goals

The Rumination Antidote

Do you find yourself continually lost in thought? Do you find that as you go about your daily business at work, at home, or out with friends, negative thoughts seem to intrude into your consciousness and distract you from being present in the moment? Do you find that your mind swirls uncontrollably as you recount past negative experiences, one after the other? Once you start, do you find it impossible to stop and feel as though your mind has completely taken over?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could suffer from rumination. Side effects of rumination include anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, health problems, selfishness, and sour relationships. If you are prone to ruminating, don’t worry. The good news is that you’re not alone — and I know the secret antidote!

For many years, I myself suffered from rumination. When something bad happened in my life, I found it nearly impossible to move on from it because I felt like my mind kept mulling it over and over and over and over. Even if something bad happened three years previously, my mind would ruminate about it like the bad event had happened yesterday. There was no escape! I felt like my mind was continually holding me as a prisoner. For many years, I felt helplessly enslaved to my own mind.

It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the situations that happened in my life were not the problem. The problem, I discovered, was that I kept ruminating about the negative situations in my life. It was the ruminating that paralyzed me from moving forward, not the events themselves.

Once I understood this, it took me awhile before I discovered the secret antidote. Eventually, I discovered the antidote in a book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. In this book, Carnegie describes the critical thinking method, which is by far the most invaluable piece of advice that I have ever received in my life. By practicing critical thinking every day, I was soon able to gain control of the thoughts that continually swirled around in my mind and I was able to think of solutions to move forward. Not only that, but I could actually take action; as a result, I could cease thinking about the same problems over and over again.

So how does it work?

Good critical thinking skills employ the following steps:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
  3. What are my goals?
  4. What are all solutions to the problem?
  5. What is the best solution to the problem?

All you have to do to unpack a problem– ie) controlling the swirling thoughts that ruminate around in your mind– is to sit down and write out the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.

Absolutely revolutionary. What. A. Genius!

Not only does the critical thinking method allow you to remove the thoughts from your mind, but it also allows you to unpack the problem and actually think about solutions to the problem. In addition, it helps you to reframe your mind from one of negativity (thinking about a problem) to one of positivity (thinking about your goals and solutions). Huzzah!

Once you practice critical thinking, then you will start to really think through the decisions you make. Eventually you will become so good at this that you will start to make really good decisions on your own. Consequently, you will rely less on other people’s advice and perspective and rely more on your own. As a result of this, you will build a self worth and a trust in yourself simply because you have the knowledge that you can make great decisions all by yourself.

When you think about it, rumination is actually a combination of 1) anxiety, 2) unforgiveness, and 3) victim mentality. People who ruminate frequently are paralyzed with fear of taking action because they do not know how to avoid repeating the same negative event or circumstance again in the future. People who ruminate frequently are simply blaming other people or circumstances for their own misfortune in life. They do not know how to move forward because they are stuck in the same bad circumstances from the past, as bitter victims.

As I learned, the best way to un-stick yourself from the past is to learn how to forgive the people who hurt you and to cultivate an accountability mindset. Learn how to examine the situation from both sides to determine what role you played in causing your own current situation of misfortune and then learn how to grow from it. Improve yourself to be better or to act differently so that you can avoid similar misfortune in the future. Lastly, cultivate a mindset of accountability and responsibility.

Remember: You, and you alone, are responsible for your current circumstances and your life. If you do not like something, then think critically about it and then take action to change it. This is the secret antidote.

 

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Align Your Purpose(s)

In my last post, Become a Master of Time Management, I discussed how to organize your schedule for maximum efficiency. Not only that, but I gave advice on how to incorporate your “sub-goals,” or daily habits, into your schedule in order to work towards achieving your life goals. But what do you do when you have multiple life goals that all seem to conflict and collide with each other? How do you move forward in all areas when you seemingly need 28 hours in a day instead of 24? Read on for some tips on how to Align Your Purpose(s).

For me personally, I have always been double-, triple-, even quadruple- and quintuple-minded. As a musician, writer, and business entrepreneur, I have always had many goals and ambitions for myself and my life. In addition to my professional goals, I also wanted to prioritize the more common and widespread goals of living a long life and being a responsible person. As a result of this, I have always found it hard to focus on and prioritize just one thing.  So confusing! No wonder I had issues fitting everything into the same day.

