Tag Archives: Motivation

Regrets? Stop it.

This certainty that if you could, you would magically transport yourself back to the moment you made the decision you question today. You would be different than you were.

You think that somehow, you are capable of willingly doing something horrible.

But really, the feeling of regret is not an indication that you’ve done something wrong. You feel pain because you can’t accept that at the time, you did exactly what was best for everyone involved.

Regret means you’re ready to be forgiven. It is a call to forgive yourself in this very moment.

No matter what your belief system, you are always doing the thing you think will help you feel better than you currently feel. Either that, or you are testing the waters of unhappiness, discovering whether or not they are bearable, and if happiness is really worth the effort. Even then, though, you are weighing discomfort of unhappiness against the discomfort of effort, deciding which one will make you feel better.

Fake cliché story I will invent now:

You’ve been cheated on. Do you trash his car, or do you move on, and “be the better person”? Which one will make you happier? Which one will feel better? For some people, the answer is clear. For others, it isn’t. Maybe both seem equally satisfying. Maybe both options feel terrible.

Maybe you think you probably shouldn’t destroy his car because you might feel a little guilty later, but maybe the ecstasy of payback will drown it out. So, you trash it. It turns out it was his sweet old mother’s car, which she had spent her life’s savings on. You feel terrible. Birth of regret.

You find out the cheating story was a rumour. Worse.

Or maybe it was his car, and he did cheat on you, but you feel so much worse than you thought. It wasn’t worth it. Birth of regret.

In any of these cases, your knowledge of what it meant to feel guilty was not clear enough to motivate a decision you wouldn’t regret. 

How do we know what a “good” decision is, without knowing what a “bad” one feels like? Stories aren’t enough. We learn through experience. What does a “bad” decision mean, if it is, itself, necessary for “good” ones to exist?

Who you were is not a story, a decision, or the product of an outcome. Who you were, are, and will be is always a moment. The present. Regret is self-punishment, but the one you are punishing is the person you are NOW, not who you were then. You are punishing the person who has grown, evolved, become greater. Doesn’t seem very fair, does it?

Regret is an opportunity to accept that you did the best you could then, just as you are doing now. And we all know that we are who we are partly because of our mistakes, aches and pains. You needed (and wanted) the lesson in exactly the way you got it–and if you are feeling regret, then you did get it.

Forgiveness is practice for the next time you mess up.

It’s a penny in the bank.

It’s betting on the process of life. Which, by the way, is the only way to feel peace.

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Create Sacred Space Around Every Moment

When I’m getting anxious about something I have to do (and should do, like, probably NOW), but I don’t want to do it… I just get real with myself that I’m not going to.

Let’s say it’s 2:15pm and I’ve got to weed the garden, but I’m really comfortable and I don’t want to move. My thoughts go wild, I make excuses, and I resent whomever I decide to blame that day.

Weeellll… I’m starting to get into the habit of telling myself: “It’s okay. Take the next 5 minutes to just lay here. Don’t worry about anything. Just sit still, let yourself fall into oblivion. Don’t feel guilty about anything–it’ll be over sooner than you think. No one is going to wonder where you are or what you’re doing. You’re safe right now. In 5 minutes, see how you feel, and make another decision then.”

Feel the quiet of those 5 minutes. How much you can actually savour each second if you try. How slowly a minute goes by, and how healing it can be when it is yours, and yours only.

It’s also helpful to pinpoint who you are trying to please in forcing yourself to take action. Are you doing it for yourself or for someone else? If it’s for someone else, are you attaching any of your (inherent) worthiness to the task’s completion? Bad, bad. Don’t do that! If it’s for yourself, are you riding yourself too hard? Is your intuition trying to steer you in a different direction? Or do you just need to watch an episode of The New Girl (love) and you’ll be good to go?

We spend so much of our time worrying about and dreading what we have to do that it just ends up wasted. You get nothing done, and you feel like crap.

I say:

It’s okay to procrastinate, but at least let yourself rejuvenate during that time. When you’re ready, take a moment to clarify your motives and, if needed, alter your direction.

