Solve and Thrive

As mentioned, I have initiated a new morning routine to solve my problems related to blogging – or, rather, lack thereof. You see, identifying my problems made me realize that all of them can be solved… in the morning, the time where I am the most focused and productive.

Being tired after work? Solution: Working in the morning. To me, this meant:

  • Go to bed earlier, to wake up (relatively…) energized
  • Drink ice cold water when I wake up, to prime my mind
  • Luckily, I did not have to wake up earlier, seeing as I chose to re-prioritize my existing morning routine (I wake up at 07:00, spend an hour on my routine, and then get ready for work).

Lack of inspiration despite a million ideas? Solution: Pick and stick to one idea until completion. To me, this meant:

  • Pick the first blog idea that comes to mind
  • Free-write on the post outline
  • Continue to fine tune writing until satisfaction, aka completion

Not having a routine to follow? Solution: Use my existing morning routine. To me, this meant:

  • Stop watching and reading news in the morning (instead, listen to news while getting ready/on the way to work)
  • Set up blogging station (aka my computer…) in designated writing spot
  • Start writing

I am so happy about my new morning writing routine. I truly thrive when I start the day accomplishing something important me, and this positive energy stays with me throughout the day.

This Gretchen Rubin inspired “identify, solve, thrive” routine is super easy, and is applicable to basically everything standing in your way to achieve your goals. Now, I almost wish that I have more problems, so I can use the method! What about you, feel like giving it a try?

I will continue finetuning my morning routine, by researching the inspiring webpage turned book My Morning Routine.

Identify and Solve

As written in my last post, I have been tidying like a crazy person lately. Sorting through all of my stuff, eliminating (aka hiding in the attic, but please don’t tell Marie Kondo) everything that doesn’t spark joy. And so here I suddenly am, surrounded by joy and tidiness, and it is wonderful. Except for a miiiinor detail: Now I have to blog!

You see, although I enjoy tidying, I have also used it as an excuse not to blog: “I don’t have time to blog today, because my TODOIST says I have to sort through my stockings… and ticking off an item in an app is way more important than challenging myself creatively and intellectually through my blog… oh, dang it!

Isn’t it frustrating how we sometimes are so reluctant to do something we know is good for us? I usually consider myself a pretty resourceful and solution oriented person. However, when it comes to blogging, these qualities are nowhere to be found. I’ve become somewhat of a Master of Excuses, always thinking up obstacles not to blog. But now I am sick of excuses.

One of Gretchen Rubin’s commandments helped me kill my Master of Excuses. Commandment no. 8: Identify the Problem. Once identified, solve the problem. The beauty of this commandment (and Gretchen Rubin’t commandments in general) is that it is simple, logical and implementable. Thus, leaving me no excuse but to engage it in my life.

I narrowed down* my problem with blogging to the following three main reasons:

  1. Being tired after work
  2. Lack of inspiration despite a million ideas
  3. Not having a routine to follow (yes, I am a lover and creature of habit)

Once identified, I realized that these are not huge, unmanageable problems. Not only did this realisation empower me, it also motivated me to find a solution – and stick to it.

My solution? A new morning routine, which I will explain more about in my next post. Stay tuned!

*Prior to actually starting the blog, I had a several other problems. Luckily I already managed to solve these:

  • No good computer to write on, was solved by prioritized my spending to save up money for a new computer
  • Lack of confidence to put myself out there, was solved by reading a lot of personal development books, doing a lot of coaching, and getting a hobby (tennis)
  • Not enough money to invest in WordPress, was solved by buying the domaine and adjusting my monthly budget accordingly
  • No blog name, was solved by forcing myself to “just pick one”, and realizing that people would read my blog as long as the content was good, no matter the name
  • No good place to write… OK, this was just a bad excuse, there are a million good places in this world to write!

The Positivity Advantage

Throughout generations, human beings have been wired to be aware of negative circumstances and consequences in their environment, in order to survive. Although we no longer watch out for saber-toothed tigers, an evolutionary imprint called “negativity bias” still lingers within us. Said bias causes negative events to have a greater effect on the human psyche, than neutral or positive things. In fact, research has found that it takes about three (but ideally six) positive comments, experiences, or expressions to compensate for the damaging effects of one negative.

While the negativity bias may protect us in situations related to survival, it may cause distress in everyday encounters. I personally experienced such distress when I moved to a new country to start a two-year graduate program. Although I appreciated the dynamic and challenging nature of the program, it was also very tiresome and insecure. The constant pressure for performance was intense, and unlike anything I had experienced before. Over time, negative thoughts caused by the pressure at work started to consume my motivation and mental energy.

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To cope with the stress, I started keeping a gratitude journal, in an attempt to habituate mental positivity. Initially, I used the app 5 Minute Journal. Every morning I would log three things that would make the day great. In the evening, I would scan the last 24 hours for things that had made the day great. The app also allowed me to upload a photo to commemorate each day, which was a nifty little feature!

It didn’t take long before I noticed the difference. Most noticeably, I started to recognize and appreciate the “little things” in life. In the beginning, I was simply looking for things to write about. With time, however, I started noticing all the great things in my environment naturally. And suddenly, I had a lot more than three things to write about!

Although I no longer keep the 5 Minute Journal, the ability to appreciate my surroundings has stayed with me. In a way, I feel like the exercise helped me build a positive, mental foundation. And if I ever have a bad day, I get energy from scrolling through and remembering the entries in the app.

In freedom we soar

About six months after the experience described above, I was reading Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage“. Among many great exercises to increase happiness, the book also confirms how it is possible to train your brain, to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.

However, what is even more exciting, is that the gratitude exercise I performed has been found to have staying power. Shawn Achor continues to describe how a study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for only a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month and six-month follow-ups. Even after stopping the exercise, they remained significantly happier and showed higher levels of optimism.

Although this finding sadly made my experience less unique than I had flattered myself thinking, it hopefully inspires you to try the gratitude exercise yourself. I mean, if one week is really all its takes to create a more positive outlook on life, for the love of god, people, get that gratitude journal going! 😀