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Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

My intent for this discussion is to build on an article I published called How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. The focus here will be on self-awareness, critical thinking and a new idea I am developing called “Swarming the Brain”.

I will use methods and frameworks from Systems Thinking V2.0, the Red Team Handbook from the Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking, and Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. I will then demonstrate tools and techniques from these frameworks to show how you can improve your critical thinking abilities, as well as self-awareness.

4 Simple rules for self-awareness

Similar to how I introduced How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, here I will introduce another version of it leading to greater self-awareness. In this version, there are four simple rules for self-awareness. These simple rules will move us from information to understanding.

Simple rules moving us from information to understanding:

  1. Observe. Sense information (think of nodes within a network).
  2. Orient. This is the process of making sense of the information (think of the process of connecting nodes within a network).
  3. Decide. Thinking is introduced to connect the nodes (the connection of nodes within a network is the creation of knowledge).
  4. Act. When we connect knowledge we attain understanding or wisdom (think of the emergence of a network or the edges of a network).

    For each simple rule, I will provide both a question and a set of tools or frameworks to use.

    The question should trigger the rule, where the tool or framework will lead to an emerging network. I use simple questions with simple rules because there is power in simple.

    Sometimes the best way to get at the heart of the matter (especially in a complex world) is to ask a simple question:

    Rule #1 — Observe: The Unexamined Life

    Observe (Awareness or Awakening)

    • Question: What lens do I see reality through?
    • Tool(s): Systems Thinking V2.0 (DSRP) and Who Am I?

    The process of improving self-awareness through introspection takes discipline to look inward to examine our own thoughts, feelings and motives.[1] Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection, as well as the ability to be more enabled as a critical thinker and more aware of your own biases. It is through this understanding of the individual that an expanded world view opens.

    By reflecting on our world view, we are essentially trying to understand our mental models. The Cabrera’s inform us,

    “Mental models shape our understanding of everything around us. The goal of systems thinking is the continuous improvement and refinement of our mental models such that they more closely reflect the real world. The closer the mental model to reality, the more useful it is to us.”

    The Cabrera’s discovered DSRP in order to interrogate our mental models. They remind us that our understanding of reality is just an approximation. Following the advice of the Cabrera’s, I used a combination of DSRP and a Red Team exercise to understand my own mental model.

    One of the first techniques we learn in Red Team training (instructed by the UFMCS Center for Applied Critical Thinking) is an exercise called Who Am I? This exercise requires reflection and introspection of your personal narratives and dynamics, culture, religion, education, and critical watershed moments that shape your worldview and values. Let’s briefly examine the method for this exercise.

    • Step 1. You must first recall seminal life changing events and moments that shape who you are. To do this you must conduct a disciplined self-reflection study of your life.
    • Step 2. Share your Who Am I? in a group setting or with another individual. The people or person listening should not speak or interrupt you in any way. So find someone who is good at active listening and explain to them specifically what you need prior to beginning the exercise.

    This is also a great team building exercise. You will find that you truly get to know each other on a deep level by simply conducting this exercise.

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    With that said, let’s a couple powerful tools offered by the Cabrera’s in Systems Thinking v2.0: Thinkquiry and Plectica.

    Thinkquiry

    Thinkquiry is the term the Cabrera’s use for thinking differently about how we ask questions from a systems thinking approach. What’s different about Thinkquiry is the underlying logic of DSRP which is multivalent. Traditional question logic is born of Socratic Logic (which is bivalent logic) and typically employs such rubrics as the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why).

    DSRP Logic expands on this bivalent Logic which means that these kinds of questions can still be asked, but we are encouraged to penetrate deeper into our topic and ask deeper questions. [2] The following illustrates some of these questions:

      Plectica

      It is a visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking v2.0. I personally use this free software daily to visualize, analyze and synthesize concepts to gain a greater understanding of ideas or concepts in their entirety. The image below represents the creativity this system offers us as I used it to create my swarming idea.

        I also recommend watching the following video for a deeper understanding of Systems Thinking V2.0 — DSRP:

        By thinking meta-cognitively (thinking about thinking) we are able reshape connections in our brain and reshape our mental models. You actually reshaped connections in your brain by simply watching the Systems Thinking v2.0 video.

        Rule #2 — Orient: Hang a question mark on things

        Rule #2: Orient

        • Question: What would have to exist for something to be true? Or why must something be true?
        • Tool(s): Simple Rules and the String of Pearls (Think IF-AND-THEN)

        In Flock Not Clock, the Cabrera’s provide an example of using simple rules leading to emergent behavior in an organization. This is a powerful technique and is the foundation for this entire article (as this article is essentially simple rule for an emergent behavior). Let’s see how this works.

        Step 1: Identify your future state

        Step 2: Identify simple rules

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        • Rule #1: Observe
        • Rule #2: Orient
        • Rule #3: Decide
        • Rule #4: Act

        Step 3: Emergent behavior (What can we actually see)

        We learn to observe the real world via a new mental model, orient to reality, make good decisions, and most importantly… to act (while receiving and reflecting on continuous feedback).

