Having had a couple of months of deliberate downtime, it is now time for me to start thinking about the “So, what do I do next?” question.
I ended 2017 reviewing my coaching notes and found a common theme there. It wasn’t hidden. I had just previously dismissed it as not being a “worthy” purpose. That theme is kindness. And my purpose is something like “Be kind, and help others to be kind”. There, staring me in the face, was the result of a visualisation exercise in March last year when the message I wanted to put on a billboard was
“BE KIND TO EACH OTHER”.
Among the strengths that others attributed to me during a later exercise were caring, kindness, and empathy. Like I say, the clues were there, I’d been looking for something more solid I think, and possibly more within my comfort zone.
I saw Hayley again last week for more coaching and was still struggling with kindness as a purpose. Partially because I kept having “But what do I do with this?” thoughts. She challenged me to ignore those, and proceed anyway. So I made myself a matrix.
I love matrices. One of my favourite time management focusing techniques is to draw up an Urgent/Important matrix and put post-it notes all over it to get an idea of what I should be doing, and what I should be delegating, or ignoring.
The more I thought about kindness, the more it seemed to work as a matrix.
The rows are who is being kind (me, or others).
The columns are who is the recipient of kindness (self, or others).
So the top left corner is all about self-kindness/self-compassion.
The top right corner is about me being kind to others.
The bottom left corner is about me helping others to be kind to themselves.
The bottom right corner is about me helping others to be kind to others.
For me, it all starts with the top-left corner and making sure that I know how to be kind to myself. That isn’t a selfish act; it’s a health act. If this were a part of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, it would be there in hygiene factors. As air stewards usually remind us “Put your oxygen mask on before helping other people”. I already have some things I do to help myself - gratitudes, having a self-care toolbox, and spending time with positive people. But I suspect there is more to learn. So this week is a research week on the theme of self-compassion.
Other research weeks I’ve currently got noted down are:
- gratitudes and why they work
- reflecting and methods for unpacking tricky emotions
but I suspect they’ll change as I learn more.
It may turn out that I can’t make a living out of my purpose, but with more definition and understanding I believe that I can use it as a framework to help me to make more fulfilling decisions about where I focus my energies. And that can only be a good thing.
I read this great article about self-care the other day and liked the idea of the “self-care toolbox”. So I decided to make one for myself.
I have a collection of things I do to make myself feel better when I feel down, but I’ve never explicitly made a list of them. The article makes a good point about this:
Having a list of options readily available is hugely helpful because when you really need self-care, you may not have the capacity to think about what you need.
A list didn’t feel particularly creative or inspiring though, and I suspect that I would always gravitate towards the same things. So, instead, I have chosen to write them down on pieces of folded paper and have popped them into a pot so that I can reach for one when I feel I need it. The idea is that I pick a random suggestion from a list of things I think help. There are 15 different ideas in there at the moment, and I have blanks so that I can add to the toolbox as I learn more about what helps. I’ve tried to make them all have a low barrier to entry and to be free or cheap. So, theoretically, I can just pick one out and do it.
Here are some of the activities that are in there:
I don’t know whether this will be effective for me or not, but it didn’t take a lot of effort to set up. The early part of February is often a challenge, so I suspect I’ll know if it works or not in a month or two’s time. At the moment, though, I find the little pot sitting on a shelf next to me as I type this oddly reassuring. And that can only be a good thing.
It has been quite a few years since I’ve made any Christmas gifts for anyone (2014 I think when I gifted a scarf, a piggy and some blackwork lavender bags). This year I made a few, though they are admittedly on a much smaller scale than any of those were.
I baked some Chocolate Chip Cookies for our niece, the host of our Christmas lunch,
I sorted some more of the sea glass, oiled it and layered it into tiny bottles,
And, after being introduced to Ravilious at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and admiring the wood engravings, I bought a few simple ink stamps and made bookmarks, some cards, notebooks, gift tags, tissue paper and wrapping paper.
I found the ink stamping quite therapeutic. I started off with two stamps - a penguin and a snowflake. After making some cards, I decided that I’d like some more stamps so added a little penguin and some tiny stars. I then added some more colours - silver and gold. And then I thought of other items I could decorate - blank bookmarks, plain notebooks and crafting paper. I enjoyed feeling my brain buzz and fizz and come up with different patterns, and different surfaces, to decorate.
Overall, though, I’d forgotten how pleasing it is to be able to stop, take some time to make things for friends, and then to gift those items to them. It felt like a mindful approach to Christmas gifts.