Taking the Next Step

Today I was listening to Cheryl Richardson at Hayhouseradio.com talk about doing the next step. She says that people get stuck in A to Z thinking which can be very overwhelming. Take my current path for example. I'm studying to become a therapist and eventually hope to offer therapy, spiritual counseling, and creativity coaching. I'm heading down a long road that will take many years for me to reach my destination. With A to Z thinking, I'm get absorbed in the final destination. Suddenly, the many steps in between blur into this one giant leap.

But in truth, as Cheryl reminded listeners, all we have to focus on, need to focus on, can focus on is the next step. What can you do next? I would like to focus on posting more to this site. My next step is to read more books on creativity and to thus provide more content. Another next step is for me to just finish my psychology homework. Have to pass the course don't I?

It's so easy to lose touch with what can be done right now when our sights are set on our future goal. It's almost like looking at the stars and trying to walk down the street. Have you ever tried that at night? I almost always get dizzy while looking up and walking forward - never in a straight line.

Watch where you are going, look ahead, and pay attention to your next step. You can't climb mountains by looking at them hard enough. Small steps.

Exercise

  1. Write down your goal or dream on a piece of paper
  2. Identify the next step you could do towards that goal
  3. If you aren't sure, ask someone else what they think
  4. Ask for help if you need it
  5. Get moving towards that next step

The Importance of Doing Nothing

What exactly does that mean? Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet talks about how doing nothing should be an important ingredient in your day. Do we sit there and stare at the wall? Isn't that close to meditation? The act of "doing nothing" is the paradox it seems to be. Is is the active pursuit of doing nothing that perplexes us. Let me try to explain is with a metaphor.

Our minds are so constantly filled with images, junk, lists, thoughts, ideas, complaints, self-criticisms. The list could go on forever. Doing nothing means letting all of those thoughts drop off like a spilled glass of water falling all over the table and floor. The water runs onto your lap. You bolt from the chair. You rush to clear the table. You head jerks to find the nearest towel. You pay attention to spilt water. Your thoughts are like spilt water. 

What doing nothing asks of you is for you to just sit there. You must actively stop yourself from getting up. Feel the wetness. Stop the judgement about what is getting wet, what is getting wrecked. Like water, your thoughts threaten to make a mess if they are being ignored. They demand attention. However, like water, they will seek their own level and get to room temperature if left unattended.

The other day I sloshed cold water on myself at the sink. I cannot wash dishes or rinse them off without dousing myself at least little. For about 2 minutes the ice cold water soaked the front of my sweater; the sweater taking a healthy drink of it. Yikes it was cold. It wasn't so bad, so long as my baggy sweater didn't rub up against my stomach. But when it did - wooo! Eventually the water temperature got warmer and matched my own temperature (at least a little bit). Then I was able to ignore the wetness.

We need to give our minds a rest, we need to let those rushing fluid thoughts of ours slow down and reach their level. This is actively doing nothing. We will not drown in them, they will just slow down and become still. They will become room temperature.

Exercise - Just about every meditation book on the planet will tell you this...

  1. Sit in a comfortable position
  2. Become aware of your breathing.
  3. Notice your thoughts.
  4. Let them go where they must.
  5. Do not react to your thoughts.
  6. Do nothing about them.
  7. Do this for at least 5 minutes a day.

Make Space For Your Dreams!

Dream_1Shake the dust off those dreams! Don't let them fall along the wayside. Make space for your dreams. Barbara Sher says that isolation is the dream and while it's important to have friends who support your dream, we need to make space for our dreams.

Look around your room, your apartment, or your house. Is there a junk corner? Does the kitchen counter get piled with old mail (like my kitchen table)? Is there a bookshelf that isn't getting used? Is there a filing cabinet drawer that's empty? What about the fridge?

What I want you to do is make a space for your dream. Not sure exactly what that dream is? Then make space for your interests instead. The visual reminder of a small creativity alter - yes I said alter - will keep your dreams on the surface of your thoughts or at least in the back of you mind.

