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

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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: dissecting your nearest and dearest

Well if that title caught your attention, I don’t know what that says about you :-) But in this exercise, we are going to dissect people closest to you.
Not literally. 
Just on the page. 
Who are the 5 people closest to you? 
Why?
What makes them closest? 
Why do you trust them?
Why do respect them?
Why do you love them? If you do?
Is there a pecking order among these five people? Be honest if there is. You don’t need to feel bad or guilty about it. 
The purpose of this exercise is to understand those closest to you, and by doing so, you understand more about your self. 
 

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.

 

A Lesson in Patience and Positivity

 

 

I’m a pretty positive person. Some of my nearest and dearest may say insanely so. But I’m also a human, and so there are times when certain things or events get me down. They don’t necessarily make me negative, but rather frustrated or impatient (which is certainly one of my flaws). Besides the rather interesting beginning of January, one such thing is my current leg injury.

It’s in the assessment period now, and it could be muscular or a stress fracture. But the point is, I can’t run at all, and even walking is painful. I’d signed up for my first half-marathon back in September – which is now in 6 weeks time. There is no way I can train for it, and be ready. I don’t even know if I will be able to walk it. I’ve another 20km walk booked for next week. I don’t know if I will be able to do that. 

I had fitness plans for January. I was enthusiastic and really motivated to start the New Year with all those plans. But because of this injury, I spent the week doing nothing. I didn’t even get 10,000 steps a day in because I’d to minimize walking. So this has been frustrating me to no end. I get annoyed. I’m impatient. It pisses me off that my body isn’t supporting me when my mind is so ready. 

So today, I decided to go to the gym. Not to do anything stupid – but I figured it was an important psychological step. I could just go, do some light workout, or just work on my upper body. I wasn’t super enthusiastic, mind you. I was still annoyed about my leg. But I went. 

After a slow warm up on elliptical machine which actually did start hurting my leg more (so I stopped), I worked just my upper body and abs with free weights and body weight exercises. The more I got into it, the happier I became. Then, the abs class started, and so I joined in. I’d already done some of those exercises, so at times it was difficult, especially going back into it after a long time away. But got through it. And the more I did, though my body felt it, the happier I felt. 

Because something clicked in. I realised that there was so much I needed to work on. Okay, I can’t do anything about my leg right now. But it doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. There are other areas of my body that need strengthening. The areas I often neglect because I’m focused on my goal of running or combat or something specific. It occurred to me then that this was a good time to learn patience, to be okay with what I could not do, and rather just enjoy and savour what I could do.

Upper body workouts and abs workouts are important, even essential to my overall fitness goals. Building that strength would also make me a better runner, potentially less prone to injuries. The point was, I wasn’t done with all of goals, and all of my areas of improvement. Yes, I couldn’t run. Yes, it’s annoying and frustrating that my leg hurts. But that’s part of life. Shit happens. You have to deal with it. Injuries happen. You need to take time out and look after yourself. Yes, I will lose money on the races, and I will lose my opportunity to participate. But there will be other races. There will be other things. There will be other goals. 

What I don’t want to do is miss this moment, this present, for something I cannot have. I would rather spend this moment on what I can enjoy. I would rather spend it on joy. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Grab your journal and write about what is the one thing in your life where you can use some positivity or perspective change? Are you focusing on what you cannot have, and missing out on what you can have?

 

 

 

 

5 Lessons from a very eventful January 1st

This year is one day old, and I’m writing the kind of post one would expect at the end of the year. Well, for me, 2017 has already begun with a bang, and left me on a shifting sand.

Up until 30th of December, I’d plans. I had decided my goals for 2017. I was really looking forward to returning to London from family visit, and get stuck in. I wanted to just dive into my work, get on with my goals. I felt ready and committed for 2017. I had a plan. I was ready to implement it. After three weeks away, I expected to return fairly relaxed. I was even considering that I would go to the gym a couple of hours after I got home, because I expected to get good night’s sleep before catching my afternoon flight from the US.

It was all in hand. It all made sense. I was ready for 2017.

Turns out, 2017 has other plans for me. And it is from that single eventful day, split across continents and time zones that I bring you these lessons, which I hope will not only make my year better, but help my perspective for life. And I hope it will help you too, because what unexpected things happen to all of us. Life throws curve balls, and we must learn to dodge, hit back, or recover as gracefully, and as optimistically as we possibly can.

