Last week I shared some thoughts on navigating big feelings and I heard back from so many that it was just what you needed. All of these emails inspired me to share a simple tool I use all the time, one that can be profoundly helpful when navigating rough terrain and new territory.
When I’m in a tough place, struggling to find my footing and re-align my life, I take some time in my journal to list three things that helped me that day. By “helped’ I just mean that it shifted something for the better, maybe my mood, my situation or my outlook. Any positive shift counts. Here are some examples of things I’ve listed in the past.
Things that Helped
- Talking to Justin
- Getting outside
- Getting more sleep
- Getting “dressed and ready”
- Finally making “that” phone call
- Finally making a decision (and trusting it)
- Facing my fear and going to the dentist
- Cancelling a meeting
- Getting to my art table
- Tea and chocolate
- Playing in my yearbook
- “Chair and stare” time
- Telling a hard truth
In my journal, I’m more specific. I’d specify the decision I made and the hard truth I told. These reflections show me not only which strategies actually helped but they also remind me that things did, even incrementally, shift for the better. As I continue this practice, I am able to notice trends and can start to build a set of strategies to call on in the future. (That is not to say that something that worked once will work every time but at least it’s a starting point.) With each daily list, I learn more about myself and what supports me.
Along with the three things that helped, I also write down three things that didn’t. These could be things that simply weren’t effective or things that brought my energy down instead of up.
Things that Did Not Help and/or Hindered
- Avoiding making “that” call (It just made me feel worse and kept it on my mind all day.)
- Sleeping in (I hate feeling like I didn’t have a morning.)
- Powering through
- Keeping to myself
- “Bad TV” (Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction but not today.)
- Going to “x” (I wish I’d trusted myself and cancelled.)
- Talking to “y” (Wow, that actually always makes me feel worse. I think I need to re-evaluate this relationship.)
With my “did not help” list, you can see I often write a little explanation. This helps me dig for discoveries. For example, if “more sleep” helps but “sleeping in” hinders, it might be smart to try going to bed earlier.
This practice shows me where to stop investing time and energy and where I can make practical and positive change. Without taking this time to reflect, I may stay unaware. I might have felt horrible all day without realizing it was because I was carrying the weight of that phone call with me. Now, I know I have to get that done. (By the way, you may have noticed “chocolate” is on both lists. When things show up in both places, I pay special attention to when and how I invite that particular thing into my day.)
The lists I’ve shared have several items each but generally I keep my daily list down to three things that helped and three things that didn’t. If I can’t come up with three, that’s fine but having that as my goal encourages me to stay with the exercise and look deeper.
This simple daily tool enhances self-awareness and helps with making supportive choices, especially when life is chaotic and you’re feeling unsettled. Each day, lean more and more into the things that help and away from the things that don’t. It’s like navigating a boat away from the rocks and towards the open sea.
Sending blessings for the journey,