Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Nurture close relationships

I’ve talked a lot about saying no, and taking care of yourself. I guess these are things I’ve come to learn quite recently. But I also want to talk about our relationships with others.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten busier and my time has felt more precious. It’s made me more careful with how I spend my time and who I spend that time with.

This has meant spending less time with acquaintances, or people that I don’t have a lot in common with, and focusing my time on those that really matter to me.

I’ve come to realise that I wouldlesson 29 rather have a few close friends – people I trust deeply, share my secrets and stories with, really connect with – rather than a big circle of people that I don’t feel so close with.

This means that my time and energy is free to really connect and be present with close friends when I do see them. It means that I really enjoy my time with these people, and I always leave our catch-ups feeling happy, grateful and refreshed.

But it takes effort to make a relationship, of any kind, stay great. Don’t assume that a relationship will take care of itself – it requires ongoing care. This means scheduling time with that person, showing up ready to enjoy their company and being present during your time together. It also means being aware of yourself and what kind of friend you are being.

Sometimes the busyness of life stops me from spending time with friends. I often find that when I do have a moment free, I want to rest and look after myself. And while I do think that’s important, I also think that nurturing close relationships is equally important. It is about finding a balance between the two.

>>> Prompts:

Who are you closest with? Why?

Are there people that you find yourself spending time with, but not really enjoying it? How might your life be different if you spent less time with these people?

What does a good friendship look like to you?

Do you think you are you a good friend? Why or why not?

How could you nurture close relationships more?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Make the most of today

When I was 21, my dad said something to me that has stuck with me ever since:

This is it. This is not a dress rehearsal. There are no do-overs.

We only have this one life. Make it count. All those cliches that say to ‘do one thing each day that scares you’ and ‘live each day like it is your last’ and so on – well, they have a point really.

this is itWhat is it you really ache for? What sets your soul on fire? What do you think about more than anything else? What moves you? What makes you feel alive?

Do the things that matter to you, don’t worry about the opinions of others, find your own happiness. You won’t get another chance to live this day again, ever.

Life is short and it will pass faster than you know. Don’t put things off. Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances.

I don’t have much more to add except this line from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

>>> Prompts:

Write the Mary Oliver quote above in your journal. Now, list all the things you want to do. Create a bucket list full of items big and small. Start checking the items off.

Answer these questions: What is it you really ache for? What sets your soul on fire? What do you think about more than anything else? What moves you? What makes you feel alive? Now consider, how can you do more of this, every day?

Obituary exercise: write your obituary if you were to continue living your life the way you are now. Then, write your obituary if you chose to live your life as fully as possible, doing all the things you dream of.

If you were to win the lottery and never had to work again, what would your ideal life look like? How can you start to make your life more like this ideal version, now?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Accepting the actions of others

I can’t control anyone but myself. This has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt.

The thing is, we want to be able to control those around us. It might not seem that way – you may even feel a little disgusted at the thought – but really, we want other people to behave in ways that please us.

This can come in many forms. It might be as simple as other people being polite to us, or it might be more complex, like having the people we love, love us back.

But I have learnt one thing when it lesson 27comes to others: people are pretty much going to do what they want.

Even if you really want someone to do something for you, to act a certain way, or feel a certain way – and you may even convince them to, for a little while – at the end of the day, people will do what they want. They might do what you want for a while, then resent you for it, then do what they want. But ultimately, you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do.

I have found so much more peace in my life by letting go of the need to control others, of wanting things to go a certain way. I put my trust in those closest to me and know that they won’t let me down and if they choose to do something that I disagree with or that upsets me, well, I can’t stop them. I can be upset for a while or annoyed, but I have to let go. Then I have a choice of whether or not I keep those people in my life.

We can’t change others – they can only change themselves. I certainly think it can be helpful to offer advice when appropriate but unless the other person agrees or chooses to take on board what you say (and it is really up to them whether they do or not) then that is all you can do.

