Over a week ago, I started a 7 blog posts in 7 days challenge called the “Your Turn Challenge” hosted by Winne Kao. Winnie, who works as the Special Projects Lead for Seth Godin, was encouraged to put together this challenge after she failed at her previous attempt to post to her blog everyday for a month.
After not having posted anything here for a month, I felt that this was a good way to get back into the swing of things and joined the hundreds of other writers who also participated. As you can see by the title of this post, I almost made it through the challenge and here are 7 things I learned along the way.
When you step out to journey along a path, having others going in the same direction is definitely motivating and enjoyable. You have others to look to for inspiration, you can be helpful to others and you feel less alone.
The flip-side to this togetherness is that you still have to do your own work. After the initial excitement wore off (around day 4 for me), I was faced with the realization that I had to find the oomph within myself to keep going. It didn’t matter as much what other people were doing because I still had to sit my butt down at a computer, think of something to write and then get to typing.
When I didn’t post a new blog on day 7, I was very tempted to consider the whole thing a failure. I mean, Winnie considered posting “only” 29 out of 31 days in December a failure, so surely I should do the same with my 6 out of 7. Right? But that didn’t and doesn’t sit right with me. Sometimes failure can be a word that we use to shame ourselves and shut down any introspection around why we might not have finished what we started out saying we would do. Instead of considering this a failure and ending it there, I consider it a situation to learn from. In the end, I think I didn’t finish because I don’t really like writing on such a short timeline. I like to sit with what I write, sleep on it, come back to it and tweak it. That works for me best and doing this challenge made that clearer. To me, that is not a failure, but wonderful insight.
Like I said above, I didn’t realize how much I liked to write and sit with things a little bit longer until I did that challenge. Doing so allowed me to learn what I wanted to do more than if I had just sat and thought about it. I also was reminded that I love writing things when I have something I want to share and dislike writing things because I just have to get something out.
I also wondered if I could write a blog post every day. Being a person who likes to sit with things, I wasn’t so sure I was even capable of coming up with new things to write about on such a quick time table. Again, thinking about it didn’t help me figure it out. I just kind of assumed that I wasn’t capable. Experience proved otherwise. Even though I realized that I don’t really enjoy writing like that, it is a good feeling to know that, for the most part, I’m capable of doing it.
After day 4, I noticed some resistance coming up. Resistance can mean many things (fear, doubt, anger…), but the end result seems to be procrastination. As I resisted finishing the challenge, I noticed that my posting times got later and later in the day. I wish I could say that I was more aware of this in the moment, but in hindsight, I see it a lot more clearly. I think if I attempt another challenge, I would like to do a better job of practicing mindfulness techniques to notice when I am acting (or not acting) from resistance and see if I can tell why.
I will admit that writing every day did help get me back in the flow of writing more. I think it’s a bit like exercising a muscle. Even though I am not going to continue on with the daily posting schedule, I have noticed that I have been writing more personally. Writing every day made it easier to write every day, even if it was in a different way that I imagined.
So that’s what I learned, I hope you found it helpful or at least interesting! Leave a comment to share your thoughts on the challenge or a time when you tried to do a challenge.
And if you missed any of the other 6 posts, check them out here:
As of this writing, it’s been almost four months since I left my job without another full time one lined up. When prompted to think of a time that I surprised myself, I immediately thought of my life post job.
For much of my life, I played by the rules. I went to school, I found a job, I was nice to people, I was responsible. Basically I was the least likely to take a leap of this sort and a bit unsure whether I was making the right decision and how I would react given the sea of gray I was about to jump into, my strong preference for black and white clarity and my tendency to worry and feel anxious.
Well, four months in I realize that I’m not much clearer in terms of a direction than I was when I took the leap.
Throughout it all though, I’ve surprised myself by staying relatively calm and together as I navigate this space of multiple unknowns.
Yes, I’ve had freak out moments and crying fits, but overall I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve learned to lean into and accept a greater level of uncertainty than I’ve ever allowed myself to face before.
I’m getting the feeling that this leap may not have been about finding the “right” path in the end, but really just a chance to get more acquainted with the uncertainty of life. And as much as I still like to know and feel like I’m in control, I am beginning to get more used to living in that space where I don’t know what’s next.
Control is an illusion really. And even when we think we know what we’re doing or what’s to come or even what’s best for us, we don’t.
I’m slowly (very slowly) seeing the beauty in living a life where you follow your interests and points of growth and let go of the outcome or some well defined 10 year plan.
So if in the end, that is the main message of this time, so be it. I’m grateful that I have the clarity to see that message and fabulous inner and external support to help me along the way.
Sometimes fear can stop you right where you sit and instead of just getting started on what you say you want to do or taking additional steps towards what you’ve already started, you just do nothing.
I’ve been there and it’s a quite common place to be so don’t feel alone.
If you want to get started, but don’t know where to begin, sometimes you just have to do something. You have to shake up your energy and move things around.
Did you ever get an answer to a question you’d been stuck on by taking a walk? Or come up with the next best step while doing the dishes? Sometimes you need to do something else to get moving on what’s right in front of you and lucky for you, I have 50 ideas to get you started.