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What I Learned From Selling Everything I Own

I frequently have these “ah-hah!” moments, usually thanks to quotes, movies, blogs or photographs, during which I feel this lightness and it’s as though I’m expanding and everything makes sense. Although I believe that probably some fundamental shifts happen at an unconscious level during these moments regardless of what follows, the clarity and excitement usually dissipate.

There’s a powerful thought that reliably brings me back that clarity, though. It reminds me over and over to keep adjusting my path as I’m walking it. It’s this: I am already whole. The idea that I do not have to become anyone, that I should only embrace the path I’m on and expand from there, is incredibly inspiring to me. It even inspired me to sell almost everything I owned so I could “live in the now,” and “not focus on the past,” and all that stuff, though ironically, selling my past has given me a deeper appreciation of it.

Perfection doesn’t exist

To an almost hopeless perfectionist, finding out you are already complete is absolutely wonderful news. Many people experience perfectionism as immobilization; there are always too many things to do to achieve perfection–it’s exhausting even to think about. But it doesn’t surprise me that we’ve grown up with this mindset, given the language we were and are surrounded by. First of all, we are shown that “perfect” does exist: 100%, A+, whatever. That’s what we are told to strive for, and we do.

So when we learn that perfect can’t be achieved, because perfect does not exist, what happens? Well, to a little girl who is showered with praise from family and awards from teachers for her excellent scholastic achievements and who falls out of love with the school system, it feels like the world falls out of love with her.

Also, we are told that we have to become someone. We go to school to learn skills that cost tens of thousands of dollars, because “McDonald’s is hiring” and be careful because that’s where we’ll end up if we don’t work ourselves sick to get the piece of paper that proves that we know what happens on Odysseus’ travels and which qualifies us to do more than flip burgers, which we should be embarrassed to ever have to do because it means that we are either stupid or lazy or both. (By the way, I’d love for someone to teach me how to flip a burger because that shit doesn’t come naturally and I can’t do it. And by the way again, I don’t remember what happens in The Odyssey, so I don’t know where that leaves me.)

N.B. There’s nothing wrong with working at a food joint. I’d never work at McDonald’s, but only because it’s poisoning us and the environment and seriously, screw them.

Anyway, I didn’t get a master’s degree like my friends did, which also meant that I had stopped becoming anything. I was unhappy and felt completely inauthentic. I wanted to start from scratch, and I wanted to find truth. I thought that this meant completely renouncing my past; after all, my past had led me here, right? I wanted to travel. I wanted to get rid of my belongings. I wanted new friends. I wanted to scream at anyone who tried to reel me back in. I was angry, but mostly sad.

I wanted to restart, but I was scared, so I did so slowly, without really realizing it. I moved to another province for a couple years. I left my stuff with my parents, and discovered that I didn’t need any of it. Future: 1, Past: 0. I got a job in my field, psychology, but it was boring and mindless, so I quit. I got a job at a grocery store because I was tired of PhDs controlling me. It got old, so I quit. I got a job at an office in a final attempt at using whatever skills I had already, and I hated it. All of this gave me the courage to really put my past-clearing theory to the test. I quit that job, spent a month selling all of my belongings, terminated my lease, hopped on a bus and crashed at my very generous sister’s apartment until further notice. This is where I am currently.

Shedding baggage makes you feel lighter

I still have some papers to get rid of, but I can’t tell you how liberating that leap was. Some days, while I was still working, I was ready to give in to the office life. I told myself it wouldn’t be that bad, and my coworkers are nice people to be around. Those were the days, I realize now, that were the most dangerous–the days my soul was closest to its death.

I experienced a lot of grief while I was getting rid of my stuff. I found it annoying because I didn’t understand it and it was getting in the way. But I didn’t dismiss it entirely; I went through everything slowly, keeping the stuff that I absolutely could not part with: some photographs, the doll my late grandmother gave me, stuff like that. I really didn’t want to keep them, though. Even keeping my identification pissed me off. I wanted to be like Christopher McCandless (yeah, the dude who died in the wild), but something about these objects made me happy, and I figured I could always get rid of them later.

