Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quarterly reflection - the project so far

I have completed five activities so far in the project, it seems like I've done so much but there is still such a long way to go. I thought that it might be timely to re-reflect on some of these and whether they have made any lasting impact on my life so far. This reflection won't include Activity 5, since it has only just finished and will have its own initial reflection post.

30 days of fashion
From this activity I have learned to have more fun and take more risks with my appearance, it's not that scary - neither is being more visible to the world.

I still think that this was the best activity to start the project with. It was extremely confrontational to make such a big change to my wardrobe overnight, but I'm really glad that I did this one.
I had such a great time Op Shopping, found some amazing bargains, and continue to do so. Just the other week I bought two dresses, two tops and a skirt for $27 - post-xmas shopping spree. One of the dresses is particularly pretty, although it is black and cream so it's not that out there, the lime green dress on the other hand...
I haven't reverted back to my standard black/white/grey wardrobe, although some more of those pieces have come back into use since the activity. I have caught myself a couple of times thinking in my old mode, but I have always pushed myself through that doubt.
This activity really brought me out of myself and gave me a lot of confidence to launch into some of the more personal and revealing activities I have undertaken, and am continuing to undertake.
Thank you again Jessi for such an inspiring talk, I continue to keep the principles in my life and I can't see that changing back.

30 days of thanks, praise and mindfulness
From this activity I have learned how to be more comfortable praising and thanking others and that I need to learn more about compassion because I didn't feel I was doing enough.

This was a bit more of an internal struggle for me, but I was pretty happy with the outcome. I think that I managed to overcome a little of whatever it was that stopped me from being able to compliment and praise others, but I still don't feel that I've gotten the hang of compassion.
I still try to do at least one thing a day to have a positive impact on someone but I am not as mindful of others as I was during the activity.
I am reading Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, but I've struggled to get through the First Step - Learn about compassion. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a long theological discussion about the presence and importance of compassion within each major religion. I'm through this chapter now so hopefully the rest picks up a bit.
This activity did teach me a few things about myself and I feel that I grew a little in the 30 days. It didn't happen in isolation though, doing the 30 days of fashion at the same time made this a little bit easier.
Thank you to all of the speakers, I am trying to remain mindful of keeping this external focus in my life. I feel much more connected to the people around me when I am doing this.

30 days of better listening
The big thing that I got from this activity was the theory of soundscapes and the concept that I can create and control mine - so simple, but so powerful.

This had a lot more of an impact on my life than I thought it would going into it. To be honest, I thought that this activity would give me a bit of a break from being so focused - nothing could be further from the truth.
I do still find myself trying to appreciate mundane sounds when they are annoying me, the bathroom exhaust fan is the classic example. And I think that I am much more conscious about the sounds in my environment and try to be a more active listener.
Thank you for all of the talks Julian, it has made me think about listening in a very different way and I do enjoy the skills it has taught me. I still have a long way to go to be a good conscious listener, but I continue to try and that is the point at the moment.

30 days of the three As
From this activity I learned that I am generally positive but that I need to do more, because my life is great and with everything I'm doing at the moment it's only going to get better.

As I mentioned in my reflection post on this activity, I think that I was already a pretty positive person going into this, maybe I just hadn't realised it. That would probably be due to my cynicism and sarcasm, which I had felt meant I was negative in the way I viewed the world, but I don't think that is actually the case.
Focusing on finding the joy in the little things in life is also something I generally do already, but really focusing on it for 30 days was a very positive activity that I think everyone would benefit from. It is far too easy for us all to get caught up in our own lives and be annoyed or upset by things that are really not that important, or not that catastrophic. The majority of my day-to-day problems are "first world problems" that I really need to just take a step back and remember how good my life actually is.
Finding out that my ex-husband had passed away from melanoma at the end of this activity really made that hit home for me. I have a good life with an amazing partner, loving family and great friends. It may not always go to plan, there are times that things aren't as bright as they could be, but on the whole it's great and I need to appreciate it more.
Authenticity is something I still have to work on, but I had no preconceptions that I would feel like I had this sorted by the end of the 30 days. After all, I don't think I really know who my authentic self is, given I have spent most of my life as a people pleasing, non-confrontationalist. I've spent the last 5-6 years really trying to turn that around, and feel I understand myself a lot more than I ever have, but finding my authentic self and learning how to be authentic was always going to be a challenge for the project as a whole.

Thank you for this talk and your website Neil. I honestly believe that everyone would benefit a lot from doing 30 days of the 3 As, it makes you look at things a little differently - and even as I write this I realise that I had all too quickly forgotten the lessons. I need to make sure that I continue to focus on this in my life, because my life is pretty damn awesome.

Feelings after 3 months
I've mentioned a bit in the last couple of weeks that I'm feeling pretty weary. This is partly due to the project I think, it's just hard to remain so focused on changing or identifying very fundamental parts of my behaviour. But I think it also has a lot to do with not having had a real holiday for over 18 months now.

I hope that Activity 7 helps me recharge my batteries a little, or more appropriately, gives me some direction as to how I might find ways to slow my life down a little so I have the opportunity to recharge.

Having said all of that I'm feeling pretty positive about how this is all going. I certainly feel that I have grown in the last 3 months, and understand a lot more about myself than I did starting the project. I also feel that it has provided me with a platform to start really being authentic, and to hopefully inspire other people along the way.

