Today we are excited to have our very first guest writer at Life’s Little Inspirations. Lori Hoeck is a friend, blogger and writer that I have come to admire since I met her for her commitment to helping others improve their mental strength in her blog Think Like a Black Belt. I’d love it if you would go check her site out and say hi when you finish reading. Oh! And don’t miss her free e-book Think Like A Black Belt: Take Charge of Your Own Safety. I read it and thought it was great. Now…about clearing out our dirty little minds…Lori?
As an Oklahoma farm girl, wheat planting and harvesting were the highlights of the year. After cutting all the wheat with a combine, my uncle tackled the leftover, straw-like stubble with several farm implements – plow, disc plow, or harrow. Without the preparation of the land, the next planting of wheat would be difficult at best and not much would grow anyway.
Since those farm days, I’ve realized many farming principles apply to life. Imagine what our brains must go through if our creativity has to struggle through our mental stubble and push past our clumped up clods of mindless routine.
I know how it makes me feel – cranky. And cranky doesn’t make me a good writer, teacher, or friend.
Clearing the Mental Farmland
So how do we clear the inner landscape to make a fresh start where creativity and insights flourish?
Well, we don’t have to put on overalls, stick a piece of straw in our mouths to chew on, or jump on our John Deere tractors. BUT we do have to apply some rut busting effort.
The crux of the matter is we have to get unstuck. “Busting up” our daily activity – much as my uncle did with the land – helps us see things anew.
Routine Busters – Change things up
Our perceptions come from our experiences.
Fun, play, surprise, spontaneity, and changing up the routine in small ways helps refresh our perspectives because they alter our experiences.
Here are some starter ideas:
- Fix breakfast food at dinner and vice versa
- Find a new way home from work or school
- Walk backwards around your house for a few minutes
- Force yourself to listen to music you don’t appreciate and find something about it you like
- Go to a new restaurant that serves food you normally don’t eat, perhaps sushi
- Fix a completely new recipe or build something with your kids toys
As young people, we crave the new, the next vista, the better party. As we get older, keeping things fresh may seem less needed, but it still helps reboot our view of ourselves and the world.
Emotion Busters — Stop reacting and start responding
When something negative happens, how we cope either drains us or motivates us.
When I let other people and situations create a reaction in me, they become the controllers, not me. I’ve heard it said our happiness is directly proportional to how much we feel in control. If that’s true, when I let other people or situations get to me enough to spark a negative emotion, the result is a double whammy– Feeling bad plus feeling out of control about it.
Choosing to respond instead of react breaks us out of this cycle:
- Facing bad drivers ? Let anger go. Find reasons that justify their behavior – what would make you ever drive like that – pregnant wife about to deliver; rushing home to stop kid’s suicide?
- Stuck in traffic? Expand your options beyond irritation. Listen to an audio book. Find another application for your Droid phone. Use a hands-free set and call someone. Say a prayer. Create a rap song. Consider doing at-home work or finding alternate transportation.
- Feeling depressed over a situation? Go beyond the re-play of the cause. Realize someday you will see this as stepping stone to something else. Tragedy can wake us up to those around us. Failure is a word we usually fear, but when you see it as part of the success process, its sting lessens.
By responding in these ways instead of reacting, we gain a greater, thus fresher, view of the world.
Connect the Dots – See the missing links
To see something differently, you must experience it differently
Look at something you rarely notice anymore, like a tree, your neighbor’s car, or a toy. Don’t let the naming of it define it for you. See the parts not the whole. Notice details in color, shape, and size. See all the gradients in texture. How does the object look from varying distances, angles, and lighting? What if this was in a different environment or how does it affect its environment? How does it make you feel?
Once you learn to break something down like this to see with fresh eyes and beyond your usual perception ruts, open your mind to how this new insight applies to other items, to problem solving, or to relationships. With enough practice, you will start to see the connecting dots that allow you to leap from problem to solution, from thought to product, from ideas to application, from concept to completion.
My husband Greg is a natural at busting up routines and seeing with fresh eyes. I joke with him that he can connect the dots that don’t exist. He lives so far “outside the box” he just smiles and says, “What box?”
After Thanksgiving, he talked to two serving ladies in a university cafeteria about overeating over the holidays. They ruefully mentioned how many dumplings they’d eaten over the break. Greg smiled and nodded, “Yes, dumplings are just like Long Island Ice Teas that way.”
Of course, the women gave him the familiar “Huh?” look he often receives. He then added, “Both dumplings and Long Island Ice Teas are so good, you don’t know you’ve had too many until it’s too late.”
Both women then nodded and laughed, finally understanding he wasn’t comparing the two items, but he was comparing the “Oh, no” feeling of over indulging with them. He connected dots they would have never otherwise seen.
Greg keeps things interesting with these kinds of observations. He knows how to “bust up” the ground in our lives for new, rich, and fun experiences. It only makes sense, though. Our last name is Hoeck. It means “Tiller of the soil.”