For those of you who missed it, last Tuesday I made a spur of the moment decision to begin a new blog series documenting my efforts at personal growth. Until now, my efforts have been well intended but inconsistent! In other words I try, but some days I just want to have an easy life and spend a day watching Netflix and eating pizza with my crochet hook.
(Reminder to self. Being able to say no is actually a very useful skill!)
I’ve had a little time to consider how I’m going to approach this and, like any new project, the first thing to do is to look at where you’re starting from. So that’s what I intend to do today.
All my posts have an element of self-examination to them as I want to continually try to improve my experience of life. It doesn’t really matter whether that is through my physical or mental wellbeing, learning a new skill, making a new friend, or simply reading a new thought provoking book. The point is that to feel fulfilled in life, I need to keep moving forward.
I appreciate that this may not be the case for everyone, but I have noticed over the years that when I stop doing this I give the demons space to come out and play – there is some saying along the lines of “idle minds making light work for the devil”… or is it hands? I’m not sure but for me it’s true. I’m not talking about stuffing my life so full that I never have time to think about the scary stuff. (This is a classic aversion technique I have seen used by many people. You know the ones, those people who can’t spend 10 minutes on their own…)
For me, a better expression is “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. And who wouldn’t want to be a Rolling Stone?
Okay, so that is a quick look at my motivation, my “why”, for this challenge.
When I was thinking about my “what”, I decided I needed to take stock of what I was already doing. I talk a lot about this growth stuff but was I actually putting my money where my mouth was?
I had a look back at some of my growth actives and challenges I have set since starting this blog and you know what? I’m not doing so badly!
Here’s a summary along with my Week 1 effort.
1. No to New
In August 2017, I set myself the challenge of saying “no to new”. This involved not buying any new clothes for a year (knickers and tights excluded, I’m not totally nuts). Handmade and second hand were all okay but that was it.
It’s 6 months in and I have to say that so far this has pretty much been a piece of cake! Mainly I just haven’t been clothes shopping. I’ve been to a couple of fancy dress parties recently which have led me into TK Maxx and H&M. I didn’t buy anything, but I was a bit like a kid in a candy store… I wanted everything! Then I remembered that not having those things has in no way negatively impacted my life (I think that’s a triple negative – sorry!).
In fact the amount of time I have saved simply not trying on jeans is probably long enough to crochet at least 2 blankets!
I’ll write a more detailed post about this another time as there has been one transgression but it’s a long story and was for a good cause so I made an exception (I make the rules, I can break them – so long as I can still look myself in the eye, I don’t have a problem with that!). All in all though this has been a great money and time saving challenge so far!
2.Showing my work
In my post Asking the questions and reading for the Answers, I talked about wanting to use this forum to share my experiences and tit bits I learn in my personal journey and recommended a bunch of books which have changed the way I think in some way. I think this was where the seed for this blog series was planted and last week Tony Robbins just added the water it needed to break through! I set myself a reading list for 2018. I am sorry to say I haven’t finished any of those books yet but I am half way through 2 of them.
This is what I have learned, and am implementing so far:
The Daily Pages
One of the recurring activities in Tools of titans by Tim Ferriss is an exercise called the daily pages. Where every morning you write a few pages. Like journalling I guess. It doesn’t matter what you call it, or what you write for that matter. Just whatever comes out. I have been doing this daily since January 10th and I have to say that I find it very useful. I do it first thing in the morning whilst I have my first cup of tea of the day. It’s been incredibly helpful for organising my mind, working out what is bothering me or what I am happy about and getting things out of my system – it’s a great place for an irrational vent! It also helps me order my thoughts for the day, bounce ideas around and hugely increases my focus.
I appreciate that for some, it can be difficult to find the time for this type of habit. But you can build it into your life, even if it’s writing one line a day whilst you brush your teeth – there is always a way! I really do recommend it as a way to filter through what is going on. The evening is also a great time to do it as a way to review the events of your day and set yourself up for tomorrow. It’s a habit that takes a while to get into, and I have given myself Sunday’s as optional (partly because I have been out late or away the past 3 weeks!), but it’s definitely something I endorse.
Inviting Mara to Tea
I am also reading “Radical acceptance” – byTara Brach which is absolutely fantastic. There is a lot to think about and digest in this book so I am working through it it very slowly, reading just a few pages at a time. It’s about achieving what the Buddhists term enlightenment through acceptance. It’s pretty deep but at the same time very simple and kind of obvious once you get to the heart of it.
