So, ironically, one of my biggest challenges during this journey is increasing my patience. I'm working on actually slowing this process down to make sure I get it right instead of diving in head first and trying to be exactly who I want to be overnight. Now, for those who have seen me go between cycles, it might seem that I can change quickly, and indeed I may have the ability to adjust quicker than most (sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse). However, I'm talking about an overall change in my approach to life, and moving from focusing solely on others to making myself an important part of my own life as well. Small bits and pieces can change overnight, but as a whole, it's a longer haul. I realize this might be frustrating for those around me. It's ok for me to be 'going through a process' for a few days, or a week or even a couple of weeks. It probably gets old after a while, and I understand that. It's one of the reasons I'm doing this blog - to document my journey for myself, and for those who want to witness it, at their own pace. It allows me to get things out here instead of having it constantly be the focus of every conversation. I'd even frustrate myself with that.
For anyone that knows me, I work best with timelines. Part of this may be from running my own business and frequently working from home - if I don't give myself timelines, who will? It's easy to get distracted by doing the laundry and grocery shopping if I don't have a self-imposed deadline to get xyz tasks finished by the end of the day. I find without some sort of at least loose timeline, people (myself included) tend to be more lax on their responsibility and accountability. I have a very hard time with the idea of "letting things happen" because all of my life I've worked to make things happen (and because I don't believe in axioms such as "everything happens for a reason," but that's a whole other blog). While I don't think that working hard to get what you want is at all a bad trait - in fact I think it's an admirable and important one - I have to, as I've said in the past, let go of the need to control absolutely everything. Or rather, I should say that I need to let go of the need to actively control everything. I've realized, even in this short time that I've been intently working on myself, that sometimes the best control comes from stepping back and not working every minute to control things. This allows one to have better control of themselves and their actions, and ultimately that's the most effective and most enjoyable way to get where you want to be.
I know, I know - what's the point, and where do the "baby steps" come in? I promise, that was all leading up to it. With the help of a very special friend, I've decided to create a "commitments" list. These are all small (or seemingly small) actions that I will commit to doing every day or week, as is appropriate, to make the changes I want to make. These aren't "to do"s which I can push off until tomorrow. They are commitments that I'm telling myself I must do when I've agreed (with myself) to do them. They are every day actions to get me to focus on each day, in fact sometimes each hour or minute, instead of extrapolating days/weeks/months into the future, getting impatient and wanting to "be there now". Each week I will create a checklist, which categorizes the actions day by day. I add on from the previous week. Remember, these are small items. Some weeks, the "new" item will just be an improvement to last week's item (ie instead of 5 minutes of meditation each day, I'll do 8).
I started with the absolute basics. These are actions that I truly need to physically do in order to even start to focus on working on myself. This week I had four action items listed for each day. Ambitious, right? Not really. Here were the items:
1.) Take morning medication by 9 am
2.) Take afternoon medication around 2 PM
3.) Take evening medication around 9:30 or 10 PM
4.) Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep
Note: every one of these has been prescribed my doctor and is something I've already aimed to do, but it made a good starting point, since they're essentials. I realize that 7 to 8 of hours of sleep is laughable to a lot of people (as in, "who the hell gets that much sleep?") but sleep is one of those things that can make or break my condition for the day. A steady sleep pattern is almost as important as medication for me, and it was somewhere I was slacking. That needs to change.
I'm happy to announce that this past week I could successfully check off all but one item - I didn't get 7-8 hours of sleep on Tuesday night. I just couldn't sleep well, and that's truly through no fault of my own. I went to bed early and tried to sleep well, it just didn't happen. Overall, I consider this last week a success in terms of my commitments list. This week I've add in 5 minutes of meditation each day. I started "practicing" this last week by actually doing stress relief yoga at home several days and doing meditation for 5 minutes a couple of times. I wanted to get to work on them before I was "committed".
I know these seem like simple things, not even worthy of writing a blog about, but the simpleness is the point - they make me slow down. They take the focus off the stress of my business, my interpersonal relationships and trying to make everything perfect, my trying to "fix" myself and my life so urgently. I don't know anyone that doesn't like to check off completed items on their list, and this list not only gives me that satisfaction and that focus, it simplifies my life into what's really essential, and helps me work on myself, day by day. It allows me to visibly feel my work and my progress in a tangible way, which makes me less impatient because I'm not waiting until things get better - I'm actually watching the progress with each task I complete. It gives me the hope that this process is indeed starting to work, and that I will indeed be successful in this journey (I'm tempted to say "sooner rather than later" here, but that would be impatient!).
I highly suggest a commitments list everyone. The key is to not let it get out of hand. Keep things basic and simple. Commitments don't have to be exactly the same every day, just don't get too ambitious all at once. An important point: this doesn't mean you do nothing but these items (I'd be bored to tears and have no business if that was the case). Make sure this list never involves 'to dos' such as work tasks or home chores. Sure those are important and they can go on your "to do" list - just not your "must do" list. Keep it to those things you want to work on for yourself personally, or even those things that would give you joy that you haven't had time for (i.e. walk the dog to the park once a day), and I suspect you'll feel pleasantly surprised and accomplished with the results. After all, no matter how happy people are with their lives, we're all a work in progress.