On unconventional work: acceptance

So you want to be a writer or healer or musician, artist of some kind or creative, conscious entrepreneur? Hey, me too!  Welcome, you’ve come to the right place.  My goal is to ultimately find peace and acceptance with choosing an unconventional path.

You can read my first post on On Choosing an Unconventional Path and Desires that Go Against the Grain that defines the sort of world-thought that I think a lot of us grow up with.  I closed that post with some guidance I received that felt more true.SECRET

Since I graduated college and my adult work life began over 7 years ago, I have been dealing with extreme unhappiness in my work-life.  I have never worked anywhere I felt like I fit in, could be myself, where I was surrounded with people like myself, or where my work was meaningful, self-directed.  I have not yet had the privilege to do work that is truly in service of something/someone that felt worthy of devoting the majority of my waking hours to or tapped into my skills, talents, strengths (or otherwise just didn’t feel like hell).  Ever felt this way before? Based on the number of life coaches out there, I am guessing being stuck in an ill-fitting, meaningless job is a fairly common, if not always openly discussed phenomenon.

Of course, each job has taught me different things and likely not the things that you would think you put on a resume, but more like the importance of being humble, keeping your integrity in less than ideal circumstances, hearing from inner guidance when it is time to move on and listening to that more quickly.  But I persist in believing that work exists that I can do that would not only make me happier, but also provide a true service to those who need it.  The only reason why I persist in this belief is because it doesn’t go away – either the belief or the nagging notion that I am not doing what I should be doing.

I realize I am talking about a feeling, an inkling, an inner knowing and nothing concrete I can point to, but the discontent and knowing is as real to me as my hand, or I would have stayed at one of my first jobs from 5-7 years ago, and it would have been easier than dealing with the constant discomfort of feeling different, of feeling a need to do something else, something more, and never knowing WHAT.

So when I am feeling hopeful, I look to people who seem to have already done it.  People who already are healers, artists, writers – and not generally famous people, but small people.  Famous people are too easy to admire from afar and never believe I can be like them.  I have a few people who I imagine I might want to be like, and I follow their work online.  I know a few real life people, too, but not enough of the kind of work I think I may want to do.  It is still ill-defined, and I am still working on it, but I am continuing to hone into it.

The people I admire online are a website designer and freelancer Paul Jarvis, copywriter and e-course teacher Ash Ambirge, copywriter and writer and speaker and mental health activist Esme Wang, small business academy for entrepreneurs owner Carrie Klassen, career coach Laura Simms, and marketing guru and life coach and founder of B-School Marie Forleo.  The people I admire in real life are my Healing Touch Practitioner and a family friend who started their own draft-house recently in a small Texas town.

I suppose they all hold keys to what I might do next.  Who do you admire?  And do you think that they hold clues to who you might become?

I am still looking for the license figuratively and quite literally to do something different.  I keep imagining there will be a degree to give me permission to do something else, start my own business.  But I know the faster (and perhaps only) route to where I need to be is in acceptance and allowing myself to feel and affirm my unconventional desires.

So this post is a start.  I am putting my thoughts and ideas out into the world in written form.  That is something for me.  What would be “something” for you?

Lastly, a bit more food for thought and salve for your soul if you feel like you are in the same boat I am:

“Learn to love and accept yourself for who you are right now.  Love all the things you have already created.  You do not need to be perfect before you do your life’s work; accomplishing your life’s work will help you grow and evolve.  As you love and accept who you are right now, you make it possible to move in new directions.

“You have been doing the best you know how.  Start appreciating yourself for who you are rather than thinking about who you wish you were.  This will help you move forward more easily.  Is there anything you have been criticizing yourself for lately? If so, for one day, every time you think of this thing see if you can thank yourself for all of the good things you are doing instead.”

Affirmation (and yes I’ve started using these) “I love and accept myself for who I am right now.”

This is from a book I’m reading, Creating Money.

