Core Values Part 2

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The summer sun is low in the horizon and there is a faint ghost of a breeze. The direct heat has subsided, but the humidity is still thick. I just finished working on my scholarly article for the day. Now it’s time to return to my nightly blogging ritual.

This morning I blogged about the first five of 10 core values I had listed in my Rituals for Living Planner. In that post, I discussed kindness, purpose, expression, the balance between individuality and community, and learning. As the sun begins to fall behind the trees, I begin to contemplate the last five:

Discipline: This is a trait that I highly value, but it is also a trait that I struggle with the most. As someone with bipolar disorder, I am prone to impulsiveness. Impulsive eating, impulsive spending. Untreated, bipolar disorder can lead to a destructive level of impulsivity. Perhaps that is why I value discipline so much. It shimmers on the horizon like an oasis. It is the holy grail of productivity, and I watch others practice with awe as though they appear invoke a super human power beyond my abilities. But, I am not completely incapable. I simply have to keep my tools close at hand, a constant reminder of what I really want and what I need to do to get there.

 Devotion: This is probably the easiest value for me to manifest. Admittedly, it is not easy to gain my devotion, but once won, it is unshakable. Like “purpose,” devotion is a core value I cannot live without. I have a deep need to love others, a small circle of others, but it is a need nonetheless. To win my devotion, there must be an unconditional bond. We know the good and bad about each other, but still consider ourselves fortunate to be connected.

Optimism: I feel I am at my best when I am optimistic. Some might say I am too optimistic, and perhaps at times I am. Although, my bipolar brain is prone to the pessimism that grows out of anxiety and depression, I see it as my false self. Pessimism is the lie my dark brain tells me as it tries to push me into despair, but optimism is a choice I make to believe in the best possible outcome.

Vision: What does vision mean? Vision is the ability to imagine your ideal reality and create the action steps to get there. Vision isn’t just a representation of the future. Vision is a manifestation through daily action. Vision breathes life into all my other core values because without vision, they are just words.

Persistence: This is the sister of vision. It is the choice to take the right action each day. Without persistence, vision would never manifest. Dreams, goals, and values would dissolve into nothing. Persistence is the next step in the right direction. Persistence is getting back up when you fall. Persistence is starting over when you fail. Persistence is a gift of love you give yourself.

I’ve enjoyed writing about these core values. Some of my responses even surprised me. I guess that’s why I love to blog so much. It’s like having a conversation with myself. I can reach out into the universe and sing my song to the endless sky. If it resonates with someone else, we have a unique opportunity to connect and our tribe grows. I hope you all have a wonderful evening.

Core Values Part 1

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I sip my coffee in the cool of the air conditioning as I look out the window. The sunlight bounces off everything outside like a spot light in a house of mirrors. Today will be another hot Miami day. I take a few moments to enjoy a casual Sunday morning. I already completed two of the projects that I had on my to do list this weekend. Later, I will work on my academic article.

I pull out my Rituals for Living Planner and review the work I did, yesterday. In the section on discovering my core values, I identified 10 from the list that were most important to me. They align easily with my mission statement. Here are the first five:

Kindness: This is a trait I highly value in others as well as myself. It can also be one of the most challenging. Kindness flows easily when we feel generous or when we believe someone is worthy of kindness. Other times, kindness doesn’t flow quiet so easily. My resent post on tough love illustrates that I sometimes struggle with this concept. For me, kindness is an act of compassion that can meld with the idea of self-sacrifice. I have had to learn how to establish boundaries as well. Sometimes, kindness can also be “no.” There is no rule or formula for kindness. For me, kindness is simply taking a moment before I react and trying to decide what would be best for the other individual as well as myself.

Purpose: My bipolar disorder has taught me that this is probably the most important value for me. Without purpose, I fall into depression and lethargy. I need a reason to exist. The consumer cycle of going to work each day to make money so that I can turn around and spend the money on more things is not enough to get me out of bed in the morning. I need to be making a positive impact on the people around me in a way that supports my personal mission. That’s why I developed a personal mission statement and use it as a gauge for my actions.

Expression: As a writer and an artist expression has multiple purposes. It’s explorative, communicative, cathartic, and often helps me to connect with like minded individuals. That is why I have built a life around those core value, helping students and aspiring writers learn to express themselves through written communication.

Balance Between Individuality and Community: Although individuality and community are often represented as two separate value, I see them as intertwined like ying and yang. Asserting individuality often taxes our communal connections, and upholding community can sometimes stunt individuality. Since I feel strongly about both of these values, I simply try to keep them in balance.

