It has been a long week. I was out of town in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington over the weekend and, of course, traveling doesn’t make keeping a routine any easier. I wrote a bit while I was away, but the trip made it challenging. I will blame the changing seasons and the nostalgia overload for my resistance in the past several days. Returning to the Bay Area, stepping out of the Oakland airport, I was immediately relieved by how warm it is here. Yes. The Fall I had been waiting for. Such a relief after the nipping cold that has already struck the Pacific Northwest.
I have returned to early alarms in the morning followed by 20 minutes of writing, but I have been dragging my feet. I got out of work today and was walking through the late afternoon sun across the parking lot thinking about writing and the resistance that is relentless inside of me at the moment. I’ve had trouble keeping my eyes open, my mind wanders, and I write things that don’t make any sense (not even to me). I am even having trouble revisiting anything I’ve written already long enough to edit. Soaking up the suns warmth, it dawned on me that I continuously have thoughts that I should be writing, I should be posting.
We all have a long list of “should’s” in our lives and it’s a fascinating thing that happens when you look at the difference between things that we are somehow obligated to do (or think we are) and those that we reward ourselves with. For me, writing is fun. I started without anyone asking me to and I continue to do so without any outside obligation. So why do I keep telling myself that I should write? That I should be posting to this blog?
I feel that I should because I want to be committed and act like a professional. You do not get proficient or good at a skill without dedication. If you practice any skill long enough, there comes a time when you feel resistance towards it. The number one reason most people do not master a skill is that they give up shortly after they have began.
This is a common theme for me, as well. I have a lot of interests and ideas, many of which I am excited about right out of the gate. However, give me a couple of days and it is possible I’ve forgotten about it completely. Or I’ll pretend I have to mask the embarrassment from lack of follow through. That being said, there are several things I am quite passionate about and have spent countless hours working on. A few of these would be bicycle touring and bike maintenance, reading and writing, painting and drawing, business and personal development. These passions have taken me on a cross-country bicycle tour, overseas to study art, and to multiple conferences to meet authors and entrepreneurs. This is to name a few benefits of follow through.
The experiences that I consider amongst my greatest accomplishments are the results of longer term projects where I endured the ebb and flow of inspiration and interest. Then comes the nagging “should”. I wish I could eliminate this word from my brain. It sucks the fun out of an activity like a vacuum pack seal. I’m annoyed just typing about it. We do not pursue things like surfing or painting or music because we should. We pursue our passions because we are inspired to do so, because we have no other choice, because it connects and flows out of us, when it wills it to be so.
So I feel forced to ask, but really it’s a simple question that surfaces in my mind: are there things we should do? I don’t really believe so. I would like to answer that we should be kind and we should take care of ourselves. However, I can’t help think of Byron Katie and follow up my answer with another question: is that true? Can we know it to be true that we should be kind? A question for another time and blog post.
Walking through the parking lot I realized that my resistance grows when I feel like I should be doing something. I am passionate about writing and about treating it like a professional practice. I want to be a proficient writer, therefore I want to work on writing everyday. Should I write? I do not know the answer to that question. I know only that when I say the inverse – I should not write – that my mind flips a little and reverts to thinking “What?! But I MUST write!” The thought of losing the practice, of foregoing the blog, of abandoning writing, is more painful than the irritation of the “should”. That being said, I tire of thinking I should anything and hope to slowly eradicate it from my mind.
Are there things you feel people are obligated to do? When do you tell yourself you should be doing something? How does it feel to have the opposite thought – that you should not be doing that thing? Would love to hear it: Lara@LaraBuelow.com
Today, I am going to explore why we are unhappy while I dissect this awesome post about Gen Y. Face it, even those of us who report that we feel pretty good can generally find something to gripe about and are sitting on a mountain of doubt and confusion. You, me, and just about everyone else. So why not explore all this anxiety together?
WaitButWhy introduces Lucy, the main character of the story to illustrate the problem with todays up and coming generation. They get a pretty good name, Gen Y Protangonists and Special Yuppies (GYPSYs); the “main character of a very special story”. Oh, I’m sorry, what we believe is a very special story, not that it is one. This puts me on guard, as it would, being a Gen Y’er. Though it appears the point of this essay is to take Gen Y down a notch, there’s no evidence that this is what will actually happen. I do believe we are all the main character of a special story – it’s called Your Life, cherish it.
Next, WaitButWhy gives us an important equation. One you have likely seen and heard before.
Happiness = Reality – Expectations
I believe this to be true. The book, Loving What Is by Byron Katie, is a beautiful modern American zen perspective of this equation. Happiness decreases the more you battle reality. If you live in the moment and can accept things as they are, why would you be unhappy? It is the message in our minds “Things should not be this way” that creates stress and anxiety.