What you can control are your own thoughts, words and actions. You can control who you spend your time around and what you do with your time. If you spend time around people who you wish were different, but you know they won’t change, then you can either choose to accept the way things are, or you can spend less time with them.

It is your choice, but all you can control is yourself.

>>> Prompts:

In what ways (subtle or obvious) do you want to have some control over others, or want to change others?

How do you think your life might be different if  you chose to accept others as they are without trying to change or control them?

Since you can only control you – what changes could you make to help you feel better about other people or relationships that aren’t as good as you’d like?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: The opinions of others

What other people think of me is none of my business – Wayne Dyer.

This is a phrase he has used often and it is so true.

Another way that Dyer phrased it was when he was paraphrasing Abraham Maslow, and stated that a self-actualized person is ‘independent of the good opinion of others.’

none of my businessI spent years trying to fit in and get approval from others. I used to worry about saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong thing, liking the wrong thing… so much so that I forgot who I was, what I liked.

Maybe it comes with age, I don’t know. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realised that what other people think of me really doesn’t matter.

So what if they don’t like what I’m wearing? I like it.

So what if they think I’m strange or weird? I like me. I’m happy with myself the way I am. That’s all that really matters.

There’s a line in one of my favourite India Arie songs that goes,

No matter what anybody says, what matters the most is what you think of yourself.

If you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to please others or win their approval, it might be worth considering why this is.

I know that when I used to feel worse about myself and have lower levels of self esteem, it was certainly worse. Since I’ve spent time and effort learning to love myself, I’ve cared less and less what others think. I guess it’s because my self worth no longer relies on their approval, because I give it to myself.

The way I see it, I’ll never be able to please everyone anyway. There will always be someone who disagrees with my decisions. So I may as well please myself.

Provided I’m not harming myself or others, it is totally up to me how I live my life. All that matters is that I am happy with myself and my life. Those who disapprove, well, they don’t need to be around me. They can take their disapproval elsewhere.

>>> Prompts:

Do you worry about what others think of you? In what ways?

Why do you think you worry about the opinions of others?

How would your life be different if you could live independent of the good opinion of others?

What is your opinion of yourself? Be as brutally honest as you can. What do you judge yourself for?

If it is negative, how can you work to change this – to be kinder and more accepting of yourself? One way is to write a letter to yourself as if you were your own best friend. It is very unlikely that they would say the kinds of things you tend to say to yourself.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Travel

As much as I love being at home, I can’t get enough of the world.

Travel ignites a fire inside me that burns for years after a trip. There’s something about being somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere I’ve only visited in my dreams that just feels magical. It feels like I’m in a dream, only it’s real.

When I first stepped out onto the travel lessonstreets of Manhattan, or had my first bite of real French pastry, or walked through the falling snow in Chicago, or got lost in the winding alleyways of Venice, or stood underneath Michelangelo’s David in Florence… those are moments I will never forget. Those are moments I changed, because those are moments I felt my dreams come to life.

There’s something about being out in the world – and let me remind you, I’m from New Zealand which is pretty tucked away from everyone else – that makes me feel like I’m participating in life. I feel like I’m part of it all, on the world’s stage.

And not only that; seeing things I have long seen on television, in books, in films, online, well that just makes it all the more magical. To stand in Times Square, in Westminster Abbey, under the Burj Khalifa or in the middle of Yosemite reminds me of my place in the world. I’m reminded of all the people who came before and who will come after. I’m reminded that we are part of one whole, one global family – that I am never really alone.

You meet the most fascinating people when you travel – people who live in the area, other tourists, or people who literally live down the road from you back home who you just happen to run into in a hostel in Florence… We are all, in some way, connected. There’s nothing quite like running into another Kiwi in the middle of a foreign country.

imageI love the history – I’m in love with art history, and just history in general, and I soak up all the stories of people who came before, how they lived, what they valued. For me, the world is like a giant classroom. I can’t get enough.