Learning: This value is the core of my happiness. I have a deep need to learn new things, a drive to read and research, to take courses and acquire new skills. I am also drawn to people who like to learn. I love people who get excited by some new idea. That’s why I am involved in higher education. There is always something new to learn. Even teaching is a learning experience.

Those are the first five values on my list. I will share the other five in my evening post.

What are some of your key values? Have you actively designed your life around your key values? What stories do you tell yourself about the importance of those values in your life? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Rituals for Living by The Dragon Tree

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I dump my colored pens onto the table and open my new planner. I uncap the orange pen and start to answer the first question: “What are you longing for most in life?” With each consecutive question, I uncap another pen, filling the planner with a rainbow of color.

This is not just another planner, it’s my new Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner from The Dragon Tree. I have written before about my struggles to commit to my weekly planner. Although, I love the concepts of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the planning tools, though effective, felt a little too linear for me. I wanted something that was more like an art journal. I feel like I have found it with this new tool.

The Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner starts with probing questions about core values and your vision for the future in many key areas of your life. It then uses a mind mapping technique for goal setting in 1, 3, and 10-year intervals. The ritualize section helps you break down your dream into actionable steps, then monthly and weekly calendars help you stay focused on those long-term goals on a day to day basis.

I am really excited about using this book because I feel like I can use my right brain and left brain together. I feel like there is plenty of room to make my planner colorful and personalized. More importantly, it fits in my backpack, so I can use it review it often.

Bee in My Bonnet

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I jab at the keyboard like the keys have offended me. It’s 7:30 pm, and I am sitting in the Miami heat having a cup of coffee as I try to override the mounting irritation. I need to complete a couple projects this weekend, but I am currently angry at a particularly rude individual. The individual was not rude to me per se, but rather rude adjacent, attacking a peer and disparaging others.

As the debate regarding the appropriateness of the individual’s behavior percolated, I found myself irritated that such a debate was even taking place. I try to stay calm because I know it is my personal bias rearing its ugly head. I am irritated because I know that if I had behaved that way, retribution would have been swift and from multiple sources. Although I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, such behavior would be deemed inexcusable. I would have been taught a lesson. I would have been put back in line, roughly if necessary. Yet, I am supposed to make accommodations for others who are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions. I struggle to take the higher road that would not be extended to me.

Perhaps tough love begets tough love. I was always taught that tough love was the best way to handle inappropriate behavior, and I experienced it first hand when I had a bad bipolar episode five years ago. But is tough love really the answer? Obviously, I still have some unresolved resentment to the method. My hatred for the participants bubbles just below the surface. There is a trust that has be broken, and perhaps, it will never be repaired.

It did, however, modify my behavior. I learned how to feel one way, but behave another, at least until I could process the emotions at a later time. Sometimes it feels dishonest, even if courteous. But, isn’t that maturity? So here I am, trying to focus on what I need to do, despite the irritating rage swirling inside me.

The key is recognizing that my perception of reality is just that, a perception. My anger was triggered not by the event, but by what the event represented to me. I take a few more deep breaths. My mind is still not convinced. I am still not ready to let it go, but at least I have some space between my emotions and my response. I know in a day or two I will be fine, the incident far behind me. The trigger, well that is a different story. Perhaps there is some damage that can’t be repaired. At least I can choose how to respond.

A New Journal: A Timeless Perspective

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I remove the cellophane wrapping from my new journal, and open it to the first line page. There I write today’s date July 14, 2017. I also record today’s date on the first page of the old journal, just below the date Oct 23, 2016. Nine months was a long run for a single journal. I suppose it’s a testament to how busy I have been. My journaling was limited to a short fifteen-minute blurb while drinking my morning coffee.

There is only one page left in the journal, and I will use it today. After, I open my new journal and on the first three pages, I will copy my personal mission statement and the basic principles from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I copy them into the front of each journal, so I can review them often.

As I have already revealed my personal mission statement in a previous post, I will enumerate the basic principles of The Artist’s Way here:

  1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
  2. There is an underlying, indwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves.
  3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
  4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
  5. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
  6. The refusal to be creative is counter to our true nature.
  7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction
  8. As we open our creative channel to our creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
  9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
  10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move towards our divinity.

I return to these principles whenever I find myself placing my own creative expression low on my priority list. Sometimes I get so task oriented that I forget about quality of life. It is pointless to complete task after task, to achieve financial and career goals, without nurturing your soul.

I hope these 10 principles will help inspire some of my creative friends out there in the blogosphere.

Slow Assassin

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I am convinced someone is paying my personal trainer to kill me. Oh wait, I am paying my personal training to kill me . . . slowly . . . very slowly . . . one thirty-minute appointment at a time.

