When you are deeply immersed in a process, it is easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. But, it is not always a bad thing. Oftentimes, when looking at it from a distance of time or space, you will be pleasantly surprised how much you enjoyed the process and as a result completely forgot about the passing of time and the progress you’ve made in between.
Among many strategies to induce this reflection, a tool called Morning Pages is probably the most transformational. This is something I learned from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a journaling exercise where you rely on the stream of consciousness and jot down non-stop for 3 pages whatever comes into your mind at that very moment. No limits or restrictions on grammar or punctuation or really anything. All you need to do is to simply record everything your mind happens to be working on right there right then. If you have nothing to write, then just keep writing something like “my mind is blank now” until the next thought comes up.
It takes me 20 to 30 minutes every morning and it is so natural to me now that it has become part of my morning routine like brushing, which also means that if I don’t do it, I will clearly feel something is missing.
There are two types of people when it comes to how they use their energy. One type gains more energy while socializing with others and drains their energy while spending time alone with themselves. The other type is the opposite. I happen to be the second.
Don’t get me wrong. I love people and I not only enjoy spending time with all the amazing folks, but I also need it very much for my own sanity. I believe we as human beings are wired for connection. It is our intrinsic need but we need it at different levels – some people need more of it while others need less. As I am more and more self-aware and gaining more clarity in life, I have come to understand that I am one of those who need it more than most people.
The tricky part is that, because I love people and spending time with the ones I care about or those that inspire me, I either intentionally pay a lot of attention when I get to spend time with them or I unintentionally get myself too involved because of my empathetic and compassionate nature. Unfortunately, it is just too intense for me and as much as I wish I could keep going, in both scenarios I drain my energy very fast and burn out after a short while. If it takes me one hour of very concentrated work to feel tired, it probably only takes me twenty minutes of a one-on-one conversation to reach the same level of tiredness. I will quickly start losing my capacity to focus or process information. I can literally feel my brain slowing down and my ability to speak in my second language English fading away. Those are some signs of me needing some time alone.
I used to think it might be a personality thing. I’ve heard people say that extroverts generally enjoy spending time with others while introverts prefer to be with themselves. But having shifted my personality so many times in my life, I now understand that it is not about being an introvert or extrovert in this case.
I don’t know exactly how it works but I have gradually developed my own theory on this matter. The way I see it, my willpower or the mental capacity I need to function is like a battery bank. It has a limit and it can be charged to the full or drained to zero percent. Different activities take a different amount of battery to process. Spending time with others happens to be one of the activities that take a lot of processing power and thus drain the battery bank faster. Once it causes the system to enter the power saving mode, it automatically shuts down certain activities and lowers the quality of other activities to protect the system from a complete power-off until it gets charged again.
Finally understanding this pattern has helped me a lot. I know that as long as I can keep a good balance between staying social and recharging my battery in solitude, I am safe. The real challenge is, however, to find the balance and maintain it. Occasionally, I enter the emergency mode and may need some serious repairs instead of a simple recharge. But in general, I have been in much better control… until recently.
In February, I participated a workshop called Open heART.
I had very little idea of what to expect but as the name suggested, I was willing to keep an open heart and give it a try.
It was very interesting and beyond what I could have ever imagined. Basically, instead of doing meditation or journaling by yourself at home, you experience the self-discovery journey with a group of strangers with the help of the facilitator and through the format of art. You do a few different exercises in two hours and each one of them takes you deeper and deeper into your sub-consciousness.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and share your deepest self with total strangers. In the end, I was completely blown away by what I found in others and in myself.
A friend recommended this book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, from which I learned a lot of very practical things. Today I want to share one that I’ve been implementing in my life and has made a big impact on me – “the weekly review”.