“I feel like every time I turn the page in this planner I’m reminded of what I haven’t done. Of all the ways I’ve fallen short of what I wanted to be this year and it makes me question whether I should just pack it all in. Where is the balance? Between working towards something, and biting off so much more than I can chew that I choke.”28/02/2019
This is how I felt at the end of February. I’d kicked off the year with that typical new start attitude, and I already felt like I’d failed. There were so many things that I wanted to do and to be this year, and I felt as though I just wasn’t able to achieve any of them. I was overwhelmed, and I shut down. Thankfully, though, I had a friend who was looking out for me, and I honestly have to credit her for changing my life. Amy bought me a ticket to Sophie Cliff‘s Mindset Masterclass, which I wouldn’t have bought for myself. Literally, I looked at the event, thought that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted so it was pointless trying to figure out how to get there, and clicked away. Thank goodness Amy didn’t though, because I can pinpoint that masterclass as the most impactful moment in my life since moving across the country a year ago.
What are my priorities?
Just ahead of the Masterclass, Sophie released a short e-book called Rediscovering Your Spark, and I chose to take it as a homework exercise, planning to work through it in the few days before the workshop. And I did, partially, though I know now that I wasn’t quite ready for what it had to offer. What it did do, however, was force me to take a few minutes to sit down and really think about what I wanted. What were my core goals? There were a few things that had been on my mind at that time, like wanting to buy a house and express myself more creatively, but I hadn’t actually taken the time to get things down on paper and so nothing felt like a real commitment. What the e-book helped me to do was to look at those goals, and others that I wanted to commit to, and understand why it was a goal. For example, buying a house is an external goal, and it could have been that I just wanted to do it because it was the ‘done thing’, but taking the time to really think about it, I was able to shine a light on my motivations. I want to buy a house because I love to be at home. I’m ready to put down roots, and I want to create an environment that reflects who I am and makes me feel content. Right now, our home feels temporary, and I’m ready for something more permanent. I also want to be smarter about my money, and planning for the future, and investing in a property is a great place to start.
Doing this exercise, I was able to identify a set of key areas where I wanted to progress. These included health & wellbeing, home, career, money, creativity, relationships and Knits Please. Now, I didn’t pluck these ideas out of thin air. They’re the things that had been on my mind, often causing me stress, whe I was trying to figure out what to do but not really knowing where to start.
Where am I channelling my energy?
The first exercise we did in Sophie’s Mindset Masterclass was a wheel of life. I was looking forward to this one, having seen, but not got around to completing, it in her e-book. The idea is that you divide a circle into segments, each one representing one of the areas that you want to focus on. You then shade in that segment to represent the level of satisfaction you currently feel in each of those areas. This was an eye-opening exercise for me. While it wasn’t a surprise to see low levels of satisfaction across the board, what it did do was make me ask the most game-changing question of the day. If I’m not channeling my energy into these areas, the ones of highest importance, then where am I channelling it? The honest answer? I didn’t know, and I still don’t. But what that did do was allow me to see where I wanted to channel my energy, and encourage me to plan to do exactly that.
Planning in the good stuff
One of Sophie’s first lessons was to tell us this – plan in the good stuff first. So often we can get caught up in all of the stuff we should be doing. In all of the chores and the responsibility and, in doing so, we can fill up all of our time with things that we don’t enjoy. Sophie suggests we prevent that by planning in the good stuff first. By committing time in the calendar to doing the things that bring you joy. For me that could be getting out in nature, or planning in a day trip to explore our local area a little more. It might mean scheduling some time to get active, or blocking out my calendar to do nothing but be creative. It might even mean putting time in the calendar to just do nothing. Something I’ve learned about myself if that I need a lot of space in my time. If I’m booked up with commitments a few days a week, I know that my stress levels are going to increase, and alongside that I’ll get tired and low on energy, so I know that I need to plan in time for me to stay home and recalibrate.
In making sure there is time committed to the things that fuel our hearts, we can be sure to give our satisfaction levels a boost.
Breaking it down into the smallest steps
When looking at that wheel of life, seeing quite a few areas where I wanted to make progress, it could have easily become overwhelming to consider how to go about it all. But Sophie’s second piece of invaluable advice was to break everything down into the smallest steps. Take each of your goals, and work out the individual actions that will get you closer to where you need to be. Having that list does multiple things – it shows you how easy it can be to make progress when the challenges are easily surmountable; it gives you a plan, and something to work from; and it lays out a whole host of little things you can do when you have a few spare minutes.
Setting myself up with a lot of little action steps has been one of the biggest ways things have changed over the past two months. Before, I was feeling overwhelmed with no idea of where to start, while now I’m making progress every day. I’m utilising the pockets of time I have during the day (like writing this blog post on the bus and in the park before I head to work), and it’s made the world of difference. Even taking one tiny step feels like a win, and that feeling of success really can’t be underestimated.
Taking it slowly
All that being said, it was important for me to go into this new era of productivity with one strong caveat – take it slowly. I’ve written a few times about how susceptible I am to overwhelm, and how my instinctive reaction to that feeling is to shut down, so it was important to me to put measures in place to prevent that chain of events wherever possible. To do that, I have made it clear to myself that is is OK, in fact it is vital, that I go slowly. No more rushing to get things done by an unreasonable deadline. No more feeling like the point of things is to have them done instead of enjoying the journey. And allowing myself to say no to something, even if it’s something I’ve said that I will do, if it isn’t right in the moment. This shift in my Mindset has had a huge impact on the way I feel when I’m working towards something. Instead of feeling stressed and like a failure because I’m not there yet, I feel so happy and positive when I take the tiniest step to get there.
I recently took on my first sewing project in years, and it was so interesting to see this new Mindset at work. In the past, while I enjoyed sewing, the purpose was always to have that finished project. And with that came the rush to get things done, and a hastiness that often led to mistakes. This time around, though, I planned to tackle one step of the pattern at a time, across a number of different days. Doing that allowed me to slow down, to take the time to understand things properly and to make sure I was working accurately. In doing all of those things, I made a tailored shirt from scratch with not one mistake along the way. Now, that might not seem like much to you, but for me in was an absolute game-changer.
Looking back on how things have changed over the past two months, it’s quite staggering to see the difference. I’ve gone from feeling low, unhappy and without motivation, to feeling joyful, positive and fulfilled. I feel excited that I’m taking steps forward to achieve the things that are important to me, from regularly commiting time to Knits Please to making sure I get out in the fresh air often enough. That feeling of failure has transformed into something entirely opposite, a feeling of achievement and success and a confidence that I am where I want to be – making progress and increasing my satisfaction, one day at a time.
If you’re feeling a little lost, or you need some guidance to help you along your way, I cannot stress enough how helpful Sophie’s blog, Podcasts, workbooks and Masterclasses are. I have no reservations about saying that Sophie’s advice has changed my life, and I would absolutely encourage you to check her out on Instagram and listen to some of her Practical Positivity podcast episodes to see what she’s all about. She even offers coaching, if you feel like she might be the right person to help you guide yourself to contentment.