On Creativity

So, not really on top of the whole blogging thing…but I promise I have been better about discipline! And on that note, I did something a little bit crazy yesterday. I got rid of something that has caused me to struggle with discipline for months, although that wasn’t actually my reason for doing so. I didn’t even spend much time thinking about it or dreading the action, it was done in a whim-like, excited state of mind. I deactivated my Pintrest account. Now, if you know me, you know this is a big deal. I REALLY like Pintrest. I, Julia, who could spend hours scrolling, dreaming, planning, and scheming on Pintrest, have deactivated my account. My reasoning? There were two big reasons.

First, my brother recently went on a mission trip to a rather poor area of Peru. One of the things he talked about when coming back (which was actually not the first time I heard the discussion) was the way TV has contributed to more unhappy people in these poor areas of the world. The idea is that people who did not know any other way of life, were satisfied with what they had (I am talking a roof over your head but still struggling kind of poverty, not destitute). They often struggle, but people in moderate levels of poverty were simply happy with what they had. With the introduction of TV came an introduction to a whole new style of living, in which even “poor” people can afford an apartment (like in 2 Broke Girls) and their poverty is a source of humor. What these people were previously satisfied with suddenly seems to be not enough, and they feel in order to be happy they need to achieve this American way of living. There was also a study done on women who have TV and their perceptions of their own beauty. With the introduction of the TV many women have started to think of themselves as ugly and believe they would be beautiful if they were white. So how does all this relate to Pintrest? To spend time on Pintrest is to spend time scrolling through pictures, looking for things you don’t have that you want. Whether it be clothes, homes, a wedding (about which I have other very strong opinions), even horses or vacations. Using Pintrest to research for a project in your home so easily becomes a parade of all the things you never knew you were missing (because you weren’t actually missing them, until you saw them). Please understand, I do believe it is possible to use Pintrest prudently, without intending to create a dream life that you don’t actually live while becoming more and more dissatisfied with your own. I also believe to do so is incredibly difficult.

That alone, however, wasn’t enough for me to give up on Pintrest. What was? I recently started reading a new magazine called Darling (which I HIGHLY recommend), in which I read an article on creativity, and was captivated by a quote.

sunflower

 “Yes, the world is turning. Yes, the air is alive. Yes, to be static is an illusion, and yes, to be creative is our calling.” –Katie Horwitch

Ah, can you feel the beauty in those words?!?! They were a breath of fresh air in what I suddenly realized felt like a deadened sense of creativity! To be creative is our calling! (If you don’t think of yourself as creative, don’t get nervous, I’ll explain in a sec). To be creative is our calling! Not to imitate the creativity of others. Yes, you can find things on Pintrest that will help you to create something, and adding your own flair is creative. But my own personal use of Pintrest was trying to imitate the creativity of others and pass it off as my own. I wanted so badly to be thought of as “creative and crafty” that I was grasping for as much Pinspiration as possible. What I realized in reading this, was that more than my pride desired to be thought of as creative, my heart wanted something different. It wanted to look around, see beautiful things, let the beauty soak into my bones, let something strike my heart, and let my desire to share that with others be where my creativity flows from. In constantly trying to prove I could be crafty like Pintrest I was simply producing crafts. I wasn’t being creative. In fact as I read, I kinda felt like I had actually spent the last months stifling my own unique creative juices. So I deactivated.

This article discussed how each one of us has natural abilities in different creative categories. Everything from oil painting to boardroom management style counts. Even this little burst has reminded me of how much I love to write, how that is one of my own creative strengths. Pintrest, in this case, I guess could be credited with helping me realize that, but from now on I plan to let it be the beauty around me that inspires me.

As a final word, I am going to share Katie Horwitch’s advice for when you aren’t feeling creative. “Remember: You still have it…Do not settle for murky water in your creative well just for the sake of filling it with something. Redefine: It’s not what you think…Your originality of thought and your willingness to bring it with you wherever you go, is what holds the power of creating… Retreat: Go to your source…A walk…calling a friend or taking a 10 minute nap…When you get into your source for even a few minutes, your creative self feels safe and supported.”  Did I mention I HIGHLY recommend Darling magazine?

Check it out at darlingmagazine.org

Advertisements
Posted in Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A note on love

After my most recent breakup…I use that line too often… regardless, I was thinking about times in the relationship when I realized things weren’t as perfect as they seemed, feelings I had brushed off in the moment for the sake of not losing yet another relationship, and going through yet another breakup. One of them, silly as it sounds, was when he brought me roses.