As mentioned in an earlier post, my three words for this year are Do Share Inspire, and I feel that I am living the intent of these words. There is still a very long way to go, another 18 '30 day' activities and some small project activities to be exact, but I am very happy and proud of the project so far.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 91 - Last day of Asian diet

Just a quick post to acknowledge the last day of my 30 days of an Asian diet. As usual there will be a reflection post in a couple of days with my initial reactions to the activity and how I think I went. For now, I know that I didn't do as well with some areas of this as I would have liked, but that is what this is all about. If I was successful with all of these then where would the challenge be.

Tomorrow morning I will be having vegemite toast for breakfast, I'm really looking forward to that. I also intend on having chocolate tomorrow, since this is the other thing I've really been missing for probably the last 10 days.

Activity 7 will start tomorrow, it has to start a day early so it will still finish at the end of February. 30 days of slowing down will be a big challenge for me, but one I am looking forward to.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Activity 7 - 30 days of slowing down

The talk
This activity is based around the talk Carl Honore praises slowness. In his talk Carl explains some of the various slow movements around the world, and about how he engaged in a raft of slow activities to write his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed (Plus). Things like the Slow Food movement, the Slow Cities movement and a number of other ideas based around the general concept of savouring time instead of counting it.

The challenge
I'm really looking forward to this activity, given that I'm feeling a bit stressed and weary of late. It will still be happening in parallel with 30 days of drive, but being forced to slow down will be a good focus for me. And hopefully it will help me recharge my batteries a little.

The main challenge for this will be the whole concept :-) I don't do slow very easily. I have a nasty habit of doing too many things at once and not giving things my whole attention.

The activity
This is going to sound so simple, and yet I know that it will be very hard for me to apply. For this activity I will being doing the following things:

  • meditating - because this worked so well for me in the current activity :-) actually I'm hoping that the overall focus of slowing down helps me do this more successfully.
  • stop multi-taking - this will include a whole heap of things like not watching TV while we eat dinner, not playing with the ipad while I watch TV, and only checking email at work when it is convenient for my tasking (so closing Outlook until I'm ready).
  • stop eating lunch at my desk at work - taking an actual lunch break and leaving my desk, and when possible the building.
  • enjoying slow food - the slow food movement is about cultivating, cooking and consuming food in slow ways. That means we get to take advantage of the farmers' markets around here to get the fresh, organic produce; find recipes that are about enjoying the preparation and cooking of the food; and then consuming the meals in a slow and purposeful manner. We won't eat like this for every meal, but we will at least do this on the weekends.
  • relaxation - I will make time to relax in my day. Hopefully this will be achieved by taking a proper lunch break, not multi-tasking and meditating, but if this is not enough then I'll need to make more time to relax (walk Lily, read, bookbinding etc.)
  • give up StumbleUpon - this will be one of the more difficult things, since I am slightly addicted to it, like many other Stumblers :-)
There will undoubtedly be other things that I will change in this month. I feel that the main thing with this activity is to be more meaningful with how I spend my time and to savour the activities that I'm doing. I know that there is a high likelihood of doing a lot of little things wrong with this activity, but I also feel that this is a really important lesson for me to be able to learn.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 87 - So how are we doing?

Activity 5 - food glorious food
I am really glad that I enjoy Asian food, because it is starting to get just a little tiring. And what do I mean by that, I want some vegemite toast and potato chips! I don't know why but these are the things I am craving at the moment. I think that 30 days is a long time to go without vegemite, a little fact that I never realised about myself I must say.

But I am still enjoying it, and on Tuesday morning I fully expect that I will assuage the craving for vegemite. Some of the meals we've enjoyed of late are: Asian crepes (very yummy breakfast); a crispy tofu noodle thing with homemade satay sauce (drooling just writing it); our favourite pad thai; more rice paper rolls (better since we changed the wrappers); and a marinated Tasmanian salmon with noodles.

I admit to breaking the diet yesterday, but we had a work function to celebrate Australia Day, so sausages, chico rolls, sausage rolls, pavlova and anzac biscuits were the standard fare. I didn't eat very much but enough to say that I definitely broke the diet. Twice in 26 days is not a bad effort though.

I continue to fail in the meditation stakes, and I don't completely understand why. I'd say that it was mainly due to the fact that in my failed attempts to date I haven't been able to calm my brain down at all. This is making me feel like it is a waste of time, so I think this is driving behaviour. I do need to resolve this, as meditation will be part of Activity 7 as well.

Activity 6 - are we there yet?
I'm a few chapters into Simon's book at the moment, finding it interesting but will write more about it when I finish. There's a lot of this that is very internal and mulling things over, so I don't feel like there is much to write at the moment.

I am doing one of my project talks at the moment as well, I will post up more about that shortly. This project is the sort of thing that I love doing, I think that it's all included in the previous post starting to outline my why, but I'm trying to be aware of things about it that might not have been captured.

It's tiring being this hyper aware of everything, maybe that is contributing to my failure to meditate.

Quarterly reflection
I will be doing my first quarterly reflection at the end of the month, which is very exciting just acknowledging that I'll be a quarter of the way there. Knowing all of the activities I have yet to do I know that I am nowhere near a quarter of the way through the effort that will be required, but I'll take any milestone I can get at the moment :-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 85 - Left out respect

respect: To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem

I've been thinking about the list that I wrote the other day and realised that in the "Things I need" list I neglected to include respect. This is actually a pretty big one for me so I am a little surprised I failed to include it, but then again it is so fundamental that I don't think of it as an option, so maybe not surprising at all.

