I’ve not done a single obviously work-related thing for the past 3-4 weeks!
Now I realise this statement alone may make you think the rest of this post’s less relevant to you. But instead, allow it to peak your interest.
Stay with me and ask yourself either “Why, Anita?” or “How the heck!”
Well – we FINALLY… more than 3.5 years after signing on the dotted line for our new home, were actually able to move in (that’s the WHY).
And yes – I am in a very fortunate position to be able to take the time off while my hubby kept the work front going (that’s the HOW).
But this (and the subsequent few conversations between you and I) will be about the sneakily disguised lessons I dug up in this whole process.
I dare think that what we talk about will inspire you to evaluate, upgrade and potentially grab a few opportunities you’ve been ogling by the proverbial kahunas, and claim what you KNOW you want.
All so YOU can enjoy your life more, and can make even better craft.
Lesson 1 (today’s conversation) – it’s CRITICAL to view your environment as the soil in which your little (or strong and vital) plant thrives.
Just like no real plant will thrive in soil that’s not supportive of it’s natural needs. You, and I won’t either.
Now, I’ve been a BJ Fogg student since 2014 and my entire life-design is based around tiny little actions.
The man has always spoken about rigging your environment to support the habit you want to create. So on a prefrontal cortex level – I GOT it.
On an emotional level, I had an inkling something was amiss. But I only GOT it now. 4 weeks after moving in.
It dawned on me that for the past 7.5 years, I have “made do”.
I conformed and contorted TO my environment.
The circumstances demanded it.
And I had to compromise?
Yes – I’m aware my challenges mostly pale in comparison to people with young (or other age) children. Or chronic or terminal illnesses and so on.
But if we focus on the lesson – the challenges can be anything. The point is to make the best of them, consciously and with purpose.
Most of my working for myself life has been super enjoyable.
I’ve had a shared office. I had my own office, but in a rented place where I knew I couldn’t put down any permanence to what I surrounded myself with.
At each step I experienced what I liked and what I didn’t. What worked for me (silence – auditory and visual peace) and what didn’t (lots of people, music, demands on my attention in shape of movement, noise, heat).
At each step I intuitively (but gingerly) eliminated an irritant, or added an aid.
All these are the clues that would eventually dictate what happened in my current space in the past 4 weeks.
But I wish I’d been more purposeful long before now.
I wish I had been brave enough to have stronger boundaries and not been so cautious at adding more permanence to structures around my creative time and my creative desires…
This is definitely a wish, not a regret.
Because I understand that rigging your environment right for you, requires 2 main ingredients to align:
- clarity – you gotta’ know what you want and then, you gotta’ know what you need to make what you want easier, more fun, faster, better.
- selfishness/boundaries – in a pretty big survey, by a pretty important organisation (sorry but data was never my strong point), it was found that the people who were consistently voted as the most influential AND caring in their communities, were the people with the strongest boundaries.
It turns out that you really SHOULD put on your own “oxygen mask” before helping others with theirs…
Firstly, because if you don’t… you can’t.
And then, because by having to put on yours first, you experience what it’s like, which makes you better able to help others with theirs…
I had some of both ingredients (clarity & boundaries), but but felt that going all the way on both was a bit of a self-centered indulgence!
It’s a luxury we “can’t” afford?
I’m guessing a lot of us think this way.
So we continuously let ourselves down.
We cut our talent’s power.
We create energy leaks. And eventually – hidden resentments, masked as sacrifices.
Then self judgment steps in telling us – the reason why we haven’t yet “made it” is because we don’t have it in us. We’re not enough…
At that junction we either accept, or reject that message.
If you reject it voluntarily or not, you are forced to dig deeper. And trust me you’ll find that how you rig your environment is the reality you WILL find yourself in.
And that will keep shaping you UP… or down.
But it’s up to you to find the energy leakage points (that’s the next conversation we’ll have) and to respond by intervening with environment changes.
Yes – awareness as always is the starting point.