I was run over by a truck while biking on New Year’s Day 2013. The accident left me with a broken hip, fracture pelvis and fractured tail bone. I was in the hospital for 28 days, and it took me four months before I was able to walk without assistance. Even then, I needed to medicate for the pain and limit the length of my activity. It was a long slow healing process. It took years to gain full mobility without pain.

Those injuries, and the slow recovery, curtail my otherwise active lifestyle. I gained 50 pounds as I became more sedentary, and of course, I lost most of my muscle tone.

This year, my goal is to be more active and to get stronger. I try to eat healthy more often, but to be honest, losing weight has not been the primary goal. I simply want the freedom to be active without feeling pain or feeling exhausted. Each week, my trainer pushes me a little harder, and I get a little stronger.

Emotional recovery is like that, too. It is usually a slow process. At first you will need a lot of assistance, and when you first try to stand on your own, it will hurt each time you use your muscles in new ways. The effort will leave you exhausted. When you finally reach your comfort zone, you will have to start stretching yourself, pushing yourself through harder and harder exercises until you are confident you can handle anything. At times, the process will make you grumpy even hostile. You may swear someone is trying to kill you, but your tough. You can handle it . . . thirty minutes at a time.

Handling Productivity Pressure

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The ground is covered with recent rainfall and the air is thick with humidity as I walk to the Green Library on the Florida International University campus. I have a morning shift at the Center for Excellence in Writing.

I am definitely feeling the pressure today. Not stress. Just productivity pressure. I have multiple projects that I want to complete this summer and work that I need to catch up on after two days of jury duty.

In the past, I would have felt guilty for taking the time to blog, or I wouldn’t have blogged at all, deeming it a self-indulgent, low priority on my list of tasks to complete. I have since come to realize that my writing is not self-indulgent. Writing is an integral part of who I am. As my fingers fly over the keyboard the pressure starts to subside.

I start to tick of the days tasks in my mind. First, I need to respond to student emails. This has the highest priority because they are working on a literary research paper, and for many of them, this is the first time they have ever had to do academic writing of this type. I break their assignments down into manageable steps and give them feedback alone the way. Students have my email and my phone number, and I try to respond to any questions or concerns as soon as they arise. Before going on jury duty, I worked with the writing center at Miami Dade College to make sure each student could have a one on one appointment with a writing tutor during my absence.

Once I answer emails, grade assignments, and input grades into the gradebook, I need to move on to my own research and writing. I am working on a scholarly article to submit for publication. I have already read 25 peer reviewed articles and compiled my notes into “literary review” spreadsheets. I now have two weeks to finish 2,500 to 3, 750 words before my appointment with a peer who will help me review the structure and content. Even as a writing coach and an English instructor, I use peer review to improve my writing.

In addition to the academic article, I am doing research for a tutoring conference this October. A couple of my peers and I will be presenting on a panel, addressing our roles as mentors as well as writing coaches. Our work together may also result in an article for publication, but our main concern right now is preparing for our presentation.

During the break between summer semester and fall semester, I would like to record some video lectures to improve the online content of the blended courses I teach. I pay close attention to student feedback. If my students seem to have difficulty understanding something, I automatically assume there is a gap in the instruction that needs to be filled, and I look for ways to fill it.

Finally, there are my own projects. My poor neglected novel and Crafting the Message instructional videos I would like to produce. Those two must wait patiently.

I guess my leisurely summer is over. I enjoyed a slower pace during June, but now it is time to kick it into high gear. I usually work well under pressure as long as a stay organized, and I start early. I also make it a habit of breaking things down into manageable steps as well, just like I teach my students. The deadline for my scholarly article is not until September, but here I am, working on the first draft in July. I know when the Fall semester hits, those 50-60 hour work weeks will start.

I have also learned that I need to take time to be creative. Writing, painting, drawing, and art journaling can help keep the creative impulse fresh and creativity is key to productivity. I also recognize that I also have to exercise to relieve the tension (I look forward to my appointment with the trainer later today). Finally, rest is also important. It’s funny how exhausted you can get from thinking. It’s a different kind of tired than the physical exhaustion you feel from manual labor or exercise. Mental exhaustion leaves you feel tense instead of relaxed. The gears in your mind seem to slow down and then screech to a halt as you try to push yourself beyond your capacity. That’s when I read or watch a little Netflix.

So, there you have it. The messy hodgepodge that is swimming around in my mind today. I feel ready to face the day and tackle each task one by one.

What about you? How do you handle productivity pressure? How do you keep it from turning into more destructive forms of stress?2013-09-10_1378814124