I think that everyone likes to think that they have the respect of the people around them. I have always tried very hard to earn the respect of people in my life, and I think I am pretty successful with that, people reading this may have a different opinion :-)

It's also important for me to have respect for people in my life, I know that I work that little bit harder for a boss that I respect than one I don't. Maybe the importance of this is more of a commentary on the judgemental side of my own personality, but the loss of respect for my husband led to the end of both of my marriages.

It's great that my brain is coming up with these things, waking me at 4am to tell me about it isn't very conducive to a restful night though.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 82 - Starting to outline my why

Doing this project has allowed me to understand more about some of my inner workings than I had previously realised. This has been partly to do with some of the amazing talks/books/websites that I have consumed to date, and partly due to the process of writing this blog.

Activities and the skills to do them
One of the first areas I've been focusing on with drive is what are the things that I really get a buzz out of, the things that make me feel fulfilled. This list is not really all that surprising to me, although writing it down like this in one place makes it a little surreal, don't ask me why. So here are the things that I know fulfil, drive and inspire me:
  • Learning/Understanding - I love learning new things, which is probably why I love TED so much. I've always craved new information and knowledge in my life. Now, learning from experts is great but I think that I probably enjoy learning through discovery a little more. When I'm able to work something out for myself, reach my own conclusions, provides a deal of fulfilment. Having said that, this sort of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum, and involves reading and being exposed to a lot of intelligent people's ideas.
  • Teaching/Explaining - when I develop an understanding of something I get a certain amount of joy from it, but when I can explain that to someone else and teach them about it - that's a whole other level of fulfilment. For me there is no point learning if I'm just going to keep it all for myself, and as frustrating as explaining things to others can be, there is a distinct joy in the moment that they understand it as well. This is also something that I think I do quite well, the explaining part of things.
    There is also a little part of this that is more inspiring and mentoring. I get a real buzz from being able to help people in my life when they are trying to sort problems out and deal with issues in their lives. This surprises me to some degree, knowing some of my internal workings.
  • Discovering/Sharing - this is a little like the two points above, but I think of them as different things. I love discovering new things, and I particularly love it when I am the first in my social group to do so. This is why I enjoy StumbleUpon so much, I have discovered so many things that I would never have known about without a community of people providing links to it. And when I discover particularly fantastic things, mind blowing ideas, cool music or art etc. I really enjoy sharing that with people around me who I think would also love it. Maybe this explains that librarian-side of me, but I get a real buzz from being the person who has introduced someone to something new, a little like teaching/explaining really.
    This also applies to discovering things about myself/human nature and sharing that with others. I have learned so much from people who are brave enough to share things about themselves, like Brene Brown, and I'd like to think that by sharing some of things I learn about myself I might be helping someone else come to a realisation, even if that realisation is that they are not alone.
  • Designing/Simplifying - from a young age I've always enjoyed being creative, drawing, painting and generally making things. In high school I did graphic design for work experience, if I ever had something I thought I should be doing it was graphic design. But I listened to the careers adviser and decided against it because it was the career du jour and I was convinced that there would be a glut of graphic designers by the time I was graduating. Added to this nobody else in my year wanted to do Art for their HSC, so I would have had to do this by correspondence - and so in Randy Pausch's discussion of brick walls, obviously I didn't want it enough to push through the barriers.
    Anyway, all of that aside, I have always enjoyed the parts of my jobs where I get to create. Designing and creating conference brochures, forms, documents, visual representations of concepts, training documents, websites and the like. I think this is what led me into information management, for me it is a very design related job, where the design is supposed to simplify the process of storing and locating information within an organisation.
    This also leads me to have a lot of creative hobbies like jewellery making, card making and bookbinding. In some ways I wish that the hobbies were able to be my full time job, but I think I would miss the other things too much. I don't think I have the right compromise around this though.
Things I need from my environment
To set things straight, this blog contains some information that I haven't previously acknowledged to myself, let alone shared with close friends and family. It scares hell out of me to be so open about the broken parts of me, but at the same time I realise that as I do this it becomes a little less scary. And after reading the above I think you might all realise that this feeds a little into the sharing/teaching, and this section might explain it a little more.

We all have triggers, things that we really need from the environment around us that make us happy. This section is a brief outline of some of these, some of the things I need from my environment to feel fulfilled. I'm hoping that writing these out, like the points above, I will get some more clarity about my drive.
  • Feeling appreciated - this includes two things, receiving acknowledgement and thanks for the things that I do. These are fundamental for pretty much everyone, I'm sure that there are some people who can function without it, but I'm yet to meet them.
    In particular I need people to acknowledge things that have taken me a great deal of effort to do or are uniquely mine - yeah I know that's not really a clear definition, but I never claimed this would make sense.
  • Belonging - I didn't realise how much a crave this. I've always spent so much time in my own head and with my own thoughts, that I didn't realise how much I need that sense of belonging. It's not like I need to be with people a lot, but I need to know that I do belong to some sort of group of people. Realising this, I think I might finally understand my career in the air force. I'm not really a very military-oriented person so that career choice was always a little odd for me, but I think this is also explained by the next need.
  • Contributing/making a difference - I need to feel like I am making a difference in the world, that I am contributing to something significant. Again, this is not something unique to me, I think that the majority need to feel like we are making a difference in some way.
  • Time alone - I am an introvert, I can't wait to read Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and to see her talk at TED2012. But getting back on topic, I need time alone to recharge and give my brain time to absorb and process the events and learnings of the day. This also translates into needing time alone during my work day to process and get my work done.
  • Ownership - I need to own the activities I am responsible for and have a level of control over what I do and do not achieve. 
So what does all this mean in relation to my drive and my why? I'm not entirely sure yet, like I said this is the beginning of the process. If any of you have any insight into what you think this might mean, feel free to let me know.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 80 - I want a brioche!