Embrace and expand your past

Not too long ago, I was looking through my sister’s old photo albums. I hadn’t done that in so long and it made me so happy, yet I had been so annoyed with my decision to keep my own old photographs and dolls. These pictures were evidence of my childhood, of the care my parents took of me, of the true friendships I had even as a child, of how happy I was. The very existence of my sister’s photos of me is evidence that she cares enough about me to want to remember me. I remembered how I had been almost ready to throw all of mine away, and I started crying.

I’d always been so incredibly confused about why anyone would want to hold on to things–doesn’t it make them feel tied down? Stuck? Miserable? I think I’ve learned something valuable. Today, I’m glad that I was so scrupulous in deciding of what to renounce ownership. Though I’m happier now with much less baggage, I’m also happy that I still have a few things that remind me of wonderful moments in my past.

As someone who struggles with depression, I tend to remember bad events much more easily than I remember the good ones. In fact, I remember my entire undergraduate experience as generally being a terrible one–so terrible that I don’t remember most of it, because I’ve tried so hard to forget it. But when I remember that I met some of my best friends in university, I know that my memory is inaccurate. There were definitely many difficult learning experiences, but it wasn’t all bad. And whether it’s photographs, tattoos, jewelry, or yearly get-togethers, I need reminders of the beautiful things that have happened to me. Also, I’m discovering that what made me happy as a child is what makes me happy now.

There’s a limit, though. Visit the past to help you move confidently into the future, but don’t stay there. Keep only what helps you move forward.

Authenticity is your only career option

And so, here I am. These past few months have been so incredibly difficult. I’ve gone from feeling on top of the world to feeling like the most useless pile of crap, and back again. And again. I know that I really want to contribute to society, something I’m not doing very much of right now, but I’m also very selfish–what I find most difficult is doing something I don’t want to do. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m convinced that it’s due to all those years in school trying so hard to be a good student; I’m burnt out–permanently.

I’ve lost all interest in becoming anything or anyone, but staying true to myself is my biggest battle right now. Everyone wants something of you. I value service, so I often get swept up into fulfilling someone else’s wishes, which inevitably ends in a burn-out.

So, I guess it makes sense that something clicks when I hear stuff like “embrace the path you were born on” and “you are already whole.” If someone else finds wisdom in this, maybe I’m not wrong! Next, I’ll have to find the intersection of who I am, and what people value.

If I’m honest with myself, I think I would be almost perfectly happy dancing around all day, taking photographs, doing yoga, faking spanish accents and playing with puppies–the only thing missing would be my contribution. But no one is going to give me a gold star. A couple years ago, that would have made me cry, but I think I’m okay with it now. Although I’m not terribly frightened of living a “homeless” life, it’s truly not ideal, so I’ve got to support myself if I want to be part of this system; however, the skills I want to get paid for aren’t up to market needs. If you’re in my position, learning of some sort (taking value) is probably in your future, which means you’ll have to compromise (provide non-ideal value) for a while.

I’m not talking about selling your soul. I’m talking about finding a way to satisfy your survival needs while you get busy remembering the path you were born onto, embracing it, and allowing yourself to expand until people will pay to learn or buy from you. Or not. If no one ever pays you, it’s still better than any alternative; there is no substitute for authenticity.

This is my next step: I’ll be working part-time for four months on a farm in exchange for room and board. Sort of like WWOOFing, I guess. For four months, my survival needs will be covered. I like multitasking, so I love the idea that I’ll be learning about farming (an interest) while working (providing value) on one. Also, since it’s only part-time, I can either get another part-time job for some extra cash, or spend time on my other interests. This farm also happens to be near my parents, which I like, so this set-up is perfect for me.

