It’s all too easy to reflect on time past as lost or wasted, the consequence of losing time only becomes apparent during moments of guilt based contemplation. Guilt causes us to value lost time to a higher level than the time we still have ahead of us. But perhaps this perpetual way of thinking is too caught up in regret and therefore we continue to waste time rather than build sustainable change to obtain our desires and goals. It’s easier to overestimate the power of the past and therefore underestimate the value of small changes and habits to daily life.
I had not considered the power of small habits until recently, this realisation came from an enormous change in the routine of my work life. I had spent the majority of my adult working life sacrificing a minimum of 40 hours a week to a physically and mentally challenging job. On top of that, I received my rota a week at a time, usually a day or two before the week started. The notion of habit and routine was impossible for me to obtain due to these constraints. The impact a lack of routine had on my physical and mental wellbeing was not unnoticed…definitely suppressed. When I think back to this lifestyle a quote from Bruce Tift rings true: “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.” I felt as though I was down a rabbit hole with no idea how to get out. I needed more good days.
Personal time became a sparse luxury, when not at work I either needed to clean my flat, do laundry (AGAIN), or simply turn my body off and enter the abyss that is reality television. It wasn’t living, it wasn’t even surviving, it was simply existing. After having a sad and almost existential realisation that my work was the root cause of my unhappiness, changing my job became a necessity. Fast forward a year and two jobs later I finally found myself in a job that gave me TIME! Beautiful time! What did I do with this time?! I watched more TELLY! I mean…c’mon it was well earnt and a new series of Euphoria was calling my name. This didn’t last too long as I was well aware that this time could be better spent. Having said that, it’s just as important to know when to hibernate and recuperate.
“We often seem to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
The first small change that I made in an attempt to improve my wellbeing was to go to the gym. When I say I hated it, I really mean it. I hated the smell, the music, the sound and the look of the machines. Everything was monochrome and industrial. However, it became an important first step towards my ultimate goal. I wanted to become a runner. I knew I would never have the confidence to run in public without an improvement in my fitness levels. Even once I made it out of the gym and into the great outdoors, I kept running a well guarded secret. I wanted to protect my desire to run as far away as possible from the stigma of weight loss, this was not my goal and not my intention. I feared that outside opinions would push this unwanted pressure onto me and the public declaration of being a runner would skew my own vision.
Why am I running? Metaphorically form the patriarchy, in reality for myself! Overestimating the importance of a defining moment is easy, it’s even more important to value small improvements that you create daily. Success and achieving a goal does not require massive action. For me, the reason I run isn’t to run a marathon, it’s to have time to myself, to listen to music, to be outdoors and see the seasons change…
Routine aided in me identifying as a runner, now I can’t imagine not doing it and i’m certainly no longer scared to say that I do it. James Clear prompts the celbration of identity as it is a form of intrinsic motivation, “It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” Schedule the time and show up for yourself, routine will form confidence in your actions and they will therefore become sustainable and with time, unconscious.
I felt that it was important to tell this story as it points out some fundamental things that first must happen in order to engage in positive lifestyle changes and become your ‘best self’. First, is your environment. This is both your home life and work life and acknowledging that a balance is needed. The second is motivating habitual practices in order to achieve a positive change.
“Your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination. The goal is a mission that you are on, a path that you follow. Whatever comes from that path—whatever treasure you happen to find along this journey—well, that’s just fine. It is the commitment to walking the path that matters.” –James Clear: Atomic Habits.
When you identify a change you want to make in your life, or set a new goal the most important part is to make it a manageable change. If you set a goal that is too impossible to reach, it is unlikely that you will achieve it. Instead manage ambitions into smaller goals, this will enable you to change habits and generate sustainable progression. An unattainable goal will cause you to fall possibly at the first hurdle and therefore instantly lose motivation. Your habits must also align with your environment, looking back now I would not have made positive and sustainable changes in my life without changing my working life.
It’s difficult to appreciate small changes and the creation of small habits because they do not matter in the moment. We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to those who are already where we want to get to. It doesn’t matter how unsuccessful or good you are right now, the thing that matters is curating the time, environment and nurturing the habits. Once you’ve consciously made these decisions (and ofcourse stick to them), everything else falls into place.
Curating your environment will expose many practical changes that ultimately lead to good habits and rituals. For example, I’m personally guilty of leaving my phone to charge on top of my ever growing pile of unread books. It’s as easy as charging my phone in a different room, by removing the distraction of a phone (and silly animal videos), maybe…just maybe, those books will get read!
“Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you […] be the designer of your world, and not merely the consumer of it.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
As we come into colder and darker months, it becomes even more important to consciously establish positive habits. Maybe it’s just as much about understanding the deep route of why you want to do something, or embody something? What does it bring to your life? I think without at least a curiosity to understand why, perhaps it won’t bring you the redemption you want it to. Is there a change in your lifestyle that you want to make? Ask yourself how you can create meaningful habits to build and shape your world. Write it down, break it down, enjoy the process of change and have more good days!
“[Life] is a dance, and when you are dancing, you are not intent on getting somewhere. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”- Oliver Burkeman:The Antidote.
Share your thoughts and keep in touch by signing up to our newsletter below!
Thanks for reading,
It seems poignant to follow on from Dani’s last post, The Next step, with my own reflection on my first month at Tribe Porty. This piece of writing became a great opportunity for me to reflect, consider and grow. Starting a new job always comes with a rough terrain of anxieties and worries, especially when you are venturing into new territory. I’ve spent my work life since leaving university dedicated to the hospitality industry. For me, my next big move in hospitality would be to own my own cafe and I was starting to feel the constraints that working in such an industry can have. The Community Manager post felt like it was made for me, this is the only time I’ve felt this way about an opportunity outside of hospitality. It was my next step.
I came into Tribe quietly confident, ready for the challenge. The one thing that I didn’t expect was to find it difficult to engage with people and I felt my confidence stray. I became timid not out of fear, but because it can be difficult to integrate into a community that is already established. Established in the sense of community, but also connecting with people that are distinguished professionally. Here I am, starting anew, amongst all these amazing talents, thinkers and creators and I struggled to see where I fit as a piece of the puzzle. I knew deep down I was more than capable, but I needed to unearth my dormant talents. When I found myself feeling lost or out of depth, I caught myself finding comfort in wiping down tables and cleaning up the kitchen after a little lunch rush. Eventually, I found that this only fuelled the vicious fire that is imposter syndrome. Was I meant to stay in hospitality? I missed the comfort blanket of experience.
However, as I chatted to you all more, and with the support of Dani, I’ve really started to find my feet. My confidence only grows stronger as I settle into the role and become more self-assured in my abilities. It’s been fantastic to awaken my inner writer and artist which has been in hibernation since graduation. I sense that my confidence will really flourish as I take on more projects and see them sprout from a tiny idea to a fully fledged event or gathering.
One of my favourite parts about working for Tribe Porty is how it has changed my work life balance and encouraged a far more nurturing culture. Every morning when I ride my bike in, instead of battling up Easter Road, swerving past vans and buses, I now have the immense pleasure of a gentle cruise along the promenade. In addition, the shift from ‘working late’ to make up a few extra pennies to taking part in meditation classes or gaining a new wealth of knowledge from a Tribe Talk feels like an enormous blessing. It’s so important for your work to work for you, something I feel a lot of people realised during the pandemic and are slowly starting to forget.
Spring feels like a fitting time of the year to have a change in life, not only is it a change of season, but a season in which nature is rebirthed, grows and thrives. I recall a benefit that I found from Lockdown and the world stopping was being able to notice the change in season. The shift from winter to spring felt longer, it felt as though one had time to enjoy it. So whilst I have been caught up in self doubt and anxiety, I am going to remind myself to embrace the change and see it instead as an opportunity to grow. I’m excited to continue this journey with you all and I can’t wait to see where this next step takes me.
If you are looking for a better working life and grow your business with like-minded women, the programme is for you. To get a better idea of Keystone, we have a free check-in checklist and ways to rest worksheet download. The checklist and worksheet are aimed to identify and strengthen your access to your own resources, strengths and vision. Taking rest and creating rituals with intention, will help bring meaning and joy to your daily life. Keystone is open for signups in September, to keep in the loop, sign up to their newsletter.
Thank you for reading, to keep in touch, sign up to our newsletter below.
I think we are all feeling the strangeness of 2021. I accidentally wrote an email out to everyone at Tribe saying we should say good bye to 2020. Many of us are saying last year doesn’t count, but it does. And most likely in ways we don’t yet understand.
We have somewhat transitioned out of the high alert state and into life with normalised constant threat and high potential of change. Life with both feelings of normalised loss and at the same time, new levels of appreciation of things that used to be taken for granted. The constant stress of playing out the worst case scenarios is exhausting. With burnout hovering over or perhaps already landed for you, this year has been full and dull.
According to Adam Grant,
“We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing. Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
Psychologists find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them. Last spring, during the acute anguish of the pandemic, the most viral post in the history of Harvard Business Reviewwas an article describing our collective discomfort as grief. Along with the loss of loved ones, we were mourning the loss of normalcy.”