Speaking of stress, this article has been the catalyst for many heated debates within my family lately, so it’s great that it spans issues across generations. I was talking to my mom about this article and she expressed an important point: her parents lived in a time that was so bad (WWII in Germany), that there was really no other direction to go but up. They had hit rock bottom and just about anything looks good after you’ve been there.
WaitButWhy mentions that the post war generation was living for the American Dream, whereas Gen Y is living for Our Own Personal Dream. This strikes a cord with me and appears to be the path that we are on. I don’t believe that this statement is written with any particular judgments attached to it, though I could see how someone might believe that there are. While I love this post because it stimulates such thought provoking conversation, something that rubs me the wrong way is the insane amount of judgment that shines through the responses. Is this bad? Is it good? Does it matter? Maybe Gen Y’ers are looking to live their own personal dream. So what? With time, things change. We aren’t going to continue to live the American Dream and I don’t think I need to talk about why that is here.
In the spirit of pursuing our personal dreams versus America’s, it is no surprise that terms like “career security” are now less popular than “a fulfilling career”. Again, the only constant here is change. The baby boomers and Gen X lived the American Dream, so it’s time to come up with something new. How do these concepts come into being? I can’t say I have a good answer, but it appears that the masses are behind lifestyle design and pursuing passionate careers. What would you suggest? Seeing the success of those before us, how do you continue to strive and be inspired?
Next comes an important point from WaitButWhy. You and I – we are delusional. Again, this could be interpreted as aggressive or cruel. My reaction was: “Thank God! Sweet salvation!” Rather than taking this as an attack on me or my generation, I am going to take it as validation. I feel validated in my feelings of stress, anxiety, and confusion. This statement makes me feel more human. And guess what we all have in common? 😉
Then I find myself asking who is WaitButWhy? Which generation do they belong to? Do they make money from their blog? How are they any different? WaitButWhy must be human, too. If they do get paid through their blog, then they are an example of something I would like to believe is possible for myself. My point here is that a common experience in humanity is being delusional. Doing The Work outlined in Loving What Is proves that. So maybe Gen Y is just like everyone else.
The first problem that is actually identified in the article is that everyone in Gen Y thinks they are special. No, like really super special. More special than you. GASP. Before WaitButWhy goes much further into the details of why this is a problem, they identify a second: GYPSYs are taunted.
At this point in the post, I am grateful that I fully identify with Lucy. Hell, I am Lucy and here is this person validating the sources of so much of my anxiety. Lucky me, let’s get to work on all this shit. Here, WaitButWhy brings in issues around Facebook Image Crafting. It is an unfortunate truth that social media gives us inflated ideas of how others are living their lives. This in turn makes us feel bad about ourselves. These are real life problems for Gen Yer’s. So what now?
Advice from WaitButWhy is as follows:
#1: Stay wildly ambitious. Yes! I love it. This quote from Carl Sandburg illustrates this sentiment for me: “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” There’s only one way to find out where the path you are forging may take you –> Keep going.
#2: Stop thinking your special. I think this is generally good advice. No matter how special you actually are, it’s annoying to meet people who think and act like they’re God’s gift to earth, even if it’s true. The most inspiring, generous, and awesome people I have met, act like they have confidence, an inner knowing that they are capable, but they are humble and build up the people around them.
#3 Ignore everyone else. Another big THANK YOU to the author of WaitButWhy. There is often something healing in receiving validation from others and this is a big wound that needs healing. An entire generation with false expectations? Shit. Ignoring everyone else and concentrating on your own work is no small feat. Especially with our growing internet and Facebook addictions. Let’s channel #1 to help out here, why not use that ambitious energy to learn how to ignore everyone else and be a total Buddha in regards to social media networks? How are you going to live your daily life using social media and keep your head about you? If this is Gen Y’s greatest challenge, how will we rise to the occasion?
I found a blog the other night that I find interesting. Hack the System with Maneesh Sethi. What a crazy dude. When you subscribe to his email list he asks that you write to him about your number one goal. I found myself thinking that I should have a number one goal because I have so many of them. When I read his email requesting to hear what is it, I thought “Shit, man!” And then my brain came to a stuttering halt.
I have a lot of goals. Too many, actually. How do I know it’s too many? From Stevo, the sport psychologists perspective, if it feels like too many, it is. Well, it feels like too many. From Byron Katie’s perspective, it’s not too many, it just IS and it’s only my thoughts in relation to the number of goals that is causing any stress. Byron Katie is the author of Loving What Is. She is the creator of “The Work”, which is a series of four questions about our thoughts and then a turn around that aims to transform our relationship to ourselves. Here is an example.