There is a perfect set-up for you, too. Try thinking about whose dirty work you wouldn’t mind doing, and then see what they can offer you for it. Again, it’s not permanent, and it gives you the time to build the skills you want to get paid for. Consider picking a company you admire and that has high turnover positions. A few places that come to mind are health food stores, maybe coffee shops, local book stores–clerk jobs. Personally, as long as the managers are good people, I normally don’t mind these types of jobs because I like being around people.

If you spend time learning who you are, loving who you are, learning what you love to do and how to do it well, you’ll eventually become an expert. Experts can be professionals, and professionals get paid.

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Write It Down and Throw It Out

I’ve always made lists. I have notebooks everywhere and I still find notes in my apartment detailing what I wanted for my 5th birthday. Even though I want to, I really don’t have the time to read them all and laugh at my spelling mistakes before throwing them out.

I recently did an enormous winter spring cleaning, and every time I had to throw something out using the logic that “I haven’t read (or used) this in years–I’ll survive,” I would cringe. What if that piece of paper inspired a short story or comedy sketch? A song? What if I’ve forgotten to write back to my friend overseas 3 years ago and that paper reminded me to apologize?

In my quest to realize my passion, I find my compulsive scribbling, which hasn’t since subsided, both helpful and hindering. Lately, I not only find myself tempted to explore what I used to enjoy when I was younger (“I used to love basketball–maybe that’s in my future!”), but also what I haven’t even come close to trying (“I could become a skydiving instructor!”). And you can bet that this all ends up on paper and that I won’t find it again for 10 years, at which point I’ll throw it out because I’m 5’3″ and terrified of heights.

Writing down my thoughts is helpful because paper sort of serves as a pensieve (Harry Potter reference) for me. If it’s on paper, I don’t have to think about it all the time, but I can technically come back to it whenever I want.

However, writing it all down is hindering because if I don’t let go of those thoughts consciously, I subconsciously tell myself that I should come back to them later. Even though letting go of the ideas has lightened the load, the guilt that sets in from not following through with them weighs much more.

Sometimes you have to write things down, because some stuff sucks but needs to get done. For example, if I didn’t put reminders everywhere to do the laundry on laundry day, it simply wouldn’t get done. I value cleanliness, so wearing dirty clothes (for too long…) erodes my self-esteem. (N.B. No reminders needed for credit card payments. I’ve automated that shit. It’s amazing.)

If you’re a compulsive scribbler like I am and you find yourself overwhelmed by your own ideas, consider this: write them down, and then throw them out. If that scares you too much, try writing them down and tucking them away.

There are a few reasons I find this helpful.

Practically, it is impossible to follow through with everything. If someone knows how to become both a NASA researcher and a famous actress within the next ten years, talk to me, please. In the meantime, I’ll assume that it’s one or the other. I’m realizing, though, that I’ve never really had to choose my path. I’m following it, whether I like it or not. If I want something, I take it. If I want something but I fear it, one of two things happens. One: I face my fear and I take it. Two: I ignore my fear, convince myself I never really wanted it, and then I can’t stop thinking about it. The universe finds ways to nag me about what I truly want, whether I’ve told it to shut up or not.

Also, I find that in throwing away all of my ideas, I’m forced to trust my decisions, which means having to think about them thoroughly; a piece of paper isn’t there to tell me what I need to do–I need to dig deeper, and find inner validation for my next action. Either I find it, corresponding to a positive gut feeling, or I don’t, which corresponds to a negative gut feeling. If I don’t find this validation before beginning to take action, the negative emotions pop up later anyway and block me from achieving what I set out to do.

I also find that without my list-ly safety net, I begin to trust that I have an abundance of ideas, and an abundance mindset is always the way to go. I don’t need to “capture” every idea–I know I’ll always have more.

Finally, I’m on this “embracing your path and your wholeness” kick. It might have been this article by Jonathan Mead that got me thinking, but it might have been a different one. In any case, this one’s good. The idea is that there is nothing “out there” that you have to add to yourself to make you your best self; all you can do is realize who you already are, and expand. And whether you write it down or not, “who you are” will keep popping up.

I’ll be honest: I’m still getting used to this. I tend to write e-mails to myself (save the trees), and I put them all into a folder. Sometimes I leave one in my inbox because whenever I re-read it, it genuinely inspires me to take action.

But for the most part, it’s helped me immensely (as well as saved me so much time and confusion!) to listen to my heart and not my post-its.

Thank you for reading, everyone, and for your lovely comments!

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Let Your Body Determine Your Schedule

Do you create schedules that, once followed, make you feel exhausted, unfulfilled or lazy?

This was my pattern for quite a while:

I have so many interests that I often become overwhelmed. I want to make sure that I have time to do everything I love, so I create a tight schedule that includes it all and ensures that I’m working towards all of my long-term goals. I give myself tasks for the morning, an hour for lunch, time for “fun” activities, rest, enough sleep, and even periods for thought and doing nothing. It’s the high school model, and I did well then, so it should work now, right?

Wrong. I did well in school, but in school I was a sheep. I’ve grown so much since then, so do I really want to go back to that rule-abiding mindset? Whether they’re my own or the school board’s, these rules are imposed with too much thought given to “should,” and not enough to “want” or “need.” I feel like hiking when I should be writing, sleeping when I should be playing. Life becomes very stiff and does not encourage free will and thought, which is what helps you adapt to inevitable change, whether external or internal. And inevitably, I become unhappy.

I rebel against my inner dictator, and I identify with my inner hippie. I do whatever I want, whenever I want with a view to reconnecting with my true desires. I watch movies and eat all day and live off of my savings. I sleep in–after all, if I sleep until 3pm, it’s because my body needs and wants it, right? I have a lot of time to think about my dreams but I become sad when I don’t spend enough time making any real plans or taking any real steps–my dreams seem unattainable and I start to believe it.

I go back to my original activity-stuffing tactic, because I no longer trust myself.

Is it possible to listen to your body, like in schedule #2, but get shit done, like in schedule #1, and actually be happy, like in dream land?

I think so. I believe that what these schedules lack is self-knowledge; my interests and goals are the building blocks of my day, but knowledge of my own psychological and physiological patterns is critical for establishing a productive schedule.

For example, through trial and error, I’ve discovered that I feel most productive, whether I follow through on any plans or not, when I get up early; with so much waking time, I end up doing something. Then, perhaps early rising is a worthwhile habit to develop. I know that to feel good when I get up early, I have to get enough sleep. I know that when I eat a hearty breakfast, my appetite is regulated for the rest of the day.

I know that I feel good when I have a regular workout schedule. I haven’t figured this out completely yet, but I won’t beat myself up about it–what’s important is that I realize that exercise is crucial to my self-esteem, and I’m working to find a comfortable place for it in my life.

I know that sometimes, when I start writing as soon as I wake up, a sense of accomplishment pervades my day; perhaps I could try incorporating early writing into my daily or weekly schedule.

I know that at night, before bed, I like to think about my plans for tomorrow. When I wake up, I like knowing exactly what my plans are for the day; this way, I don’t waste my precious energy figuring out what to do and whether it is worthwhile–I just go. So, perhaps before bedtime I should create a “thinking time” block, during which I can allow my thoughts to wander into wider, even spiritual, territory, I can reevaluate my goals and purpose and set exciting tasks for the next day.

It’s important not to become disheartened when your scheduling doesn’t work, because each failure is a learning experience, and each new piece of knowledge brings you closer to success. The faster you get up and try again, the faster you get that next failure out of the way. 🙂

Finally, if you find that a regular, long-term schedule works well for you, hooray. However, if you undergo and enjoy constant change as I do, you must realize that once you’ve established the perfect schedule, you might need a completely new one. Therefore, what is most important is developing the ability to know when you’ve changed, and to adapt not only to external circumstances but also to internal ones.

Your plans should motivate you–they should be less of a to-do list, and more of a reminder of what makes you feel and radiate love. Your life should be a challenging but scenic canoe trip, not a steep, frightening mountain climb (unless you like that sort of thing) or endless channel surfing (please, just shut it off).

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