        The String of Pearls technique can be found in the Red Team Handbook. It is a way to ensure teams consider unintended consequences. It is a tool to help prevent “wishing” or “assuming away the problem” and to identify weaknesses in thinking or a plan.

        Moreover, similar to the domains within Bloom’s Taxonomy, this technique uses domains. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides three domains: cognitive domain (reflects knowledge); affective domain (reflects emotion); physical domain (reflects the body). Let’s further examine these three domains:

        • The Cognitive Domain: Reflects knowledge — the mind completes levels of understanding of a concept; building to the next higher level of understanding. To me, this is like visualizing the Rubik’s Cube as a brain.
          • The Affective Domain: Reflects emotion — our attitude and awareness. We feel levels of emotion about recognizing and synthesizing information.
          • The Physical Domain. Reflects the body — we connect mind (Cognitive Domain) to body events in a way that generates muscle memory for an action.

          Events (also known as actions) are called 1st order effects and occur in the Physical Domain. 2nd order effects represent how we feel about the event (Affective Domain). 3rd order effects represent thoughts about the event (Cognitive Domain).

          Furthermore, cascading effects follow a chain of actual causality (If-Then) as they occur in the Physical Domain — where one event precipitates the next. [3] Events subsequent to 2nd and 3rd order effects which precede them are unintended consequences of the first event. However, they are not caused by the original event. By identifying unintended consequences, we can minimize the likelihood of overlooking something.

          The following three questions are key to the String of Pearls technique:

          1. Will your plan or actions produce a cascade of other events? If so, what could they be?
          2. What message or information is being conveyed by the plan or action and to whom is it being conveyed?
          3. How will the message be interpreted by others?

          Rule #3 — Decide: Crisis hunters

          Rule #3: Decide

          • Question: Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
          • Tool(s): Scout Wheel

          Nassim Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness,

          “In the markets, there is a category of traders who have inverse rare events, for whom volatility is often a bearer of good news. These traders lose money frequently, but in small amounts, and make money rarely, but in large amounts. I call them crisis hunters. I am happy to be one of them.”

          Taleb goes on to inform us of an asymmetry in knowledge. In his discussion on why statisticians don’t detect rare events, he provides the following example,

          “Common statistical method is based on the steady augmentation of the confidence level, in nonlinear proportion to the number of observations. That is, for an n times increase in the sample size, we increase our knowledge by the square root of n. Suppose I am drawing from an urn containing red and black balls. My confidence level about the relative proportion of red and black balls, after 20 drawings is not twice the one I have after 10 drawings; it is merely multiplied by the square root of 2 (that is, 1.41).”

          Taleb continue with the following remarks,

          “Where statistics becomes complicated, and fails us, is when we have distributions that are not symmetric, like the urn above. If there is a very small probability of finding a red ball in an urn dominated by black ones, then our knowledge about the absence of red balls will increase very slowly — more slowly than at the expected square root of n rate.”

          Here is a key point in his discussion,

          “On the other hand our knowledge of the presence of red balls will dramatically improve once one of them is found. This asymmetry of knowledge is not trivial.”

          What does this mean?

          What if red balls were randomly distributed as well? As Taleb informs us that we can never get a true composition of the urn. He provides an example of an urn with a hollow bottom, and as you are sampling from it, a mischievous child (without you knowing about it) is adding balls of one color or another.

          Taleb remarks,

          “My inference thus becomes insignificant. I may infer that the red balls represent 50% of the urn while the mischievous child, hearing me, would swiftly replace all the red balls with black ones. This makes much of our knowledge derived through statistics quite shaky.”

          So, what’s the point?

          Taleb points out that we take past history as a single homogeneous sample believing we have significantly increased our knowledge of the future by observing the sample of the past.

          Taleb asks two questions at the end of his example:

          1. What if vicious children were changing the composition of the urn
          2. In other words, what if things have changed?

          The point of this discussion is that things do in fact change. As self-aware critical thinkers, we should not be worried about increasing our knowledge about the absence of red balls… we should seek to improve our knowledge of the presence of red balls. Thus, we should never forget that things will change.

          This brings me back to my earlier discussion on changing how we phrase a question. A simple change in how we phrase a question allows us to completely change our perspective and potentially bring about a paradigm shift. The change here is the following:

          Change “absence” of red balls to “presence” of red balls. Thus, you seek to become a crisis hunter — an asymmetry in knowledge.

          For those of you who are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and have read How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, go back and read my section titled SDWFAP.

