Recently, near the end of 2017, I had some big breakthroughs.
Three to be exact.
They came about as a result of a lot of pain. Now first off, I know that sounds shitty. But let me get this straight: pain is not a bad thing.
pain is not a bad thing.
Pain is literally the notification that our body gives us in order to get away from something that’s hurting us. Pain is a necessary part of life that ultimately leads us to greater comfort, joy and happiness. Without pain, you can’t have pleasure. If you haven’t experienced very much pain in life, it’s arguable that it’ll be difficult to discover where you’ll find true happiness. Figure out what doesn’t work, so you can discover what does. As it’s unlikely you’re just going to get lucky and land on what does work right out of the gate (damn you, Mozart).
Its like all of those weird, creepy and messed up relationships that you had to endure in order to find the amazing one you’re in today (or inevitably will be in!). There came a point in said relationship where the pain pushed you over the edge and you said, “no more, this ain’t working for me!" The experience left you with greater insight as to what causes you pain and what makes you happy.
Insights you can work with in the future.
Breakthrough is Breakdown’s sister, and let me tell you I know a lot about breakdowns sista! 2017 was all about breakdowns (in good quarter-life crisis style). When you’re in a state of breakdown, it basically means that you are:
Point A) Experiencing pain in the present moment, and
Point B) Are seeking solace in the future,
And you don’t know HOW to get from Point A to Point B. Breakthroughs are all about discovering those HOWs.
This post covers three big breakthroughs I've had, breakthroughs that helped me get past breakdowns…
Breakthrough #1: Routine
Starting with the Five Minute Journal every morning!
Jeez, growing up, how many times did your Mom tell you to make your bed? And you were at the computer like,
“nah, Ma! I’m playing Sims!”
And she be like,
“Making the bed is important”
and you be like,
“Ma, why don’t we hire a maid doe?!”
… Long story short, your Mom was right.
your mom was right.
It’s true. Making the bed really does matter. It took me 23 years, but I got there, finally.
I’m a creative freak, so my mind is pretty much the opposite of structured. But life is all about balance, my friends, and a little bit of structure goes a long way.
So far, the most fundamental tool I’ve used to help me build routine has been the Five Minute Journal. It won't be the first time you'll hear me mention this journal, because it's super effective and I love it. I made a video about it, go check it out.
Starting with my Five Minute Journal, I've been able to "habit stack". I've slowly been able to add one habit onto another to build out my morning routine. Today, I have a pretty solid morning routine, and it continues to improve with time.
The great thing about my morning routine? It's achievable and it's straightforward. And I promise, if you don't already have a morning routine, doing this one will drastically improve the days you're consistent with it.
Here's a quick review of my morning routine:
Put your journal beside your bed, so that right away when you wake up in the morning you can reach for it.
Write down three things you're grateful for and prime your day.
Read my “focusing note”.
Make the bed (…most of the time).
Then go to the bathroom and eat (not at the same time you weirdo).
Then day planning using my Productivity Planner
This simple morning routine has been a major win for me! And often, it’s meant the difference between a good day and a not so good day. Its just all about keeping the momentum going!
Breakthrough #2: productivity
I used to grind in university, but I didn’t know what productivity was until after university (which is probably why my GPA is on the golf scoring system).
Today, I dictate what I create in my life. And as many self-employed individuals know, working for yourself is like a dog holding its own leash and walking itself.
Working for yourself is like a dog holding its own leash and walking itself.
Productivity is an integral part of an entrepreneur's hustle.
I've tried many things to improve my productivity. And I finally found three tools that really work! Not to mention, a key mindset. The tools I swear by are:
My calendar. If its not in my calendar it doesn’t get done. If its in there, it happens.
My Productivity Planner, WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT THIS THING. This journal gave me three superpowers: prioritization, focus and efficiency. And ultimately, that’s what good productivity comes down to.
Goal setting and actually scheduling in tasks or actions based on those goals. Oh yeah, and keeping goals simple.
But these tools are useless if you don’t have the right mindset. Productivity is all about the push.
Productivity is all about the push.
Its like the last few pushups you do in a set, and then you do a few extra. At the end of the day, it comes down to just do it. The great thing about this mindset is that the more you practice it, the more it becomes second nature, and the less thought you have to put towards getting shit done.
Breakthrough #3: listening to yourself first
Now listen to me, it's about time you stopped listening to me first.
If you're reading this, ask yourself: why are you reading this? You probably read a lot of stuff on the internet. Read books. Watch TV. Listen to podcasts. Scroll social media. Listen to your teachers, to your family and your peers. Listen to your communities. Listen to society.
You’re taking in a lot of information. How is your listening of all of this affecting your identity?
For children in the western world, there is culture of, "you can be whatever you want to be" (in Grade 4 I wanted to be a fish). When we grow up, that culture shifts radically to, “we think you should be [blank] and do [blank]”. To add to that now is the incessent barrage of cultural opinions on social media.
At university, I went through a period of time when who I was, was mostly the result of who I was listening to. I was listening to the world around me more than I was listening to myself. And here's the kicker...
I convinced myself that outside opinions were my own.
And I made them my own so that I could avoid the fear of confrontation. I was people pleasing.
Since then, I've made some big decisions to shift my thinking. And I started listening to myself first. It's actually part of the reason that I started this blog!
I believe that listening to ourselves first is something we all gotta learn at one point to live authentically.
Better to get real about who you are now than at 90.
Listening to yourself first can be trusting your instincts and it can be taking some quiet time for your mind. Remove the distractions and comparisons. Dismiss the judgement. And trust yourself first.
It doesn’t mean don’t listen to what others say. Just make sure you're grounded while listening to others. You might stand alone, but that “aloneness” isn’t real when who you are reflects onto everyone else.
People are listening to YOU. You have a responsibility to be authentic.
So when the sun rises in the early morning and everything is quiet… who are you in that moment? And who do you wish to be?
Until next time.
- Love El