Strategies for Intentional Living 1 – Morning Pages

As part of my meanderings around the idea of slow living, I have been listening to Brooke and Ben Macalary’s Slow Home Podcast. A lot of what they talk about resonates with me. “Slow” living is a loaded phrase. It has connotations of laziness or “dropping out” attached to it which might be hard to accept especially for people like me who prefer to be “busy”. Brooke suggests another label for slow living.  She says many prefer to think of it as intentional living.

What is intentional living?

Intentional living means that you maintain a lifestyle that adheres to your beliefs and values and you don’t just live on autopilot. Rather than floating along with the dominant culture’s tide, you steer your own boat. My values include reducing my consumption, a value shared by many, but not supported by the dominant culture of capitalism. “Culture” wants to buy lots and buy often. I am digging this groove because while I’ve been living “fast”, I have been living intentionally for some time. I have worked on my life’s purpose, I have values and beliefs which I stick to. 

Curiosity about how other people live intentionally sent me down an internet vortex. There is plenty out there on the interwebs about this topic. Looks like I wasn’t late to this party, just that I have been partying in the dark for a while! Label-less!

How do other people “do” intentional living?

In one pod episode,  Brooke describes her morning routine and refers to “Morning Pages”. The idea intrigued me. Like Brooke, I aim to get up early. In summer, I usually do some exercise in an attempt to beat the heat and humidity. In winter,  It’s hard to get the runners on when it’s dark and cold, so it’s more likely that I will settle down with a cup of tea and do some writing. Morning Pages might be my thing.

Morning Pages

Morning Pages were “invented” by Julia Cameron back in 1992. The idea is that you write three sides of standard US letter paper (A4 for us Aussies!) first thing in the morning before you do anything else. It’s a stream of consciousness style of writing. Just write the things that pop into your head. Don’t censor it, don’t stop to think, just write. The first thought that comes into my mind is that it’s a waste of one side of a piece of paper! The rule about “before you do anything else” is so you capture your thoughts before they are waylaid by the realities of the day.  

Thinks to self: I’m presuming it’s OK to pee but NO cup of tea? That’s a bit extreme.

After you’ve written your three pages in longhand you are supposed to throw them out. This way you are free to write anything without the fear of someone else reading your private thoughts.   Frankly, I hope that someone will, one day, actually read my scribbled, illegible journal notes! I leave them messages! Sometimes I laugh out loud at my little notes to a future reader! Such wit and humour!!  

Journalling vs Morning Pages.

Stream of consciousness scribbling can lead to the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the writing rainbow. First, you write draft zero, get all the rubbish out of the way and then you *might* find the pot of good thoughts. Your flow hits the perfect viscosity. I often experience this when I am out running or walking. A great story idea pops into my head. sometimes I’ll stop and record a breathless voice message because invariably, I have forgotten the said brilliant idea before I get home!

I have used my own photos to order unlined books through Photobook Australia.

I keep a journal,  so far I am up to Volume 10.  I use an A5 hardbound notebook with unlined pages and write in pencil although I don’t write in it every day. It’s a hotchpotch of shopping lists, to-do lists, ta-da lists, ideas for blog posts, self-recriminations, summary notes I’ve taken while listening to online courses or Youtube. It serves as my travel diary. It even holds some deep dark secrets! I’d love to be able to decorate it with beautiful sketches and calligraphy but doodles are as far as I go in the artistic department.

I don’t want to throw my jottings away!  My first intentional decision then is to stick to journalling.  My journal serves a similar purpose. One day I’m hoping some of my descendents will read it and say “What a funny old chook Great Grandma was, I wish I had met her!” Through the pages of my journal, I think they can. 

The Search for the Missing Mojo Begins! 

Last week I declared that my mojo was missing. I reported my feelings of laziness and malaise. Exercise has become a chore and eating right a battle. The anxiety monster is lurking just around the corner waiting to pounce on me if I let it. Last week’s goal was to start searching for answers.

Perhaps it’s not mojo I’m looking for?

As a first step, I decided to define a few terms. What even is mojo? Am I using the term correctly? Googling led me to this:

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Am I looking for mojo? Or am I looking for enthusiasm? Is it motivation I need or more willpower?  Some further search terms lead me to this blog article

Should I Get Motivated Or Use Willpower? The Ultimate Guide For Taking Action When You Don’t Feel Like It

Now that sounds like what I’m after!

According to the author, Stephen Guise, you are better off relying on willpower and habit rather than motivation. He defines motivation as a desire to take action, whereas willpower is forcing yourself to take action even if you don’t feel like it. Creating habits is the ultimate goal. When something is a habit you don’t have to make a decision, you just do it because you have built it into your life. I’d recommend the article. It’s long but his writing style is easy, amusing and straight forward. He has a book to sell called Mini Habits.

Working SMARTer

Guise recommends taking action even when you feel unmotivated. Just get out and do it.  This is the same strategy Michelle Bridges uses in her 12 Week Body Transformation Program. (12WBT)

Her motto is  JFDI (just f*^%#$ do it!)

Just get out of bed. Don’t think about it! Just put your workout gear on, don’t think about it. Once you start, you’ll keep going.