For some reason this morning I woke up craving bread. This became an obsession for a brioche from the bakery near work as I got closer to town. I started the whole rationalisation about the French in South East Asia and how that would surely allow me to have a brioche :-) But you will be happy to know I have resisted the temptation, well for now anyway.

Activity 6 - I have been spending a lot of time in the last few days reading and listening, I'm feeling a little tapped out actually. Tony Robbins is a very energetic person and I find that to be a little draining when I spend too long listening to him. Don't get me wrong, he is very inspiring to listen to as well, but after about 30 minutes my brain shuts down a little bit - it sort of retreats from actively listening.

A couple of months ago my boss introduced me to enneagram personality types. Taking an online test I found out that I am a big ol' 5 in the enneagram world. Reading through the description around this I think I could have worked that out without the test :-) She recently loaned me a book with more information about the personality types and it's quite spooky how well this describes me.

The other thing that I did just prior to starting this activity was the Personality Strengths Profile from Tony Robbins site. Again there was nothing it this that surprised me, but it is interesting seeing your personality in black and white.

I've been trying to absorb these things a little bit to see how they might help me find identify things around my purpose, cause and belief - which are the three things that Simon Sinek says we need to have to understand our Why. I envy people who seem to know this from a young age, the people who at 5 years old declare that they want to be an X and that is what drives them throughout their life.

Fortunately I have come to understand that they are the vast minority in this world, and whilst I spent the majority of my 20s wondering why everyone seemed to have this all worked out and I didn't, I've come to realise in my 30s that virtually no one has this worked out.

So I guess the update for this is I haven't had any epiphanies about what drives me - apart from the need for a sweet, buttery brioche!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 77 - where is the time going

January just seems to be disappearing at a rapid pace at the moment and I must admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all. I thought I should try to slow it down a little with a status update on Activities 5 and 6.

Activity 5 - The food has been great
I've been sticking to the diet very well, although we did have morning tea with our neighbours yesterday so there was a little bit of cake and a biscuit that aren't really part of the deal. Half way through though and that was the first thing that wasn't asian, so I think I'm doing okay.

I finally made roti for the first time on Saturday, to have with our first curry of the activity. We've been trying really hard not to go for the coconut milk based curries, as much as we love them I don't think that is really in the spirit of this diet. Anyway, the rotis didn't turn out too badly. The first two were a bit of a flop but I worked out that resting them a third time before the last roll out worked really well, so the rest were a great improvement.

Retreating into my brain too much
The exercise and meditation haven't been going as well. It wouldn't be surprising to anyone who knows me, or has seen the photos from Activity 1, that I live much more in my head than in my physical body. I take a lot more time to cultivate my thoughts and my knowledge than I do making sure that I am fit, I like to say that I am built for comfort not speed :-) That being the case it isn't surprising for me that the exercise bit would be lagging.

Having said that I have pushed myself to be a bit more physical than usual, just not as physical as I should be. I need to focus a little more on that in the last half of the activity.

After the last post I did quite well at meditation practice for a couple of days, but with everything that happened on Friday my brain has just been too addled to be able to focus on meditation. I know that this is the time that I really should put extra effort into it, and on Friday night I really did try, but on the weekend I lapsed again. So more needs to go into this as well, looks like I'll be doing a few more guided meditations to see if that helps.

Activity 6 - Starting on my why
I've started really planning the best approach to this. I've been consuming more from Simon and Tony's websites in the last few days and I think I have an initial plan of attack. This one is likely to involve a lot of mind mapping and drawings, so there will be some more graphics about it.

There are some simple things that I already know about myself that I know are triggers for me, are things that inspire me, motivate me and make me feel good about myself. A lot of these are around learning new things, sharing those learnings with others, being able to explain complex concepts in simple ways and feeling like I have impacted on someone else's understanding or how something is. I know that this is a big part of me, and I think that this area is probably the best place to start.

I've got a few things to listen to of Tony's and I can't wait for Simon's book to arrive to help with this - but in many ways I want to discover a process for this in my own way. I figure I will have about a third of the activity to do this before Simon's book arrives, and depending how I feel about it then I can get a free coaching strategy session from Tony's website. For now I'm trying to absorb their online wisdom and nut out some of what makes me tick.

This is going to be a fun ride, hopefully I end up at a nice destination.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reflection - 30 days of the 3 As

This activity was awesome :-) Seriously though, it was a really good 30 days. I didn't find it exceptionally difficult to incorporate this into my day to day life, mainly because I think that on the whole this is my general nature. But let's look at it in a little more detail.

