the idea of ‘settling’.

In past posts I’ve talked about striving and searching, rather than just settling for an ‘it pays the bills’ kind of job – but how do you define settling? And what’s the difference between starting out, doing what you have to do in order to reach your goals, and giving up on your dreams?

You have to start somewhere, whether you have very specific or only very vague goals in mind, but you still want to find a starter job that you enjoy (at least some of the time) and that’s on the right path towards your career goals.

The way I see it, you want to have links between your starter job and your future career ideas – a basic framework based on your current interests and skills that you can build on.

For me, these links are science, writing, communication and education. My job doesn’t cover any of these things in depth, but the fact that there are bits of all of them means I’ve got something to move forward from. These links also don’t cover all of my interests, but they’re a start. If I compare this to my previous part time work waitressing, which had just one very vague link to my goals – working with people, then I’m in a far better position to move forward now than I was then.

Settling is continuing in a job that you neither enjoy nor is moving you forward. Settling is not thinking about future career goals and convincing yourself that the job you have is good enough when you know it isn’t. Settling is giving up.

Starting is accepting that you have to pick something for now and give it a go. Starting is finding and creating links to your future career ideas and planning ahead. Starting is being realistic, but thinking forward.

So I’m not settling for a nine-to-five desk job that doesn’t include half the things I want in a job, I’m starting with a nine-to-five desk job that’s going to get me to future jobs that do include more of the things I want in a job.