The Work on Having Too Many Goals.
Statement and/or judgments: I have too many goals.
Is that true? No. (If no, you can move to #3)
Can I absolutely know that to be true? I can not know it to be 100% fact.
How do I react when I think that thought? How do I treat myself and/or others when I think that thought? Stressed out! I am irritable and frustrated. I hate on myself. I feel like I am scattered and unfocused. I feel like I can’t see progress clearly and that I am a failure. I get panicky and anxious.
Who would I be without that thought? Who would I be without believing that I have too many goals? I would feel peaceful and calm. Life would feel more harmonious and I would celebrate the small victories.
Turn it around: I do not have too many goals. I do not have enough goals. I have the right amount of goals. I have the perfect number of goals.
Perhaps this is another step in dismantling the 27 x 27. I am happy to have so many goals. They can just hang there in space, the letters typed neatly out on the page. The list will grow, wilt, and stagnate at times. I want to cultivate a compassionate relationship to the goal list. It is, afterall, my list of dreams. They each symbolize a process through which I get to know myself a little better and that lead me down my path a little further.
Looking at what I would like to focus on for April and reflecting on what I worked on in March, I am seeing that not much has changed. I am trying to start small and continue slowly. For March I had a fatty list: Interchange counseling sessions, write everyday, handstand practice, mobility, read, work on the Fire Starter Sessions, and attend the CrossFit certification course.
How did I do?
Interchange: I had a couple of Interchange sessions. I have surpassed my 20 hours of counseling now.
Write: I have a check mark for everyday that I wrote on my calendar and made it a practice to write every morning. It increased the amount I post to my blog based on working with more material. This has been a very enjoyable process for me.
Handstands: I have had many 20 minute sessions in the park and practiced at CrossFit. I have seen a lot of improvement and have had a lot of fun!
Mobility: This is another item I have on the daily checklist. I have struggled with this because sometimes it is enjoyable and other times it is just a pain in the ass. Literally. But I am committed to working on my knee and the rest of my body.
Read: I have been reading more! I read the entire CrossFit training guide and I am in the process of finishing Loving What Is. I have also read a TON of blogs and information online. I also bought a GOOD magazine.
The Fire Starter Sessions (FSS): I love this book. Danielle LaPorte is awesome and the book is beautiful. Maria and I have been meeting about FSS and it is amazingly therapeutic and motivating. We’re lighting shit up!
CrossFit Certification: done and done! I attended the weekend course, which was great, and I past the test! BAM! PLUS, I applied for a job at San Francisco CrossFit and guess what?! I GOT THE JOB! The cert has already paid off.
Writing this has been so satisfying. Earlier I felt like the March list was way too long. However looking at all the progress that I have made for each item, I can see that I have actually been quite successful! WhatWhat!!! I think that one thing that would allow me to see progress more is by recording small measurable benchmarks or each. That would look like this:
Goal: Record daily check marks, record time spent on activity and other detailed notes.
I am halfway there. I have recorded most of this stuff, but I could get into the details if I wanted to see more numerical results.
So let’s circle back to the beginning. What is my #1 goal?
My number one goal is to feel awesome. I’ve been able to pin-point four core feelings that are important to me and I want to connect to those feelings in all that I do. Those four core feelings are: Connection, Clarity, Creative, and Powerful. I don’t have to feel all four of the feelings all the time, but I want clarity in my activities because I think it makes for more harmonious living.
You can read about my twenty-seven #1 goals and how they tap into my core feelings here. If you think that this post is a bunch of bull and that my goal is way too vague, then here are some specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive (S.M.A.R.T.) goals to feast on:
- Write 2 blog posts every month until September.
- Write at least 20 minutes everyday in April.
- Mobilize for 20 minutes everyday in April.
- Finish Loving What Is and start a new book. (Achieved! April 14, 2013)
- Have at least 1 Interchange counseling session. (Achieved! April 13, 2013)
- Workout at CrossFit at least 3 times each week.
Wild Success! Things that were not on the goal list but make me feel ON FIRE:
- Getting hired at San Francisco CrossFit! I will be working as the part-time Office Manager for 25-30 hours a week. I’m pumped! (Victory dance.)
- Leo Babauta sharing a link to one of my blog posts! I wrote about attending the Mindful + Entrepreneur event Leo hosted with Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge. I sent him the link and he shared it on Tumblr. Feeling pretty awesome about that.
Thanks to Maneesh Sethi for pushing my thoughts about goals a little further.