 

1. Expectations vs. reality (Shit happens. Sometimes due to  no fault of your own.)

If you noticed, in the first paragraph above, I mentioned multiple times how I “expected” 2017 to start. My expectations were based on my planning, based on my schedule, and basically based on things turning out exactly so. Of course it’s nice when that happens, but I’d a stark reminder literally a minute after I toasted 2017 with my family.

I found out that someone has spent several thousand pounds on my credit card. Of course there was instant shock, and panic. Forget midnight celebrations. I was then supposed to pack for my flight. Everything got delayed, while I spoke to the credit card company, and instead of what should have been a fairly restful and last fun night with family, we all had a tiring and sleepless night.

Shit happens. There was nothing we could do about it.  In “real life” bad things, unpleasant things happen on a daily basis. But you also can’t sit home worrying about all the things that may happen. Fear of unknown, fear of failure, fear of the unexpected…you can’t let them dictate your life. You have to find a way to shed the fear. It isn’t easy, nor always possible, in which case, you have to find a way  to deal with it. 

2. Be grateful (the people who stick by you in down times, matter. A lot).

You know what the first thing I did when I confirmed that this genuinely had happened? That someone had indeed committed a fraud on my card? I shouted, “Dad!” I’ve not lived with my Dad for over 16 years. But because I was home, and because this happened, my first instinct was to shout for my Dad.

The fact that my family was there helped immensely. My dad and my sister, two very practical and  capable people, were calm and collected. Their calm helped me.

Even on that night, while I was tired and stressed, I was extremely grateful for my family. It matters to be surrounded by people who love and support you. Always be grateful for them. Value them. Show them that they matter. 

3. Sometimes, being physically “Stuck” can make you actually “Unstuck”

I spent most of the 1st of January on a plane, and by the time I got to the UK it was 2nd. I was literally travelling across time, and stuck in air. I couldn’t make phone calls, or start solving my problems. I really couldn’t do anything much at all. So I read, and I tried to sleep. As it happens, I was reading, Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor, which is about her 7 year journey to get qualified for Boston Marathon.

I’d wanted to read this book as an inspiration for my running. I started running last year, and this year I wanted to take it up a notch. My first half-marathon is in seven weeks, and again, I’ve a specific training plan. Only to discover couple of days ago constant pain in my shin. I’m not sure how bad it is, except to know that it was there 4 weeks ago, and it hasn’t gone away completely despite a lot of rest. So now I am not even sure if I will be running the half-marathon, and more importantly, actually need to investigate the cause of this shin irritation because wait for it to go away hasn’t worked. 

Boston Bound is about running, but it’s actually about overcoming one’s mental barriers. In Clor’s case, her perfectionism. I can relate to that. If not entirely an perfectionist, and perhaps a tad more relaxed than Clor was, I, too, measure my achievements as if they are my worth. I know they contribute to it, but they don’t entirely define me. Yet it is easy to forget that when you are caught up in the fever of accomplishing your goals. 

So being stuck on a plane, at the beginning of a year where my idea of how I was going to start my new year had been completely taken over by things outside of my control, I reflected on how I incorporate these “unexpected” things into my expectations. (Ever the control freak!). No, but in all seriousness, it has helped my perspective. I will be revising my goals, because I realized that with what I’ve planned, I’m still expecting too many things to go according to plan. 

Being stuck on the plane was also an exercise in the lesson that there is no point worrying when you can’t do anything about your problems. Up there at 35000 feet, I couldn’t do anything to fix anything. So instead of dwelling on it, I just had to let it rest. It doesn’t mean it goes away from your brain, but you don’t let it take over.

4. Yes, life is unfair. Accept it. Deal with it. 

You would think that being a victim of a credit card fraud and shin splits that affect what is a very important goal to me would be enough to start off a New Year with. No. I also got the worst jet leg in my memory, which has extended into physical symptoms well after the flight. My hands are swollen, and they go numb when I go to sleep, so then I wake up. They also feel numb and tingly as I am typing this. I’m not entirely sure but I believe it is called peripheral edema. So besides being completely knackered, bit worried, I also now had to deal with these other symptoms, while of course regular life is already starting to crowd in. Work that needs to be done, people to see, chores to do…none of that waits for me to be “normal” and back on the “plan.” 

But it’s the way it is. Sometimes, things just happen. And you just have to deal with them. You just have to look for the next step. For the next way out. You just have to keep looking for the light. Because there is a light. Always. Some people just give up before they see it. 

