Let’s Talk about…

One of the things that I never included on my “to do” list when I was getting ready for early retirement were strategies to manage my “mental health”. I had a long list for all of the ways that I was going to improve my physical health once I had all of the time I envisioned that I would have once I left the full time work world.

Recently, I reviewed that “to do” list, which essentially was a wish list, and realized that I had somehow inadvertently believed that once I left full time work, my life would instantly improve. On an emotional level that is. And of course, whenever we engage in magical thinking, we are avoiding the hard work that is required to make a life change of any sort.

Transitions, really any life changing experience, will tax the best tools that we may have in our resilience tool kits. And resilience is about having positive mental health. I am now realizing how critical it is to think about all parts of being healthy from a holistic perspective.

And to talk about all of the many ways we are experiencing the ups and the downs in our lives. Or to write about them. The stigma that surrounds mental health may prevent us from reaching out to connect with others, or to seek out needed supports. It seems fitting to reflect on our mental health today.

January 29th has become an annual date for Canadians to engage in dialogue and conversation about mental health. Bell Canada, along with numerous national partners, has created a social media phenomenon to help reduce stigma about mental health. And to provide resources and funding for community based programs across Canada to enhance our mental health. Check it out at https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

Take care of all aspects of yourself. And talk, think, read about mental health. Work to reduce stigma about mental health. Really, it is such an important and kind thing to do for ourselves and others. We have the ability to cultivate happiness in our lives and to create more opportunities for the aspects of our lives that help us thrive and reach whatever goals we aspire to. Happy Wednesday!

Flipping Fears

For the past two days, I have been wrestling with a number of seemingly random negative and fear inducing thoughts. One of my goals for this year has been to submit short pieces of my writing to various publications. My strategy was to create a spreadsheet to document all of the submissions and the subsequent rejections that I anticipate I will receive. My goal was to strive for as many rejections as possible.

Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it?

But, it would mean that I am writing, and even more importantly, I am putting aside all of the fear that seems to co-exist with this vocational pursuit. At the time I created this goal and decided that I was going to send these pieces of creative work out into the world, it seemed innocuous. Really what is the big deal? All writers are subject to rejection, criticism, dismissive editors, and long waits before one may hear anything back from the publication they submitted their work to. Right?

Most writers know that this process is about moving forward, learning the craft, recognizing that the work may not be a good fit for a publication at that particular time but may in fact, fit somewhere else. And truthfully, how would anyone aside from you ever know whether or not you submitted something.

So with all of this knowledge firmly ensconced in my mind, as I began preparing to send something out for the very first time, I found myself in a strange twilight zone filled with fear. It was like an out of control hamster on a wheel was flinging chaotic thoughts around my head. I must have talked myself out of this submission process a hundred times.

Enough. I have taught others how to build resilience skills so why couldn’t I do the same for myself? I started by writing out some of the thoughts that had taking up a lot of real estate in my mind. They ranged from self-criticism to self-disgust to self-shaming and looked a bit like this:

Why even bother – this is an exercise in futility – there is no way I am as competent as other writers? I can’t even format these documents properly so why would an editor even bother to look at what I have written? How can you write a bio if you have never published anything? And really who sets a goal to to count all of the rejections they receive as a writer?

And so on…these horrible thoughts continually popped across my thought screen, and even occurred while I was sleeping, so yesterday I decided that was enough.

Time to flip these fears and really look at what the downside to not submitting my writing might be. At the end of this exercise, I realized that I would be left with paralyzing regret if I didn’t start somewhere. I would be missing out on all of the learning moments from the process and if I keep at this, eventually I may end up with a notation other than a rejection to enter into my spreadsheet.

So I flipped my fear around, and have just sent my first piece of work out. Regardless of what happens with this, I am in the process of reinventing my life and recognize that small steps will move me closer to where I want to go. And if I want to pursue writing as a craft, I will need to challenge those negative thoughts and keep moving forward.

What about you? How do you flip your fears and move forward in spite of all of the thoughts that may fill your mind with negativity and prevent you from doing what you really wish to do?

How do you know when it’s time to make a change in your life?

They always say time changes things but you actually have to change them yourself

Andy Warhol

Most of us experience fleeting moments where we wish that entire aspects of our lives were different. These thoughts often send us off into fantastical daydreams that may not seem grounded in reality. Sometimes these moments are inspiring and we envision making momentous changes that seemingly would alter our experience in the best possible way.

