When I was a kid, my family rarely missed Little House on the Prairie.
The TV drama was wholesome family entertainment.
Imagine my shock when, as a 50-year-old, I realized I had nearly screwed up my life because of Little House on the Prairie!
One of my all-time favorite shows had convinced me:
- The real world never resolves complex problems in 50 minutes.
- I am not the Half-Pint responsible for speechifying everyone else into doing the right thing.
Once I began to untangle the ramifications of these unrealistic expectations, life got better.
This week, in Lesson 1, I will provide you with the tools you need to adjust the expectations you have about your self-awareness practice.
First, a quick reminder:
We're launching weekly office hours to accompany this series.
|Join us for a FREE Office Hours series associated with |
this email course
In case you missed it, read the intro to this series.
Lesson 1: Adjust your expectations about what self-awareness writing is, and is not.
Truth 1: Self-awareness journaling is not an hours-long pouring out of our souls.
Science tells us that writing every day for hours at a time is not only ineffective, but it can also keep us stuck.
In the months after my dad died, I pounded away at a keyboard every morning, writing 1500 to 2000 words. I was consistently late for work, and trodding the same pain day after day after day.
Journaling was causing more harm, and not helping me heal. This was not a practice in self-awareness.
It was self-sabotage.
Truth 2: Perfection is the enemy. Consistency is your BFF.
Perfectionistic forms of self-sabotage:
- You tell yourself, "I will journal every single day." You won't.
- You feel guilty for not writing even though you know you "should."
- You allow past performance to dictate the present. "I've failed at self-awareness practices, so I'm no good at it."
Results of this kind of self-talk:
- Each broken commitment to ourselves erodes your self-confidence.
- An inconsistent tempo results in no change and leads to resentment.
- "I will respond to my prompts 3 to 4 times per week for 4 weeks" is solid gold!
Truth 3: Journaling can effect change in your life with a few minutes each day.
Replace your stinky self-talk with one sentence:
"I will spend 10 minutes on self-reflection" is totally a gold star approach.
With this one mindset shift, You are now shooting for an experimental tempo that looks something like this:
- 10ish minutes per day
- 3 to 4 days per week
- 4 weeks
There's no such thing as a permanent self-awareness practice.
Sure! You can respond to the same questions day after day for decades. Likely, those same prompts are no longer effective. You're changing, growing, learning. Learning to manage one area while discovering new sources of struggle emerge.
That's the point of designing a self-awareness experiment around an expectation for imperfection.
Now that you have a better idea of what self-reflection is not, let's start working toward some actual practices that are atomic.
Atomic self-reflections that work
At the beginning of my march toward healing, gratitude and a daily-ish HEART Check required 4 to 7 minutes of my time each day.
Though I had not shared these practices with my work colleagues, someone noticed I was different. She asked me why I had stopped complaining as soon as I walked into our office suite each morning.
I learned this method from the late John Baker, founder of Celebrate Recovery, which is a faith-centric 12-step program.
This daily-ish check takes about a minute. It's a binary review. The Due app "nagged" me during the most stressful part of each day.
Five yes/no questions
Am I Hurting?
Am I Exhausted
Am I Angry
Am I Resentful
Am I Tense?
This check-in teaches you 3 things:
- Notice how you're doing.
- Express how you're feeling.
- Practice self-care.
When you consistently respond in the affirmative to three or more tests, you learn to practice self-care in any or all of the following actions.
- Engage in breath work and/or meditation.
- Share to someone you trust, "I'm feeling x."
- Crank up some music that calms you.
My friend Steve Austin (who died in June 2022) taught me a simple gratitude exercise for when gratitude is hard to find.
He learned it years before I ever knew him. Here's how it works.
Name one thing for which you are grateful. Ask "why" 3 times.
- Write in short bursts
- A 3 to 4-day-per-week practice is effective.
- Reduce your self-awareness time to a few minutes each day
- Reflection prompts
- Try one of the atomic self-reflection prompts in the examples section.
In next week's lesson, you will learn how to activate superpowers that only a digital self-reflection can unleash.
Let me know if this lesson dislodged an unrealistic expectation holding you back from a consistent self-awareness practice.