1. Put on some music and dance
2. Flip a coin
3. Ask a friend to help and gauge how you feel about their suggestion
4. Take 10 deep breaths
5. Have a good cry
6. Go for a long walk
7. Put your options in a wheel of choice and spin it
8. Do some exercise
9. Do something nice for someone else
10. Watch a funny movie
11. Write out as many things as you can think of that need to get done and choose one by random
12. Write a poem about how you’re feeling
13. Observe yourself in the third person
14. Schedule a session with a therapist or coach
16. Set a timer and do one thing
17. Play with a child or an animal
18. Remind yourself why you want to do this thing in the first place
19. Teach someone how to do something
20. Plan a reward or celebration for getting to some milestone
21. Read or watch a story of someone who did something similar to what you want to do
22. Pray or touch base with something bigger than yourself
23. Make a gratitude list
24. Put on some good music and sing along
25. Make some art
26. Do a puzzle
27. Go outside and be in nature
28 .Do a power pose
29. Watch an inspirational video
30. Join a group of like-minded people who are doing what you want to do
31. Look up at the sky
32. Ask someone for an informational interview
33. Do something fun with a friend or family member
34. Clean your surroundings
35. Get rid of 10 things that no longer serve you
36. Have a 1 minute “tantrum like a toddler” moment
37. Read an inspirational book
38. Write yourself a love note
39. Set a timed goal for the day
40. Tell other people your plans
41. Give up, surrender control
42. Do something horribly
43. Make a plan that involves other people in some way
44. Keep track of your successes
45. Make up a song about being overwhelmed and afraid
46. Do something purely relaxing
47. Verbally cheer and coach yourself along, out loud and in third person
48. Write an encouraging letter to yourself as if you were writing to a friend in your situation
49. Take one 5 minute step, any step will do
50. Sleep on it
Let me know if you try any of these or if something else works for you! Leave your thoughts in the comments!
What if the fear never went away?
What if you never felt better or more confident or braver or more sure?
What would you do?
How would you live?
What can you do?
What would it take to let go of perfection?
What would it take to move with instead of against?
What if you never felt better about fear or anything else that is bothering you?
Could you still find a way to be happy? To connect with others? To make some impact on the world around you, no matter how small?
What can you do today? What would feel the best to try?
If you didn’t know, this post is part of a series of 7 that I am doing as part of Winnie Kao’s Your Turn Challenge. Seven blog posts in seven days. Besides daily writing, the only other stipulation is that the posts be about something that shows your point of view.
Day 1 I shared a post on mindfulness and fear that was almost done before I’d even heard of the challenge. Day 2 I shared a post on how your fearful thoughts lie that I wrote the day before. Day 3 (today), I took a look at Winnie’s list of possible questions to answer and I felt a familiar tug.
The question was: “Tell us about something you think should be improved.”
Sounds like a simple enough question, but this pulled at me from a deep place because it asked me for my opinion.
For much of my life, I have avoided giving my opinion on things, especially things that can be debated or disagreed on by others.
I’ve let fear of what others think or fear of whether my opinion is “good enough” or “smart enough” or fully formed enough get the best of me.
Even though I’ve been blogging for over a year now, I still find myself often filtering out many of the thoughts and ideas that I really have.
In this moment, I’m answering the call, fear and all, and sharing my opinion on something.
So what do I think should be improved?
I think that the way that we talk (or don’t) about death and dying, at least in the West, needs a major overhaul.
We are not prompted enough to think about our mortality in a way that encourages being in the moment, appreciating life and living from a place that recognizes that tomorrow is not promised.
This leads to a deep denial and avoidance of the reality of death, end of life regrets and end of life decisions or outcomes that could have been made less difficult and heart breaking if talked about before.
Death can be terrifying. I’m not trying to downplay it nor am I acting like I’m immune to the warmth of denial.
But if thought about differently, what besides knowing, really knowing, that one day you will be gone, could make you stop and experience life more, let go of the petty shit more, set things up so that your loved ones don’t face hardship or unnecessary difficulties after you’re gone and just take time to make sure you are living the best life possible?
Given the advances that we have made in life prolonging healthcare, death and dying is often so hidden that the only time one faces, I mean really faces, the idea that death is inevitable for us all is when someone close to them has died or is dying.
So many of us only consider our mortality when someone dies and rarely before.
For something that is actually one of the very few universal facts for us all, it’s sad to me that it’s become such a fearful and taboo topic.
We pretend as though we will live forever and think that in doing so we are not hurting anyone, but living with the knowledge that you will die at some point can make each moment more precious and meaningful.
As I mentioned above, one of my fears is that my opinions are not fully formed enough.
In this case, I feel that how we talk about and deal with death and dying needs to be improved, but I don’t have a ready made answer on how to get us there.
But maybe there is no ready made answer.
Death is universal to us all, but how we approach it is likely not.
Some people might use their religion or spirituality to make sense of it, some come at it from a more pragmatic point of view. Perhaps it’s as simple as making “Mortality 101” a required class you take in school like biology or algebra, which I admit is probably not that simple.
I honestly don’t even care about the how, I’d just like to see it happening more.
I do my little part by talking about death to the people around me who are willing to discuss it, making sure that I temper my own tendency to deny the finite nature of my life, and supporting the growing movement of death aware Facebook groups, blogs, and books (Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory are good ones and both affiliate links, which just means that if you choose to buy them I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you, thanks if you do).
Do you think we talk enough about death? Too little? Too much? How have you dealt with your own mortality?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please leave a comment!