Now, I know, a guy is nice enough to bring me flowers (on Valentine’s day), and I think of it as one of those times when I was disappointed…I bet you’re thinking ‘no wonder she’s always learning lessons from a breakup.’ Allow me to explain.

Flowers are all beautiful, but they all carry a different sort of beauty. Roses, are romantic. Which is why it was sweet that he brought them for me. But here is the problem. Roses are dinner and a movie. Roses are candles and wine. Roses are rich and lux.

I am not. I was not disappointed because they weren’t pretty enough (they were) or because they weren’t my favorite. I was disappointed because they seemed to show how little he knew about me, even after months of friendship prior to our relationship. It should have hit me even harder as we drank wine in the candle light that night.

I am a drive down a backroad, a bonfire and beer, a flower that likes to carry the sunshine with it. I feel most beautiful walking through a mountain meadow, on the back of a horse, or sitting on a lakeside bench, whether it’s in shorts and a tee shirt, or in a pretty dress with my hair and makeup perfect.

I don’t want a man who brings me sunflowers and wildflowers because they are my favorite. I want a man who brings me sunflowers and wildflowers because they remind him of me. And so long as I stay close to God, the man he brings me will.

Posted in Dating | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Discipline?

 

When it comes to making life changes, even ones we know by some societal or internal sense are good, the “how to” can only do so much. If we do not understand why we are doing something, we are likely to quit. Now, seeing as how this is four days later than it should have been, I know it seems like I may have quit. But in reality, I have just been busy, and not exactly what you might call “on top of it.” Finals, graduation parties, and a long list of other excuses could be inserted here, but mostly, I just didn’t have myself together. So here it is…I have worked the past few weeks on all sorts of “how to” be more disciplined tips. But why?

To start, I want you to think about something for a second. Discipline, Disciple. Sit with that. Now go back to it, and let it soak in for a second. Discipline…disciple… Now take it to prayer. No seriously. Come back later… or finish reading and then take it to prayer, but I can promise you right now I am not going to articulate this as well as I would like to, so…

The two words are mighty similar don’t you think? So what do they have to do with each other? Disciples are people who give their lives in order to follow Christ. They are people who strive to lay down their own will at the foot of the cross for the sake of living within the will of God. Discipline requires that one lay down their immediate desires and habits of laziness in order to achieve something. Discipline comes from the word ‘discipulus’ meaning pupil or disciple. Strange.

When we are disciplined we have more freedom to love God and our neighbor (which let’s face it, is the whole point). We are not only more organized, and therefore have the time to invest in others, but we are more able to deny our own wants at any given point in order to attend to the needs of another. We are more willing to give up the nap we were going to take for a friend in need. We have practiced going without for the sake of a greater good, we understand self-denial and can now apply it when we are tempted to spill a friends secrets for the sake of attention, or when we desire to flirt with someone who is not our spouse. We are also more able to set aside our own wills when they are not in line with Gods. If we never deny ourselves 5 extra minutes of sleep, or another dessert, how are we going to deny ourselves the big stuff? Like sin? Which usually looks much more glamorous than another cupcake.

The other point to consider is what happens when a lack of discipline fosters procrastination. When we let things pile up or become overwhelming, they not only become more difficult tasks than they needed to be, but they also have an affect on other areas of our lives. When we are not disciplined we live with an overwhelming to-do list hanging on our shoulders, we have to wear shoes in the house because the floors haven’t been cleaned, we are distracted from those around us by our own needs, and we call this unorganized lifestyle “free.”

Now I want to make something else clear here. Discipline doesn’t mean we never get stressed, or miss anyone’s birthday, or that perfection is attainable (or worth it). The point here is to be able to work with imperfection. The other day I was having a friend over for lunch, and a missed alarm combined with another guest for breakfast meant I didn’t get to make my bed before she came over. I would have liked to, even if she didn’t go into my room, there is something wonderful feeling like every last detail is taken care of, feeling totally put together when you have a guest. But when it came down to it, making lunch was more important, serving her was more important, I knew she wasn’t going to see my unmade bed as a character flaw, and I was aware of my schedule (thank you new discipline habits J) well enough to know I would have enough time to do it later (and then I would even be able to change my sheets!) Discipline is not perfection. If it were, that wouldn’t be very freeing now, would it? Image

Posted in Discipline | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discipline in the Little Things

Ahhh! I am a day late! I know, I know, this is not very disciplined of me. I still, however, have something to say. I could come up with a really good excuse, or maybe even two. But in reality, I just wasn’t as on top of everything as I should have been.

