One of the most challenging things I have found since taking the decision to start my own business after years of salaried employment is using the time I have around me. It stretches off in all directions. I can spend time reflecting on the past and wallowing in the memories of past events; I can look ahead at the empty days in my diary and focus on the tiny jaws of anxiety gnawing away at my insides; I can look at either side of me, perhaps through the lenses of various social media sites, at how others are spending their time and make (often unfair) comparisons on how others seem to be having a better time than me; or I can spend it in the moment and really appreciate the opportunity I have been given. I have to have the courage to cherish and use the time I have been given, to make the best use of the time that is with me right now at this very second. It is the choices that I make now that will help to determine how I recall this moment in the future, what the future me will be doing. I am not sure I will ever get away, completely, from the comparison with others, though, I guess that this is part of the scourge of social media.
One of the phrases that has been over used in many organisations (and one that makes me shudder) is that “we are on a journey”. Management speak has appropriated the journey metaphor and probably over-used it. However, and please forgive me here, I am going to use the metaphor of a train journey to explain how I feel. This venture into the world of self-employment and into the world of consultancy is my train journey. However I sometimes find myself thinking too deeply about where I have started from. (I am on the right train? Did I lock the front door? Have I forgotten anything?). I also think too much about my destination. (What time will I arrive? What is the weather going to be like?). By focusing too much on these two locations I often don’t appreciate the journey as much as I should. I don’t look out of the window and appreciate the changing scenery along the way; I don’t appreciate the opportunity to get lost in a good book or get carried along by a favourite piece of music; I don’t allow myself to be present in the moment and just enjoy the movement of the train and enjoy the fact that I am moving forward.
I also procrastinate! It is something that I am becoming more and more aware of.
Funnily enough, I have realised that I do actually enjoy writing, although I find getting started the real challenge. I get this strange feeling in my stomach and chest; it feels like my insides are made of cotton wool or my internal organs are sagging and sighing in unison at the thought of starting. And there is the almost over-whelming urge to have a quick nap! I also get involved in many diversionary activities. I have sorted out my sock drawer many times and arranged the cans and herbs in the kitchen cupboard in alphabetical order then in chronological order by best before date.. I even sliced the top off my right index finger on Sunday in a tussle with a mandolin whilst cooking and have tried to use this as an excuse (it hurts when I type). All are lined up as plausible reasons not to write. But once I get started I actually enjoy it and I soon get into the zone.
So how do I face up to the challenge, how do I jump in and start? The first thing I have learned is not to beat myself up. If I do beat myself up I only use the metaphorical bruises as another excuse not to write. I have to be kind to myself and realise that these feelings are not psychotic, they are normal but just exaggerated. Exaggerated because they are taking place whilst at home, alone. Because there is a lack of stimuli these feelings become my focal point. So I sometimes get out of the house; go for a walk and appreciate the time I have been given. I look for things in the environment around me which inspire me or make me curious. I visit the wonderful Lit and Phil in Newcastle (if you haven’t heard of it I urge you to Google it), it is a great place to work. I also start small. Open the lap top, put on some music, write a couple of sentences, then a couple more; soon I may have a paragraph. It may be complete crap, but it is something to work with. I also set myself a target with a reward beckoning if I reach or exceed the target. But most of all I remember to be kind to myself which involves me being patient with myself. I have also worked hard at not paying too much attention to my inner critic and starting to concentrate on my inner coach. My inner critic is always there, however I have learned to evaluate the evidence put forward by that critical inner voice and I have started to realise that the critical voice is over exaggerated, disproportionate and biased. I realise that my inner coach is balanced and has my best interests at heart. Whilst my critic tells me I am bad at something, my coach is always there telling me I can always work to improve and get better. I know I have flaws and that I often don’t make use of the time I have been given. However I am also aware that I am work in progress and progress is all about moving forward.