Simultaneously, I have had countless conversations with people expressing how they have found new levels of awareness and a better pace for life since Covid. Usually that is quickly followed up with how bad they feel about saying that when they know many people have suffered so greatly. I have caught myself saying that too. I liken this to hitting rock bottom and the perspective that gives you- the only way is up.
I purpose going against the cultural norm of numbing and leaning into meaningful acts. Adam describes this as flow- that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. Grant goes on to site a study of flow;
“During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.”
Finding flow is becoming increasingly more challenging. We have a million things pulling at our attention all of the time. It takes a huge amount of discipline to stay focused. But a distracted mind is the enemy of flow.
I have noticed that when I am feeling a bit low, I check my emails more often and I scroll through my social channels in a mindless way. Now when I catch myself in this state, I take a moment to try and think about what is really bothering me. Sometimes it is easy to figure out, sometimes, all I can do is change my habits. I notice that behaviour now and stop. I find something more focused to do- even if that thing is to sit and do 4 mindful breaths. I disrupts the bad habit, one tiny task at a time.
This can come in many forms and probably why I crave playing cards or board games from time to time. They create a contained task that my mind can concentrate on. No need to think about the ever growing to do list or what I forgot to do or what I need to think about putting on my to do list. Although finding an effortless state and flow are different, it is a good place to start.
Csikszentmihalyi describes eight characteristics of flow:
Flow state is losing yourself in the moment; when you find your abilities are well matched to an activity, the world around you quietens and you may find yourself achieving things you only dreamt to be possible.
To me that sounds worth the effort and at least one way of approaching 2022; an antidote to some of 2021’s languishing.
Have you heard of the 100daysproject? There are 2 simple rules;
#1 Repeat a simple creative task everyday for the duration,
#2 Record each day’s efforts.
This is my fourth year doing the hundred days project and each one has taught me so much. I first heard about the 100 days after reading The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. From a young age, I have always loved doing art and have managed to keep it sacred—something I do for myself. It is for pure pleasure and processing thoughts and feelings.
One day my daughter had a new pal around and she was proudly showing her all of my artwork and her friend thought they were amazing and asked if I was an artist. My daughter looked at me and I didn’t know how to respond. I mulled this over and realised I would like to explore this further and would commit to the 100daysproject to see how I felt after 100 days of creativity about calling myself an artist.
So I began, one pen drawing a day. No pencils, as I wanted to learn that mistakes didn’t matter. It was great, each week brought more confidence and doing it with others really helped me be accountable. It wasn’t linear—there were moments when my confidence dipped and I would want to make excuses to stop. I had to wiggle my way through finding my own practice, not care what other’s thought but also be fuelled by the community and public sharing. Within the small group of 100daysproject through Tribe Porty, we encouraged each other and on the days I didn’t feel like making the effort, I showed up for them. It quickly became something I looked forward doing at the end of the night.
The practice became a meditative ritual and also led me to find the local community in 100 Days Project Scotland.
Now reaching the end of this year, it has been once again, transformational.
By the end of the 100 days, I called myself an artist. I maintained that art was for myself and no anyone else but the encouragement was also welcomed. it felt good and I was hooked.
This time I tightened my brief a bit. Again using pen but stuck to portraits and played more with lines. I really enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of drawing so many lines. By the end of the second 100 days, I was confident enough to do even paint a large mural. Here are some drawings and a picture of part of the mural. One drawing also ended up as a tattoo on my arm.
This year was different because I started experimenting with drawing on the ipad, something I never thought I would like but I do and in love with quite quickly.
I set myself a goal to get some printed and even went on to create Capturing Dani a website and shop with prints and postcards. I received commissions and now draw illustrations more than on paper.
This year I decided to combine the creative process with gratitude and would draw a part of my body and give thanks. After almost two years of chronic pain, multiple exploratory procedures and fatigue. Every day has been a surprise- nothing has been planned and I have changed the way I see myself.
Just over halfway through, something changed how I looked at myself. I found a new level of acceptance of the good and of the imperfections. I looked at myself the way I would look at a body in a live drawing class. Admiring the curves and not viewing with critical eyes.
June 1991, I can still remember the bright sunny morning, driving under the arch of the wooden Keystone Wye bridge with the feeling of delight and a new found sense of freedom. I was on my way to my first official job having passed my driver’s test two month’s prior.
Keystone was and still is a small, ex mining town in the Black Hills of South Dakota and about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Rapid City. When I say small, I mean it has a population of 340 year-round residents. Keystone’s origins can be traced back to 1883, when it was founded as a mining settlement and later became one of the richest gold-mining areas in the Black Hills.