          • Scouting (S): Think like a Scout — the drive to see what’s really there.
          • Dog (D): Find the Dog who isn’t barking.
          • Was (W): What would have to exist for something to be true?
          • Frightened (F): What’s not right in Front of us?
          • At (A): Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for hypothesis to be true.
          • Patterns (P): Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

          Moreover, we can visualize using SDWFAP to swarm our brain. Using simple rules similar to how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would using swarming tactics: Sense — Decide — Act. Let’s see how we could “Swarm the Self-Aware & Critical Thinking Brain”:

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            Rule #4 — Act: Success = Sensors + Feedback

            Rule #4: Act

            • Question: Where is the dog who isn’t barking?
            • Tool(s): Swarming the Brain Tactics

            If we change our behavior we change our brain. “Swarming the Brain” is priming the brain to learn and we can do this through the development of sensors (or triggers), exercise, nutrition, reading and learning, the development of a morning routine, and receiving (and reflecting on) continuous positive feedback. We must also identify key indicators of change. These allow us the ability to assess change and the ability to place key sensors in the form of Indicators (or Expected Change).

            Moreover, the first rule is the most crucial — Observe. Let’s examine this from a parent-child relationship. If the parent is not aware then the child will not be aware. This is why something must serve as the sensor or trigger to bring about awareness.

            This reminds me of how I use my favorite iOS application — WikiLinks Smart Wikipedia Reader. This app mimics the way I think as it maps and connects concepts and narratives.

            For example, if we are only aware of the term ADHD as a diagnosis of a Disorder, then we will not be aware of any additional knowledge. But if we are aware of additional knowledge, and aware to the fact that ADHD is not a Disorder, then we start to see more links, then more links, then a paradigm shift takes place.

            Here, a parent must first shift their perspective from,

            “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Disorder — Then my child will receive Negative Feedback.” to “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Superpower — Then my child will receive Positive Feedback.”

            Once the shift takes place, they should establish Indicators (Expected Change) and set the conditions so that the swarm can proceed.

            The following are what I call Swarming the Brain Tactics:

            • Exercise and Nutrition: Dr. John Ratey wrote about one of my favorite topics — Neurogenesis in one of my favorite books Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He found that, as we age, our brain is still forming new brain cells and can change its structure and function.
            • Reading and Learning: Through reading and learning, we can reshape our brain as it brings in new challenges and keeps the child cognitively active.
            • Morning Routine: Establishing a morning routine allows a child (and you!) the ability to wake up before anyone else, kick start your metabolism, and provides you time to read and exercise (I do them together by listening to audio-books).

            Finally, we all have the ability to improve our self-awareness. If we follow the simple rules outlined in this discussion, we have the chance to improve and become better (more self-aware) critical thinkers. Thus, we have a chance to bring about an intelligent emergent behavior.

            “People often do not realize that they have a chance, so they miss it.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

            To learn more about these methods/frameworks, I recommend you read the following:

            1. Swarming the Brain: The ADHD OODA Loop. I discuss this topic in greater detail.
            2. How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. I discuss each framework in this article.
            3. Systems Thinking v2.0. Dr. Derek and Laura Cabrera discuss simple rules of systems thinking — Distinctions-Systems-Relationships-Perspectives (DSRP) in two books I highly recommend: Systems Thinking Made Simple and Flock Not Clock. I also recommend using Plectica — their free visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking V2.0. Nearly every image I use in this article was created using Plectica.
            4. The University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking. I highly recommend reading the free Red Team Handbook published by the UFMCS.
            1. Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. Frans P.B. Osinga provides the most in-depth description and understanding of the OODA Loop in Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. I also highly recommend reading The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA Loop.

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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            Reference

            More by this author

            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

            Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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            Last Updated on January 13, 2020

            How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

            How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

            I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

            That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

            Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

            In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

            The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

            For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

            If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

            To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

            I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

            A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

            I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

            As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

            What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

            In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

            I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

            It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

            Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

            But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

            Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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            Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

            How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

            The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

            In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

            She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

            And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

            1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

            What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

            You’ve gotta have great communication!

            But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

            The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

            To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

            For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

            Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

            In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

            Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

            Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

            Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

            • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
            • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
            • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
            • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
            • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
            • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

            When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

            The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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            2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

            Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

            We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

            Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

            I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

            Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

            Ask your gremlins:

            • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

            Then ask:

            • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
            • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

            When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

            • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
            • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

            For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

            If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

            So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

            Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

            Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

            3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

            Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

            Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

            You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

            Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

            If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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            Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

            I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

            Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

            Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

            Ask your fear:

            • What are you trying to protect me from?

            Once you answer that, ask:

            • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

            If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

            My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

            • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

            For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

            Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

            • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

            And then:

            • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

            Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

            And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

            What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

            Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

            • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

            Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

            Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

            At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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            4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

            Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

            Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

            Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

            • What is something good that happened today?
            • What made me laugh or smile today?
            • Who am I grateful for today?
            • What am I grateful for today?
            • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

            Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

            Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

            5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

            One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

            I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

            No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

            When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

            So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

            Here are your instructions:

            1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
            2. Open your journal.
            3. Pick up your pen.
            4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

            What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

            Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

            Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

            In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

            It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

            Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

            You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

            Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

            And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

            More Journaling Ideas

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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