Sunday, 3 February 2019

What happened?

I'm utterly aghast.

I just went to look at my blog (that I post to rather too infrequently, apologies!) - and I couldn't access it because I'm not one of the invited readers...?


I'm the author!? Why wouldn't I be able to access my own blog?

So I checked the settings and found that it was indeed set to 'invited readers only.

That was not my intention. Of course I want people to be able to read my blog, that's the entire point.  I really don't know what happened.

Did I perhaps change this myself with the intention of turning it back on soon? But why would I do that? It is an utter, utter mistery to me.

This is incribly peculiar and it teaches me that I should check my own blog a bit more often.

Well anyway, we're back in business! (I sincerely hope)

Friday, 28 September 2018

Well, wow... About voting

I only just saw the 'embed' function of YouTube videos so I want to try it out. It helps hugely that I really like this video and am desperate to share it, even if just on this blog. It's a bit hard-hitting:

What do you think, does this make young (and younger) people more likely to vote?

I think it would have influenced me, particularly because I like to think that I have a contrarian bent... Not sure how true that is but this video would have spoken to me.

On the other hand I have often voted. And I like politics: I read and watch as much as I can and I feel hopeful that more people voting can and will make this world a better place - if we could only all make the effort: pay attention, think about context, causes and consequences and then exercise our democratic right to have our voice heard. In a nut shell: to vote.

What do you think?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Procrastination - how to slip, slide past it

The easy, not the hard way.  [Prepared earlier, in Jan 2018. Oops, talk about procrastination...]

Any time I see an article about how to beat procrastination, I read it.  I hope for the ultimate insight that will help me get rid of this awful obstacle that makes me feel paralysed and bad, bad, just horribly bad. Ugh.

"I would like to do xyz, but...!  I can't get going, I can't make myself do it, it's too hard, there is xyz difficulty that's stopping me, I just can't." - It's this awful feeling of being stuck in hardening mud. Very close to dried in concrete consistency.


So this last post I read talked about a mental exercise that is meant to connect you with the person you will be once you've done it, or achieved a long-term goal (something like it, I'm not actually quite clear on that point). I'm not too keen on this because it asks you to put yourself rather deeply into the paralysed state of how you feel when you're stuck.  To my mind that's not helpful because it makes me feel even more paralysed. I'd rather come from the other side: from a positive, constructive angle.

This other piece has a different piece of advice that might be pretty helpful: trading in the whole shebang of how dreadful you feel about being stuck right now with what it takes to spend only five minutes and make yourself do the dreaded task, - literally just for the five minutes. You can stop at that point.

I find this pretty helpful actually, particularly when it talks about being in the flow that puts you in a mental state when you no longer care that you used to be stuck once upon a time (when on earth was that? Oh pooh! I've forgotten already!).  That all sounds pretty familiar.

Embed from Getty Images

I just don't know that I can commit to these "just five minutes" all the time and with all the procrastination issues that I run into. Sometimes I am unable to motivate myself into even just five minutes, and that ends up making me feel ever worse... Bleurgh. You can imagine.

I found a way of sort of slipping or sliding past the procrastination obstacle, it works relatively well for me.  I suppose it is a version of the five minute rule. But hey! Whatever works, right?

So: here's what I found what works for me. There are a few different elements to it so it hope that some of it I might work for you too.

Procrastination is all about feeling very stressed or fearful of doing something. There's a heck of a lot of anxiety because I either want or desperately need to do something but it is getting worse and worse because I am just not doing it. I put it off, and put if off, and put it off...

While I do that I manage to get all sorts of other things done!  I'll voluntarily wash up, change the bed sheets, shine shoes... or those displacement tasks. The mere thought of the task makes me shudder and quickly turn to something else, because it is just all too much.

Anxiety Central.

But let's go with the constructive angle, let me pick an example.  I made this beautiful embroidery of orange trees and and a gorgeous border of fruit and berries. The embroidery was all done (halleluya!) but I wanted to turn it into a cushion cover and give the whole thing to my mum as a present. I knew she'd love it and was really looking forward to being able to hand it over.

