A comment on a new and ongoing review of living.
In recent months, like many others, I’ve taken the time to reconsider where I am in life and what I’m doing. Primarily this has been using evaluation approach from the workplace – what’s gone well, what’s not gone so well and what can be learned from this.
I found out that some of the things I was doing and accepting I really shouldn’t have been – that I had fallen into a state known as waking sleep. Essentially a lot of my life was happening on auto pilot. Many of the things I used to do by default were no longer happening.
I wasn’t questioning what I was doing, I had no engagement with my feelings. A lot of what I was doing was to ignore where I was and instead constantly look to escape it. I was often somewhere without really showing up – a lot of what I was doing was basically going through the paces and doing learned behaviours. Even things which required consideration were basically being achieved through techniques and knowledge I could do automatically – without real consideration or questioning.
So, starting after a return from a holiday, I took it upon myself to attempt to find out why I wasn’t feeling ‘me’ (or indeed feeling much at all).
One of the simplest lessons I’ve learned – and one I’ll come back to again, no doubt, is that act and art of being present. If you can be aware of what you are doing and feeling right now – without constantly reviewing the past or planning for the future then you immediately start to feel better.
I suspect this is part of why ‘experience’ gifts work so well – once you engage with the experience you are invariably present during the experience. Whether this is because you know a friend invested in the gift, because it is new and you therefore need to focus to ensure you do it right or for other reasons I’m not entirely sure. However being where you are in the current time massively changes how you feel. For one – you’ll actually check in with what you’re doing. Whether you consciously meditate, pause between tasks, go for a walk in nature or simply allow your mind to wander during a tea break – I find I get a greater sense of how I am.
Being also tends to level concerns a lot. Now, this isn’t to be confused of the problems coming with time on your hands. I have an amazing luxury in my life – the last time I remember actually being bored is before I did higher education. Since then I am never bored – there is always something interesting I could be doing. My issue is motivation to do those things. And the biggest blocker of motivation – the mental to do list. Worrying I’ve a lot to do is the best way to end up doing nothing. My current target to avoid this is to capture all my tasks in electronic form and to prioritise and plan (or park) each of the projects. This is something I’m working on and will come back to later – but I’m certain that getting the tasks into some tool for managing them makes me feel better and makes it more likely things start to happen.
My most recent learning is to identify the building blocks to being able to produce. In the same context as Mr Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – it’s more difficult to do the higher level things we need to achieve if the core parts to living are not met. So, to this end I’m spending time to create a core foundation that gives me a structure off which I can launch my creative and productive tasks – eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, spend time with my feelings (both sensations and emotions) and engage with others. These are all ongoing – and at different places on their journeys. However the one I’m finding hardest to get right is sleep. Until now I’d not been very patient with my need to rest. I suspect this is probably one of the leading reasons which led to a feeling of burnout I’m now in recovery from.
We’ve all had elders warn us of the dangers of burning the candle at both ends. From late teens through a decade or two we realise the short term problems this creates – and learn to correct from those wonderful parties we attend or the impact of getting up early to watch a sunrise. What I think few warn us about is the impact of long term poor sleep care. My cautionary message is this; look after your sleep more than you think you need to. If you’re a ‘night owl’ like me and feel that sometimes working into the am hours to complete something is normal or that regularly getting less than your preferred amount of sleep is something you can cope with – you’re most likely wrong. What will most likely happen is that you build coping mechanisms for this, which allow you to do it over time, with short term fixes or approaches to keep going. You’ll also feel that you’re adapting and managing to function just as well. You aren’t – this is your brain being helpful tom enable you to keep going. The truth is – as with poor diet insufficient (or incorrect) sleep will reduce your effective ness.
One day it will catch up with you and the problem then is – there is no longer an easy fix.
I’ve been doing a lot of things to rebuild myself as an effective person – learning about how to self-care properly, identifying what I want to do with the coming months, spotting things which aren’t helpful to me and being honest about what I can (and can’t) achieve. The entire process has been enlightening – with a key thing being to learn how to be more honest and inquisitive about me. Learning to consider me (as a whole) when deciding what to do has been especially eye-opening and rewarding as has identifying that I have a better memory than I thought.
I’m planning to document some of this process in this blog going forwards. If for no other reason than to capture my journey as a record for myself. But if it helps anyone else along the way then that will only be a good thing.
Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line with your thoughts or comments.
Take care of you, and don’t forget to ‘be’.
Emerging from fog.
The journey I’ve been going on feels a lot like I’m emerging from a fog that had slowly crept up on me. While I realised something wasn’t quite right the time over which the fog enveloped me meant I never really established that I was no longer able to spot that I couldn’t see clearly.
I was once interviewed about the social network Exposure Leeds – which I founded. During this I described my approach as having mist-bound destinations on the horizon. That this mist came to cover my entire mental world is something I will definitely work hard to avoid. A lack of clarity at the edges is acceptable – but living with no direction or idea of territory or the journey you’re on isn’t really living for me.
One of my tasks is to put in place a test for myself which helps to identify when the mist again starts to encroach.
This image reflects on the fact that I definitely lost sight of myself while in the fog.