For those of you who humor me as regular readers of my posts here, you may have noticed that I’ve fallen off my habit of posting each and every week. Through the end of 2015 I had faithfully posted for about 175 straight weeks. All of a sudden in 2016, the energy wasn’t there for it, and it has been a source of some consternation for me. As each weekend would approach I would attempt to find the drive to identify a subject of interest and sit down at the keyboard to write.
And I would in most instances find something else to do. Which would stimulate negative emotions within me along the lines of guilt or shame. My inner critics would have a field day, chirping at me with things like: “you’re breaking your commitment to yourself and others!”, “you’ve run out of meaningful things to say!”, or “you’re not a good enough writer to keep this up!”. I was surprised not only at this negative energy, but also that it did nothing to mitigate the continuing inertia I felt holding me back from sitting down and writing.
As often happens when we find ourselves with some form of inner conflict, there is a rich opportunity for learning if we can calm our emotions and simply sit with the issue. Here are four thoughts I have about what has been going on, which has really helped me understand that a shift was trying to happen within me. I hope you will find some value in these to help you understand what might be happening for you in resolving similar situations!
- Be kind to myself. As I stated above I found myself being pretty self-critical about not keeping commitments. In order to truly understand what was happening for me I had to quiet the internal Board of Directors and dismiss the negative thoughts. I had to give myself permission to at least consider the possibility of doing something differently. Our minds are amazing things but can work in unexpected ways. It was important for me to find a way to listen quietly for a time and accept that my mind was using the change in energy to try to tell me something.
- What else is trying to get my attention? Generally speaking, human beings are striving creatures. Our primitive nature is to be on the move and seeking more. That used to be gathering or hunting food, but now it can be higher forms of pursuit. As I processed my thoughts I realized that there was something pulling me forward. The time and energy I was spending on writing was needed for me to get serious about driving forward my coaching practice, and I didn’t have an unlimited well of creativity for both. Once I understood that, I actually started to get somewhat excited about this shift, so much so that for a week or two I didn’t even think about writing at all! That realization came to me when I used the quiet created in step 1 above to allow this newer energy to come into my consciousness.
- What have I taken on that I haven’t acknowledged? Knowing the source of inner conflict, I was now able to focus my thoughts on pursuing my new goal and the thing I want more of in my life. As I did so, I immediately realized (almost a blinding glimpse of the obvious!) that I was already immersed in this pursuit and because I hadn’t acknowledged it, I was overtaxing myself. My self-preservation mechanisms had thereby kicked in and withdrawn energy from activities that weren’t currently serving my new pursuits. Seeing all of this logically laid out in front of me reinforced that giving myself permission to back off on writing was the right approach, at least for now
- What energy do I still have for my old activity? Having processed all of the above, I realized that the urge to write had not disappeared (another blinding glimpse of the obvious as I am 650 words into a post). The question really became one of … what would I have to give up to add it back in to my life? This question quickly became a question of planning, as it was dependent upon the answer to the question “when?” Right now, in my example I plan to stay focused on building my coaching practice, and I will view writing as a leisure activity and make choices vs. other leisure activities. When I am happy with my practice I will give up my historical career, and when I do that I will have all the time I want for writing in support of it. Diving down a bit deeper into the activities associated with building my coaching practice, I see that this decision has multiple layers and I have to continuously decide and prioritize those things vs. my desire to write. As a result of this deeper dive, I feel I now have the ability to make specific decisions based on criteria that are real to me.
All in all this was a great exercise for me. Before starting, I felt frustrated and lacking control. Now I have purpose to what I am doing. I can’t say that I am completely without frustration, as in my period of taking on work and overtaxing myself, I made some decisions that in retrospect I wouldn’t have made. I have had the opportunity to “unmake” them and have chosen to keep associated commitments as a matter of personal integrity.
How does this process resonate with you? Do you have situations where this might apply? Do you have other techniques or thoughts that have worked for you in the past? I would love to hear from you if you do!