Here’s a super-simple journaling exercise that can be a quick way of reconnecting with ourselves. It’s also truly helpful for those times when we’re feeling really UNcreative.
I once did this with a class of ten-year-olds, and after I described the exercise to them, I said, “What do you think this exercise is about?”
A kid shot up his hand and said, “Noticing!”
That’s it, exactly.
The words we use are important. And they say a lot about us.
I have an intention to choose my words carefully. Not out of some kind of perfectionism, but because words have power.
(I’m also noticing more and more that, often, I need to invoke the superpower of listening just when I’m tempted to throw in my two cents. Whether I’m talking to a friend or coaching a client.)
Some words feel heavy and exhausting to me. That’s not because there’s anything “wrong” with them, but because they are not in line with what inspires and activates my essential self.
Other words light me up, help me come alive, remind me of what is true and real — for me.
So here’s the exercise:
1) Make a list of words that drag you down, words that don’t light you up or that make you feel disconnected.
These can be ANY words. Adjectives, verbs, nouns. Keep listing — don’t stop until you’ve got a list of at least twenty words. (They can also be phrases or sentences you can’t stand — for example, my boyfriend absolutely hates it when people say, “Let’s do this!”)
The purpose of this is not to focus on negative stuff — any word or phrase is not “objectively” negative. This is about gaining more awareness into what makes you “you.”
2) Now, make a list of words that DO light you up, words that elevate you or connect you to who you are. Again, phrases and sentences are okay, too.
3) Now, look over both lists.
What do you notice?
Here are some examples from my lists:
Words that drag me down: overcome, overpower, world domination, should, must, crush it, anything having to do with war, get your butt in the seat, push, shove, force, conquer, rule, hard, tough, have to
Words that lift me up: discover, quest, kindness, spark, play, curiosity, adventure, fun, mischief, silky, fluid, deep, reflective, subtle, piercing, pure, intense, affectionate, compassion, journey, choose
Even if you’ve never read my blog before, you can learn a lot about me by looking at my lists, right?
It’s pretty clear that I’m not inspired by the idea of overcoming or conquering or going to war with something. I’m not inspired by pushing or forcing myself or anything or anyone else to “get it done.”
It’s not because I think that mentality is “bad.” It’s because it isn’t the way I naturally relate to the world. It’s foreign to me; it doesn’t make intuitive sense to me (though, to be honest, for many years I tried to take on this mentality because I believed I “should”).
The idea of discovery, of looking deeper, of getting curious, with lots of kindness and compassion and fun and play in the mix — for me, that’s adventure. That second list automatically reminds me of who I am and inspires me. It gets me moving.
We can also see, by looking at my lists, where my shadow may lurk. It might do me some good to notice when I’m disowning the parts of me (because they’re there!) that DO like to overcome and conquer and WIN. (These parts of me come out when I play certain video games or get into arguments with family members. Note to fiction writers: Incorporating your shadow traits into your characters can be extremely liberating.)
The thing for me to know, though, is that if I let these aspects of me run the show, I’m not going to feel in line with my essential self, and I won’t feel I’m living a life that’s truly in keeping with who I am. I don’t need to disown these aspects of myself — or of others — I just need to recognize that they don’t truly inspire me.
So, if I’m trying to get myself to do something through pushing, forcing, or the idea of “crushing it” or “overcoming,” it’s inevitably ineffective — for me. There are others who love the idea of overcoming or “heading into battle”. It gets them going and lights them up.
And that’s awesome. Because if there’s anything I believe, it’s that we all need to know ourselves well enough to keep on moving closer and closer to what truly brings us to life.
What do you notice about the words that inspire you, versus the words that deaden, disconnect you, or exhaust your energy? I’d love it if you’d share, in the comments.