And as a creative, someone who always has stories burning inside them, I find that travel is the ultimate fuel for the creative fire. I come home bursting with ideas, full of new material. It’s like every time I travel I connect with another part of myself, fill the well a little more. It inspires me in ways that nothing else can.

To be able to step out of a humid New Zealand summer and land, a day later, in the blistering cold of New York winter, well that is the stuff of fairy tales if you ask me. Travel is magic.

And then, when I’m full up with the sights and sounds of another country, when I’ve attempted the language and my memory cards are full of photos, when I’ve filled my suitcase to the brim with gorgeous leather goods from Italy and every other possible souvenir, when I’m happy and exhausted – going home is the most wonderful feeling. I find a new appreciation for my bed, my shower, and every little detail of my home. I fall back in love with where I live.

I don’t travel as often as I’d like. In imagemy ideal future life – the one where I’m running creative workshops and retreats all over the world – I’ll be going on major international trips every year. At the moment, my last trip (to Europe and North America) was two and a half years ago, which feels like a lifetime. My goal is to go on another big trip next year. In the mean time, I’m using journaling as a way to travel within. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the next best thing.

The other thing I like to do is to do local travelling – visiting new places nearby. It can be as simple as exploring the next town over, or even driving for a few hours to somewhere new. Travel doesn’t have to be a major overseas adventure. I think just getting some new scenery can be enough to get inspired, even if it’s not far from home. Don’t discount the benefits of travelling somewhere locally if you can’t afford a big trip.

>>> Prompt:

How do you feel about travel? I know some people who could do it forever, and others who haven’t left the country and couldn’t care less. What does it mean to you?

Describe a memorable trip you have taken, in as much detail as possible.

Describe your ideal trip, in as much detail as possible.

Now consider, why haven’t you taken it yet? No time? No money? No one to watch the kids? These are all obstacles that can be overcome. You might find that you consider travel to be an indulgence or a luxury that isn’t a priority. Explore your beliefs around travel, and make a plan to make your dream trip a reality, even if it isn’t for five years.

Make a list of every place you want to visit.

Bonus fun prompt: create a travel vision board to inspire you for your next trip – even if you’re not sure how you will make it happen. Gather up travel brochures and images and place it somewhere you will see it often. Trust that it will come about, in the right time.

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Spirituality

Journal prompts: Faith

I guess this could be a bit controversial, but I want to include it anyway.

For me personally, it has been absolutely essential that I have faith in something bigger than me.

It has taken me years to solidify what I believe, to make sense of all the different ideas floating around in my head and to put a label on my beliefs. Even now, I still don’t like the idea of putting something as big as this into one box, but it can make things easier.

I don’t intend to cover any and all things spiritual/religious in this post. Obviously, that is a major topic that goes far beyond what I can cover here. I simply want to share my journey.

I was raised in a secular household. lesson 24As I mentioned earlier, I have always felt a bit different from others, and have spent a lot of time looking for answers – everything from different religious practices to self-help books. Yes, I’m that person.

This lead me to try a variety of different religions on for size. I know that’s not exactly how religion works – you don’t just dabble until you find something you like. But I was experimenting to see what made the most sense for me.

For a while I tried Wicca, which, with its connection to nature and the belief that we can influence what happens to us, came pretty close to being just right for me. But it still felt like something was missing.

One of my best friends was a Christian, so I went to church with her and spent time reading passages from the Bible, learning about Christ. I’ve always been fascinated with religious art from the Renaissance and earlier periods, so I thought this could be it. But that didn’t quite fit either.

When I went through a period of deep depression I turned to Buddhism, which helped me to understand the nature of suffering and ways to detach from situations. Once again, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it didn’t quite click.

It was around this stage that The Secret was released, and I spent a lot of time learning about the law of attraction and the idea of creating our own reality. I also read a lot of Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer around this time too.

One thing I loved about Wayne Dyer was the way he incorporated many spiritual beliefs into his teachings – he  quotes the Bible, refers to Buddha and others, as well as drawing on the idea that we do indeed create our own reality. So far, Wayne Dyer’s approach had been the one to most closely match mine: there are so many different spiritual practices and beliefs, all of which hold value.