It's all in the Attitude
On the whole I would say that I am a positive person. In his talk Neil talks a lot of attitude when life doesn't go according to plan, at those times we can make a choice about the attitude we adopt. And in those situation I think that I am a pretty positive survivor.

Having said this, internally I know I spend far too much time considering the worst case scenario, how things could go wrong and how I might deal with those outcomes. I also spend far too much of my life thinking about things that have gone wrong in the past and how I might have stopped/changed that outcome. This will be a whole other activity at a later stage so I won't dwell on it here.

So how did I go with this part of the activity? I think that it really worked well for me focusing on being more positive for the 30 days. It certainly made xmas a lot easier, and I think that when I was doing it well it made a difference to how I generally approached things in my life. I wouldn't pretend that I kept it up for the full 30 days, there were times I caught myself talking in less than positive ways about things, but when I did catch myself I would correct my language to be more positive.

Awareness enhances appreciation
I didn't really struggle with this part of the activity, enjoying the small pleasures in life is something that I do try to do on a regular basis. This might have a little bit to do with suffering from depression, where it really helps to find those little bits of joy in a day, because finding joy in the bigger things is more difficult (for me anyway). I was more aware of doing this though, and that helped with the positive attitude at times as well.

I think that this is something that everyone should do more of. There are a lot of first world problems that we gripe about in our lives, and I think that the vast majority of people able to read this blog should do more to remember that we live in an amazing world that makes our lives very simple and comfortable. Doing this awareness activity is a really good way to be more appreciative of how good we really have it.

I'm not saying that I didn't make any first world problem statements during this time, but if I caught myself saying something like "my phone is taking forever to connect to the internet" I would smile to myself and think/say "my phone connects to the internet, how cool is that".

Being my Authentic self 
I predicted that this would be the hardest part and I was right. There are a lot of activities that I have undertaken and will undertake that are about discovering my authentic self and being authentic to that self. Being so early in the project I knew that this would be a struggle, since I have spent so much of my life as a non-confrontational people pleaser - and not surprisingly that requires me to suppress my authentic self.

I have spent a lot of the last decade trying to change this, since these are things about myself that I really don't like. I have allowed myself to go through really bad situations or miss out on wonderful opportunities because of these characteristics, and that is something I really want to change.

There were a number of times that I did say something that I normally wouldn't say, speak up in an environment I would usually stay quiet in and identify times that I wasn't being completely authentic. Simon Sinek says that being authentic is "saying and doing the things that you actually believe", I think that this is a very simple and clear definition of the word, and it is how I think of authenticity.

I require a lot more practice with this, and I need a lot more self-confidence before I can consistently do it well, but I am proud of the small steps that I made during this activity.

Overall analysis
So will I keep this in my life? I will keep focusing on trying to be authentic, Activity 6 that started today requires me to work harder on discovering more about my authentic self, so this part of it is definitely in.

With attitude and awareness I want to maintain more focus on these things, but probably not as much as the last 30 days. I think that this one will require a second reflection in a month or so to see if I am able to retain these characteristics without having them as a focus activity. I would really recommend this activity to everyone, just to reset yourself and realise all of the positive things that are part of your life - especially if things don't appear to be going to plan.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Not mourning, just sad

I had a whole little fun awareness activity planned for my final day of the 3 As. I had intended to find 10 things that were awesome for the day, you know those little things. Instead I spent a large portion of the morning very teary after finding out about my ex-husband. So instead I found myself really focused on the other two As for the day - attitude and authenticity.

A quiet reflection on yesterday
It really saddened me that I couldn't think of an obvious person to contact to find out what happened to Craig. It's not that I didn't think of people, but they have been out of my life for so long there was no way to easily contact them. And a lot of the people I thought of had been my friends too, completely independent of Craig, but he would be staying so I let them all go.

I eventually thought of Leigh and Dawn, surely they would still live in the same place, they would know how Craig had died and they are the sort of people who can be out of your life for years but be just the same. I broke down in tears when I asked Leigh what had happened, he took the time to explain what he knew (Craig had died of cancer, at only 36 years old) and talk with me a little about Craig.

I stayed at work, not incredibly productive but managed to get a few things done, and it was better than being home alone. This was where the positive attitude really had to come in, I kept thinking about how happy Craig must have been in his last few years with his wife and child, he had always wanted to be a dad and he had that. It wasn't for long enough, but from the outside he had the life he always wanted.

And then there was authenticity - I've thought a lot about how to articulate this so I wouldn't sound like a complete bitch but I'm hoping you will all understand. You see, at the end of the day the fact that Craig is dead has no impact on my life. He was no longer a part of my life and would not become a part of my life ever again. So it isn't that I am mourning his loss, because there is no loss for me. I am extremely sad for him, his wife, his child and his family and friends, who were a big part of my life too. I just feel that if I am being authentic then it would be hypocritical of me to say that the loss was anything more than that - how can it be when he is nothing more than a memory.

Full reflection on the 3 As
I had planned on doing the full reflection today, but I want to distance it from this one event - I don't want the whole activity and the things I have learned about myself to be caught up in this one day. So I will post up a full reflection in a couple of days, when I can focus a little more clearly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Last day of Awesome isn't

I've been a bit introspective in the last few months, not surprising really. Something I was looking at the other day must have stuck in the back of my mind and it caused a random thought to pop into my head overnight. That thought was that my ex-husband, Craig, had passed away. A Google search this morning confirmed that he had passed away in August 2010.

