Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Finding structure as a solitary

One thing that I think can be very hard for people working on their own is to find structure the helps them keep on task.  It can be so easy to let things slide, to not really build those habits or simply to forget in the bustle of daily life.  This is one place that I feel being part of a dedicated coven or group really shines, because you have not only a set structure and events that are laid out, but you have other people who are encouraging you to keep up.

While some people work very well with self-motivation, and can not only create a plan for what they want to do but also stick with it, for others this can be a huge struggle.  When you are just starting out, you  may not know what a good plan would be, or how long it will take to become familiar with something, so creating a schedule for yourself can be quite a daunting task.  Even once you are more established, some of the day to day parts of your practice may seem almost trivial to create a plan around, and the larger, less-regular parts can still be easy to loose track of.

One thing I am really loving with the modified Bullet Journal setup I am using this year is that I have the ability to create trackers for just about everything that I want to do.  I have a page for gratitude, where every day I write down the one thing that day I was most grateful for (then chuckle about how many of them are food related).  But I also use daily checklists to keep track of things (and check them off which is highly satisfying).  I haven't yet made dedicated habit trackers, though I have thought about them.  I have seen some really lovely ones which were highly decorated and fancy, as well as simple ones where there were just a set of numbered boxes and as you complete your habit each time, you check off a box.

The power of using tools like this is that once you get in the habit of checking in with your tracker every day, it is a simple matter to see if you have things you should be doing.  I like to set my regular things up at the start of a week (which this year is on Sunday), so that I can go ahead and note down the things I do every week (like writing my blog!).

But just because I am a solitary doesn't mean I don't have support systems to turn to as well.  I definitely find that when I want to work on new and bigger projects, having other people to witness what I am working on helps keep me mindful and on track (especially if they check in with me to see how I am doing or I know they expect me to check in with what I have been up to).

You can either join a group that suits your needs or make one up of your own if you know people who you think might be interested in joining you.  The nice thing about virtual groups is that it doesn't matter where in the world you are, or when you do your work.  If you want to join/make a moon group of people who want to do some kind of practice in tune with the moon cycles, you can each do your own thing, and not only will the group help keep you on track but it can be really fun to see what kinds of things the other people are up to.

I also find short(ish) challenges to be great ways to kick start a new practice.  They say it takes three weeks to set a new habit, so that is a great time frame to start with (though I also like extending it for a full 28 days to match the moon cycle!)  There are many ways to approach a challenge, but the simplest is to commit to doing one thing every day for a set amount of time.  So if you wanted to do more meditation, you could challenge yourself to do daily meditation every day for a month.  Or you might challenge your friends to do an act of kindness every day for three weeks.

Challenges are really fun when you get multiple people involved.  When you share what you did to work on the challenge and can encourage the other people (if perhaps they missed a day or are feeling overwhelmed or stuck).  When I am part of a challenge, I love seeing what other people are doing, and always try to comment on anyone's post if they are struggling (because even though I often do very well with challenges, I know how hard it can feel and I hate for people to think that they don't have support).

For me, that is what it all comes down to:  finding people who share your interests and who will support you in your quest to follow those interests.  It may take some doing to find the right people.  I have joined groups before that said they were devoted to a particular thing only to find out that they really weren't.  If you want support in a particular facet of your life, you keep searching until you find what you need. 

You may also want to consider whether or not you want your support to be a huge group or a small one.  I belong to groups of vastly different sizes, and the energy in them is definitely different.  In a huge group, there is often tons going on, many posts every day, and lots of people to talk to.  But you can sometimes feel a little lost, you may not be able to follow every post and you may not feel like you know any of the other members well.  In a small group, you will probably know everyone quite well but there may be times where very little is being said, and if the other people are also busy, you may not quite feel like you have enough support to keep you motivated.

Not only will some size groups work better for different people, they also work better for different subjects.  If you want support around something that is deeply personal, you may not want to share your experiences with total strangers or tons of people, and yet to really get feedback you have to share quite intimate details.  A smaller group may be better for you.  Or you may just not feel comfortable in large groups for any reason, so sticking to a smaller group would definitely be the way to go.  But for some things, especially if you are feeling a bit uninspired and want to see lots of different people's ideas and thoughts on a subject, then you may want a larger group.  Or you may feel like you need lots of people cheering you on for something that is really tough for you (but not so personal), so the larger group may work out better for that subject.

And, with any kind of group work, sometimes you end up in a group (or looking into a group) that just doesn't click with you.  Perhaps the people in it have a very different world view than you, or perhaps they are working at things from a different angle.  You may not even know why it doesn't work for you but something about that group makes you uncomfortable.  Then it's definitely not the group for you!  Always trust your instincts, and even in a virtual situation, if you don't feel it's right for you, then don't participate in it.

I think that structure mainly comes from within and from without.  It is up to you to try different methods and see what works for you.  It is quite likely that you will end up using a combination of different things to tailor to your personal needs, whether it is some kind of personal tracking or group support or challenges.  But I feel this is one of the biggest hurdles for many solitaries, and once you find the structure that works for you, things run so much smoother!

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