Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Forgive yourself

I doubt not one of us can say we don’t have a single regret.

I spent many of the later years in my 20s feeling full of regret – for the things I hadn’t done (finished a novel, traveled the world, built a business, figured it all out) and the things I had done (studied the ‘wrong’ thing at university, lost friendships, hurt people, spent too much money, continually lost and gained weight).

forgive yourselfIt wasn’t a conscious choice to feel regretful about decisions I’d made, but if I let myself think about it for too long, I noticed an undercurrent of unease.

But the truth is, we don’t have it all figured out (newsflash: nobody really does), so we will make mistakes. We will do dumb things, miss opportunities and basically wish things could have gone differently. That’s life.

What matters is what you do with this. You can let these regrets continue to pile up as you go through life, creating a laundry list of reasons to feel bad, or you can shift your perspective.

Recognise that at any given point in life, you are only doing the best you can.

When I look back at my 20 year old self making foolish mistakes, instead of letting that familiar feeling of regret well up inside me, I look at her with compassion. Sure, she drank too much, didn’t try all that hard at university, couldn’t quite keep the weight off, and never finished writing her novel, but she was having a hard time. Being young and out in the world for the first time is hard. She was doing her best.

It took a long journaling session to unpack these feelings, but slowly I came to see myself this way – not some idiot who had made a string of mistakes and missed a bunch of opportunities, but a young person finding her way in the world.

If you look back on your past and feel you’ve made a lot of mistakes, try to be as compassionate as possible. Recognise that you were doing your best, and that it is never too late for what might have been.

>>> Prompts:

What are some of your regrets, mistakes, missed opportunities? What do you need to forgive yourself for?

How is not forgiving yourself serving you? How might you feel different if you forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made?

Complete this sentence: If I was to look at my mistakes through the eyes of compassion, I would…

Write a letter to your younger self. Offer wisdom, compassion and gentleness from your older self. Forgive your younger self.

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.

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Creativity

Journal prompt: Define success

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately after coming across my old journals from high school. I posted earlier this week about allowing ourselves to dream big – as we do when we are younger.

Today as I was journaling, and thinking about the things the younger me wanted but didn’t have, I realised something. I am unsure of what success looks like – or at least, what it looks like to me. I don’t know how to define success in my own life.

I must say, I was a little shocked. As much as I know what I want to achieve in my life (and a lot of that has changed from when I was younger!) I wasn’t able to clearly articulate what my life would look like if I were ‘successful’.

Success obviously means different things to different people – for some it is the more obvious signs of success such as a nice house or car, getting married, earning a certain amount of money. For others it is simply to wake up each day with a smile, or to spend their time as they would like.

values

Somehow I had managed to avoid answering this question for myself, despite the fact that I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want more of in my life.The more I journaled about this, the clearer I got.

For me, success is:

  • being able  to support myself (and my family-to-be) financially
  • being able to travel regularly
  • making a living using my creativity and being myself
  • the freedom to choose how I spend my time and how much I work
  • completing creative projects such as writing and art
  • building my own house with my own hands – and not owing money on it
  • helping others to live satisfying and fulfilling lives

A few of these things I was unaware of. The first one was a bit of a surprise – I had always assumed I would be happy for my partner to be the breadwinner while I took care of the family. But actually, I have realised that it is important to me to contribute financially and even support our family so my partner can follow his creative dreams.

What does success mean to you? You might think you know, but try answering the following prompts. It’s good to have a clear idea because otherwise it’s difficult to know how you feel about your life and what you want to achieve.

>>> Prompts:

First of all, identify what it is you value. What is most important to you in life?

Growing up, what did it mean to you to be successful as an adult? Who did you admire for their success – what did they have/do? (For example, I wanted nothing more than to be Mariah Carey because of her amazing voice and huge international success – now I’m not so sure I’d want that at all!)

Do you still admire these people, or are there new people you admire? What is it about them that you admire?

If you were to meet someone who you felt was successful, what would their life look like? Is it different from how society tends to define success? How? How does it tie into your values?

At the end of your life if you were to look back on what you have done, what would your life look like if you had been successful? Or, if you were to read your own obituary, what would you like it to say?

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Fear and the art of starting something new

fear

I’ve only just recently realised how much of my life is influenced by fear.

I don’t mean the I-can’t-leave-the-house-because-the-world-will-end kind, but just a general background hum that rears its head when it’s time to try something new or different, when I dare to think about taking some sort of risk.

In a way, this fear is more destructive because it isn’t as obvious. It took me a long time to recognise it for what it actually is, because it has many disguises: discomfort, procrastination, perfectionism, busyness, uncertainty… these are just fancy names for fear.

I recently saw John Marsden speak at the Auckland Writers Festival, and he said:

What you are afraid to look at has power over you. What you confront loses its power.

So I decided to examine my fears in more detail through journaling. Turns out I’m afraid of a lot of things, but one thing that kept coming up was regret. I’m afraid of feeling regret for things I’ve done – or, more so, not done. Which of course ties into the famous words of Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.

So, yes, fearful of regretting not doing things with my life. But, ironically, also very fearful about trying new things and ‘sailing away from the safe harbour’. Just fearful all round, it would seem.

Creativity is often accompanied by fear. It’s the feeling of being exposed, vulnerable. It’s doing something new. It’s taking a risk. Starting this blog has been a slow process. Often, I’ve let fear get the better of me. I’ve been fighting my old enemies of perfectionism and procrastination the whole way.

But a friend of mine once told me to think of the feelings of discomfort when doing something new as a good sign – a sign you’re on the right track. If it didn’t feel a bit uncomfortable then it wouldn’t be new, I wouldn’t be growing. So I must really be stretching myself here! And some days, of course, I just stay in bed with a cup of tea.