Did I?  Nope. It must have taken me about 10 years, give or take. And the most horrible, "I could kick myself in the butt" part of it all was that it took me an hour to put the cushion cover together.  Once I started.

It was that starting that was the problem and something else.

Before I successfully stopped smoking I had the same issue and it got me onto the solution:

How am I going to do this?  

What are the practical, actual steps that I'll do?  How am I getting this done?  What does it take? That was it!

Before I was able to envisage stopping smoking I had to start thinking about how I was going to do it. Was I going to use nicotin replacement products like gum or patches, would I want to go with sugarfree lollies to give my mouth something to do? How did I want to approach it?

It still took months but this was the essential first step I needed to put in place, it didn't work without that. In the case of the cushion I needed to ask myself what sort of cover I wanted to make and what the first step was.

A big frill around it has to be sewn to something, and not just the embroidery itself. I didn't realise that: it was just this big mystery about how a mysterious process that would turn a flat embroidered piece into a slip cover. Funnily enough I did a cushion cover with the same technique a few months before I finally spent the hour getting over my ten year long hump. So I learned just in time, but I hadn't thought it through.

So that's what I want to think about in future: anything I procrastinate about: I want to think of the practical steps I either need to take, and that I want to do. It doesn't have to be the way other people would get this done, I can find my own way!

If you want to do the same but feel totally clueless about where to start: the Internet is your friend. It is your very clever friend. It seems to obvious but type in your question: how do I...?  More often than not (and several hours of fun researching this later. Beware the rabbit hole, but hey! That's fun too) you will find an answer of something to try. If it doesn't work for you then keep looking.  Figuring stuff out is part of the feeling of achievement, you don't need someone to take you by the hand and talk you through this: you've got this!

Just one little bit

My other very practical advice for those tasks that I find difficult to get started on is to get to your feet and go get one very small bit done.  Something as small as winding a sewing machine bobbin with the right colour sewing thread, or washing an ashtray out. Or pulling out one of the bits of paper you need for your tax return, something small. Anything at all.

With the understanding that you don't have to do anything else. I don't like to commit to five minutes, it feels like too much pressure. All that expectation that I'll get even five minutes done!  It is paralysing.  I might be able to do a single little bit - and I like to go do that as soon as I think of what it might be. Just slip it in there!  Just a nice, quick one.  Nothing more. Oh no Sir! Utterly, completely, definitely no, not at all, nuthing more...

...oh go on then, just a little bit more. Or not, no pressure. But if the next little bit seems easily do-able, why not? Every little helps!

Sometimes you get into the flow (that's what you're aiming for) but not always. Be proud of that single thing you managed to do! It is more than you had gotten done before that. Sit back down, celebrate the feeling of achievement! You've done good.

And whenever the urge or the thought comes up of what the next step might be, go and do that too - however long after the first one. At some point you'll start doing this thing that you've put off for so long. You've "tricked" yourself into it by taking the pressure of expecation out of the equation. That's sometimes all it takes.

And here's the last element that helps me.

A change is as good as a rest

When I sew a project that feels endless and I find it difficult to keep going - this often happens when I haven't found "the flow" or dropped out of it.  I know I could do more but I am feeling something close to revulsion about having to carry on with the blasted task.

Then a bit of a change is good. You can do something like changing the order of things that you need to do to complete your tasks, or you can go do another small (unrelated) task that also helps you feel achievement. It's probably a good idea to do something that won't take long. It does happen that I'll happily distract myself from the dreaded task by deep-diving into something else that I get the flow thing with. You might get yourself back into it with another stab at a small thing only.

The benefit

And the last thing I'd like to add is that it helps a lot to have a visual image in mind: something that will or could happen once you're successful. I kept imagining the look of sheer surprise on my father's face when he'd realise that I no longer smoked. It really kept me going, it was such a nice thing to aim for because it made me feel exceedingly good.

So that's my ideas. I'd love to hear of other things that help you get around procrastination. Please comment!

PS: These posts are also pretty good: why procrastinators procrastine (part 1) and how to beat procrastination (part 2). Actually thinking about it, these posts probably did influence my ideas (as above) quite a bit. So give them a read, see if if kicks something off in your brain.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Another blog post that I started in 2012.