One thing which has particularly stuck with me so far, is the story of the about-to-be-Buddha’s battle with Mara under the Bodhi tree during his journey to enlightenment. I will give you an abridged version but they way Tara writes it has had quite a profound impact on me.
In my interpretation, Mara is the demon that represents all the temptation, fear and anger and negativity we face in life (real or imagined). To ‘beat’ Mara, all the Buddha had to do was invite him in. To accept and sincerely welcome his presence. The book talks about being aware of Mara and acknowledging him wherever he appears. In my life, Mara appears in a moment of self doubt, in that anxious catastrophising crisis, or in the minute between being asleep and awake. I am learning to mentally say, “I see you Mara” and aknowledge those feelings rather than to try and fight them or push them away. This small gesture is remarkably effective.
Give your demon a name and knowledge him (or her). I urge you to give it a go in whatever context is relevant for you.
3. Making new friends
The one post I have received more comments and feedback about than any other is “Please be my friend”. A post I wrote about how it’s hard to make friends as an adult. I had so many people comment and message me directly about how they felt the same as I did. I’m glad to say that I have continued to make the effort to meet new people. Immediately following the publication of last week’s post, I updated this article and submitted it to one of the publishers on Medium. That’s been on my to do list for about 3 months. I’ve not had a response so this is likely a practice in managing rejection but so be it!
One area I have definitely failed at is joining a local crochet / knit group. There’s one I know about but for some reason I am having a mental block about it and making excuses not to go. I haven’t quite worked out why but I need to set about this with some new vigour. I even debated starting a local crochet group but haven’t quite worked up the nerve yet. I mean if no one shows up then so what? Right?
Watch this space!!
4. Personal Goals
At the beginning of the year I wrote down a list of goals, personal and professional and these included a list of thinks I wanted to learn this year.
At the beginning of February I started a drawing class, partly because I want to learn the real basics of drawing but also as a way to meet new people (see number 3!). I have done a lot of evening classes in the past and always got really nervous about them, about being rubbish or not fitting in and a million other magic thoughts. This one, for the first time, I was 100% looking forward to. It didn’t matter if I was rubbish, that’s what I, and the others are there for! It’s a lovely little eclectic group and I can’t wait to get to the next class!
Here’s a sheep skull i drew last week. Eye sockets are HARD!!!
Another thing on my list was to learn to knit. And this brings us right up to now and my week one activity. Last Saturday I went to a Knitting Party hosted by someone I met on Instagram. She had been allocated to me as a recipient in an on line secret santa I joined in with (another indirect way to meet people!). Laura was hosting this knitting and crochet party in London which is not too far from me. The way the party works is that you pick a kit and then go and loin a bunch of people to to start making it. I decided to attend as part of my continued efforts to meet people in the crochet field. On top of that I decided to pick a knitting kit.
Now I haven’t knitted since I was 7. My mum used to get us to make dish cloths for my Grandma, but I was left handed and she struggled to teach me so it never really went anywhere. Learning to Knit was way up high on that list.
A lot of people don’t know the difference between knit and crochet – I always try to explain it using the analogy of skiing and snowboarding. The issue is that when you can ski, you don’t want to take the time to learn to snowboard because there is a lot of falling on your arse when you could be whizzing down the slopes. But you’re still envious of the snowboarders so you’re in this catch 22.
So that was kind of my motivation to want to knit. And that’s what I did. I confess, I did buy a set of plastic kids needles and have a play with the help of a you tube video the night before I went, I didn’t want to be completely clueless!
It was such a fun afternoon with a interesting and diverse group of women, and here’s the progress I have made with the We are Knitters Vega scarf so far!
This is a very straightforward pattern and I’m really enjoying using my hands in a different way but I don’t think my crochet hooks need to be too jealous yet!
So that brings me to the end of week one.
I think I’m already in pretty good shape in terms of scheduling these improvement activities into my life but I definitely need more consistency, so lets see what week 2 brings. I’ll be thinking about the structure of this challenge and the different sorts of activities I can incorporate.
Oh and I’m welcome to suggestions! (Although there will be no parachute / bungee / base or any other form of jumping!)
Until next time