Friday, April 26, 2019

The ongoing search for meaning

In the Jungian thought course I've been taking, this quote from Jung has stayed with me. "The smallest of things with meaning is infinitely greater than things without meaning. And meaning is defined by our souls, not our culture." 

Of course, we live in cultures that try to tell us what is meaningful. The American culture argues that money is very meaningful, that having the latest technology is meaningful, that busyness is meaningful.  But we rank 40th in happiness in the world even though we have more resources than any other country. 

Why? Because most of us know in our souls that those things aren't deeply meaningful. Not as meaningful as time with our kids and grandkids or our siblings or our spouse. Or our relationship with our pets and their health and well-being. Or offering kindness to ourselves and others. Or living from our hearts, not our wallets.

What are the most meaningful things as defined your soul? 

Here are some of mine (in no particular order): Painting, writing, AA meetings, meals and walks with close friends, being on retreat with other creatives, walking on the beach, watching the sky, communing with the cherry tree off my terrace, time on my porch swing with a good book, helping someone solve a problem, being sober, learning something new.  

No money, no technology, no business involved. This is good for me to remember.

Friday, April 19, 2019

More about habit change

Another of James Clear's ideas, and one that's given me pause, is that identity is more important in habit change than goals or behaviors. Many of us have had the experience of meeting a goal and then falling back into our old habit. Or we find we can't sustain a change in behavior.

Clear argues that the key is changing our identity. "I don't eat sugar" is a stronger change in identity than "I'm trying to give up sugar." As long as we continue to confirm our identity with the habit we don't want, our focus is on what we don't want. And where our attention goes, so does our behavior.
 I've long been a believer in this. I encourage writers and painters I coach to get a business card that says Author or Artist on it and to tell people they meet that's what they do. When we say it's what we do, we can start to believe it and we can distance ourself from old stories that say otherwise.

It doesn't have to be a big identity shift--as for a new job or hobby. It can be as simple as giving up your old negative identity (I'm just not a morning person) to something that serves you better (I enjoy my mornings). And thinking about this also got me realizing that I need to shift my identity as a driver. I'm no longer the driver of an old but serviceable Civic but rather the driver of an elegant Accord with bells and whistles. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

One thing at a time

One of the first times I recognized a symbolic activity was watching the Ed Sullivan show in the 1950s. Some of his performers were last-gasp vaudeville acts and the one I'm remembering was a guy on a unicycle spinning a dozen plates in the air from various parts of  his body. On one occasion, my mother commented, "That's what my life feels like" and I got it. I got the comparison.

As someone who's always got a few dozen ideas for projects, I often feel that my life is like that: keeping all the balls in the air, all the plates spinning. But while I used to take great pride in my ability to do that, I don't like it so much anymore. In fact, I know that I do better with 2-3 projects at a time. Otherwise, I feel scattered and overwhelmed. It's one of the things I love about having a life coach; she helps me discern what's most important and stay on track. I need accountability like most of us do.

And today, I found this great quote from the BeMorewithLess blog that I subscribe to: "It can't all matter at the same time." This is such a great reminder to me to focus on what I'm doing and to prioritize when I have more plates than I can handle.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Habits and muscle memory

I've been thinking about habits a lot lately. I'm reading James Clear's excellent and informative book Atomic Habits. As a recovering person, I'm really interested in ways to change behaviors and I've read a fair number of books and articles on the subject, but Clear is making me refine some of my assumptions.

He argues for the importance of brain grooves and muscle memory. If we go regularly to the gym, no matter how hard it is at first, eventually it becomes routine to do so. It's in our brains to do so and in our bodies. I've been exercising regularly (if not always vigorously) for nearly 40 years and I get antsy when more than a couple of days go by without something. My muscles and my brain remind me.

This knowledge is encouraging me to practice driving my new car. I've been driving for more than 50 years but on a stick shift and always in compact or sporty hatchbacks. This is my first automatic transmission and my first 4-door vehicle so I don't have the muscle memory to make driving it second nature. I keep wanting to downshift to slow my speed and I'm not sure where this larger car is in space. It may seem odd to think about practice driving at my age but I need to make these differences part of my new habits so that I don't have to work so hard when I drive.