Writing to get my mojo back

By Gudrun Cartwright

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Image from Aaron Burden at Unsplash

Today I need to write. For the last few weeks I have been consumed with work. I have written for that purpose, but not for me. Not for my website. My mission. My sanity. Yet again, life is getting in the way. I have such great plans. Such lofty ambitions. But I get caught in the day to day. As Stephen Covey famously said in the 7 habits of highly effective people, in the urgent, but not so important, when I consider my overall mission. How do you go about redressing this balance? Find the time, when you are always feeling overwhelmed by demands from multiple stakeholders and a relentless pace at work? Prioritise what is important to me and fit that in?

I know that to achieve different results you need to implement different actions. My intentions are good. I have goals. But why do I consistently struggle to put the important first? Is it that I am not good at prioritising? Lazy and unfocused? I don’t think so — I am proactive and get lots done. Meet my targets. I guess the problem is that I have spent so long putting my focus into my job that it’s going to take time to reroute the pathways in my brain and give attention to priorities outside of work. And my job gives concrete demands from real people. Rather than my own projects, that needs to be driven by me. Nobody else really cares if I write and publish blogs, make videos or create courses and toolkits as part of the 21st Century Grown Ups Challenge. So, there are no consequences for not doing it. Apart from a lingering sense of disappointment in myself. That I am letting people down. Not giving the people who have shown interest in what I have put out there the love they deserve for inviting me into their lives. Building that community. Doing my experiments. Sharing learning. Challenging and supporting others. Not seeing what I could achieve if I pull my finger out and get stuck in. For myself, my family and as a contribution to solving our most pressing shared challenges.

How do you create that momentum by putting in the ‘big rocks’ so that every day generates progress? How do you then stick with that when life gets hectic and you have lots of pressure and noise from elsewhere? Is it possible to build a new and significant endeavour while you have a big, full time job? Does it matter?

For me it does. But I need to be kinder to myself. To recognize that I am really busy, and I can’t do everything. Give myself permission for good to be good enough. To learn to enjoy trying things, screwing up and starting again with what I now know. Be better next time. Reconnect with people and groups. Be vulnerable, sharing the challenges I am facing and the ways I am experimenting to address them. Asking others how they cope. Stay on track.

As I reflect, I realise that applying what I am learning from permaculture to my own life could be the answer I need. If I adopt a permaculture design lens (borrowing GOBRADIME[1] from Heather Jo Flores), I can see that I tend to go quickly from idea to implementation, then get stuck as the process is unsustainable and success measures unclear. A bit all or nothing if you like. Then I get frustrated. Things fall away and I start again. Slightly less enthusiastic than before. I get tired, deflated and feel like I can’t make things happen. So why bother. I know I am not a naturally detailed person. I enjoy planning but can feel like I get into a loop and worry that I need to be doing instead. Busy, busy. No time, no time. Hurry, hurry. Get on with it now! It’s so weird that when I’m working for other people, I am focused, sharp and achieve results, but when I’m building something for myself, I really struggle. Is it a confidence issue? Good old imposter syndrome raising its ugly head again? How do I balance things up?

I guess that it’s all a matter of perspective. Perhaps less really is more. The principles of permaculture really could hold the answers. Help me design a good life for a professional urbanite that balances work, home community and makes a positive contribution to building a regenerative future. Enables a transition to a new way of being and doing. Isn’t just for land based and community projects? Enables me to become my own version of a digger and a dreamer.

So, the task now is to go back to the drawing board. Set some clear goals. Follow the design process through from start to finish. To bring clarity and a workable plan over a sensible time frame. Put a strong emphasis on designing my time, my space, my relationships. Reset my boundaries and take back my sense of agency. Reconnect with people in my tribe who I have met briefly or only virtually. Connect with more. Slow down. Relax. Enjoy the experience and value each step I take that leads me towards my goals. Build in regular opportunities to review, reflect and update. Know that it might take years, but I’m on the way.

The coming decade is critical if our legacy is one that we are proud to leave to our children — a healthy planet and opportunities to flourish as individuals and in community. The work will be hard in many ways, but there are also great opportunities for joy and camaraderie. As Joanna Macey and Chris Johnstone said in Active Hope, what matters is that you believe a better future is possible and work towards it with optimism and determination. If you don’t fully get there because some outcomes are out of your hands, that’s OK. Just applying your head, heart and hands to be the change you want to see is hope in action. And that’s the best we can do, in these challenging times.

So deep breath. Reflect and review. Back again soon.

Much love xx

[1] Goals, Observations, Boundaries, Resources, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Evaluation & celebration)

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