For the three months of summer, I would drive my light blue Honda Civic Hatchback to Keystone and clock in (I can still remember the time card machine chomping down on my card— there was no way to cheat it if you were late) at 7am and chomping out at 12noon.
Even though I was just cleaning hotel rooms at the not so glamorous Rushmore Express, and getting up at the crack of dawn, I felt liberated. At the ripe old age of 14 years old (yes it is legal in some states to get a full licence at 14 years old), I was proud to be earning money for myself. I was finally grown up — I had transitioned into the world of employment; or as us Americans have been sold, into the land of opportunity. Saying that, I know now my race to adulthood was based on achieving, pleasing others and escaping some aspects of home. In any case, it felt brave and exhilarating.
Like most people, I am both the same and completely different from my 14 year old self. Who we are and what we do are so connected but yet when we are growing up, we are usually asked ‘what do you want to do or become?, not ‘who are you?’. Maybe because most perceive young people can’t really know who they are; but I think it is mostly because we have based our career cultures around chasing outside things and to seek approval. We are rarely encouraged to, or shown how to go inward.
For example, have a quick search for career path and you get neatly wrapped up choices — as if we all fit into ’10’ different career boxes. At best, you will get reassured that your career path might not be linear but winding. Most career advice centres around how to get noticed, or go that extra mile and how to have a CV which stands out. This approach focuses on all of the details and misses out the big picture.
Jonathan Fields, founder of the Good Life Project has developed a business around supporting a good working life.
“Work that lets us wake up in the morning and know, deep down, we’re doing what we’re here to do. Work that sets us ablaze with purpose and, fully-expressed in a healthy way, becomes a mainline to meaning, a pathway to that transcendent state of flow, and a gateway to connection and joy. Put another way, work that “sparks” us. We call this imprint your ‘Sparketype‘ (well worth doing their free test if this is of interest to you). Your Sparketype reveals the essential nature of the work you’re here to do. Once you discover it, there is an immediate, intuitive knowing. An undeniable truth that explains so many past choices and outcomes, and empowers you to contribute to the world on a very different level. To spark your life, and ignite those around you.”
So at 14 did I know what I wanted to do because I knew my sparktype? No of course not, but I bet if I was asked what brings me joy or when do I feel most alive, my career journey would have looked differently.
Who gets asked this growing up or even as an adult? Most of the time, at least in my memory, I was told what to feel, not asked how I wanted to feel. Imagine if we were asked, ‘how do you want to feel as a student’, or ‘how do you want to feel as an employee in this company’ or ‘how do you want to feel in this relationship’? These are much better questions than what do you want to be when you grow up, or what kind of job do you want to have, or what kind of partner do you want.
The other good question we should ask ourselves, especially when we are adults is ‘Where does it hurt’? What do you need to attend to so that you can better answer the question, who am I and what do I want to do? Civil rights legend Ruby Sales learned to ask “Where does it hurt?” because it’s a question that drives to the heart of the matter — and a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now. Sales says we must be as clear about what we love as about what we hate if we want to make change.
Jonathan goes on to say you should think of your life as three buckets; vitality, (the state of your mind and body), connection (relationships) and contribution (how you contribute to the world). The fuller your buckets, the better your life. How to fill up those buckets and finding ways of stopping any leaks is in the doing. That takes effort, awareness, intention, and I for one in up for that work. Looking after those buckets should be the challenge of life, not figuring out the importance of the buckets in the first place. How can we align our culture and education better or maybe we are in the process of doing so already? Hopefully the post industrialised society with its increased valuation of knowledge will go even further, or rather back to its centre, the importance of all living things.
Perhaps that joyful freedom and itch for adventure was ignited with that first job. That pairing of freedom and work might have been what later led me to move 2000 miles to North Carolina and again a further 3,000 miles to settle here in Scotland. I love that my working life started with that journey to Keystone and the significance of a keystone. It is the most important stone — a bridge or stone arch gains its stability from the placement of the keystone and holds all of the other stones in place. I believe my curiosity and commitment to my working life was started back then. Maybe the keystone has finally just been placed and all the other bits are now held and strengthened — that feeling of freedom and exhilaration fortified.
In some ways, that drive on US 16 represents all of me so well. Portions of that road are called the Keystone Wye and portions are known as the Iron Mountain Road. The highway runs near Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and its eastern line extends to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, near the edge of Badlands National Park.
I no longer think of my career as a destination but more of a mix of the new, the sacred, the wild, the unknown and most of all, the beautiful, long, winding road.