To make matters even more confusing, when I first started thinking about goals and time management, I was trapped in a standard 9-5 corporate job which actually ended up taking over my entire life. I therefore had no time or energy left over to actually work on my goals at all. In spite of this, I stayed at my job because “I needed to earn money to pay my bills so that I could work on my passions, goals, and dreams.”

Unfortunately at that time, I did not understand the vital flaw in this logic. Maybe I did understand it on a subconscious level, but that didn’t mean that I actually knew what to do to fix it. The result was increasing frustration, irritation, and helplessness with my life on the surface and not understanding what was causing it.

Step #1: Prioritize Your Values

The first thing I did solve this problem was to compare my ideal list of values (how I would like to spend my time) with my actual values (the way that I was actually spending my time). My lists looked like this:

My ideal values:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Music
  3. Writing
  4. Business
  5. Job
  6. Housework

My actual values:

  1. Job
  2. Living a long life
  3. Business
  4. Housework
  5. Music
  6. Writing

Writing these lists, as you can see, was pretty jarring. It woke me up to the fact that I was, for the most part, prioritizing all the “responsible” aspects of life and was not really delving into either of my passions. No wonder I felt so frustrated and unfulfilled! I decided to do something about it.

Step #2: Quit Your Day Job

I know, this decision is not for everyone. That being said, it was definitely the right decision for me. I realized that if I wanted to live a life of true authenticity, I needed to make my music and writing more of a priority. So I rid myself of the largest time-sucker of all: the 9-5 job. Once I quit my job, I decided to earn money as a professional musician and as a business entrepreneur.

Once I quit my job, I felt much more comfortable and secure in the fact that the life that I was living was far more in alignment with my values than it had ever been previously. That being said, I still struggled with music goals vs business goals, and I hardly ever had time to write.

What was causing this problem? Each category had its own goals, sub-goals, and daily habits, there turned out to be not enough hours in the day to prioritize everything at the same time. Even though I tried my best to streamline, combine, and shuffle things around, I still felt too overwhelmed to fully focus on everything at the same time because I felt like I was way too overly extended to be successful in everything.

For example, I would make some success with my music in piano, but then my viola would suffer. Or I would prioritize my viola and my piano would suffer. Or I would have it on track with both instruments, but then I would never go to the gym. Or I would have the gym on track at the same time as the housework, but not do any music. Or I would have the gym and both instruments on track but neglect the housework. That’s not even mentioning my writing or my business. Sheesh.

See? Too many variables. No good. All it did was make me upset with myself for not being able to consistently follow through on anything because I had too many things going on at the same time. Because of this, I still felt deeply unsettled and unsatisfied. While I had made a large amount of progress, I had not yet achieved perfection (lol).

Step #3: Establish Mutual Purpose

Next, I decided to really look into each category and see if they were all truly important to me. Then I asked myself why they were so important to me and what was my purpose that was driving me towards completing goals in each area.

When I answered these questions, I still said that yes, all of these things are f*cking important. Clearly. Even though I still wished that I could hire a personal assistant and/or marry a hot husband who did all the housework, so that *I* didn’t have to be the one to do it, it was still important to me that someone did it.

Housework aside, what was really interesting when I completed this step was that I actually did manage to establish a mutual purpose behind my goals of living a long life, music, writing, and business.

My Mutual Purpose:

  1. I want to overcome to become. I want to overcome the negative, toxic, and scarcity experiences from my past to become a happy, healthy, and wholesome person who lives a life of abundance.
  2. I want to use my knowledge and experience to help others overcome negativity and toxicity and also live happy, healthy, and wholesome lives. I want to break others out of scarcity mindset and help them also live lives of abundance.

I was both relieved and pleased to discover that I was actually using three different channels to achieve the same mutual purpose. However, this still did not solve my problem of not having enough hours in the day and not being able to achieve long-term consistency in any category.