So far, in talking about discipline, I have come up with some wonderful strategies to get work done in a more disciplined manner, but what’s funny, is that each of these strategies, while making work less overwhelming, still take a certain level of discipline just to enact. How does one cultivate that? I mentioned once before, small things that can make a huge difference. It was kind of thrown in as an after thought, but today I am going to devote this entire post to it. The idea is similar to the one youth soccer coaches and piano teachers started preaching when you were in elementary school, you play how you practice. When you develop small habits of discipline, you “practice” being disciplined, and teach yourself to operate in a certain manner. The more you “practice” this, the more you will be able to “play” in a disciplined manner.

So what are some small things you can do to practice discipline? Never take seconds, fill your plate with a meals worth, and don’t go back, no matter how good it was or how hungry you were when the meal started, your stomach isn’t designed to handle more than one meal at a time anyways, even if you skipped the one before it. Get out of the shower as soon as you are done washing, don’t spend time just standing under the flow. This one is also good for your wallet. Don’t hit snooze in the morning. Choose a bedtime and stick to it (start with just a weeknight bedtime if you need to). Pick a certain day of the week on which you ALWAYS do laundry. Always do the dishes right after dinner. When reading a book for fun/free reading, only read one (or two if they are short) chapters per day. Book doesn’t have chapters? Set a timer for 30 minutes. Choose one of your favorite snack foods, and next time you are at the store, don’t buy it. Like Facebook or Pintrest? Set a 15-minute timer when you get on, and then get off. Only refill your coffee cup once per day.

This is just the beginning. The list goes on and on, and varies from person to person. There are a few other important things to keep in mind here however, the first being you are denying yourself something. That means it isn’t necessarily going to be easy, or pleasant. But that is ok, because easy isn’t the goal. Sometimes, you can give something up consistently for years, and never stop missing it. That is just a fact you are going to have to brace yourself for, knowing the pay off it what makes it worth it. It is also important to keep in mind that in order for these things to make a difference in your level of discipline, you have to do them habitually. It will be a renewed sacrifice each day, and if you don’t practice it, you will never “play” with discipline. I don’t know the brain well enough to explain this, but I know from experience it is true. The other thing, when you slip up, when the shower just feels too good to get out, be disappointed, but not discouraged. If you are never disappointed in yourself, things will never change, and you will never push yourself to grow. But if you become discouraged, not only are you likely to give up, but starting again is going to be that much more difficult. I am disappointed I didn’t post this yesterday, on Thursday, like I said I was going to. But I am not going to quit writing this series, or stop working on cultivating discipline in my life.

So, onward we go, I am working on not eating more food than I need to, getting out of bed on time, and being efficient in the shower. If you have any other ideas of little ways to build discipline, please share. Practice well my friends.

 

Peace

 

Posted in Discipline | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chunks O’ Time

 

Image

Part of being disciplined is getting things done in an orderly fashion (as I have mentioned before). Because this is what I am striving for, I spent the end of last week and the beginning of this one trying to make very detailed lists that mapped out my days for me in advance. While this meant I knew (or thought I knew) exactly when everything was going to get done, this didn’t leave much room for flexibility. Say one assignment took longer than expected. I would have to look at what was assigned for the time I was cutting into, decide which was more crucial, possibly find a good stopping point, rearrange, and transition, all of which would take extra time. If something took less time than expected, I would let myself slip into a undisciplined mindset in which I had extra time, and would allow myself to get distracted, making it hard to get back into a working routine when the next scheduled assignment time came. It was very difficult to analyze whether or not I had time for a spontaneous lunch out with a friend, and if I was finding it difficult to focus, I hadn’t allowed myself the freedom to work on something else. I would easily end up frustrated and end up giving up that day’s schedule all together. And on top of all of this, it felt stale.

Discipline is not meant to take the joy out of life, or make it too predictable and rigid. Discipline is so that when a fun opportunity does present itself, you know exactly how much time you have to spare, and can do so without stressing. Discipline is so that you get things done without having to give up entire weeks to do so (can you tell we are coming up on finals…?) So, in the name of flexibility alongside discipline, I started working on a new system.