I don't know how he passed away, I've contacted a few people who might be able to shed some light on that for me. Ours was not an amicable separation, which was a real pity, and that means he has not been in my life for over 7 years now. But I did love him and he was a big part of my life for four years, and when all was said and done I wanted him to be happy. He left behind a wife and child, so he must have found something of what he wanted in life.

Anyway, all of this is to say two things:
  1. My last day of 30 days of the 3 As is probably not going to be all that awesome, there are a few too many tears for that.
  2. More importantly though, life is short and we never really know when or how it might end.
I need this to sink in a little more before I truly understand what it means for me, and I need to know what happened to make sense of it. I think I just needed to write this in case I do go off the reservation for a few days and to make it real for me (it's very surreal at the moment).

I doubt that anyone from this period in my life is reading this, but if you are and know what happened please leave a comment - I won't publish it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Activity 6 - 30 days of drive

The talks
Activity 6 is based upon two talks, Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action and Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do. Simon's talk presents the concepts that great leaders and inspired organisations start from a point of WHY and then move out to the How and What, and that this applies to individuals as well. Tony's presentation is about individual focus, target, belief system and fuel, and how these things define a person's drive.

The challenge
This challenge is about understanding my drive and defining my Why. There are many TED talks that discuss the concepts about when you are doing what you are meant to do that is when you are truly happy. My issue is that I have no clear concept in my mind of what I am meant to be doing.

Little things reveal themselves to me at different times, and I have certainly had enough experiences to know things I shouldn't be doing, but my purpose has yet to reveal itself. By purpose I mean the direction I would take that will help me to feel fulfilled.

The activity
This activity goes back to being rather internally focused for the most part. There are many tools available on the web, I have already undertaken the assessment on Tony's website, and many books to read on the topic. This is by no means the first time I've ever thought about this topic either, so I've had a little bit of a head start on it.

For the 30 days I intend to ponder this further, maybe publicly pondering some of these issues will help bring me some insight. I have Simon's book to read as well as a lot of resources to listen to and read from his website. And hopefully I will find some of my whys, some of the things that drive and inspire me to action.

I think that I have already started to work this out a little. By undertaking this project I have already discovered things about myself that I had not consciously realised before.

The other part of the activity is about seeing if I can apply this to work, and at least defining some of the Why in our environment. It would be timely to be able to articulate this as we will start business planning in the next few months.

The power of a personal mantra

Many years ago when I was going through a pretty crappy time I came up with a little mantra for myself - forza e corraggio - quite simply strength and courage in Italian. I use it like a little mantra for myself, whenever things get particularly difficult I take a deep breath and either say it out loud or in my head (depending on the situation).

This has been very powerful for me, but I don't think that I have ever really thought about too much. They were just the qualities I felt I needed to get through the bad things that were happening.

Recently, as part of this project and all of the wisdom that I am reading and listening to, I've started thinking about these little words in more detail. Why did I choose them and why do they give me so much comfort? After all forza is not the best word for personal strength in Italian, but I like the fact that it also means force in its plural form.

I'm strong but do I have strength?
I know that I have a great capacity to endure and come out the other side of adversity a stronger person. If the saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is even partially true then that pretty much proves how much strength I have. But a lot of my strength comes from an overwhelming need to not be vulnerable, to not fail or falter, to be perceived as strong, to not be able to ask for assistance. It also tends to come from the need to prove myself, and to not let anyone get the better of me - not a very positive place at all. So whilst I may be strong and resilient, in many ways I do not feel like I have positive strength.

I also don't feel that I am courageous, being that I am extremely non-confrontational (and I mean extremely). I have the strength to endure but I don't often have the courage to remove myself from situations where I am forced to endure. I don't stand up for myself, and others, as much as I should and I do not have the courage to be my authentic self a lot of the time.

That is why I still chant the mantra, and until the day that I feel I have the courage to do and say the things I believe in without being so diplomatic and scared I will continue to say the mantra. So I think it is with me forever, although hopefully through this project and all of the activities involved I can become more authentic and I won't feel like I need it as much.

Your personal mantra
I encourage everyone to come up with their own little mantra, if you don't already have one. I translated mine into Italian because it was a language I knew, and I think that there is some added strength to everyone not understanding what I am saying, makes it feel a little more special. And if you don't have your own feel free to borrow forza e corraggio, it's been doing a great job for me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 69 - Catching up

Just a quick catch up post on the status of the current activities. I just realised that I should be launching Activity 6 today, but I had thought I would be launching next Sunday so I am not prepared for it. As a result I will launch it mid-week, gives me a chance to do all of the things I do before writing the launch post, like a final think through of the activity, get in touch with the speakers and get the artwork done.

This means that it is only 5 days until the 3 A's activity is complete. I don't feel that I have really written very much about this activity as I've been going through it, but I guess there is a bit about Xmas and Wollongong that has been included. I'm looking forward to writing the reflection post on this activity, I have come to a few realisations about myself with this one that may seem at odds with some of the other posts of late.

Activity 5 is continuing along nicely in parts. The food has been going well, I've really been sticking to the Asian diet very closely. We had a dumpling feast last night and Chinese Scallion Pancakes for breakfast this morning, which were pretty nice (quite fiddly to make though).