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Finding Your Life’s Work through Knowing Who You Are

I took the Gallup StrengthsFinder test a couple of months ago. I took it as a part of my desire to become more self-aware about who I am and what I want in hope of defining and creating the work I would like to do next.

How the hell do I find my life path? Am I even getting close?

Why I took the Gallup StrengthsFinder Test

Last night, I watched a Marie Forleo episode on How to find your special gift, even if you don’t think you have one, and so I read/skimmed the book she recommended, “Now, Discover Your Strengths.” The book outlines that they have come up with 36 profiles of strengths that are commonly seen from their sample study group, which was admittedly quite large. They liken the 36 profiles to the 88 keys of the piano. It doesn’t make every sound, but you can still create some beautiful music.

The Limitations of Labels

After taking the test, they identified my top 5 themes as Intellection, Deliberative, Ideation, Individualism, Connectedness.

Part of me takes these kind of tests with a grain of salt because they might be fun or accurate, but they are often not super helpful. For instance, the Meyer’s Brigg’s test calls me an INFP (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perceiving). The Fascination Advantage calls me the “Subtle Touch,” which is supposed to be how others perceive me. Dan Millman’s Life Purpose number labels me a “3” based on my birthday, which he defines as needing to express myself fully in this lifetime. For each of these test, I perhaps “am” these things in the sense that I answered the questions truthfully and this is what the test spit out. But anyone else’s definition of you will necessarily be limited.

When we are talking about labels in general, they tend to limit instead of expand. Their definitions tend to minimize. But perhaps my fascination with them is that they can (maybe) give you a starting point if you feel lost, which I have felt throughout my adult life. While tests may be a good starting point, the labels and definitions obviously cannot encompass who you are. Ultimately, I am realizing more and more it is up to us to do this ourselves, whether we take a test to help us or not.

My Gallup StrengthsFinder Test Results

So what does StrengthsFinder say my strengths mean, and do they feel accurate?

Intellection – This one means I need time for solitude and introspection, I like to think and reflect and spend a lot of time alone to make sense of things. I have a lot of mental activity going on posing myself questions and answering them. I am my own best friend, sometimes the comparison of thoughts and ideas my mind conceive to the reality of what I am actually doing lends to discontentment. Check, this is very true.

Deliberative – Frankly, I think this means I am anxious, but the test said it means that I can see the probabilities of things, like the possible outcomes of this or that and I make plans and contingency plans, so that things can feel safe and secure. This type of person is reserved, careful, serious, and all about reducing risk. Yikes, I think this does sound like me, but kinda wish it weren’t.

Individualism – This one means I get what makes people tick. I can meet and understand people deeply by paying attention to them as unique individual. Everyone is different, and I am easily able to see how and cater to that. Check, this feels right on the mark.

Ideation – I love ideas, new ways of thinking of things – making connections between disparate things makes my world rock. I love ideas that challenge, enlighten, clarify, ideas that are strange, contrary. They define an idea as a new perspective on familiar challenges. Yes, I agree that I like ideas.

Connectedness – This one is kind of spiritual. Connectedness as a strength takes the universal view that we are here for a reason and we are part of something larger, something beautiful and magnificent and mysterious. A person with this strength feels and understands deeply on a higher level that we are all in this together and what you do to others you do to yourself. In this context, the responsibility to oneself and others creates my value system – of striving to be compassionate, caring, and accepting. I do feel this is accurate – that I am sensitive to that which is unseen but is nonetheless as real as what we can see, touch, hear, feel and taste. I don’t tend to outwardly identify myself this way to others, but it feels true, nonetheless.

Moving From the Signs Pointing to Your Path to the Path Itself

As fun as all that was, where do you go next with the information you find out about yourself? Coupled with your talents and skills and values, what moves you from a slight of awareness of your strengths or gifts to actually using them, owning them, and building your life around them? I can only imagine it takes reflection and action and perhaps waiting, some serendipity, to put you on the right path, the main path of your life. I don’t know just yet.