5. Perspective for 2017 (and life)

I’m looking at the start of 2017 as a sign from the universe. I’m looking at it as a reminder that unexpected things will happen, often unpleasant ones, and that I need to be more mentally ready to deal with them. People matter, and that I should never forget that, even when I am busy pursuing my goals. Likewise, people who treat me like I matter, no matter how busy they are…well, they are the keepers. 

And most importantly….

Goals are a part of life. They are not life.

This is the lesson I think I need to remember the most. 

 

With that, I would like to thank YOU, Kaizen Warriors, for being here. I hope that no matter what life throws at you this year, you find a way to turn it to your advantage, where it becomes a joy or a lesson. I wish you the best. 

 

 

End of Year Journaling & Mind Cleansing – Join In for Free

 

 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca

Life can change in a split second. The moment of revelation, or decision, or when perspective shifts. Often all it takes is a split second. It doesn’t matter what day it is. Life does not wait for the New Year to start, or Monday morning to start a new routine. What that means is that you don’t need to either. Possibilities for change and for growth are year around.
 
Yet, we continue to make New Year’s resolutions. We continue to create monthly, weekly, daily goals. We try often to start things on a Monday, or on the first of the month, or on our birthday, or some such “rational” beginning. While I make plenty of decisions and changes regardless of the date, I, too like to review my year, and set goals for the following year.
 
Why?
 
I suppose it feels tidy. A new year feels like a new beginning, even though it’s same old us moving forward in time. It just comes with that sense of optimism, of hope, of possibilities. But before you can embrace new possibilities, you need to take stock of your current situation, and that’s where the end of year mental cleansing comes in. Don’t get put off by the word “cleansing.” We aren’t going to go into fluffy nonsense. That’s not how Kaizen Warriors function.
 
However, for most us, our increasingly busy and crammed modern lives mean that our minds are just FULL. They are full to the brim of thoughts, worries, goals, dreams, wishes, desires, fears, everything. Often all that once. Sometimes to the point of explosion. That’s where regular journaling helps. That’s where good friends that you can vent to help. But sometimes you just need to do a focused cleansing in order to create that new beginning.
 
Now that December’s almost at the end, that’s my aim, and I want to share with you how I am going about this mental cleansing. All of which is done through journaling, but of course the life you lead will impact it, because our minds don’t wait until we are journaling to process our thoughts.

 

Each day for the next 8 days until 31st of December, I will post a prompt on Kaizen Journaling Facebook Page & link it on Kaizen Journaling Twitter. You can follow the prompts, do your journaling, as well as participate through your experience, comments and insights. 

 

I hope these prompts will, well, prompt you to squeeze in some journaling during the holidays. (Bad pun, I know) I hope it will also help you have a clearer mind before you firm up your 2017 goals. Because you are going to have goals right? Remember, if you don’t even know where you want to end up, you may spend a lot of time blundering about. 

 

Of course you can use these prompts any time you like, but it is a good idea to get into them daily so that you are mentally ready for your new goals at the beginning of January. Millions of people set resolutions, but I always prefer to set goals instead, as there is more of a chance of sticking to them. Don’t obsess too much about your answers. The aim is to get clarity – half of which means just getting stuff out of your head. Once it’s out there on the page, you will see more clearly, and you will spot the patterns more easily.
 
As you respond to the prompts over the next 8 days, keep asking yourself how this year went. Focus on facts and feelings. Check if your perception and truths match, or if they are at odds with each other.
 
Just keep writing. Keep digging deep. You won’t only have a better awareness of your year, but you may also end up creating memories of your year which you can cherish. 

 

Happy Journaling, and let’s welcome 2017 with gusto! 

 

 

NAWE 2016 Conference Report

 

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I am about a month late on this report, but fortunately, the subject is not time sensitive. I spent the weekend of 11th to 13th November attending my first academic conference, which is actually only a bit different from BristolCon (Science Fiction and Fantasy convention where writers and artists gather) that I attend annually. The National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) turned out to be a much more useful and fun event than I was expecting. Of course as one would assume, it was full of academics. But also, a large number of freelancers.

I met academics and freelancers from all around the UK, though we had a fair few Australians and North Americans as well. I also met some European representatives too. 

I was also fortunate enough to have a chance to talk about journaling there. I presented a paper, “Handwritten Journaling in the Digital Age,” highlighting why handwriting journals are still important, but also how we can use digital tools and technology available at our disposal to enhance that journaling practice. 