Instead of scheduling my day by specific activity, I am taking a more general route. I choose 2-3 hour blocks of time, which are simply dedicated to “homework.” What this means is that when I sit down to homework, I can judge at that time what would be best for me to work on. This also means that if something, such as lunch with a friend, comes up, I don’t have to rearrange the individual assignments of my day, but simply the “chunks” of time. If I know I don’t have any “chunks” that can be turned into a work chunk later (like right now, as I write during what was supposed to be a relaxing chunk, now turned into a work chunk so that I could spend time with a friend who came into town) then I don’t have the time. This system makes sitting down to homework seem manageable, as I know exactly how long I can plan to be there.

Of course, this only works if I also keep a running list of what needs to get done now, what needs to get done soon, and what should get done soon. Even more importantly, this only works if I take these things into account while deciding what to work on, which requires…you guessed it, discipline!

The other side to this, is that “I didn’t have time” still isn’t an excuse for not getting things done. As I get into a routine, I get a better and better idea of how much time each day I need to be spending on homework, but for now, I still set loose goals for what I would like to get done during the day. If it looks like I am not going to accomplish what I need to, I turn at least half of a relaxed or social chunk during the evening into a work chunk. Flexibility has to go both ways.

This less rigid form of organization, so far, has helped me to stay (mostly, it’s the end of the semester) on top of what I need to get done, without feeling locked into a schedule that is too restrictive, or stressful to try and change. Which is exactly what discipline should do. When it comes to keeping myself disciplined within this schedule, a whole different aspect of discipline gets involved, which I can’t wait to discuss with you during one of my chunks of work time next Thursday.

 

Peace!

Posted in Discipline | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bouncing Back: Sickness, Sleep and Discipline

So the original plan for this week was to tell you all about list making, how much fun it is to color coordinate, ways to estimate how much time something will take and the like. Thursday, I was on top of my personal list (written in purple), I even ran. Which was why I didn’t think much of it when my throat felt a little dry. Friday I got up and spent a very productive morning at the library. I could tell I was coming down with a little something, but figured I would just keep blowing my nose, and eventually things would be fine. I took Nyquil when I went to bed, expecting its magical powers to combine with the glorious healing properties of sleep and refresh me by morning; at least enough to finish Saturday’s to do list.

Turns out that was wishful thinking. Saturday morning, whatever the nasty little buggars that worked their way past my immune system were, they hit me full force. I was awake early, doing my morning reading, but as I sat in the living room with my book and a cup of tea, it took my twenty minutes just to realize I hadn’t actually read anything, I had just been staring at the page. My groggy mind could barely compose a text to cancel a meeting, and getting out of the chair and back to my bed took more concentration than it should, but I did it. And I slept for the rest of the day, my to-do list tucked safely into one of the books stacked up on the desk.

So today, instead of talking about making lists, I am going to talk about recovering from an unexpected event, which sets you behind, in a disciplined manner. In being conscious about the way I handle this one, I have come up with a few tips for helping your to do list recover from an illness (or family emergency, weather catastrophe, mold invasion, but mostly illness).

 

1)   Analyze the illness. I know that nine times out of ten, when I get sick, there is one really crappy day, and if I let myself rest I am usually back to about 75% of my normal energy by the next morning. In this case, letting the illness get the better of me for 24 hours is the most efficient way to deal with it. If keeping cold meds and a bottle of water on hand can keep you at 75%, powering through is likely to keep you more on top of your to do list than a sick day. Knowing how your body reacts to sickness will be helpful on this one, so pay attention. If it needs rest, rest.

2)   Be flexible. If there was something you really wanted to get done in those few days, say cleaning out the pantry, or some other big, nice but non-critical task, you may have to postpone it to a week or so down the road when you are back on top of your usual responsibilities again. Catch back up on school/work before you rework tasks like this into your agenda. I was planning on cleaning out my desk this weekend. Since it is not critical, however, I will be waiting to do so until I am back on top of all of my schoolwork, not only caught up with what I got behind on, but also on top of what has been assigned since then. Be extra disciplined in determining “critical” here. You don’t have time to do the things that as much as you would love to, as nice as it would be, don’t need to be done right away.