Perhaps we dream that we could do this without even having to put in all of the hard work involved in transformation and reinvention. Or without having the skills required to master a new pathway in our journey. Or maybe you have put in the hard work and acquired the requisite skills but still remain stuck in some way.

Other times we engage in negative and anxiety provoking visions of the worst possible scenarios that might occur if we did actually make any changes in our lives. We may know that negative thoughts might be holding us back but sometimes our tendency to ruminate keeps us stuck. Stopping negative thinking or simply choosing more positive thoughts are often not helpful when we truly desire making changes in our lives.

But what this type of thinking does do for us, is to signal to us that some aspect of our lives may need to change. When our thoughts are calling for us to pay attention, what do we do next? Engaging in reflection is critical for our resilience and well-being. Spending time to ponder what is working or not working in our lives can be powerful and may motivate a change that is needed. Taking stock by pondering questions allows us to cast our net as narrow or as wide as we feel comfortable with.

Some possible questions to consider when you can’t stop thinking about the need for change in your life:

How would growth opportunities make a difference for us, actually make our lives improve?

What is it that we truly wish to spend our time on?

What investments of time and effort are we realistically willing to devote your energy to?

How can we intentionally stretch ourselves?

Are we running away from some aspect of our life?

Or are we moving towards something that will have a profound impact on what we are going forward with in the future?

What holds us back from pursuing change? Fear? Lack of Support? Resources?

The process of guided reflection can be a helpful tool. These are some of the questions that I considered before I embarked on creating major changes in my life. How would you know that it is time to make some type of change in your life? What types of questions would you ask? I would appreciate hearing how your change or reinvention journey may have begun. Happy Wednesday!

What if everything that could go wrong does…?

Have you ever had a day that seems to be precisely what Murphy’s Law was all about? Where all of your plans and goals for the day no longer make any sense. And you end up moving from problem to problem before you can even consider solutions. Today seems to be that type of day.

More construction on our street has led to major disruption and has lasted for more than one day. We are unable to park close to our own home and now we have wickedly cold weather, high winds, and blowing snow. Who knows if the car will even start and certainly will require some shovelling out.

The noise of the heavy duty machinery being used is off the charts. Aside from rendering concentration to write virtually impossible, my terrified cat is desperately trying to find the ultimate spot to hide from all of this. However, everywhere she goes, the noise does not subside so she is constantly seeking me out and I have tripped over her many times.

No bruises yet for either myself or the cat!

Vibrations from the trench being dug across from our home seemed to have caused little screws in my office bookcase to work their way loose. Amid the cacophony of construction from outside, we heard a tremendous crash that came from inside of the house. Bounding up the stairs to see what happened, I was dismayed to find books cascading all across the floor. The book case had fallen apart and didn’t appear salvageable.

Apparently the fix will require a special type of screw so with books now stacked all over the floor of my office, I am trying to pretend this atmosphere is serene enough to write in. Once I finally achieve a sense of calm, it is quickly interrupted and followed by loud noise from the earth diggers outside. This is accompanied by an eerie shaking throughout our older house that worries me. Dust I didn’t know was even here has been loosened and lightly covers floors and furnishings.

Now there is a water problem. I am sure we could have predicted that one. It is unclear how many more days of this we have to get through but after trying to find escape by watching television, it seems that all of our problems are minuscule compared to what is happening in so many parts of our world.

A good reminder about the importance of putting life’s challenges in perspective. Happy Wednesday!

Pathways to Possibilities

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human spirit.”

Bernard Edmonds

As we celebrate this January 1st, of 2020, we have the opportunity in front of us to explore the promise and possibilities in our lives. The path to reinvention begins with a blank canvas and allows all of us a chance to create our own next steps.

Just think. It will be another ten years before we have a new day, of a new year in a new decade. As I consider this, the following questions are bubbling to the surface as I explore the pathways and possibilities of what I want my future life to look like.

What shape and form will your life take over the next decade?

What changes in your life are calling you?

Do you focus attention on thoughts and ideas that you may have placed on a shelf?

Perhaps this is the year to bring them to fruition.

Is this the decade where you make conscious choices rather than allowing life to carry you along?

Are you willing and able to turn off that critical voice in your head that challenges your growth?

By becoming committed to our ideas, hopes, and dreams, the path forward seems bright and exciting. What questions and thoughts are you considering on this first day of the new year in this 2020 decade?

Happy new year!