Epiphanies: It's not what you didn't do, it's what you did.

Gratuitous kitty picture :-)

I have an issue (okay, more then one, thanks for pointing that out, you’re so kind). Or at least, I have one issue that I’ve recently had an epiphany about that I’d like to tell you about in this post (specific enough for you now? sheesh!), that relates to a certain mindset I’ve recently discovered and found helpful. I thought perhaps if enough of us shared stuff like this, we could help each other overcome negative thinking patterns that end up keeping us from doing what we want to be doing.

Okay, so here’s mine… be thinking about yours 😉

I love to create routines and disciplines for myself. I love to make schedules, buy organizers, alphabetize DVD’s, and in general, plot ways to be more organized, exercise more, clean regularly and often, all that jazz.

What happens is I launch into any of the above with all the gusto and energy I tend to get from a great idea, and then a few weeks into said routine, I rebel against the “external” boundaries, and I start skipping. And the longer I skip, the easier it is to skip and the next thing I know I haven’t exercised in a month, there’s brand new varieties of plant life growing in my shower, and you could build small dogs from the accumulated shed hairs on my floor. And then I get frustrated plan all new routines, and kick myself because I like it when my house is clean (or at least cleanish), and I feel good when I exercise regularly.

So what to do? I pondered and last week thanks to a combination of Parker Palmer’s Let your Life Speak and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I had an epiphany while I was writing my morning pages.

In order to break the cycle I’ve just described and be able to keep to routines that I created for myself because I know they are healthy for me, I first need to drop all the things I think I “should” do from my to-do list and instead only do the things I “want” to do.

Now, how on earth do I do the things I want to do, and still make deadlines and actually accomplish anything, because let me tell you, most mornings I don’t want to make the bed, everything in me rebels against making the bed. But instead of making the bed because some list I made tells me I “should” make the bed in the morning, instead I make the bed because at night I “want” to get into a made bed, and all through the day, I “want” to walk into a peaceful bedroom, and making the bed can make or break the peaceful feeling in the room. So instead of doing what I “want” to do first thing in the morning which is blindly stumble downstairs and feel my way to the coffee beans, I prioritize my desire to have a made bed all day, over my desire to skip a 60 second chore.

Second, I only make lists of what I did, not what I need to do, at least in any given day. I have to keep a few things per week on a list, like CD’s for clients for example, or else I’d always be late, but there again, I edit pictures and mail CD’s even when I don’t always feel like it, because I focus on my desire to not be late for the client. Seems like an insignificant shift in some ways, but if I tell myself that I “should” be editing, I really don’t want to, whereas if I tell myself that I want to be on time, I can overcome the inertia a lot more easily.

And then focusing on what I did as opposed to what I didn’t do helps me feel accomplished and good about myself. It keeps me from kicking myself, and if I didn’t do something I wanted to do in a given day, for example, I strained a back muscle on Wednesday, just mildly, and so I’ve skipped my daily exercises for the past 4 days to let it recover, I can just jump back in where I left off instead of feeling like I’m behind.

Anyway, don’t know if any of this will help anyone out there, but I thought I’d share just in case 😉 What sorts of thinking help you get done what needs to get done?