I just came across a brilliant quote: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." - said by Yogi Berra, a US baseball player who coined quite a few often used phrases.  His most famous and most often used phrase is: 'it ain't over till it's over'.  I didn't know he said it.

They are often interpreted as malapropisms but I can't agree to see it just like that.  Some of the time accidental bon mots are a lot deeper. A fork in the road: whatever route you go, it is much better than not 'taking it'.  It's got to be the worst thing to be stuck at a decision and not know which way to turn.

It's not easy to listen to your inner voice that can help you figure out what it is exactly that you want to do.  Some of the time we seem to be utterly out of touch with that wise guide.  At other times we think we ought not to listen to it or get stuck with a multitude of facts that we think we ought to consider before we set off on any course of action.

That's not how human beings work though.  We would like to think of ourselves as sensible, rational beings.  People who make up their minds after careful consideration and mulling over of all the pros and cons.  Yeah, right, as if.

We don't.  Lots of times we make a gut decision and go with that, only rationalising it later.

- -

I seem to have lost track of what I was trying to say.  A bit like wandering around in the wilderness looking for a path.  That reminds me: there was a second quote I read on Twitter today that I really liked: "Searcher, there is no road. We make the road by walking." (Antonio Machado, from a 1912 poem by him) - I don't know if I'd be comfortable feeling myself traipsing about on completely untrodden ground, that sounds downright scary.

But if the road we walk is the path we take throughout our lives, then this is indeed new territory as we go, otherwise we'd be lemmings.  Nah, thanks.
This quote really struck me as something I'd like to mull over a bit.  I wonder if I am approaching a fork but I haven't quite gotten to it yet.  That's why this blog post sounds so theoretical.

Oh well, hey ho. Food for thought!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Move posts, keep goals

This is a post I drafted in 2012, and forgot to publish. It is still a good thought that I'm glad I came across again. I want to also blog again. Let's see how that goes!

Embed from Getty Images

I caught an advertising slogan out of the corner of my eye this morning: something about moving posts but not goals.  It's very apt: my goals are the things I want to achieve - those are not going to change whatever else happens, - but it is the posts that can be moved, uprooted and re-set.

I don't have to rigidly stick with 'the plan' that I hoped would get me there.  I can be flexible and reconsider when things enter tough-going terrain and I begin to fear that I am giving up on a cherished hope.  I tend to run out of steam somewhere along the way and feel utterly frustrated and discouraged when that happens.

Thinking about this posts versus the actual goal thing: the discouragement has nothing to do with the goal being 'too tough', my goal is still the same thing: something I would love to be able to do or to get to.  Whether it's an activity (like dressmaking or heck yes even dating), or something I want to get to (like slimming down and getting fitter), or what I want to be (more optimistic; living in a more 'aware' manner; becoming more confidant about achieving my goals even).  Whether it's tough or easy to achieve, the goal remains the same.

But the posts I set to get there, those can be anything and anywhere.  I see them as both the measurements I use to decide success or failure as well as my overall strategy in itself.

I've often made the mistake of going very over-the-top in what I expect from myself in terms of a specific goal.  When I think about wanting to be slimmer I get totally carried away and start to think that a couple of kilos just won't do and it's got to be at least a stone that I want or need to lose, and while I'm at it, why not two stone or, heck, even three?

Where does that rubbish thinking come from?  Why on earth would I heap this monumental burden on top of my hopes and inflate expectations and standards to  unachievable proportions?  Am I trying to set myself up for a lack of success?  Am I trying to make sure that I'll fail?  What the hell is going on?

This is ridiculous.

My goal hasn't changed: I still want to slim down and get fitter.  Feel better within myself.  Be proud of the way I look and the way I carry myself.  But it seems that I've done something with the posts that almost guarantees that the goal remains at an unreachable distance from my grasp.  The initial expectation and hope of perhaps a couple of kilos, maybe three, - that's achievable.  Is it that I'm scared that I won't achieve the low-expectation objective?  Is that why I ratchet up my expectation so I can tell myself: oh well, it was too difficult, no wonder that I didn't succeed.  Is that it?