3)   Keep to-do lists that were made before the unexpected event, and when you have time/energy, go back to them, and reorganize. Is there anything that would now couple efficiently with a newly added task? Is there anything you prefer doing in two steps that this time could be done in one? Is there anything during which it is particularly important to be fully aware? Try to be extra critical when reorganizing, coupling tasks efficiently and planning difficult tasks for times when cold meds are going to be working their hardest (for me about a half hour after I take them). This is a skill that is useful when you haven’t been sick, so really this is just a chance to let necessity help you to refine a rather useful skill.

4)   Be extra disciplined in the little things. Eat well, drink water, and choose a reasonable bedtime to stick to until you are feeling better. Don’t let yourself get lost in thought in the shower, but stay on top of your normal hygiene routine and wash your hands frequently. These things will help you to not only recover physically, but also keep you from feeling out of control, and your abnormally long to do list from being too overwhelming. Choose social activities that aren’t super exhausting such as casual lunch with friends or a movie night. Or even better, invite a friend to work with you at home or at a coffee shop. Don’t let things like prayer fall off your radar here either. This will be what gets you through.

5)   And lastly, suck it up. Being sick affects your work, your productivity, and your mood. You are going to have to play a bit of catch up, and chances are you will have a bit more to do than your usual work load. Offer your suffering for your loved ones, get yourself organized and just do it.

 

Illness, or other unexpected set backs for that matter, are not easy, but they don’t have to destroy your discipline. In fact, if you let them, they can be a nice power training session in cultivating an attitude of discipline. So as I go forth, I now have to write the paper I was supposed to write Monday, when I ended up having to play catch up, and a new article which was assigned to me yesterday. Lucky for me, I have a friend and one more free refill of coffee to make the workload seem a bit less overwhelming; possibly even exciting…I love coffee.

 

Peace~

Posted in Discipline | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

To be more than productive, be disciplined

So, you wanna hear something crazy? Getting up on time every morning is really hard. Shocker, I know. But I have been getting up early enough to get stuff done, regardless of the fact that five out of the last seven days I have slept a bit past the alarm, sometimes a lot a bit. I haven’t really noticed much in terms of how this is affecting my life, other than having more drive to get stuff done, and I have had plenty of time to think, mostly about more effective ways to cultivate discipline, as well as what discipline is.

Discipline is not just being productive and getting stuff done, but doing so in an organized manner. It is doing so in such a way that the things that need to get done don’t get in the way of things that should get done, while at the same time things that should get done don’t take priority over things that need to get done, regardless of which one is more appealing. And on top of it all, things that need to get done and things that should get done take priority over things such as relaxing, spending time with friends, and catching up on your favorite TV show, while at the same time the things that need to get done are organized well enough that they don’t take over free time. On top of this I have learned discipline is not something I will wake up one morning, and realize as I jump out of bed with the alarm that I can call myself a disciplined person, and that’s the end of that. This is something that I am going to be cultivating (hopefully) for the rest of my life. But I don’t plan on writing about it for the rest of my life. There is only so much to write and understand about discipline, and since it will be different for everyone, there comes a point in which writing or reading about it does nothing, and the only thing to be done is practice.

So, in the name of blogging in a more disciplined manner, I am creating a plan. I am going to write a post, every Thursday for the next 8 weeks. Last night, I took my to-do list and organized it into a tentative schedule for the day. I am going to start doing this before bed each night, and work on strategies for sticking to the schedule, how to deal with surprises in the schedule, and how to plan for some flexibility.

So far, today is going really well, and I am excited to be getting things done.

But, I started this series last week, and am happy to report that the week wasn’t totally without success. On top of being more organized, I have decided I would like to build small habits of discipline.

Small habits of discipline not only train the mind to accept larger doses of discipline more easily, but they also lead to a more frugal and simple way of life, the benefits of which will be developed in it’s own series (hopefully). But, if for whatever reason, you are looking for some small places to start, this is what I was able to make happen this week.

Don’t stand in the shower after your done washing, no matter how awesome the water cascading over your shoulders feels. If you are tired after a long day, don’t just sit down and turn on the TV, do something that doesn’t require lots of brain power but is still productive first, and if you do still turn on the TV, give yourself a time limit first. If you don’t want to go out to eat, plan dinner, and do a small part of the preparation in the morning, so you have to eat it that night.

If you have any small tricks, I would love to hear from you, and I look forward to sharing tricks for developing a daily schedule, lets pray I learn some!

Posted in Discipline | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment