Since my last post (has it really been a few months?), I continue to work away at de-cluttering, a task that raises more questions than solutions. A conversation this morning about life stresses seemed to echo my own challenges with letting the details obscure what is more central and real. Do you find yourself getting caught up in details, in the process losing track of the big picture? Or, worrying about things that you don’t have control over? Or, convincing yourself that you can force round pegs into square holes, to get a result you want?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then I have a solution! Just kidding, I really can’t give you a simple answer to the complexities of our lives today. What I can do is encourage you to focus where you can have impact, by some version of the following:
- Make yourself a nice cup of tea, pour a tall glass of cool refreshing water or your own favourite beverage (probably non-alcoholic as I’m writing this in the early afternoon, but whatever works for you!)
- Sit in a comfortable chair, with phones, computers, tablets, bills, post-it notes, whatever else distracts you, moved out of your field of vision. Have a piece of paper or notebook, along with a pen or pencil available beside you.
- Make yourself comfortable and just breathe quietly for a few minutes and gradually allow your most current or pressing challenge to come to mind.
- Observe how you are feeling right now – if there’s tension, just breathe for a few more minutes until you can comfortably write down the essence of the challenge, and what it is that you most hope for. Ask yourself the following questions and make notes:
- Have I been in a situation like this before? Did I resolve it then? If yes, what skills and resources helped me? If no, am I willing to change my interpretation or my responses to it this time?
- Do I believe that a good outcome is possible? If yes, consider what it would feel like to have it resolved. If no, am I fighting acceptance of a truth I don’t like, or am I afraid of disappointment?
- The answers to those questions may help to clarify what direction you want to take from here. If you are becoming aware that, as you see it right now, you cannot solve the problem, then consider letting go of it, or redefining it to something you do have the capacity to deal with.. Yes, I know that’s easier said than done, but making the statement to yourself that you’re ready to let it go, surprisingly helps. “I’m sad (hurt, angry, disappointed…) about this, but right now it is not within my power to change it. So I want to focus my energy on whatever aspect of it I do have some ability to affect”.
- Assuming that you feel you can address the challenge, start to make some notes, addressing the following questions:
- What do I know about the situation?
- What do I need to know? List the questions to ask others, research, and gather info on.
- Who else is involved in this? Do I need to inquire further into their perspective?
- What resources do I have (information, skills, money, material, etc.)?
- What resources do I need? How can I get them? Can I ask a favour of someone, or trade favours, or pull resources from somewhere else?
- Realistically, what is my time frame? Do I need to create a timeline of do-able tasks to handle? If I have certain goals or tasks to accomplish, am I willing to put them in my schedule and give them priority?
- How will I know if I am making progress? Am I measuring my progress fairly and reasonably, given the answers to some of the above questions?
Hopefully by now, you will have some concrete aspects of a workable challenge written down. If you need to refine your notes into a plan, do that, and then place it somewhere that you can refer back to it. Remind yourself that you have chosen this challenge because, first, it matters to you, and second, it is within your capacity. Talk to someone you trust and let them know that you would appreciate their support, and feedback if it would be helpful. Unless you actually want it, don’t ask for advice, or if you do want it, keep it focused on your actual goals. If you get unsolicited advice or criticism, thank them for caring. Unless the other person has a stake in the problem, you have no obligation to choose their way over your own.
Finally, the essence of this approach is to move all the thoughts and conflicting feelings of fear, obligation, regret, worry and uncertainty out of your head onto paper, and direct them into a focused plan to act on your goals, aspirations, wants and needs. When you find yourself scattered and overthinking again, as undoubtedly you will, refer back to the work you’ve done on this today and steer your energy back to the commitments you’ve made to yourself.