I have been neglecting the meditation the last two nights, simply because I forgot. It hasn't become a habit yet, so when I get caught up in doing something like watching a movie (it was Cowboys and Aliens last night) I have been forgetting the meditation. Simple remedy though, today I'm sticking a big note up "Have you meditated today?" to remind me, until it becomes more of a habit, and to try to make up for it I'm going to do one of my podcast meditations (about 15 minutes) today.

I think that being unwell for the last week has really worn me out, but I need to really find some energy for the next activity, it has the potential to be quite draining.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I am not alone

I have another group of talks that I had called my advocacy talks, they are like opportunity talks but they require me to speak out about certain things. One of these talks is JD Schramm: Break the silence for suicide survivors, which is a very personal account of surviving a suicide attempt and how the silence that we put around these sort of events just makes it even harder for people to rebuild their lives.

This came to mind earlier this week when I received a retweet "The hardest post I ever had to write", which took me to the Bloggess blog. The post is one of the most honest and courageous things I have read in a long time. When I got to the site I wrote comment 288, as I write this there are 2174 comments on the post, and thousands of tweets (see #silverribbons). It is a very courageous commentary on her depression and the other actions associated with it. Yesterday there was another tweet with the follow up post, just titled Wow.

My personal struggles
When I put JD Schramm on my list of potential talks I knew that it meant talking about my depression, which in one way is not overly scary since I have always been fairly open about the fact I get depressed. But talking about it in such a public space is daunting.

I suffer from what I lovingly refer to as depression-lite. I call it this because after my neurosurgery a number of years ago I suffered clinical depression, and everything after that time doesn't really compare to the darkness of those few months. For that period of time every day was a struggle not to end my life, and I think that it is really important that people who don't suffer from these sort of issues understand how that works. It's not that I hated life, it's not that I didn't value the people in it, it's not that I wanted to lash out and hurt anyone - it's just that being alive was so painful and I couldn't see how that pain would ever go away. I didn't want to die, I just didn't know if I was strong enough to keep living, fortunately I was.

My depression-lite is far less all encompassing, I refer to it as feeling like my soul is crying. It doesn't stop me from being able to function, if my clinical depression didn't stop me from functioning then this is unlikely to impact. More importantly though it isn't so painful that I ever consider ending my life. But it does impact on my ability to feel joy, to really engage with things and people in my life and to basically feel connected.

What helps me get through all of this is my understanding and supportive partner, and the fact that I have a lot of people in my life who have suffered from depression, anxiety etc. and we talk about things. So while I don't really open up when I am depressed I know that I am not alone, even though that is one of the strongest feelings when I am depressed. 

We are not alone
The power of knowing you are not alone is amazingly strong, which is why we need to talk about it. I think that it is also important to talk about it so the "normal" people who are fortunate enough to not experience this don't judge us for it. As I said, I have a lot of people in my life who also suffer from depression, anxiety and a number of associated mental health issues. Maybe I attract people like this into my life because of how I am, but I don't think that is the case. I think that there a lot more people suffering from these issues than society likes to acknowledge. And these are strong, capable, professional, loving, funny, wonderful people who generally struggle with their demons in silence, occasionally popping their heads up and letting those of us who know about their issues that they are doing okay.

The point of this post is to add to a conversation that for me was started by JD Schramm and this week was added to in a really big way Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess). That conversation saved at least one person from taking their life this week, imagine how many more we could save if we removed the power of silence from mental illness. If we made it okay for all of the strong, capable, amazing people in the world who suffer from these issues to say "Hey, me too. You aren't alone."

Thank you JD, thank you Jenny and thank you to all of the wonderful people in my life who survive.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 64 - Activity Updates

Activity 4 - It was my first day back at work from leave, so maybe awesome wasn't on my mind so much today (jokes people). It hasn't been hard to keep a positive attitude of late, you know apart from the self-pity around feeling sick and all. And today I'm feeling a lot better, so positivity was right up there.

There have been so many little awesome things over the last 20 days that I've been taking delight in. Simple things like watching Lily swim for the first time; the pleasure of finding some great new flavours already with Activity 5; fresh sheets; clean towels; not having to iron most of my clothes off the line; Dr Who coming on five nights a week; a close encounter with a wedgetail eagle; getting more Twitter followers; trains running on time in Sydney; little things that the kids did at Xmas (you know the things that kids say and do that crack you up) and many, many more.

As for authenticity, there have been times where I have been aware that I haven't been my authentic self. Most of these are where I have bitten my tongue and avoided saying things just because I didn't want to engage with the person about it, but I don't feel bad about any of them. On reflection the only time I have felt bad about not being the authentic me was when the nasty, competitive nature came out playing cards. Let's see how the remaining 10 days go.

Activity 5 - It's only Day 3 of this activity but I can tell this is going to be a fun one. So far we've have Prawn and Mango Salad, Crispy Tofu, Chicken and Cashew, Rice Paper Rolls, Chicken and Basil and Brown Rice with Lemongrass to name a few dishes. We have a lot more exceptionally yummy meals planned for the next 27 days.

I started my meditation a day late due to the need to blow my nose every few minutes on the first day, which wasn't very conducive to focus. It is going to take me a while to get back into how to meditate, my brain was far too active yesterday. I might end up using some of the guided meditation podcasts I've downloaded to assist me. It was very peaceful just trying to meditate though, I've forgotten how good I feel after meditating - I know that it will be even better when I can do it properly :-)

All in all I'm feeling pretty good at the moment about the project as a whole - what I've done, what I'm doing and the challenges I'm yet to take on.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 63 - My 3 words for 2012

This is something that has been inspired by Chris Brogan
I've been challenging people to forego the idea of a resolution, and instead, to come up with 3 words that will help you define your goals and experiences for the coming year.
This year I thought that I should give it a try, well I'm trying everything else why not this wisdom as well :-)

So my 3 words are Do. Share. Inspire. - shouldn't really be that surprising.

Do. This could have been action or a number of other words but I like the simplicity of just 'do'. This of course applies to the project, but also other things in my life. I feel that I over think and end up procrastinating on things too much. The project has been a really big step in the right direction - taking action on all of these inspirational talks - but this also needs to apply to all aspects of my life.

Share. This is not only around sharing my experiences from the project but also sharing in other ways like contributing to online forums (personal and professional interests), finding ways to share more in my workplace and community (time and knowledge), and generally being more open to sharing things about myself that I usually keep hidden (whole vulnerability thing).

Inspire. There are a lot of things that I would like to achieve from this project, and this year. I had chosen quite a few words here around growing and learning, but I settled on inspire as an extension of this. In order for me to inspire it would mean that there has been growth and learning that has been shared with others, so it ties in nicely. I've realised that it is really important for me to inspire others, more than I had thought it was. I'll just leave it at that for now, but I will expand on this later.

So, instead of just reading Chris' words for the third year in a row I've decided to do this myself this year. I'm sharing my words with you, but I'm also sharing the concept of the three words and for some of you possibly the existence of Chris Brogan. And maybe this will inspire some of you to think about your own three words for 2012, or to visit Chris' site and learn more from him.

Happy 2012!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My wholehearted letterpress piece

I mentioned that I was doing a Letterpress short course through Clarence Polytechnic for the last couple of months, which was fantastic by the way.

I managed to get a lot of things done during the 10 weeks including little notebook covers, bookmarks, bookplates and, my favourite item, a piece based on Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I created the image based around some of the important words from Brene's book.

I'm really happy with how this came out and framed it as a xmas present for a few people. It was great to combine something from TED with one of my creative outlets. I might even try to do a little more of this sort of thing as I continue through the project.

Day 62 - Activity 5 begins YUM!

I think that I can confidently say that this is the first activity that Derek has really been looking forward to :-) We eat a lot of Asian food anyway, but given the carb reduction diet I've been on for a while now I think he's looking forward to getting back into more rice.

We've been preparing for this one for the last week, looking through cookbooks and shopping at the local Asian grocers. There are some limitations, I'm not really a mushroom person and there's a lot of seafood I won't eat. But that still leaves us with a lot of options, especially since I'm willing to give tofu another try (never been a big fan).

The biggest issue is likely to be breakfast, since toast and cereal are out of the picture. But we've been doing poached eggs and dhal of a weekday for a number of months now, so I don't think we have to change weekdays. The change will definitely be around weekends, since that usually includes a lot of toast.

The biggest thing for me will probably be around biscuits, cakes and sweets in general. I'm prepared though, I have found some substitutes from the Asian grocery stores that will fill that gap. After all, it is unrealistic to assume I can do 30 days without sugar, I don't think Derek would be nearly as keen for the activity if that was part of it.

Tomorrow I will make rice paper rolls for the first time, which is likely to become part of the lunch standard for the activity. I'm also going to try making roti for the first time, which is something I've always wanted to be able to do. I have four different recipes so I'm hoping that one of them will work for us.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to doing a very practical, external activity. Maybe it's just the head cold but I'm feeling a little weary at the moment, and since I know what Activity 6 is I know that a recharge will be needed.

Reflection - 30 days of better listening

I'm really glad that this activity finished when it did, only because I have a really bad head cold that has blocked my ears and I'm not listening very well at all at the moment :-)

This was a really interesting activity to do. Maintaining a heightened awareness of listening and my soundscapes did provide me with some insight into things I do and don't do well around listening. What do I mean by that? Take the mundane sounds exercise, I realised that there are these sounds in my environment that I find very distracting and annoying. I'm really not a white noise person, I much prefer complete silence. But since I started focusing on them and finding their melody I've become better at tuning them out. Don't get me wrong, I still hate white noise, but by learning to appreciate it I'm finding it less irritating. There is still a way to go on this, of course, but the fan in the bathroom no longer irritates me of a morning and I don't find road noise in the car as distracting - which is a good start for 30 days.

Another thing has been a better ability to focus on conversations in a very noisy environment, which is something I always struggle with. We had a few loud work gatherings in the weeks leading up to Xmas, and I feel that I was marginally better at hearing the conversations I was involved in over all of the other noise. I know that I am not alone with this one, I'm sure that everyone at some point has nodded a response to something that they were just unable to hear at the time. But since one of the bigger "learning experiences" in my life started because I couldn't hear what someone said to me in a bar, this is something I would like to be better at (long story).

Overall I think that this has just made me more aware of the existence of a soundscape, and my ability to control it. That revelation in itself has made this a very worthwhile activity. I will keep some of the exercises in my life, and will try to continue to be a conscious listener. I'm sure that the people in my life would appreciate me continuing to be more attentive when they are talking to me.