Perhaps right now you are looking around your house and can't find a single space to set up a creative space or a dream alter. Then turn that junk drawer into a dream drawer. You weren't using the junk drawer for anything useful anyway. Or buy a photo box. What's important is that you have space for your dream!

Exercise

  1. Find a place to set up a dream alter, creative space, or joy nest
  2. Gather objects that remind you of your dream
  3. Add a new item or look at the items each week

This is a simple exercise that will be like planting a seed. Each day you notice the dream space, your dreams and joys will grow. It's just one step in deciding to matter!


Set Small Goals

It's very easy to get overwhelmed with the entirety of any process if we look only at the big picture all the time. Often we also feel trapped once we make a decision, feeling that if we don't like our choice(s) we must follow through anyway. One way to avoid this is to set small goals. Give yourself permission to try something for the length of a college course - usually 17 weeks. Many online courses are even shorter. Berkleemusic.com has 12 week courses, and Gotham Writer's Workshop/Courses are only 10 weeks.

 

Stop being so hard on yourself for not finishing projects. If you give yourself something small enough to finish in a reasonable time, before you know it, you'll have one small thing accomplished. It's much better than agonizing over one huge all consuming project that scares you to death.

 

Today think about one thing you could try and give yourself a time limit to complete it in. Knowing you are only trying it gives you the full option to drop it completely once you finish fully trying it.

 

You may be thinking what if I never find something I like long enough to make a career out of it? Or what if I never finish that book, or art project, or? One, you will only know if you try. And two, would you rather do one thing for the rest of your life, or have tried dozens and dozens of things? Set a small goal to try one thing and do it. You'll feel better afterward I promise!


Do you qualify?

Do you want to be an artist? a writer? a musician? a dancer? Do you consider yourself an artist, writer, musician, or dancer?

Perhaps you are active in your desired field - or perhaps you aren't. Either way do you hold yourself back from realizing the full potential of your dreams because what you are doing know doesn't qualify for what a true artist should be doing?

Ever since I started reading for enjoyment, I longed to be a writer. So, as you might imagine, I own a ton of writing books. While each book has had its good points, one of them almost destroyed my dream completely. In this book particular writing book, the author stated that unless you were willing to write 7 or 8 hours a day, then you weren't serious and you weren't a writer. No in-betweens, no few hours here or there. You were only a writer if you wrote that long every day. No skipping holidays. No cookie for you.

Can you imagine my dismay when I read this? For a long time I held onto that belief, but thankfully over the years I've found it to be entirely out of whack. While it may hold true for the author, it doesn't hold true for me. There's no set definition of a writer. You don't need to be published to be a writer. You don't need to write 500 words a day. All you need to do is write and write whenever you can.

Many people think they should have special credentials, or that they should have their work in galleries or in print to qualify as an artist. What is it you think you should be doing before you can call yourself a writer, musician, artist, etc?

Try This Exercise

1. Identify what and who you want to be.
2. List at least 10 things you think you should do in order to qualify as (fill in the blank)
3. Ask yourself if these are realistic expectations.
4. Redefine the role of the "artist" to include you!

Your dream is as unique as you are. Don't hamper it by what you think you should be. Claim the title of artist, musician, dancer, or dreamer. Nurture your unique gifts, talents, and dreams. You qualify just the way you are!


Morning Mantra

What is your morning mantra? Do you wake up knowing the day will go well? Or do you picture yourself stuck in traffic and in meetings? How do you start your day?

When you imagine a crappy day, you are sending out a mental map to the universe on how you want your day to begin. So why not change that mental projection to something positive. Try it and see what happens.

After getting up in the morning, try the following.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself "I love you".
Know that no matter what the weather is doing, you will have a good day.
If you are religious or spiritual, say out loud
"God/Universe/Spirit/Divine please help me have a great day today."
Train yourself to think the following: The universe (or your chosen
higher power) is bringing to me my greatest good. From me flows my
greatest good.

Pay attention to your morning routine, your morning mantra. Try these few things each morning and see how it changes your life. I'll be adding them to my life and will let you know what happens.