Because when you take active interest in something. When you GET that it’s critical, so that you can do your best work. You activate your RAS (reticular activation system) – you’re hyper-aware to your gut feel and anything that will add or subtract from achieving the end result.
Back to the present day.
The process of moving has been overly long, and marred with circumstances some of the best fiction writers will struggle to weave together in the serendipitous soup we ended up with.
But I’ve gotten my strongest life lessons to date from it – so trade off was worth it for me.
Challenges accepted and battles fought.
Now on the other side of this, I have an office that is by no means complete. And actually it’s not an office – in the conventional shape of that word.
It’s my space. You walk in and you can see ME. You can feel ME went into every piece that’s there.
It wasn’t stress-free. And it may not appeal to anyone else but me (in fact it probably won’t). But every part of it builds me. Nourishes me. Calms me and hugs me… I’m still struggling with coming to terms that this isn’t indulgent or materialistic. But I’m guessing I’ll come around.
Every morning I wake up while everyone else is still tucked in. I walk to my window seat. I settle myself on my Himalayan goat rug, and I write my Morning Pages… The practice I’ve found most transforming in the past 3 years. It’s almost a sacred ritual…
OK – before I roll into a long side-chat on the details – let’s share some practical bits of how to start to create your most happiness-conductive environment for yourself.
Two caveats before we begin:
1. Realistically, I can’t give you a way to find all the possible variants of energy leaks in your environment for you.
I don’t know you that well, and even if I did, this is work you’ve got to do.
What I’ll give you is a framework to do that work.
2. Right now, decide that you won’t try to fix EVERYTHING at once.
You have no magic wand!
So let’s take the BJ Fogg approach – let’s take one tiny little action at a time. And I can promise you that way you’ll achieve a lot more that way.
The second benefit of taking one tiny little action at a time, is you create space: space to experience, and space for that experience to yield its lesson/s.
Here’s the how:
Step 1: Start with the end in mind.
In other words get as clear as you can get at this stage (because your priorities and pleasures will change). What is it that your space has to do for you?
If you could waive the magic wand I just said you didn’t have (not smart planning on my behalf :o) – what would your space look like?
As you prep to answer this – think about the functions, the jobs to be done, by your space.
Step 2: Then when you have those pieces, think about which are the essentials, the core. And which ones could or should wait. There’s no scientific method to this, trust your gut a little in the selection.
Step 3: Next – of the ones you deemed core – which ones does your space already facilitate?
And then how well does your space do that? Meaning – is there anything you can do more efficiently? Is there anything that can be made more fun?
Step 4: And finally – which of the things you could do better, or start doing, and FEELS like it would give you the most back once done?
Pick that and do something about it!
Example? (I hear you say).
I moved into a new office and brought along, what seemed at least twice the amount of THINGS I was ever going to squeeze in!
I know I like visual peace around me, both aesthetically, AND as in no clutter.
So I started looking for a storage setup that will allow me to house and hide everything, but in an easily accessible way.
I ended up getting a bunch of stuff from the IKEA Kallax modular range, that did just the job, in a low key and perfect cohesive looking way.
Here’s the end result.
OK, I had to also be brutally honest with myself and ditch a lot of things I’d collected over the years, but brought me no joy (I Marie Condo-ed it big time).
But the end result is better than I ever imagined. And I now LOVE my space. There isn’t energy lost on looking for things. There’s no energy lost on “wishing” things were setup differently. There’s no energy lost on visual dissonance and static irritation at clutter.
Just walk in. Do what’s going to get me closer to my goal at this stage. And focus my energy on making that as good as I can for the people I want to work with.
Anywho – this conversation went on for bit… I’m sure you’re ready for a cup of tea or change of scenery.
Take the steps above and at least ask yourself the top question. Even if you have no answer jump out at you right now, trust me your Superconscious will serve you up what you need to attend to most urgently.
Awareness is the first step ;o)
Let me know below what came up for you. And if you want to share more – you’re welcome to – I’ll be here for the conversation.
Next time we talk about energy leaks… a chronic and often disguised villain…