Journaling exercise: challenging your mindset in challenging times

I’ve been facing some personal challenges recently. Unexpected twists and turns that threw all my plans aside, forced me to shift priorities, and focus on things that I didn’t want to focus. That’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to post here regularly, though that will hopefully change. I miss interacting with you guys, but also more importantly, regardless of what else is happening, I want to keep giving you journaling goodness, and inspiring your journaling journeys. 

Forced change is never pleasant, but it is what it is, and has to be dealt with accordingly. So today’s exercise reflects that: 

In your journal, answer this question: 

When was the last time you were forced into an unexpected, unwanted situation? What was it? What was your initial reaction? What did you then do to resolve it? How did you feel afterwards?

Do you believe now that whatever happened, happened for the best? Do you believe in that positive outlook that everything eventually turns out for the best? 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Do the above journaling exercise. Be honest with yourself. About your reactions to the situation, and about how you felt. Don’t sugarcoat anything.

 

Questioning one’s beliefs

Question Mark, Question, Response, Search Engine

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I like intelligent people. I like intelligent conversations. I dread being around boring people. I’ve always thought that I would prefer talking to an intelligent asshole, rather than boring nice people. But lately, I’ve come to realize that it’s not as black and white as I thought.

Here’s the thing – niceness is underrated. We don’t actually realize how pleasant it is to be around nice people until we come across people who are really unpleasant to be around.

Of course, like anything, it’s a spectrum. We can go from Sainthood to Absolutely Evil, and everything in-between. Most of us would fall in somewhere in-between. Most of us are also different, depending on where we are, who we are talking to, and what we are doing. What I’ve always preferred about intelligence is intellectual stimulation. You can have a fun conversation that engages your mind. Sense of humour can be sharp and subtle. You don’t need to dumb it down. It engages your brain. It touches, responds to, and engages your own intelligence.

But…

Niceness or lack thereof touches, responds to and engages your heart. And that’s where my realization comes in. When someone is incredibly selfish, or incredibly unpleasant, or just an asshole, it creates an emotional response in us. We can see all of their strengths, capabilities, and even admire them, but those are diminished because we don’t want to be around them. Because they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. They create negative emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration.

Nice people, on the other hand, create positive emotions, such as joy, warmth, encouragement, faith in humanity. Emotions that make us want to be with them. That makes us like the idea of being with people.

I’m not implying that intelligence has ceased to matter, but rather than I find more and more as I grow older that there are less black and white things. I can see different sides of things than I did when I was younger. Some things still remain absolutes. Some moral codes, for example, should never be transgressed upon. But overall, I believe that what really one needs is a constant reflection and assessment of one’s beliefs. If they stand the test of time, all the good. But if they don’t, then it’s time for a change.

 

Journaling exercise: are you self-centred?

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Too much self-centered attitude brings isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.

Dalai Lama

I had a conversation recently with someone who is going through a rough period, but what I noticed was that every single sentence was about them. Even when they were trying to talk about not hurting someone else, their sentence was phrased such:

“I don’t want to feel guilty for hurting my loved ones.”

Notice the sentence pattern. First, it begins with an ‘I’. That’s not bad necessarily. You could say, “I don’t want to hurt my loved ones.” or “I want to behave better towards my loved ones.”

But that’s not what that sentence does. It clarifies that the person doesn’t want to feel guilty for hurting their loved ones. So its’ not so much hurting others they are worried about, but feeling guilty for it.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about a horrible human being here. This person doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone. However, their focus is all on them. All they are thinking about is how it would make THEM feel if they hurt someone. Their focus is entirely on self, but superficial self. The outside self, not the inner self where self-awareness exists and makes you take stock of your behaviour and allow you to change it.

Self-centeredness can take many forms, from above where one is the sole emotional focus of one’s thoughts, to where one is deliberately using others for one’s benefit and all the degrees in between. It is also possible that you may not even be aware of how self-centred you are.

I believe in general human goodness, and I don’t think most people actually want to be self-centred. I think most people do want to be able to give and receive affection, have healthy relationships – but not everyone is consciously working on overcoming their internal triggers and limitations to achieve that. So that’s what this exercise is about. If you find that you are self-centred, or more self-centred than you thought, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Awareness is the key. You need to know exactly who you are in order to determine if you want to continue being that, or if some changes/improvements are needed. 

So ask yourself these questions:

  • When you are talking to other people, particularly people close to you, how often “YOU” are the sole focus of your conversation?
  • Do you ask someone, “How do you feel?” or “How are you?” and actually listen to them, or you can’t wait to get to your part of the conversation?
  • When considering other people, are you more concerned about how it would make you feel?
  • When talking to other people, are you often thinking about how they annoy/amuse/irritate/adore/inspire you? 
  • Do you find yourself ever thinking of others, in their own right, their problems, just wanting to listen to them for their own sake, because you care?
  • Do you think you are better than others in every way possible? 
  • Do you think you DESERVE everything in life – attention, affection, admiration – without having to give anything in return?

Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions, and give specific examples wherever you can. Don’t just give up at the first try. If you can’t immediately come up with an answer, try again. But answer these questions in as much detail as possible. 

Once you know the extent of your self-centeredness then you can work any changes you think you might need to execute to be the person you want to be.