Step #4: The One Thing

While I had established that all of my goals were noble and that they all did serve the same mutual purpose, I had to take a good, hard look at each category to determine the order and the level of impact for each. Which one category allowed me to facilitate success in the other categories? Which category helped me the most in my own overcoming and healing process? Which category helped me the most in my quest to help others?

Another way of thinking about it is like a row of dominoes. Which domino is the most powerful that, if you could knock it down, it would result in the others also falling down? This is what I set out to find.

When I completed this step, the results were pretty shocking. I realized that while in the past I had achieved great success in my overcoming and healing process through my writing, I actually was now currently achieving better results with my personal growth through my business opportunity. While I still enjoyed writing, I realized that it no longer served me to write novels the way that it did in the past. Thus I decided to put novel writing on-hold for the time being and instead write about personal growth in this blog. See what I did there?

For my music, I realized that while I am currently making a difference with my students and with my performances, I will be able to make even more of an impact when I have the funding available to create my own Grand Performance Academy. In starting my own music academy, I will have control of the environment and culture, so that I can ensure that I am only teaching students (and parents) with the right attitude and mindset of abundance. Therefore, in order to become more selective with my music, I realized that I needed to first focus on building my business. The change and movement that I will make in the music industry will therefore be a byproduct of the results of building my business.

As a result, I decided to focus and concentrate first and foremost on building my business. Not only does building my business help me with my first goal of overcoming to become, but it also helps me in my quest to help others overcome to become. Not only that, but down the line I can make an even greater impact and change in the music industry once I have the finances in place to be able to do so.

Therefore, my order of priorities has now shifted to the following:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Business
  3. Music
  4. Writing
  5. Housework

Which therefore made it possible to streamline all of my daily habits and fit them into a 24-hour day, actually even less-than. Ironically, since making the decision to focus more on my business, I have since spent more time playing my instruments, going to music concerts, and writing. I call that a triple-minded success!

Become a Master of Time Management

For some people, time management comes very easily. Starting from the time that they first crawl out of the cradle, they already know how to be early for things, wake up in the morning, and set up a schedule with all of their activities neatly aligned and time-blocked. These people know how to plan very effectively. These people also know how to correctly estimate how much time it realistically takes to do everything.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not one of these fortunate people who came out of the womb with all of her ducks in a row. Time management skills are not a talent that have ever come easily to me. For the past two years, I have agonized and struggled to become even  proficient at this, let alone become a master. That being said, the good news is that if I can learn it, anyone can! Read on for the tiresome fruits of my labor my tips.

Step #1: Figure out exactly how long it takes you to do everything.

I’m not even kidding. Become attached to your watch, or your phone, or however else you tell time (a sundial? is that even still a thing?) and write down how long it takes you to go to the gym, clean the kitchen, brush your teeth, commute to work, scroll through Facebook, etc. You may need to do this a few times to get a consistent idea of how long each activity actually takes you.

Side note: commuting to work (or commuting anywhere for that matter) does not take the exact amount of time that it tells you it does when you research your route on Google maps. Not only do you have to drive there (the amount of time that you researched), but you also have to walk from your house to your car. Then you have to put all of your stuff into your car. Then once you arrive in the work parking lot, then you have to walk from your car into the office with all of your stuff. Then you have to punch in, get coffee, and be “early” to impress the higher-ups. Translation: a 15-minute commute on Google maps actually takes at least 30 minutes, if not more. And that’s not even accounting for traffic jams, lane closures, road construction, and detours.

Once you know how long it takes you to do everything (realistically), the next step is to organize everything you need to do.

Step #2: Organize everything.

It’s not just about deciding what time of day that you should do certain things on your list. It’s about also thinking realistically about what time you actually gravitate towards doing certain things. If you do not take the time to do this, chances are you will not be very successful in following through on your schedule (unless you have super-human long-term consistency skills, accountability skills, and emotional stability).

For example, you might have the best intentions to wake up at 5 am to work out. But will you? Or will you just end up hitting the snooze button 30+ times because you’re not a morning person and you don’t want to wake up, and then get mad at yourself for not following through on your commitment to yourself (guilty)? Maybe you will be more successful if you put your workout after work instead, because then you would be working in your strength zone (being a night owl). Working with yourself, instead of against yourself, is key.

