The more I work at it, the more I see how a healthy mindset is fundamental to everything I do and how I live.
And what does a healthy mindset mean? For me, it boils down to one simple thing: choosing a more helpful thought.
This writing challenge I've been participating in has been revealing to me a lot of my misguided beliefs and bad habits and tendencies. That's what a challenge is meant to do, and alongside we learn how to unsubscribe from those beliefs and adopt good habits as we journey through the challenge.
One of the things I tend to do when there's a lot of life stuff going on, as has been the case for most of May, is let writing slide.
I have a lot of excuses for it. I can only write in the mornings. I get too tired in the afternoons or in the evenings. I need to read or watch Netflix before bed-time.
What I've noticed is that when my mind is tired, then it very easily keeps circulating these thoughts in my head. And it becomes very convenient to forego writing and choose another activity instead. Check email or Whatsapp for the umpteenth time. Log on to Netflix and see what's new. Pick up a book to read and fall asleep.
If I am conscious of these thoughts in my mind, I can choose a more helpful thought.
For instance, I could say to myself, "I am tired, but I'd still like to make a little progress on the writing front as I had planned to. Let me set a timer and write for 15 minutes, and see how that goes."
This is such a simple thing to do. And the truth is, I always always feel very good after that 15-minute sprint. Just the act of showing up and getting started on the task is enough of an impetus to keep going.
Action Over Deliberation
Common wisdom is that action leads to motivation, not the other way round. The smallest step is still progress to be celebrated, momentum that keeps on carrying us towards our goals.
When we pause to think, especially engage in thoughts about why something sucks or does/will not work, then we feel deflated before we've even given our idea an iota of a chance.
I wrote yesterday that the greatest fear that keeps me from taking action is the fear of disappointment if the outcome is not to my liking.
The truth, as the Gita so wisely explains, is that we only have control over our actions and not over the outcome of those actions.
For instance, just a few hours ago we received an email about a schedule change next week that currently creates some conflict for us.
Our initial response was to simply accept it, but now that we're in the habit of taking charge of our lives — which means speaking up, showing up, and doing our best — KrA and I decided that it was best to write and present our dilemma to the parties concerned.
Who knows? Maybe things might change in our favour. Maybe they won't. That is immaterial. The fact that I reached out and voiced my concerns is already success enough for me. I'd much rather live with disappointment than with the regret of not having tried something.
It took me less than 2 minutes to write that email. My previous avatar would have spent 2 days fretting and fuming, wondering whether to send the email or not, worrying about what the other party might think of me, and all those mental actions and physical inactions that keep us drowning in a quagmire of our own making.
Now I'm a big believer of taking action without too much deliberation. I trust myself and my values enough to know that whenever I choose to respond consciously to any situation, it will come from a place of authenticity. No regrets lie that way.
Moment-to-moment Presence + Long-term Thinking
One of the ways my mind often pushes back against me when I think of the long-term is by reminding me that there is no future. That the future is uncertain, and that today might very well be the last day of my life.
True. There is no denying that.
Which is why, instead of foregoing all possibility of any future whatsoever, I can remain present and joyful in whatever I undertake today, be it writing fiction or planning for tomorrow or making a to-do list for the week ahead.
Long-term thinking does not have to come at the expense of presence and joy in the moment that exists here and now.
I find this especially true when it comes to my writing endeavours. I have often fallen prey to thinking "Where is this story going to lead? Will readers even like this? Will I ever make a full-time living writing fiction?" and let those kinds of thought dissuage me from writing and enjoying storytelling today.
Which is where being conscious of my thoughts, choosing a more positive thought, and choosing action over deliberation help me make the most of today.
Tomorrow I have a number of important appointments to attend to, which means I'll have to give myself some grace if I'm not able to meet my writing goals.
Additionally, I finished another short story today; I had stalled on this for a few days because I realized in hindsight that the story was coming to an end and I didn't quite want to bid goodbye to it. Because now comes the most pressing question of the moment: what next?
I'll have all day to think about that tomorrow, and I'm determined to make my way to the writing desk at the end of the day, no matter how tired I am, if only for a 15-minute sprint.
That's all it takes.
15 minutes. That's all.