I am certainly trying. I hope it counts for something because some days it can be so hard to sit with the knowledge that I am not where I want to be. That I know I am wasting my time where I am, yet I do not have the clarity nor the strength yet to make any real change. I am trying to trust that it will come, it will happen for me.

I am also working on being accepting of myself and being calm and not forcing it, in the vein of “effortless action.” I am hopeful that in a sort of Taoist way that being gentle with myself will bring me farther than the worry, panic or trying to force actions that really-don’t-feel-right-out-of frustration has yet gotten me.

If you are interested, you can take the test here or you can purchase the book new and it comes with a free code.

The Decision to Find Your Voice

I stood behind a wall, just out of camera view this morning as I listened to a young girl sing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” acapella in an empty school hallway.  My job was to prevent anyone from entering the hallway and interrupting the video shoot.  As I stood listening to her heartfelt expression in silent agony, the irony of me being invisible, watching on the sidelines – of the video, my job, my life – came into full view like a high contrast black and white photograph.  I felt resigned to the confines of my assigned role and relegated to do and be what others need and want from me.

The children’s stories – there was a student who wants to attend Julliard, another who write and does performance art – were like shards of mirror.  I can so easily pick them up and see myself in them.  Or just as easily I can slice a shard against my skin, cut myself down, wallow in my despair.  How did I never value my own gifts and talents for speaking, writing, action, dancing, expression when I was their age?  I have always given up.  I’d achieve some small success and then I quit.  Now that I am older and I have not developed those abilities, is it too late?

How do I move through life now to go from resigned, confined, invisible, and purposeless to being able to express my truth and who I am with courage, authenticity, and on purpose?

The space I am creating here is where I hope to find my voice and move into the “power” of speaking a word after a word,” as Margaret Atwood phrases it.  I choose to use my voice in as fully human speech as possible.

voice - atwood

I refuse to allow others to define or silence me.  I refuse to return to the familiarity of depression when I silence myself.  I choose to say yes to myself and to begin, however small with this post and this blog right here and right now.  This is my effort to show up in my own life, to use and fine and define my own voice.

How to Make Changes Stick

Have you ever tried to change a behavior but been unable to really change and make it stick? If you are tired of being wherever it is that you are but haven’t known what to do to change then this post is for you. I am personally committing to use these 5 steps to begin writing and make a change in my life for good. I watched a video interview of Marie Forleo and Todd Herman, who is the owner of Peak Performance which focuses on coaching professional athletes and executives on the inner psychology of winning. What follows is based on Todd Herman’s coaching.

First what this post will NOT help you do. This post will not help you get clear or make a decision on what it is you specifically want to change. I mention this because it’s sort of the classic case of making sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall before you embark on any kind of change, or of course that motivation to change goes out the window because it wasn’t really rooted or based in anything solid or true. Beyond that . . . let this message percolate, as I did, to see whether these techniques feels true for you.

The Biology of Change

Todd says what is happening to our actual cells as we begin to change is that they are used to being a certain way (shape, pattern, configuration) and to receiving the chemicals we give them through our repeated emotions, thoughts, and actions. For example, if we are constantly stressed, our cells are used to receiving cortisol. If we mentally make a change and the cells are receiving more serotonin, they aren’t used to it and they have to vibrate differently to accommodate the change we are making. He says this actually makes us feel uncomfortable because we are unused to the feeling. This is a good sign, don’t take it to mean you are on the wrong path and give up, it means your biology is actually changing and receiving the message of change you are sending through your thoughts and actions. Todd mentions the 3 joint Nobel Peace Prize winners in Chemistry in 2013 for their work in this area, specifically “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The Psychology of Change

I believe he begins with the biology because our biology and psychology are intricately linked and the one informs the other. In Todd’s model of change, he shows that the overlap of growth and confidence is momentum. The overlap between confidence and adventure is excitement. And the overlap between growth and a sense of adventure is where transformation occurs. He said at the center is leadership, presumably of oneself and one’s direction. Below is my illustration:

Image

To achieve the beautiful excitement, momentum, and transformation we are seeking, let’s follow the

5 Prescriptions for Change

1. Identify a clear and specific vision.

What are you trying to change? What is the new skill you are learning? What are you going after? The goal must be small, immediate and super-specific and tangible. My goal is to become a writer, and what the looks like to me is writing every day. Even more specifically, it means completing a personal essay for a writing contest due in 1 month. “Tangible” goals ask us to consider specifically, what does the goal look, taste, smell, feel, and sound like? You have to see the path and be clear and specific about what want to achieve.

