How Do I Flourish?
Not sugar coating it - it has been extremely difficult to write about anything worthy of posting. This blog was an attempt to find inspiration & commitment to sharing my thoughts, but I stopped in 2018 and in redoing my site recently I really thought I would find the energy to get back into it. I'm totally echoing my friend Amanda's sentiments in this amazing post (seriously, I wish I could write that well). I tried a writing challenge with daily prompts in an attempt to get my mind flowing, but it lasted about the same amount of time that my attempt at running daily lasted - not even over a week. So, I'm just writing to write again. Who knows if this will make it into the published world of the internet (spoilers - it did)
When I was furloughed a month ago I felt like my world was crashing. This was the first time I wasn't working multiple jobs since I was 16, so no side hustle to lean on. My work ethic is a major quality I've always valued, and one I was most focused on recently, but how do you have strong work ethic when you have nothing to work on?
What’s really been helping me stay sane is taking the time to learn. I’ve always loved to study. Yes, it genuinely brings me joy to read a text book. In college I was being stretched too thin, as most students are, and lost that enjoyment of being challenged by learning something new. I’m curious and want to know more - even if my memory space is the size of a pea and I will forget most things in a few months.
I started by searching for courses on Cousera. I signed up for 5 classes and after a month I can say that I’ve officially committed to…..1! + studying for the GMAT which is a class on its own. I continuously go back to some of the dropped classes, specifically Brand and Product Management and Content Marketing. I enjoy the content of each, but I've decided that I need to focus, instead of half-learning 5 different topics. Plus there are other things I'd like to do with my time like crocheting - which I've also been learning to do.
The class I’ve kept with for 5 weeks now is called the Science of Wellbeing taught by Laurie Santos at Yale. I saw multiple articles about this course circling social media once quarantine started and thought it would be super cringey/cheesy - and it is. I'm a bit cynical and think some habits like meditating or gratitude journals are the worst, but you know what - it actually helps?! Who knew?
The course is 10 weeks in total and it’s focused on changing habits with the goal to be overall happier. Happiness is something I’ve always struggled with and through this course I realized it's not a lasting state and I need to redefine what I think make me happy. I want to be able to feel like I'm growing (~flourishing ~ blooming) but not always feel so negative towards everything around me. I loved going to therapist in college, but never looked for one once moving to LA. The goal that I thought would bring me happiness in LA was getting a full time job and after a year in the city, it happened; However, I didn't feel any happier and I'm glad this course is giving me the tools to understand why.
I started week one on a high note since the assignment was to focus on your strengths. Thank god I didn't need to change anything immediately because I probably would have quit. Through VIA character strengths, I found my strengths were Honesty, Appreciation for Beauty & Excellence, Love of Learning and Perspective. Felt pretty accurate to me, but led me to experience a bit of an identity crisis - would friends, family and coworkers agree? Do I actually project these characteristics or do I internalize them? Well....those questions are not the focus here and maybe I'll get back to them on another post after I've finished the course.
The format each week is short lecture videos, optional readings, one weekly quiz and homework. The homework on the first week was to use one strength in a different way each day. The homework each week is really to do something different - change a habit or add a new routine; for example: gratitude journals, exercising, or meditating.
I’m sharing all of this to say anyone could benefit from this course. I’m only 5 weeks in and look forward to the next 5. The lectures can be done one night in about 2 hours and the homework includes intentionally changing habits. I found using my calendar to schedule in some of these habits makes it a bit more manageable + found if I don't schedule it I will forget about it (my lack of meditating this week is a perfect example).
If you're interested I want to share notes on the fabulous iPhone notes app. Read with caution as its really just my perspective based on the coursework & I’m clearly not an expert
Be aware of our weird brain features & misconceptions:
Intuitions are usually wrong. Listen to gut feelings, but understand it’s just a thought & should be treated as such. This includes the things we think will make us happy but don't - like getting a well paying job. For a gemini who can be pretty moody this was probably my favorite thing to learn so far.
We choose reference points which usually don’t help. For me, it's looking at influencers on social media and feeling bad about myself while it doesn't make sense considering most only put their best selves/happy moments online.
Hedonic adaptation- we become accustomed to positive/negative things so we don’t get the same satisfaction from it anymore (i.e. me getting a job felt good for a while, but then my reference points were reset).
Some ways to thwart these misconceptions:
Invest in experiences over things. Because you don’t adapt to it and it's better to tell people about experiences over material things.
Savor things while happening. Be present, take photos to remember, share the experience with someone, and think about memories from past year that make you happy
Think about if something didn't happen - makes you appreciate what you have
Being “in the zone” will make you happier. Way to find it: high challenge and high skill
Find more ways to socialize & do acts of kindness
I will admit acts of kindness is the hardest one for me. I care about people, but feel strange explicitly showing it (why!?)
The habits I’ve added to my days: Most 3x per week
Exercise - I love yoga, but looking to get more aerobic exercises in (stay tuned to see if that happens)
Use character strengths more often
Be more present in activities - savoring
Meditating - I have yet to master this one. I continuously think I'd rather get 15 more minutes of sleep and don't have the time in my day to add meditating...but this is bad rationalization and I know it
I started this post over a week ago, got distracted by thinking of a million other things while writing, opened a new window and only remembered that I was in the middle of writing after about 3-4 hours. Ironically, this week’s lesson is on mindfulness and being present in what you’re doing so I’ve been trying really hard to finish this and get it out into the world. So here it is.