I read Steven Pressfield’s latest book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, for the first time this past weekend. I say that it’s the first time because, much like his earlier book The War of Art, this is one that I can already tell that I’ll be coming back to time and time again.
In The War of Art, Pressfield introduces the concept of Resistance as the thing that all creatives fight against when we try to focus on our work. The primary way to overcome Resistance is to turn pro (as opposed to being an amateur). While he talks a little bit about what it means to turn pro in The War of Art, there is much that is left unsaid about how to make this step from being an amateur into the ranks of being a pro.
This marks the end of the my second week of consistent gratitude journaling since I’ve gotten re-started with that practice. It’s been helpful to be doing this again in several ways, and it is very interesting to observe the process, the things that make it on my list, and the effect that it is having on me.
I’m already noticing that this is becoming a habit. It’s easier to remember to do each day, and I’m finding myself mentally making note of things during the day as they happen as things I want to be sure to add to my list that night. In that sense, it’s making me more aware of things I am grateful for throughout the day rather than just at night when I make my list each day.
My job has moved from 20 hours a week to full-time, starting this week. While I have worked full-time for most of my adult life and most other people I know do the same, I’ve never worked full-time while also trying to work on my own business, take care of a house and yard with this high of a maintenance requirement, and tried to maintain a rigorous level of self-care. It’s proving to be a challenge to keep it all going.
This adjustment is even more challenging for me at the moment because there is so much ambiguity about the job itself. I’m in a new environment in a brand new area with my boss mostly gone, and I’m trying hard to be productive and useful without any clue of what’s happening. This means that there’s very little to do, which gives me way to much time to be bored and to over-think. That’s never a good thing. Being bored exhausts me much faster than being busy does!
I had read many times about the power of gratitude, but the first time I really discovered its power for myself was when I used it as a practice to help ward off depression. I have a chronic tendency toward depression, and my practice of self-care has been largely crafted over the years to keep me from tumbling into that pit. I have found that eating well, getting enough sleep, protecting my down time, journaling, and being active are all necessary for me to keep that familiar demon at bay.
My gratitude beads
But those self-care tactics aren’t always enough. I remember a number of years ago when all of the usual self-care techniques just didn’t seem to be working and I was desperately reaching for something to keep me from tumbling into a major depression, I read (yet again) about the power of gratitude and finally decided to give it a try. I made myself a set of “gratitude beads” that I began to use every day. I used this string of 101 beads much like one would use a rosary except that I came up with a unique thing to be grateful for with each bead.
People are complex creatures. None of us can be summed up by the labels that get applied to us, but most of us have a set of labels that we use as a personal version of an elevator speech to describe who we are to people we are just meeting. While the ones we share in any given instance vary according to the situation, these labels commonly include what we do for a living, where we are from, our faith tradition, our relationship status (single, partnered, married, with/without kids, etc.), where we live, and what hobbies we engage in or what organizations we donate our time to.
I’m finding that being in a prolonged period of intense transformation in so many areas makes it even more difficult than normal to find accurate labels to define myself when making this kind of small talk with new acquaintances. Because so many areas are in the midst of transition, nothing seems to fit. How do I tell someone else who I am when I’m not even sure I know myself?
“Expectation is the death of serenity.” ~Dr. Joy Browne
A friend of mine shared this quote with me recently during a discussion about the difference between expectations and setting intentions for our future. As I thought about this, I came to the conclusion that (for me anyway), expectations tend to be about attempts to control whereas intentions are about setting our aim without trying to control the outcome. In my mind, I see it as the difference between a tight-fisted clutching (expectation) and a loose cupping in open palms (intention). I realize that both words can be used in a variety of ways, and many people may see these words differently than I do. That’s why I thought it worth starting with explaining my starting point for understanding these words at the beginning of this post, so it’s at least clear where I’m coming from—whether you agree with my definitions or not.
However, the real insight for me came with the pairing of expectations and control. I have known for many years that I have a tendency to have high expectations of people, organizations, and things around me (including myself). I have also known that I have tendencies toward control; it’s my (quite unsuccessful) attempt at creating safety in my world. I’ve worked hard at reducing my tendencies toward both of these things, but I have never before realized how interconnected they are.
One of my yoga teachers shared the following with us during our teacher training as we talked about the way that samskara (ingrained mental patterns) works in our lives. I find the first few chapters of this story to be ones that I have repeated many, many times. I am just now learning to move on to the fourth chapter.
I long for the day that I walk down a different street. I think I’m getting close….
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