2. Set trigger goals.

Trigger goals are the micro-changes we need to set up for ourselves to achieve the bigger foal. Begin to pull the thread to unravel that specific goal. Ask yourself, what is the very first behavioral action step I need to take to set myself on the path to achieve this goal? Todd’s example was to get dressed in your lulu lemon gear at home to go to yoga class. And the next step would be to step out the door.

We are talking about small wins, and believe it or not, you do receive small doses of endorphins reinforcing that you are achieving what you set out to do. My trigger goal is that I will sit down at my desk in my home office to write. The next step is to actually begin to form the paragraphs, ideas, and to write. But I experience a small success just by sitting down at the desk in my writing room instead of doing the laundry instead, and just by sitting down I infinitely increase the potential likelihood of going on to continue writing.

3. Set improvement goals

Ok so since I am only sitting at the computer now and not yet writing that essay, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be? Well, you set an improvement goal. Think numbers with a date attached. This is like a before and after weight loss photo. An actual visual photo album of you making the changes is great. It can also be a document, but the idea is go from X to X+5 by date. My goal is to go from no writing an erratic writing to writing 5 days out of the week. Plot it on a chart. This give you a self-feedback loop to reinforce the behavior, but it also gives you information. Suppose I never finish that essay by the deadline? It’s not a judgment, it’s just information. And I can see where I went wrong, maybe I only wrote once a week, and I can set another improvement goal from there.

4. Gather a tribe around yourself.

Ok this one bothers me a little bit, but I see its importance. Todd discussed this in the context of finding a coach, mentor or friend who’s been there before you. It can be an online community, but people need people to gather around them and cheer them on, an audience to report your trigger goals and to share your achievement setbacks with. For me, this is my mother and husband who are there for me. But they have not been where I am going, and so this is definitely a limitation. I have been considering taking a class to join a “community” and meet people who are working in writing themselves.

I have also heard this step described as creating an environment with the least resistance. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” according to Jim Rohn. The idea is to learn through osmosis and to surround oneself with people who are in alignment with your vision as a growth accelerator and reinforcement.

5. Script your setbacks.

Todd advocates for the “positive power of negative preparation.” So what am I going to do when I encounter challenge? How do I avoid being derailed from my goal, even when I fail or I’m rejected or criticized? The answer is, I prepare mentally ahead of time and grease the slide in my own head for how I will handle defeat, negative emotions, and setbacks when things get tough. In this way, I don’t need to think about what I will do in the moment of hardship, it’s just there for me. And this is so incredibly powerful because it is when I am at my lowest that it is the hardest for me to follow through with change when the easier thing to do is to revert to a familiar, easier behavior. Scripting your setbacks helps to move you out of the groove where you easily give in to temptation and continue on with your usual behaviors. For example, when I am asked to watch a movie in the evening instead of write, the answer is “no, thank you.” Not the usual well maybe, ok just for a little bit and then I never even sit down at my desk. He says “Mental toughness” is knowing what to do when things aren’t going well.

Check out the original 25 minute video interview, which was amazing.

About

Hi, welcome! I’m Jayne Anne Ammar.

“You can never really understand a person until you climb right into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

I am a 31-year-old married woman with one daughter, living in Houston, TX. My day job is as at a non-profit organization. My plans are to become a full-time writer and help set the stage for others to create meaning in their lives by being a witness and providing a space to do so.