Perhaps, I wondered, I didn’t have to choose. I do believe that every religion and spiritual practice holds wisdom for us. I started to see that there was something to learn from each and every one of these spiritual viewpoints.

imageThen I heard the term ‘New Thought’ from the wonderful Andrea Schroeder, and my world blew right open. Finally I had a term for the spiritual approach I had been taking for years. I still don’t fully feel comfortable describing myself as someone who is part of the New Thought movement, but it is the closest I have come to finding something ‘official’ to explain what I believe. I haven’t yet done enough research to say I believe in everything in the movement in its entirety.

Regardless, having a belief – no, having a knowing – that there is something bigger in this world than myself, something that looks out for me, has helped me through many difficult times. You may choose to disregard this, and that’s fine. But this has become essential to my well being.

When I talk about having faith in something bigger than ourselves, I think there is a universe of possibility here. You may choose to think about religion or spirituality, or you may be more scientific and facts-based. You may believe in things that aren’t as clearly defined. You may feel connected to something that you can’t easily name, or explain. That is fine. Whatever you choose to believe is fine – it is whatever matters to you.

So what do I believe? I believe that the Divine is in each and every one of us. I believe that one of the best ways to connect with the Divine is in nature. For me, spending time in nature is spending time with the Divine. I believe that everything happens for a reason, that I am guided ways that will help me to learn what I need and grow. I believe that I can control my own life and that I create my own reality. I also believe that what I think I want is not always what I need, and I trust that when things don’t go according to my plans it is because there is something bigger and better waiting for me that I couldn’t possibly imagine.

And I also believe that it is up to each and every one of us to decide what we want to believe, for ourselves.

>>> Prompt:

What do the words religion, spirituality and faith mean to you? Do they have positive or negative associations?

What do you believe? Take a blank page in your journal and head it up with ‘I believe…’ and write everything that comes to mind, big or small.

What don’t you believe? Sometimes it can be easier to figure out what we do believe by eliminating what we don’t believe in. Try the same exercise above, but using the heading ‘I don’t believe…’

What are you unsure about? What do you want to believe, but you’re not sure you can?

What has lead you to believe and not believe in the things that you do? Have you been raised that way? Have you had certain life experiences that have lead to that?

When do you feel most connected to the Divine? It might be in nature, at church, with other people who share your beliefs, when you perform on stage, when you write, when you paint – whatever most speaks to you. How can you bring more of this into your life?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Authenticity and awareness

We hear the word ‘authentic’ bandied about a lot. It seems to be in the title of every new self-help book that’s released.

But I think it’s gotten a bit of a bad rap.

I actually think that striving to live an authentic life is a very worthwhile goal.

So, to that end, I say we make the word ‘authentic’ a little less self-helpy and a little more, well, authentic.

I think to truly live an authentic life means to know your values and live a life that reflects these. It’s about really knowing who you are and being aware of what matters to you, maintaining that awareness, and acting so that your life is in alignment with that. This means that what is an authentic life for me, will not necessarily be an authentic life for you.

You need to know yourself: I don’t authentic lifethink it’s possible to live an authentic life if you don’t really know what makes you tick.

I also don’t think it’s possible to live an authentic life without some level of self awareness. You can’t possibly live a life in alignment with your values if you aren’t aware of what they are.

And it’s not a one-off thing, either. You need to maintain the awareness to make sure your life continues to be in alignment with your values.

In other words, to truly live an authentic life, you have to cultivate awareness through a regular check-in with yourself.

You can probably guess what I recommend for this. Yes, it’s journaling. And not just any journaling, but a regular practice of tuning into that voice inside, that inner wisdom, to make sure you’re living a life that is authentic for you.

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘authentic’ mean to you?

To what extent do you think you live an authentic life? What changes would you like to make so that your life reflects your true self?

How can you cultivate more awareness?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.