My presentation was segmented in a group with other two interesting presentations, “A Silent Journey: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Storytelling – Inés Gregori-Labarta” by Inés Gregori-Labarta and “Non-Linear Storytelling” by Chris Walker and Lara Munden. The whole weekend was actually full of many fascinating topics and presentations, as well as so many interesting chats.

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Three days in completely immersive environment in a hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. I didn’t put a foot outside the hotel until the conference was finished, because I simply didn’t have time. I was too busy attending sessions, or talking to people. Multi-stream programme was organised perfectly by lovely Seraphima. After twitter and email acquaintance over the last few months, it was a pleasure to meet her in person.

I came away from the weekend in high spirit, excited about returning to the NAWE in 2017. What’s great about a good conference is that it leaves you bursting with ideas. They may not be ground-breaking, new ideas, but just the process of conversing with like minded people, seeing somethings from a new/different perspective than your own can lead to future projects. It can leave you full of  creative energy. And that is after all what we all love and seek to express. 

 

Brexit, Trump, and the World Getting You Down? Unoverwhelm Your Mind With Journaling

 

Stress, Relief, Help, Sign, Relax, Relaxation, Pressure

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I woke up this morning to find that Donald Trump has been elected the 45th president of the United States. Brexit repercussions continue to play havoc in the UK. In India, Prime Minster Modi has decided to stop 500 and 1000 Rupees notes from circulation to reduce the amount of Black Money in the market. And these are just the three countries that personally affect me – as these three countries have been my home.

Whatever happens in the rest of the world also affects all of us. We live in a global world, and isolating ourselves in a national cocoon is no longer possible, unless you are satisfied with a hermit life and very little in the way of material ambitions and needs. 2016 has been pretty eventful from the deaths of many beloved celebrities such as Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, David Bowie and Ronnie Corbett. On a personal level, I lost an aunt this year, my mother’s only sister. On political front, it has been a disaster, no matter which way you voted. It’s like we are living in the middle of a storm, waiting for the aftermath, so we can see exactly how much damage has occurred.

Of course on a more micro-level, each of us have our own lives, our own issues, our individual struggles to contend with. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is understandable to want to hide under a duvet, and never come out. It is perfectly reasonable to seek escape. But we can’t escape from our minds, or from ourselves.

So the only thing to do, in a very British way, is to keep calm and carry on.

But how do you keep calm? You need to find it. You need to discover that peace within you. That’s where journaling can help. Use it as a tool to unoverwhelm your over-burdened mind. Here are 5 steps to get started:

1. Dump everything on the page

Just write your heart out. Keep going. Don’t worry about being fair, or clever, or indeed anything. Just write what you feel. Vent. Be subjective. Be honest. Give your thoughts, your fears, your worries, your hopes a place to exist. In the pages of your journal, they can come alive in that moment of you writing them down. And they can be out of your mind. Relieve the pressure in your head, by letting it all out. Then when you are done, when you can’t write anymore, when you feel empty, take a deep breath.

2. Make a list of all the things that you are grateful about

Ok, now let’s bring some positivity into focus. What are you grateful about? What are the good things in your life? Don’t forget to include simple pleasures too that you may  take for granted. It can be your family, your health, your work, your sheer love of life, the place where you live, your room, your mind, the stranger who smiled at you, the outfit you look and feel great in, the meal someone made for you, something nice you did for someone else…just about anything. Find moments of gratitude. (Gratitude can also make  you instantly happier.) Write them down. Cherish them.

3. What is your next step?

Of course, here, we believe in action. So what is the next thing you want to focus on? What is your next step? In the world of uncertainty where things seem to spin out of control, find the things that you can control. Things that you can do something about. Where can you take action? It all begins with one step. And that’s what personal development is. Action taken, one step at a time. What is going to be your next step?

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Give yourself the time and space to do this journaling meditation by unoverwhelming your mind. And then, take your next step. Because action is what you need to progress. Remember, stagnant is a path to decay. To thrive, you must keep moving.

 

Journaling Prompt: Halloween

 

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It may be all about commercial purchases, like many holidays these days, but I do love Halloween. Supposedly scary costumes become cool, and it’s okay for us all to be dressed in weird get-ups! 

In the spirit of Halloween then, here’s a journaling prompt for you to try out:

What’s the scariest (in the spooky sense) thing you’ve ever experienced? Where was this? When? What exactly happened? Did you ever find out the true reason behind why you were spooked? Did you feel better about it then?

Did it excite you? Did it scare you? Did it give you an adrenaline rush?

How do you feel about spooky things now?