Just when you think you have it all figured out, life throws you curve balls. I consider that to be a universal fact of life. Sometimes those curves are big ones like finding yourself single again after many years of marriage or you have a life-altering accident. Other times, those curves are anticipated, normal, and even just a natural process of life. Consider options like sending the last kid to college, empty nests, retirement, or becoming a grandparent. Change is inevitable. Sometimes, it can overwhelm and cause us to feel completely out of control of our lives. What we do in those times is defining of our characters. And I want to explore some practical ways that I have dealt with feeling like I had no control and got back on track.
Taking to the Journal
The first thing I do is take to my journal. No, not the blog. I know this often reads like a journal. It is meant to. I do keep a personal hand-written journal that I put my thoughts down in with something that feels like a regular interval to me. It is a place to vent frustrations, talk to myself without feeling silly, and generally explore things that are deeply personal and troubling. Believe me when I tell you that, in the last year, my journal has been put through the wringer. There’s a lot of fodder in those pages. With the lockdowns, starting school, being laid of, the pandemic, and all the riots and political and social unrest there was a lot to unpack this year. Clearing out the mess in my head is beneficial in allowing me to see where there are obstacles and where I’m just overreacting. They are also useful in identifying opportunities that I can pursue.
Being a creative individual, I tend to find a wealth of interests to pursue. So, I’m prone to making lists of ways that I could change things up in my life. Sometimes that’s new hobbies to try or places I want to travel and see. Sometimes it’s about changing my environment or routine. The journaling process helps me to figure out options and to work on making decisions. Sometimes, I write a hypothetical scenario about each option and see where it could lead me and that helps. Just remember to be realistic when you write those scenarios. Consider doing two versions; one where it is perfect and everything goes right for you and the other where everything goes wrong. This is just an exercise. Chances are taking any of your options will land somewhere in the middle of these two. Doing this will help you decide what is likely to be next for you.
We can’t always change our goals. Long-term goals are often lofty and worthwhile but it is easy to lose our motivation and direction with them. To that end, we often have to remind ourselves why we took on that goal and then decide what we can do to stay the course. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. I end up there frequently, if I am perfectly honest. Sometimes a book idea isn’t panning out as I planned it. Other times, I just lose interest in a project. Day jobs get boring or unfulfilling. Making lists is a way to help realign with your visions and your goals.
Yes, you can make a list of new things to try or new goals to consider, if that makes it easy for you. But, I think more of this step when I want to continue my work on goals I have previously set. This means it is time to revisit those goals and evaluate where I am in the pursuit, evaluate the next steps to those goals, and then, put down actionable steps I can take to move into the next level.
For example, I’m in the process of writing a new book to release (hopefully in the spring). I am also looking at new avenues for promotion of the books I already have on the market. (You can find them here.) So, those two goals, while entertwined, require separate courses of action to reach them. My checklists may look something like this:
- Finish research on setting/location for (book)
- Complete character sketches for main recurring characters
- Character sketch for main antagonist
- Complete mapping/details for primary settings
- Write Chapter 1-3, 4-6, 7-10 to complete part one.
- Create New Graphics for Ads
- Start gathering elements for book series trailer video
- Research contacts for promo spots & interviews
- Book Vending Space for Comicon, Paracon, and Local Festivals
- Inventory Book Stock
- Order new business cards & promo materials
- Post to social media for sales
- Create & pay for ad campaigns
- Start a list of contacts for Series launch partnerships.
These steps are all things that will help me to reach bigger goals for sales and for producing more content for my readers. You can apply this to your own goals though. Want to start a business? What do you need to do? Are you a student? What are your next steps to finish a paper or study for a class? Want to do more volunteer work? Where, with who, and how can you do that? Taking up a new creative hobby? Make lists of supplies to purchase over time, classes to take, tutorials and videos that will help you learn, or plan a project list you want to do. Trying to be more social? Make lists of events to attend where you can meet people or friends to reconnect with over zoom, phone, or emails. Plan a get-together or meet up if you can.
Focus On Self-Care
Look, the last year has been rough on everyone. It’s okay if you don’t feel okay right now. In the midst of all this pandemic isolation and mask craziness, we’ve all changed how we’re living our lives. So many found these changes jarring and difficult to deal with. Many of us lost jobs. Many were forced to be without things that made them happy or able to escape the mundane for a while. For introverts, this was a bit less jarring. We like our houses and limited interaction with the outside world. Even introverts, like me, have been left feeling out of sorts and at a loss for how to deal with all the changes to our lives that don’t seem to be lifting at all. So, focus on what you can control.
Take a moment to consider what you can do to take care of yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I need to feel better about my appearance?
- What would make me feel better about my health?
- What do I need to feel better spiritually?
- What do I need to feel better socially?
- What do I need to do to feel better financially?
- What do I need to do to feel better about my relationships?
The answers to these may surprise you, if you answer them honestly. Starting to implement changes to feel better about all of these aspects of life will be a step in a direction you’d rather be going.
You may have noticed that all three of these strategies work in tandem. I’m a writer. Journaling comes naturally to me. This isn’t the case for everyone. So let me give you some variations to try.
If writing isn’t your style, consider video journaling. Most laptops have a webcam and most smartphones have a camera you can use for this. Open it up, ramble on, and then take time to review it later. I don’t like to watch myself on camera, personally, so I would be more likely to use voice memo or a microphone with a free program like Audacity to do the rambling. Whatever method you choose, think of this as communication with yourself. It’s crucial to being able to live your best life in any circumstance. The ability to reason, communicate, think, evaluate our position, and change (when needed) is part of the human experience.
It isn’t always easy to make a change in a positive direction. But there is never a better time than what you find yourself in to do it. And it is never too early, or too late, to make a change and live your best life.