That being said, this step in particular takes quite a bit of practice if you are not used to thinking realistically about what order you should do different activities. You may need to create different versions of your schedule, try them out, and then revise/tweak them until you find a progression of activities that actually works well for you and your energy needs.

Step #3: Managing your to-do list.

Before I studied time management skills, I always felt completely swamped and overwhelmed by what I coined “annoying phone calls” – aka spending three hours on the phone with some company trying to resolve a conflict or issue and then having it turn into a huge ordeal/crisis each time.

Pro tip: call at a time when not many other people are calling. At first I thought that calling in the morning was best, but in reality almost all other people also call in the morning. Generally people think that they are being smart and so they try to call before they have to go to work, but because everyone else also thinks that they are being smart by calling in before work, it simply does not work. I’ve found that calling in the early afternoon (1 pm) is best. If you call at 1 pm, not only are you calling in after all the lunch break callers are finished, but you also have the benefit that the person you’re speaking with also probably just took their lunch break and is now in a great mood, therefore actually wanting to help you. Problem solved.

In addition to refining the timing of when you call, also make sure to divy the calls and errands up into small chunks each day so that they are not so overwhelming. Invest in a daily planner and write yourself a note to call your credit card company on Monday, the insurance company on Tuesday, the bank on Wednesday, etc. What I find helpful is to spend a little bit of time thinking and planning your errands and phone calls for the week each Sunday and then divying them up into your personal planner.

Step #4: Actually completing the household chores.

For those of you reading this who aspire to some day hiring a personal assistant to take care of all this #$*%, I feel you. I am one of them. If you have a spouse or a roommate who actually enjoys doing these things (just like natural time managers, some people come out of the womb and actually enjoy cleaning. Again, I am not one of them.), then I am somewhat jealous of you but also wish that you would be more selfless and help that person out. If you already have a personal assistant who does it, I hate you.

If you don’t have an obliging spouse or roommate and you do not have a personal assistant, the good news is that once you have steps 1-3 down, step #4 should be a piece of cake. Once you know how long it takes you to clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, do laundry, clean your room, change your sheets and towels, water your plants, back up your computer, update your iPod, go grocery shopping, cook meals, do your budget, do your tax log, and do your mileage tracker, then you are already in pretty good shape. Knowledge is power.

The next step is, of course, to organize (step #2) and divide and conquer (step #3). When do you feel more inclined to complete these chores? Some people prefer to lump-sum all of them and dedicate their whole Saturday towards doing it. Other people prefer to split it up and do some of it each morning before work. Other people split it up differently and do some chores on the weekdays and some chores on the weekends. Again, no two people are alike and you can totally customize this to your strength zone.

Step #5: Handling a crisis.

Ah, the crisis. This one will be very quick. Is it really a crisis, or are you just procrastinating on the work that you actually need to do???!

Ahem.

Step #6: Prioritization.

Once you generally know how to schedule according to your strength zone, and once you have all the annoying bits in check so that you can truthfully refer to yourself as a Responsible Person, then the next step is to prioritize and fine-tune your schedule so that you are working every day to achieve your life goals.

What if you don’t have any life goals? Well, get some! Become passionate about something and go for it. Develop some #ambition (or in my case, #BlondeAmbition).

Once you have a list of your goals, you will need to spend some time planning the sub-steps (or “deadlines,” if you prefer) in which you will work to complete them. Once you have the sub-steps identified, then you can determine the daily habits that you need to put into place in order to get yourself there. Then you can update your schedule accordingly to include your daily habits. This may require some juggling and shuffling in other areas in order to prioritize your daily habits, but it will all be worth it in the end. Trust.

Help! All of goals seem to collide with each other and there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to complete everything!!! What do I do???!!!

This was me for a very long time, so I feel you. The good news is, I worked my way through it, and so can you. In my next post I will cover this topic in more detail.

Anyway, there you have it! If you follow these 6 Steps consistently and work to improve, then you will become a Master of Time Management in no time.