March 21, 2020 – These are trying times, especially for those of us who are literally isolated and scared. Getting our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper can be enlightening and healing. I believe if we do this together, as a community, we can heal.
So, for each of the next 30 days, I am going to share a writing prompt here with my answer. I will also be sharing the daily prompt on my social channels. I would love you to share your answer to the day’s prompt in the comments. I also encourage you to share prompts of your own with me and with your circles of friends, loved ones, and colleagues. Together, we can generate a lot of wisdom and support for each other.
Day 7. What gives you joy? How can you make enough time for things that simply make you happy?
Where to begin? I’ll start with my circle of family and friends. My husband and two adult children are certainly a source of joy. I talk about deep, philosophical issues almost every day with my husband. Our daily talks put me into a state of flow where I am learning, making interesting connections among ideas, and grounding myself for whatever may come my way. My kids make me laugh every single day. Together, we refer to ourselves as the Justice League.
I have the deep privilege to be one among a fabulous network of coaches. To count among my closest friends some of the wisest, kindest and comforting people in the world is a constant source of joy. My handful of besties (you know who you are!) who aren’t coaches always have my back, make me feel like a superwoman, and never fail to offer honest advice.
I get a lot of joy out of nature, too. I love to hike, plant things, run in the waves of the ocean (especially at Pt. Reyes National Seashore). I love my kitties, chips and salsa, coffee, and so many movies, books and songs I can’t even count.
Joy is a frequent companion. And on those rare occasions when she decides to take a vacation, I know she will be back soon.
Day 6. What activities (or people) drain your energy? Why and what can you do about it?
March 27, 2020 – I rarely think about myself as susceptible to being drained of energy by outside forces, but I can honestly say that attending meetings that are intended more for those who are hosting them than for the participants can be quite exhausting. Far too often, when I was working full-time, I would find myself in meetings whose main purpose was to disseminate information rather than facilitate discussion and meaning making. I would often struggle to surrender to these situations and to have compassion for the people who felt the need to pull together groups of people so that they could check off an item on their admittedly very long list of “to dos.”
I have also had bosses who were prone to fear, which led to a lack of trust, micromanaging, and lashing out. It took me many years to find a way to conserve my energy under the onslaught of negativity I was often subjected to. But, by practicing compassion and trying to feel (not just intellectually understand) that their behavior toward me was not personal, I was able to notice what was happening, to realistically assess to what extent I could respond in a way that did not exacerbate their fear, and to be as calming and reassuring as possible.
Ultimately, I know that I am responsible for my energy. When I feel drained by an external force, I try to allow myself to feel what I am feeling without judgment and then reenergize myself with self-care, laughter, and good friends.
Day 5. What are your favorite songs? Why?
March 26, 2020 – I love so many songs I came up with a playlist! Here is my Happy, Groovy Spotify playlist (songs that never fail to make me happy, even if the song itself isn’t happy). Find what makes you happy and spend sometime there.
Day 4. What are your best qualities?
There a lot of ways to explore your best qualities and to think about how to apply them to live the life you want. You might want to start with a values assessment. You can also explore your strengths in great detail. Take the free survey at VIA.
Day 3. What are you most proud of?
March 24, 2020 – I’m proud of my ability to keep learning and powering through the negative self-talk that comes up when I am afraid of trying something new. Pride is not something that comes easily to me, or to most of us. We are hard-wired to pay more attention to the things about ourselves that we are not proud of. It takes practice to acknowledge when we have done something we can be proud of. External, measurable accomplishments are easiest: a good grade, an award, even an “atta-girl” from someone we admire.
It is worth cultivating an inner dialogue that acknowledges, even more importantly celebrates, our “achievements” that seem to come naturally (like making someone sad laugh or comforting a child with a skinned knee). And we are especially reticent to celebrate the good things we do in the face of all the times we have failed in the same context. As a mom, I can easily recount the times I failed to be the parent I aspire to be. But I have learned to also recall the times I have succeeded spectacularly at this role. Most of these are also really subtle and immeasurable, but worthy of my pride.
Of course, no one really loves a braggart. Humility is key, but pride need not be about gloating. Pride is most powerful when it is a gift we make to ourselves. When we can find a balance between acknowledging what we would like to improve and what we are proud of, we can be our best selves.
Day 2. What advice would you give to your younger self?
“You are the sky. Everything else–it’s just the weather.”Pema Chodron
March 23, 2020 – One of the advantages of growing older is perspective. My younger self (I’m going to put this at 21, so my much younger self!) was lost, really just lost. She thought that she was unlovable, not very smart, and really didn’t know what to do with herself. She felt she was the weather, not the sky. At 21, she thought this was her lot in life. She was floating with no direction and no particular joy.
Now I realize that this “floating” is something I do once in a while, especially when I am about to make a big leap or transition in my life. I realize now it’s part of my creative process, and I have so much more self-compassion and trust in the process. It’s still hard, but I have the advantage of KNOWING it is temporary and necessary.
So I would tell my younger self that she is beautiful, lovable, and very smart–or more importantly, resilient, creative, intuitive, influential, and inspirational. I would tell her to surrender to the floating sensation. I would say to her, “It what makes you ‘you,’ Donna. It’s all good.”
*Shout out to Sam Lamott, host of the Hello Humans podcast for the inspiration for this one. Check it out where you get your podcasts!
Day 1: What makes you lose track of time?
March 22, 2020 – I am fortunate that I engage in a lot of activities where I feel so “in the zone” that hours can pass without notice: writing, walking and hiking, reading a great book, scrapbooking, cooking, gardening, even cleaning the house. And maybe that’s the trick: not noticing.
In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (2008), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
My almost daily experience of flow comes during my morning talk with my husband. We share a propensity to rise early (-ish) and the freedom to spend a hour or more just exploring ideas, leisurely talking about the news, our challenges, what we are reading, what our kids are up to, and hundreds of other topics we have landed on.
A friend once told me that this kind of experience is a form of “walking hypnosis,” being so focused on an activity that we forget to notice time passing. Boredom, impatience, and even fear all take a back seat to flow.
I realize I am lucky to have so many flow experiences. But I also know what it’s like to spend too much time (sadly often at work) watching the clock. We are hyper-focused on how much we don’t want to be “spending” our time at a meeting or writing performance appraisals or serving customers who are rude or ….Fill in the blank. Spending time this way can be downright painful.
I believe finding ways to be in “flow” is a superpower we all have the ability to develop. Find something that challenges you to develop a skill that you would like to strengthen. Finding that balance and the motivation to ignore the clock can be liberating.
*Shout out to the What’s Your Word card deck (by myintent.org) for this prompt.