Email me at jayneanneammar@yahoo.com or find me here:

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=86175720&trk=spm_pic

For our daughters

My decision to get a degree in Education and my string of jobs of office work following graduation have been my one great “failure of courage,” as Sue Monk Kidd, author of Secret Life of Bees, recently acknowledged of her own early career choice to become a nurse.  I have been pussy-footing around in a crap receptionist job since October 2013.  I complain, I whine, I make myself sick with depression and rage and frustration and desperation, but I feel like I am seeing finally after so many years of “searching” a tiny crack of light.  See, I spoke with a career intuitive about my “path,” my purpose in life.  And she said, I was a healer, which made sense to some extent and a writer, a creative.  All of which is fine, and to some extent I already knew because let’s face it, who doesn’t often know the things that are true deep in their hearts but are just too afraid to acknowledge or take action on or are stuck in some other way because of something else.

Now, interestingly, this crack of light did not come after I spoke with her, and I think that is as it should be because of course we have to find our own ways in life, and no one can tell you what to do – you have to uncover and walk the path yourself.  I don’t even remember  know what sparked the thought to look into free-lance writing.  But Monday morning rolls around and as I have been asking for a clear and direct direction to get me out of the hell that is my front desk office reception job, I demanded in frustration and from a deep low to be given direct guidance about what to do next in my career, for my job, for money – something so obvious I cannot miss it.  And you know what I got?  Not that same day, but the next morning driving to work, I heard on the radio, “Good things come to those who wait…”  I mean quite literally.  It was a commercial on the radio and I quickly changed the channel to try to find music, and I got the exact same blip.  Which take it as you will, but I laughed and was overwhelmed and turned off the radio and was just in wonder.

So I am waiting in my dead-end job for a bit.  I am testing out this idea, trying on for size so-to-speak the idea of starting my own business and becoming a free-lance writer.  It feels good, and it’s the first thing in a long time that has made me hopeful.  See I came home, after reading entirely too much on other people’s blogs, one of which is really good and I highly recommend, Leaving Work Behind.  I come home and my daughter, who is 10 seemed to immediately sense my mood and react positively.  I am often depressed and no matter how hard we try to keep our emotions to ourselves and think we are doing our best, we affect those around us deeply and intimately.  I have been fearing lately that my depression and anger is fueling my own daughter’s seemingly negative reactions to her own life.  And perhaps I take on too much credit, as so many mothers do, but all you can do is be your very best self and I know I have not really been that, despite how hard and how far I have come.  My personal growth has been real, and it is tempting to say why could I not have come to a place of greater clarity earlier, but I won’t go there.  I am only so grateful to have a sliver, a crack of light to keep my eyes on.

The career intuitive said one thing I know to be absolutely true.  I must do this – I must find my voice and my path and my work not just for myself but for my daughter.  I will not fail her – she sees me and she is getting older and she is beginning to understand.  I do not want to be a coward in her eyes, her mother, her role model for better or for worse.  I have always, since she was a toddler, heard my own words in her mouth.  I wrote a poem about it when I was in college, which was published in their literary magazine. (See, I am capable of even creative writing! I have to talk myself up some to get going here.)  And my intention now is to set a powerful, strong example for my daughter.  I will not continue to pass on a legacy of powerlessness and cowardice.  And it is funny how you can just know something so totally with no concrete way to justify it or prove it or show it, but to know with ever ounce in you it is true and important.  That is how I know this about myself and my relationship to my daughter.

And the thing to which I say “I’ll do as I please, thank you” to the career intuitive is the part where she told me because of numerology, etc. the timing of my coming into my own real work will be in 4 years.  I refuse to accept that.  Maybe it’s so, but I have to start somewhere and now and believe in the possibility of my own success now.  I know I am a good writer, and can get better and can do great work and succeed in this field, and perhaps even enjoy myself while I am doing it and making a decent income, an income that finally feels like enough.  And there is nothing like having your sights set on something to keep where you are in the present bearable, to have hope, to have a sense of peace, of knowing, even.  So today I begin working, making the best possible choices from here on out to achieve my goal of personal freedom through my own business and writing and setting an example of a strong, courageous woman for my daughter.