I think it's safe to say that we might all be feeling like we need a break from the current situation. It can be difficult to see that things will end, and that change can still come to our lives, even if it seems that everything else has ground to a halt.
In the midst of this difficulty, I find myself coming across more humanity and compassion from the people in my life, both in person and online. Sure, we have all seen people cracking under the pressure of quarantine and doing things that might not be in their best interests, but I think the average person has done a lot of thinking about others, and how they can fit into the larger picture when it comes to beating this pandemic.
For me, this also makes me think of the future, and how we will all be different when this all comes to an end. It appears that I am not the only one having these thoughts about how we can all be better in small ways.
But what does this look like, in practice? How can we all come out of this with a better understanding of ourselves, the importance of community, and our place in it?
Defining ourselves, for ourselves.
When we know what we want to achieve from the beginning, and what is truly important to us, it makes it much easier to begin making strides towards those goals from the outset. Thinking about who you want to become, and who you are now in an honest way is a great method to create a "roadmap" of the change you want to see through.
If you've read my article on Goal Setting, you'll remember the analogy that our goals are like the rudder on a ship, and the methods we use to achieve those goals are the sails. Think of the pre-planning and reflection as the map we'll follow, in order to set the goals that we need to arrive where we want to go.
So where to begin?
Beginning your Self-Inquiry
Thinking about ourselves in an honest way can be difficult, especially if we feel that we aren't our best selves at the moment. It's possible to start this process solo, but I encourage you to reach out to the people around you whose opinions mean a lot to you.
Ask them to consider some of the questions in our Self-Inquiry Exercises, but have them answer them about you. Answer those same questions for yourself and compare the results. This can be an eye-opener for finding behaviours or habits that we might not be aware of.
However you choose to begin your reflection, it can be helpful to look back at the interview we did with Dan Doty of Evryman. Dan's experience with helping hundreds of men get better in tune with themselves can be invaluable. Here are some of the basic concepts to keep in mind.
- ROC, which stands for Relax, Open, Connect. This is where Dan suggests that we all begin. Slow down and begin to pay attention more to your body
- These physical cues can often give us a hint of how we are feeling about a given topic. Open yourself to deeper reflection and inspection, and allow yourself the time needed to really explore your own thoughts and beliefs.
- Some people have great success with guided meditation. Download an app that works for you and give it a shot!
- Don't rush through negative feelings. These can often be the most insightful - consider the negative feelings, and why they're happening. What is triggering this reaction? Does it make sense?
Making sense of our own thoughts
Once you begin thinking more about yourself and exploring more of your own beliefs, it's inevitable that you'll discover elements of who you are now, that might not mesh with who we want to be in the future.
For me, a lack of emotional literacy was something that I struggled with for a long time. I could understand my emotions, but not always see where they were coming from, or why. This made it difficult to be vulnerable with the people close to me, as I found it hard to nail down and explain how I felt about things.
Understanding and coming to terms with this shortcoming was the first step for me to begin to address it with more active thoughts and effort. If I hadn't taken the time to truly consider the issue, it's definitely possible that my efforts would have been wasted - either by not taking action at all, or not addressing the root causes for the issue in the first place.
Making sense of, and trying to understand these contradictions about ourselves can be a really useful tool to identify where we need to go to become the person we want to be.
For some people, this can be the easiest part of their journey. Once they become aware of an issue in their lives, they can make the changes needed to address it without much trouble.
I was not one of those people. It took months of practice and support from the people close to me for me to develop the skills and vocabulary to really effectively express how I was feeling.
The core tenet of R.O.C. was invaluable for me - slowing down in the moment to consider my emotional state allowed me to work through the problems as they occurred.
Instead of letting anger or apathy take over, due to a lack of understanding about my own emotions, I was able to work through my feelings in the moment, and gain the experience and understanding that comes with practice. Bad habits like a self-centred perspective and apathy towards people who I didn't understand became problems to tackle, instead of insurmountable obstacles.
This can be a difficult and at times compromising effort. It's not easy to come to terms with our own shortcomings, but the end result is worth it. Being able to start from an honest place with yourself is an irreplaceable first step.
So I encourage you to take this time, when the world appears to have frozen in place, to do this important work for yourselves and the people around you. Our worlds are only as nice as the people in them. We can all come out of this as better individuals and members of our communities, the only thing required is effort.
See you on the next one!
Tyler at Peregrine