Me and Self Improvement

Over the past several years, I have been developing an interest in self improvement.  I’ve always been an introspective person and I’ve always been committed to lifelong learning, but recently I have been trying to take a more purposeful approach to achieving my goals and living a happy and full life.  I will own that the results of all this have been mixed.  Some years I do a great job with following through on my goals and other years, life throws a few too many curve balls and I get distracted.  Due to my illness, however, this year I want to make sure that I am doing everything I can to stay grounded, live in the moment, and manage my time well.  I have things that I want to accomplish, and I have a great opportunity to get started on them.

I haven’t always lived my life with this much intention.  In fact, for the first 30 or so years of my life, I mostly played things by ear.  In university, I chose my major solely based on the courses that interested me the most, rather than based on what could assist me in developing a successful career.  I applied for a Masters program in Archival Studies mostly on a lark.  There aren’t words to express the relief that I felt when I fell in love with it.  After finishing graduate school, I continued to learn new things and to challenge myself intellectually; however, I never made an actual plan and I never had a clue as to where I wanted my life to go.

Throughout the years when I was trying to cultivate my career as an archivist, I lacked self awareness and personal insight; as such, I completely destroyed my chances of being successful in that endeavor.  The fumbling ridiculousness of my adult career development is an essay for another day, but it was the difficulties that I encountered in my career that served as the genesis for my self improvement journey.

During a long and depressing stint of unemployment, I began to realize that I was basing all of my self worth and happiness on obtaining a highly specific job in a field that was shrinking.  With the job, I would be happy and fulfilled and without the job I would be miserable.  This attitude destroyed my self confidence (which has never been particularly great) and made me even less attractive to potential employers — I couldn’t hide my desperation.  After a great deal of soul searching, I decided that I was going to have to change my attitude, or I was going to be stuck in this negative feedback loop for a very long time.

And so I started to seek out mentors.  I tried to think of people in my life who might not be 100% satisfied with their jobs, but were constantly striving and working toward happiness in their lives.  I evaluated what those people were doing that I was not doing and eventually the tremendous error I had been making became clear: I was relying on something external to make me happy.

In order to be truly happy, I would need to work to be the source of my own happiness.  From there, I started making a lot of positive life changes.  I started setting goals, even if I wasn’t always great about following through with every intention I set for the year.  I made more conscious plans for ongoing learning and began focusing on skills that I felt would be both fun and useful, such as cooking, baking and knitting.  I sought out tools and mechanisms that I could use to accurately and honestly evaluate my life and my progress.

I won’t lie and say that all this suddenly turned my life around and instantly made everything better.  I still struggle most of the time with depression that can make it difficult for me to take aggressive action on aspects of my life that need improvement.  I am still working through the heavy slog of trying to figure out which path I’d like to start meandering toward career change and growth.  I am still completely selfish and judge others too harshly.  I am a work in progress.

Despite the fact that I’m still not exactly where I would like to be, I feel I do need to give myself credit for making some great changes.  I have indeed come a long way.  I am far more comfortable in my own skin these days and I have let go of at least part of the enormous chip on my shoulder.  I’m more understanding and vulnerable; I’m a better romantic partner.  I’ve always been introspective, but I am now much better at accurately assessing myself without being either way too harsh or way too lenient.  I am more honest and better at taking responsibility for my actions.

Because I have learned so much from my self improvement journey over the past few years, I will be writing from time to time about tools and techniques that I have used to facilitate all of these changes.  I hope that some of you find them useful or, at least, interesting to read about!  Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Goals for 2018: Part 2

Today I’ll be continuing my short series on my goals for 2018!  If you missed the first post, please read it here.

6. Care for myself mentally.

It’s no secret that I have issues with depression and anxiety and my current health crisis means that I will have to work at looking after my mental health this year.  I will have my bad days, but it is imperative that I keep up a positive (or at least neutral) attitude more consistently than usual.  I have several plans to assist me in accomplishing this.  First, I have been referred to the BC Cancer Agency’s counselling department, so I will be getting some professional help that is designed specifically to assist me in coping with cancer and treatment.  Second, some of the aspects of my journaling routine are focused upon positive thinking, affirmations, and gratitude.  Third, I have loads of video games to play, books to read, TV shows to watch and a forum to express how I feel about them.  I’m the most excited about that part!  Fourth, it is my hope that I will finally start working through the CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) workbook that I purchased earlier this year when I had my first panic attack.

7. Learn Something New

As I said in Goal #2 (Write as much as possible), it is my hope that I will be able to devote some small amount of time during time off examining how I can make career change to something that is more flexible and location neutral.  While I know that I can probably make some income with freelance writing, I would like to explore some other avenues that might be a bit more fruitful.  I plan to research and take some courses via educational websites such as Skillshare to see what kinds of skills will be necessary to obtain the kind of job that I want.  I’ve always been a fan of throwing myself up steep learning curves and I feel like now is a good time to start.

While I am enthusiastic about this goal I am, unfortunately, not certain how much I will be able to work on it.  My ability to take courses and learn things might be diminished by chemotherapy side effects.  I’m willing to give it a try, however, and I know that, from a practical perspective, it will be easier to do this when I am not working full time.

8. Create and maintain tidy spaces in my home that I can be happy spending a lot of time in.

I am an extraordinarily messy person.  Super organized and terribly messy.  While my messiness is consistent, it tends to get a lot worse when I’m depressed.  I would like to work toward making a significant change in this area in 2018.  While I am in treatment, I will not be returning to work, thus I will be at home most of the time.  If I’m going to spend most of my time in my office and my bedroom, I think it’s important that I try to keep them tidy so that I will enjoy my spaces and feel less stressed out and sad that they’re a mess.  I’m not exactly sure how I’ll be accomplishing this one, but I will start making some more specific plans and strategies over the next week or so.  I do already have some de-cluttering projects in mind.

9. Leave the house to work at least once per week.

This depends a bit on how I’m feeling, but I think it’s important for me to try and get out of the house at least a few times per week.  I can get a lot of work done in a few hours of crowd buzz and good music, so it’s worth it for me to get out and work in a coffee shop or somewhere similar.  I have a great little Chrome book that’s great for basic writing and web browsing on the go.  It’s my hope that I’ll be able to get out and work more than once per week, but I like to keep my goals as manageable and realistic as possible.

10.  Be supportive of and express gratitude to my partner and maintain a healthy and loving relationship.

A serious illness like cancer can have a significant impact on your romantic relationships.  Right now, my illness consumes a lot of my time and energy and it’s important to me that I don’t allow it to bleed too much into my relationship.  Of course, I will share my thoughts and feelings with him and I am counting on him to listen to me, be respectful, and provide love and moral support.  What I can’t do, however, is forget that he also needs love and moral support — I plan to do my best to make sure that his needs are being met and that everything isn’t about me being sick.

Have you set your goals yet for 2018?  Is there anything that you’re hoping to accomplish this year?  Leave a comment and let me know or message me privately — I’m interested to hear about what you’d like to get up to.  Let’s all have a better year than we did in 2017!