I have signed up for the 12WBT three times in the past, and every time it has worked well for me. I’ve gotten fitter and stronger. At the conclusion of the 12-week program, I have felt empowered, healthy and proud.

Why does this style of program work so well for me and others? It boils down to a few simple factors:

  1. The program isn’t free. The fact that I’ve paid for it is a huge part of its  success for me. The idea of wasting money if I don’t stick to it is an important external motivator.
  2. It’s for a well defined period of time. Long enough to see results, short enough to maintain interest.
  3. It is measurable. There are some very carefully planned milestones that involve actual measuring including a weekly weigh-in and a monthly fitness test. On top of that, you take your body measurements every four weeks.
  4. The program asks you to set mini-milestones and a final goal. For my last round, these goals were timed running events and culminated in a final event where I aimed to crack the 56-minute mark. (missed by 5 seconds!)
  5. There is a supportive online and IRL* community attached. I didn’t join in on this aspect much but it was there if I wanted it.

That list sounds very familiar and a lot like SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Make a start – even if its small

While SMART goals are a tried and true strategy for many people, Guise suggests another option. Using brute force! In a strategy, he calls ‘taking stupid small steps” he suggests you take a very small action which you repeat over and over again until it  ‘turns into a powerful, healthy habit.’

The idea is to force yourself to do one push up (or another similarly very small step), then do another and then another and before you know it you’ve done a workout. Guise says that harnessing the power of stupid small steps will increase your willpower, stamina, build momentum, lead to action rather than just thinking about taking action and finally bring a greater level of consistency.

Here’s a good summary of the idea.

What’s next in the mojo hunt.

My Year of Zero precludes me from signing up for another round of 12WBT so I am just going to wing it on my own with a very strong mini habits flavour thrown in. I’ll set some milestones, do some measurements and give myself 12 weeks to whip myself back into shape. I have a 5 km race booked in for December. Maybe I can get down to 25 minutes. (My previous best time is 26 minutes)

Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do…Starting next week…I really really mean it this time! 


Next week’s post: I know I’m not alone in this potentially COVID induced funk. Next week I’ll examine the possibility of this lack of motivation being a bigger shared problem. 

* IRL = In real life

 

 

 

Losing your mojo

Lighthouses of scotland - Kinnaird Head Lighthouse

Mojo no-go!

If you were browsing through my past posts dear reader, you would be excused for thinking that I am a paragon of virtue. You’d see that I exercise regularly, look after my gut bacteria, care for the planet, meditate, volunteer, make stuff from scratch and can make a darn fine photo. My curated self is a frugal homemaker, a canny traveller and witty writer.

Darn! I might just nominate myself for “Domestic Goddess of the Year” while I’m at it because I can cook and sew and when I put my mind to it I CAN make flowers grow.

Steel Street - Cringila
What’s stopping me?

Excuse me; have you seen my Mojo?

Just of late though, like many other people in the world, I am in serious danger of losing my mojo. My get up and go is close to getting up and going, except it’s too lazy to put its shoes on. 

The dark, cold mornings are making it tough to rise and shine and do the exercise I know will make me feel refreshed. The spectre of coronavirus particles lurking on the gym equipment has kept it a no-go zone.

My knees and hips might be enjoying the interlude from pounding the pavement but my tightening waistband is reminding me of the self-sabotaging messages being sent to my brain. “Stay in bed,”  my knees say, “you can exercise this afternoon,” chime in my hips. “Snuggle under the blankets a little longer…”

Winning mojo medals
I’m not winning mojo medals right now!

On other fronts, my diet has been marginal and my gut bacteria are in danger of switching to the dark side!  I have gained 3 kg in 3 months. I still fit into the healthy weight range but my curves sure aren’t flattening! If I keep on this trend I’ll be tipping into unhealthy before I know it.

I am sticking to my no alcohol for a year pledge and more or less sticking to my Year of Zero spending goals, but these are negative or passive goals, I don’t actually have to do anything to make them happen.

My rational self knows that something will happen in the afternoon that makes exercising impossible.  I KNOW that the best time for me to exercise is in the morning before the rest of the world intrudes. I KNOW THIS! I know that my mood is better and my brain more sprightly when I eat well. I KNOW THIS TOO!

I have discussed my plan for living in some previous posts. I use goal setting and big picture thinking. I have thought about this before.

So why am I struggling?

Where did the Mojo go?

Why is it that sometimes we can be at the top of our game, pumping on all cylinders and slam-dunking the goals we set ourselves, while at other times we self-implode and eat the whole packet of Tim Tams?

Is there such a thing as motivation fatigue? Am I just in a COVID-funk? Do I need to find different goals?

I’ve been here before and I know I’ll get over it. I know I need external accountability but is there another tactic I could try?

The Mojo-quest begins.

I’m looking for answers to find my misplaced mojo! I have started to research by reading books, listening to podcasts and falling down into a  deep YouTube Vortex.  Join me on my quest to find the path to the Mojo warehouse and let me know what works for you. Over the next few posts*, I’ll be writing about my findings and I’ll share the treasure map by summarising the salient points from the source materials.

Mind you it might not be next week… I might still be in bed!

 

Smart Mojo
Having a specific time-bound goal that I sign up for, helps my mojo stay on track.


* You see what I did there? I set myself an accountability trap! 🙂