Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Time to Reassess!

It's Daylight savings time again.  Okay, not quite, at least for us Americans, though our European friends changed over last weekend.  As much hassle as Daylight savings time is, I do find that it causes me to stop and pay attention.  I've blogged about daylight savings time before, and was trying to think of what I could write about this time that would be a little different.

What occurred to me is that there are plenty of thoughts I have about time, our perception of it and how we can react to the gain or loss of an hour, but I also think that just the fact that we have to stop and think about time can be a little bit of a wake up call.  The amount of light we get when we wake and around dinner time changes so gradually, and then Daylight savings comes around and all of a sudden the world around us has changed, seemingly overnight.  It always feels like a little bit of a shock, when I open the window for the first time after a time change, and it's more or less light out than I'm used to. 

This is like so many other things in our lives, where we can have these little gradual changes, and not even notice them.  We may be working towards a goal and feel like we are just running in place.  It's only when we stop, and look at where we were when we started, that we realize we have actually traveled some distance!  On the flip side, we may feel like we are doing everything the same way that we always have, and yet when we look up we realize that we've let little things slip through our fingertips and we have fallen behind from where we  want to be.

It is always a good idea to reassess and re-evaluate where we are in life, not only in relation to the things we are actively working towards, but also just our state in general.  And while many of us do this at the New Year, when it is traditional to check in and to set resolutions, we really need to do this more than once a year.  A year is a very long time, and habits are hard to break.  When we start to slip, the quicker we can catch ourselves, the less catching up we will have to do.

Also, when we are starting to feel frustrated, it is a perfect time to check in, to see where we actually stand.  This can help us to keep going, when we might have started to give up.  It can feel absolutely fruitless to keep beating your head against a wall, if you feel you aren't going anywhere, and yet, each time you do something, a tiny piece of you changes.  Those tiny changes add up over time, even if you can't see it in the moment.

There are lots of ways to assess your life, to look around and see where you are at.  But the biggest factor in all of them is you have to really be honest with yourself, about both the good and the bad.  I can sometimes have trouble seeing the good in myself, and seeing my own progress is something that is hard for me at times.  I am much more likely to just feel frustrated and at a loss.

For me, being very specific helps.  If I just think about how I am doing in a certain area, and let myself respond with broad generalizations like "good/bad", it is very easy to not see the changes that are happening.  Instead, if I make myself grade on a scale (whether it is 1-10, a detailed emotional scale of how I feel about that aspect of my life, or even a percentage representing how far along I am from start to finish on a particular goal), I am more likely to actually think about how things have changed.  And even more so when I have to explain my answer!  When I ask myself why I think I'm at a particular place, or why I think I haven't grown or changed, I have to justify my own evaluation.  And sometimes, when I'm doing that, I realize that I have changed in ways I hadn't noticed.

Life is tricky, it's not all black and white.  There are so many factors that determine our progress along the way.  And sometimes we look at where we want to be and we realize we haven't been walking that way in a very long time.  Not because we aren't motivated or are doing a bad job, but because we have found something else that we want more.  Our direction has changed, but we are still judging our success based on how far we are from our original destination.  When we stop and see where we actually want to go, we may find that we have gone so much farther than we thought we had.

I think it's also helpful to look around us and see what unexpected benefits have come from our progress.  Our actions have ripples, and when we have our eyes trained on our goal, we may not see all the extra things that we have gained along the way. 

I have done some really big writing projects over the years, not only NaNo (which is always intense!), but also my moon phase year, and now my Patreon story series.  It is very easy for me to feel caught in this endless grind.  Each month there is another goal, another deadline, another thing to finish up, and yet it sometimes feels like it never ends!  Because as soon as one is 'finished' I have to start thinking about the next one.

We all have things in our lives that are like this, whether it is a job thing, a home thing, or a personal thing.  Every day we have things that we grind away at, things we do over and over, and things that never end.  Instead of focusing on how we have to pick up that burden again, stop and take a moment and look around and see what else has come to pass because of the work you are doing!

For me, it is a body of work that I can now draw upon.  I have had plans on publishing for a while, and through NaNo I have several projects that could be polished up and published.  I have more that will never be published, and some were never intended to be.  But even from those, I gained experiences that have changed how I write and how I approach writing (and even how I approach other tasks based on what I learned while writing).  My moon phase project was never intended to be more than just a personal project that I decided to share on Facebook, and now I am thinking of compiling it and editing it and publishing it as a year's journey through the moons.

Even my Patreon stories, working on writing one a month, at the end of a year, have left me with content that could be combined into a story book.  And a lot of lessons about how to create continually, how to create when I am not feeling creative, and how hard I can push myself, when I need to (thank you NaNo for the start of that one).

We all need a little encouragement, from time to time.  We all need to stop, take a breath, look around and take stock.  We need to acknowledge how far we have come and all the extra things we have picked up along the way.  We may need to change our goal, or accept that our goal changed without us even being aware of it!  And we need to do these things regularly, before they have bogged us down and become obstacles we have to overcome to get back on track.

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