I was moping about the other day, down in the doldrums after a blog I wrote hadn’t received a nod to its brilliance. Okay, brilliance is a stretch, but a nod to the idea would have sufficed.
It’s not like me; I’m usually an ignore-proof writer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love praise, we all do, but it doesn’t fuel my writing fire. I write stories and blogs, and if every time I was ignored I got upset I’d be too busy crying into my hanky to get anything else done.
But I was down in the doldrums, what a perfect saying for being crippled by procrastination, negativity or general moodiness. The old maritime expression for ships in the ocean that had the misfortune to get stuck in windless waters; becalmed, dead calm is the perfect analogy.
We all have these moments, we can’t learn without the downtime, but my dead calm was dragging on throughout the day and getting in my way.
I had to wheel out my inner sergeant major to snap me out of this dead calm.
It started with one question, a binary question and carried on into a long session of interrogation. After the first couple of questions, I was enjoying the process of shouting interrogative challenges at myself and decided to write them down.
Some may say that being unduly harsh on yourself is unkind and not showing yourself the self-love you deserve But I think it’s even crueller to let yourself slip into crippling self-pity when a few harsh words could get you out of the doldrums.
Here is my list of favourites and to ward off any claims of being condescending they are questions I ask to myself all the time. They are my favourite binary questions to ask myself when I need a boot myself out of a mood.
1. Do you want to succeed or be defeated?
This is a biggie when you’ve received a rejection from something; whether it’s a competition, a publication, a job, a project but the only defeat lies in not trying again.
And it’s hard; it’s so hard because you’ve put something of yourself into that space.
Sure, lick your wounds for an hour or so but when you’re ready, On your feet, soldier!
2. Are you a (wo)man or a mouse?
Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously, and having a confrontation or a rejection can present a severe bruise to the ego.
Well? Which is it?
3. Do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to do something amazing?
I don’t believe that you can achieve anything significant without pushing through a comfort zone. The triumph is coming out the other end, muddy and fighting.
When speaking a new language, using a new skill, trying a new writing form and putting yourself out there by sharing it. Actions like these lie on the other side of comfort so grin and bear it.
4. Is it worth taking the time to respond to that piece of criticism or is it a waste of your time responding to that piece of criticism?
You know when you’re wasting your time on something. Take a deep breath and go back to work.
5. Do you want to listen to those who are loud or those who are wise?
Loud, obnoxious voices surround us and we can’t listen to them all so which is it? Noisy voices sometimes come with an element of authority — but this can be mistakenly attributed to volume. Seek out the quiet wisdom; there’s plenty of it out there.
Who are the wise voices? Those that are confidently going about their business. It might be worth checking in to see what they have to say before adjusting your behaviour to suit the former.
6. Do you want to jump on the bandwagon or do you want to find your own way?
We all do this sometimes and then wonder why we’re not achieving our goals — we buy a 1000 followers online or sign up for a course that we know is clickbait because it’s too good to be true, but we still jump on that bandwagon.
But it’s never a shortcut, so next time…
7. Do you want to be adored or listened to?
Do you want to have a trillion FB likes or one email telling you you’ve had an impact on someone’s life?
We all want the latter, so why do we put so much energy into checking our numbers and measuring success by claps and follows? The opportunity cost of chasing down being liked and admired is creating content that can inspire others.
I scream this at myself all of the time. Distraction comes in the form of checking stats, and it’s when my brain is being lazy, but the question remains — do I want to be adored or listened to?
8. Do you want to lead a net positive world or a negative one
So you might have stockpiled some toilet paper over the last month. I didn’t do that, but my panic buying involved having an additional pack or two of coffee in the house. None of us is immune to thinking of ourselves sometimes.
Step back, though, when you can, there are plenty of ways we can lead a net positive world — ie. Put into it more than you take out.
Net positive could mean putting some extra effort into inspiring your friends or readers. You won’t get paid in cash for it, but it will go towards a better world.
Net positive could be ensuring a no-waste policy on food and drink. You could grow herbs and leave some for others.
Sometimes a smile to a friend or a stranger can tip you over the net positive scale.
9. Do you want to be less, or do you want to be more?
We’re so often encouraged to stay mediocre and not venture beyond our skillset for fear of…of…of??? Death? No. Failure, maybe but that only involves a bruised pride.
Growing consists of the step of everything being harder, trying more, inspiring more — don’t sit back on your minimal amount of effort. I use this one a lot too because being lazy is more comfortable than pushing on.
Don’t let yourself or anyone tell you that something is too hard if you have your heart set on it. The more complicated the road, the more significant the psychological beer at the end.
10. Do you want to be cliquey, or do you want to be inclusive?
You can’t be both. Being inclusive means welcoming new opinions and listening to new voices.
It means throwing off what you know about the world sometimes to listen to the story of someone else.
11.Do you want to frighten or inspire?
What impact do you want to have on the people in your life; your readers, your friends and affiliates, etc.?
If you don’t want to impact those around you positively, it might be useful to ask yourself why.
Do you want to frighten them into submission by conveying what a terrifying road change is and how the price of failure is so damaging? Or do you want to share your journey and your feeling of vulnerability to inspire others?
If you don’t have anything positive to add to someone’s journey why don’t you stay neutral?
12.Do you want to assume or do you want to know?
It’s hard not to get caught up in this post-truth world, but making assumptions about other people rather than spending time finding out yourself is not good for personal development.
Especially if the premises are negative. Don’t jump on the bandwagon spreading negativity before investigating for yourself.
I try and avoid negativity anyway; who am I to judge what works for others. All I know is what works for me and what doesn’t.
13.Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?
Cliché — I know, but it’s true. Do you want to sit around thinking about how unequal the world is or how about going out to do something for someone who is by far less advantaged than you are?
I could go into a tizz slagging of the government, make myself tired and by not contributing to a solution be contributing to the problem.
Or I could donate some money or time to a charity; I could help out of a friend. There is no end to the small parts of a solution you could add to, and you know what — it feels better than being part of the problem.
14. Do you want to be bitter or graceful?
We’ve all been bitter at stuff in the past, but grace holds so much more in weight. You don’t see grace at first, but when you do it shines.
Bitterness, on the other hand, can be seen a mile off, so it’s best dealt with asap.
Find the source of resentment — is it internal or external. Either way, there’s something you can do to change it into another energy form. Maybe it involves leaving a particular group or activity to find something that elicits a more positive emotion.
Like I said earlier, there are no avoiding doldrums if you’re putting yourself out there and how else are you going to reach your promised land if you don’t set sail. But try to pose a binary question to yourself if you’ve been dwelling for too long in a dead calm. and don’t forget to shout for maximum impact.
Thanks for reading.