Make a Plan

Are there a million and one things you'd like to do? I have so many interests and often wish to pursue them all right this moment. Of course that isn't possible to do everything at once. Often times we think that if it isn't done now, it will never happen. That's not the case.

Barbara Sher says (in one of her books) to make a plan. For those of us who like to do a million things, she's defined us as being scanners. Check out her website at www.barbarasher.com or www.geniuspress.com to learn more.

The reason I'm bringing her up is because I'd like to discuss a technique of hers. She says that when you feel you cannot do everything you want to do, you should make a life plan. Realistically most of have at least 20+ years even after retirement. Given that I'm 27, I likely have 50 more years.

That said, make out a life plan. Say you wanted to write a book, become a composer, and become an illustrator. Would it be so hard to spend the next 2 years writing a book, then next 4 years studying music, and then the next 4 years working on art? That leaves me with 40 years to do whatever I want! Or you could do it differently. The first quarter of the year you work on art, the second quarter music, the third a book, and the fourth you relax. It's all up to you.

It's more than likely you have plenty of time to live the life you love. If you have trouble choosing just one thing, don't worry, just plan it out!

Exercise

Write out all the things you'd like to do.
Next, make a 1 year plan.
Then, make a 5 year plan.
Then, make a 10 year plan.

This is supposed to be a fun thing to do. This isn't like when you are being interviewed and you are asked in front of a panel of people "where do you see yourself in five years". Your life should be fun and your plan should include fun, too!

Make a plan, relax, and start living it!


Be Your Message

What is your life about? What are you trying to do? Did you know that once you decide, that's just the beginning? You must practice what you preach and be your message.

Today, find one thing that you wish to do more of and practice practice practice.

By being your message, you will no fall into hypocrisy. By being your message, you will be humbled by your actions because you will see that deciding to matter takes work.

Over the next few days I'm going to truly define what it means to matter. Yes, I've been trying to do that all along, but this time I will put more structure to it. Define the path a bit more and perhaps write a book.

I'll end with a quote I got from Brian at ThinkArete:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

                   
  ~ Mark Twain, 19th century US author and humorist  

Go Outside

You heard me. Stop reading this, get off your computer, and go outside. Do you remember what it was like to play outside as a child? Did you marvel at the caterpillar climbing the tree or run screaming from the spider that landed on you when you walked through that web?

Ah, I remember the daddy longlegs "incident" from when I was about 9. This huge daddy longlegs spider crawled up my leg. I screamed until it reached my stomach. Then I froze wide eyed as it made it's way up my torso. I think mom came to the rescue. Now, as an adult, I do my best to save spiders from the sink if they fall in. And I usually move bugs outside instead of squishing them. Dead bugs gross me out more than live ones. But I digress.

Did you lay in the grass and point out animal shapes in the clouds? Did you climb trees? Did you make forts? What did you do outside for fun? Can you do any of it now?

Most of us work indoors and spend all of our time in doors. The only outside experience I get it walking from my building to my car to my apartment to my car to my building to my .... You get the idea.

When was the last time you were outside?


Focus On What You Love

I've been reading Sonia Choquette's latest book, Trust Your Vibes. She talks a lot about our minds being like radio transmitters and receivers. I believe that's a fantastic analogy. When you focus on what you love, you send signals out to the universe. Your transmit a lighter attitude and you will become a joy to be around. Then, you will become just as receptive to the positive signals that will come back into your life.

On the contrary, we all know people who focus on what they do not love. These people are often very cranky and live in their own private hell. If you have the patience to listen to them, they will tell you how nothing works in their lives. They completely overlook anything good that passes their way.

As I've stated before, I believe that we create the universe we wish to see and experience. If you aren't sure what direction your life should go, focus on what you love. Let your heart be the compass and see where it takes you.

Exercise

Today, think back on something you loved doing as a child. Do you still love doing that today? What about it did you love?

Write down it down and make an effort this week to incorporate some part of what you loved back into your life.