Recently I have been reviewing what to do, having spent many years doing it all, or rather trying to do it all. I feel now I have come to the state in life when I need to edit things out. This kind of editing has involved giving away of things I am not using; not going to events/shows/talks; editing out facebook and other social media contacts; getting out of mailing lists and also deciding what to do with work goals.
The Konmari method of cleaning out spaces uses the idea of throwing out anything that is not ‘sparking joy’. William Morris suggested that everything in our house should be useful or beautiful (or both).
The author, Scott Sonenshein, says that the Konmari method is ‘not just about what we do to our physical space. It’s about what we do to our mental space. Once we break that dependence that having more equals more happiness and more success” and apply the “spark joy” filter, we “can recognize what is most meaningful and important to us because it doesn’t get lost in clutter.’
However, it has taken me a long time (decades) to see what sort of rest of my life I want to lead. So he says, ‘Deciding which projects to pursue may be more challenging for individuals beginning a new career, as they have yet to develop a strong sense of the work and environments they prefer. However, just as the KonMari Method is structured so individuals can “calibrate before getting to sentimental items”, people may need time in their professional lives to gain a better sense of what “sparks joy” for them.’
Using the method by William Morris, one can decide if the project is not useful or creating something beautiful it is time to let go of it. After all, we live short lives and in that time, we do not leave something behind that is beautiful or useful (and even both), then there is nothing to remember us by. That leaving gift need not be a physical thing- it can be advice or love you give to another person. For example, my Uncle did not leave me anything but his love and advice (which I use all the time). He lives on in my life and also in my children’s lives as I recount things he used to say or do with me.
Worth watching this 12 minute funny TED Talk (assuming you are not offended by the language!)
This weekend I have been helping a neighbour design an ‘Order of service’ booklet for her husband who died suddenly. She is quite distraught and as a result, unnaturally disorganised. She gave me a pile of photographs and three pages that she wanted typed into the booklet. Sitting down with her, we went over the photos and writing, editing out things that need not be there. I also found a suitable printing service that could do the printing at short notice. I have never done anything like this before- normally these things are done by the funeral service but she had left it too late. But I am grateful she asked me because it helped me to find a new perspective on life.
The thing that struck me while laying out the pages that someone will be doing this for me too someday. What would they put in that booklet about me? What if I could do that now? After all no one knows when they could die. So I after having finished her booklet, I am now trying to put together something for myself. How do I want to remembered? As a creative person, as non conformist, as a mother, as a friend, daughter, etc.? What music would I like to be played? What special photos would I use and who would be in those photos? It has been said that the best way of getting our creative selves out of procrastination and into production is to imagine our own funeral or write our obituary. I come to realise that the best way to set our life goals might be to make our own ‘Order of service’ booklet. No one needs to see it- it is there for your eyes only. As a goal setter, it may be a sombre; but yet the clarity and the simplicity it provides is truly creative. Try it!
The urge to be different may not be the highest or the profoundest element of the artist’s equipment but it is rarely lacking together’- E.H.Gombrich.
Self- concordant goals are those we pursue out of deep personal conviction or a self generated interest. These goals according to research from Kennon Sheldon and Andrew Elliot are integrated with the self because they come from ‘self-choice’. Externally directed goals give us stress and depression while self directed ones are those that give us joy and ease. Self chosen goals also stem from the need to express one’s creativity and spirit rather than compete or simply do the job. Research in this area indicates that there is a qualitative difference between the meaning we derive from extrinsic goods, such as social status and salary, and the meaning we derive from intrinsic goods, such as personal growth and a sense of connection to others. Our choices can be a mixture of both self directed and externally directed goals as long as the self-directed goal directs the external manifestation of it. The creative person’s problem perhaps is not that of generating creativity but of continuously letting that internal voice direct the external aims of financial sustainability, fame and expansion, instead of the other way round.
My children teach me things in many different ways. Last week, I learnt about always having the bigger picture and goal before my eyes rather than busyness and details.
I asked my son what his GCSE results were before we went off on holiday. He said that he did not care too much about the GCSE results because the result he wanted was already there. He had got admission into the Sixth form college of his choice and so he wasn’t worried. I had to be content with his thinking and marvelled at how he always kept the goal before the details. During our holiday, we learnt that my son had achieved great results- almost all were A* and rest were all As.
This led me to think about how we can get carried away by details so much that goals just vanish, like the forest in the trees. I also looked at how my son studied- he didn’t seem to be doing very much but what he was doing was working holistically. So everyday he could study a bit of all his exam subjects, not one subject a day. As a result of this wisdom from my son, I decided the following steps to goal setting-
- Decide your goal
- Work out the steps need to achieve it- these steps need not be equal, all they need to be are different steps to achieve your goal
- While working on the steps, always check it with the goal to see if they still match or in case, your goal has changed.
- Very important– work each day on all the steps, i.e as if they were working holistically.
- Don’t worry if all the steps are not completed in the final process, as long as the goal is reached.
- And don’t worry anyway about the details as long as the goal is reached!
So if you are writing a book, work on all the book chapters each day. The chapters will change but the title of your book won’t so you can chop and change the chapters, working together, to achieve that aim.
I have come to the conclusion that most friendships do not last a lifetime and nor should one expect them to. People change and we change too. People move and people die. Friendships are transient, part of this world’s tumultuous life journey that come and go like waves Of course, for the time that we are together, we should respect one another and thoroughly love that time together. But one must not feel sad to let go when that time comes to an end for whatever reason. One must be grateful for that time spent together and not cling to the past.
Recently I celebrated a landmark birthday and I invited many past and present friends. I felt hurt that many of these friends did not come to this party (which had involved a lot of effort and expense) or even responded to my invite and even when I met them later, did not remember to wish me. Rather than hold a grudge or make some remark to remind them of their rudeness, I decided to let go of these people gracefully. People come together for many reasons- shared goals, passions and pains. When these emotions or events go, the people go as well. For that time in history, they were of value to me and I to them. For now and for the future that has not yet happened, they mark an important period of shared learning and growth. Thank you, my past and present friends!
I have been quite ill recently- seems like I have spent most of my days and weeks in hospital and it seems like there is more to come. I felt quite despondent about this and following my heart seemed to be about having enough rest to get some strength to get back to more hospitals. Is this what a creative life is about, I wondered- Just trying to have just enough energy to do my daily chores? I looked at some of my colleagues and thought how wonderful it would if I had their good health, then only I could so much more. Then it came to me. I did not have to compare myself to others. If my day could be even one bit better than the previous day, I had succeeded. Life was about baby steps. The creative life is about taking baby steps towards your goals every day. Yes, every day has been a struggle but if in the morning, I could determine that one that day i could feel even one bit better and do one creative thing (whether that was in the kitchen or anywhere else), then I had won! As Daisaku Ikeda says,”It is not how you compare to others that is important, but rather how you compare to who you were yesterday. If you’ve advanced even one step, then you’ve achieved something great.”
I came across an inspirational video about Jadav Payeng. Singlehandedly, he has created a forest out of barren land with no money or help. He has been working since 1979, with no social media or press congratulating him on his achievements until recently when he was ‘found’ by chance. By planting one seed or sapling daily, he has created a forest bigger than Central Park in New York- a park which will prevent erosion and save wildlife. Learning to take baby steps towards our goals without external validation is the most important thing we can do each day.