There’s been a lot of talk on the internet circles I follow about focus and deep work. They’re thought provoking and often resonate with me, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling to reconcile in it all. The focus of all these discussions is usually aimed at putting your individual desires first, which doesn’t really jive with my Christian beliefs.
Chris Bowler, in his excellently considered article Deep Prayer > Deep Work, seems to demonstrate I’m not alone. In doing so he seems to capture exactly how this kind of thinking should be influencing my approach to my faith.
But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it.
So tomorrow is the first day of November or Movember as it’s come to be known. It might not be as fashionable as it used to be but I’ve always been a fan of it, anything that raises the awareness of mens health. This year I noticed they also do work towards raising the awareness of mental health in men. As someone who has been affected by mental illness (depression specifically) I decided this year was the year I would take part.
If mental illness has affected you or someone you know please do consider sponsoring my moustache!
As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.
It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.
Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.
During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.
Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.
As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.
There’s so much stuff on the internet that it seems like an impossibility that you would read something at exactly the time you need to read it. Austin Kleon’s recent article about finding your bliss station has managed to achieve just that.
Around a year ago I was just finishing up a course of counselling aimed at helping me understand the depression I was diagnosed with in January 2015. One of the things I learnt about myself was my need to do creative things for myself and how over the year prior to my diagnosis I had stopped doing that. This evening as I read Austin’s article it hit home a little further, I might’ve lost my cave a little bit.
This week has been a tough one, the first tough week for a while which is something I know happens to everyone now and again. A giveaway sign, which I’ve realised as I write this, is the recurrence of the word introvert in a lot of my snippets/tweets. I’ve been craving time on my own, and that usually happens when I’m starting to feel a bit unbalanced in life. It’s a little clue that I might’ve lost my bliss station, or cave as I’ve referred to it in the past.
What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.
In counsellor speak this is called self care. We need to take time out to take care of ourselves, to stop ourselves being bombarded by the world around us. To find a place that frees us from the stresses of work, from running a business and working for someone else at the same time. From being around people all day, to having a few moments to our ourselves each and everyday. To take a little bit of time to do something we want to do just because we enjoy it and it helps us feel free.
By Sunday evening I plan to have reclaimed my cave from the dumping ground it’s become, and in the spirit of making better use of my calendar I plan to schedule in a time everyday for me to be in it just because I want to create some stuff for myself.
Sometimes a day hits you when things that are normally easy to do become the hardest things. I mean simple things like getting out of bed, going downstairs and making a coffee. That’s the nature of depression.
When it happens you have to find ways of getting through because giving in to it can be crippling. Giving in can be the start of a downward spiral, a spiral you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from taking over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for everyone there is way of doing it.
At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.
These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.
A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.
It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.
A timely article by Patrick Rhone on his choice to use only things that are proven. Considering the changes which Twitter are considering to the timeline, maybe it’s time to search for a more proven method of micro posting…
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place which is known world wide for the atrocities that our Jewish brothers and sisters faced during the Second World War. Atrocities that I didn’t know the depth of fully until I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on my first visit to Israel a few years ago. Reading through the account of the holocaust in that place made me feel physically sick, I knew from my history lessons at school that it was a massive operation but I had no clue of the depth of it. No clue of how far it went in terms of the dehumanising treatment the Jews had to endure.
Sadly in today’s society we are again seeing the rise of anti-semitism. It takes different forms, whether it’s through the BDS movement or jihadi attacks in both Israel and Europe, this is what they are and to call them anything else forgets the beginnings of moments in history like the holocaust.
Today is a day we must remember, especially in the current cultural climate, and stand side by side with our Jewish brothers and sisters. As a child of Christ I have an even greater responsibility to stand with Israel and show them the love their Messiah has for them.
Back in October of 2014 I wiped this blog and started all over again in an attempt at a fresh start and the beginning of more regular posting. The lack of baggage was supposed to be the catalyst to help me post, to a degree it has worked and I’ve been posting here much more regularly since the turn of the year. The Week in Links has helped, and is approaching it’s six month anniversary.
On Monday evening I read a post by Paul Stamatiou about his years of blogging. I was struck by a particular sentence half way through:
The era of the personal website is over. It’s now just a personal landing page with a photo, bio and link to a Twitter profile.
I understand exactly where he is coming from, but I also disagree, to a certain extent. It’s true a lot of websites have disappeared over the last few years, but over the last few months I’ve seen a resurgence in the personal site/blog. Something that I want to be a part of. It got me thinking about my own personal site, and the changes it’s been through over the last decade. I’ve never binned it to replace it with a personal site, but I did recently delete all my posts and before that I had another blog that has gone the way of the Dodo.
It struck me how wrong that is. I put a lot of time and effort into writing those posts, and for them to be erased is just plain wrong. Fortunately I managed to locate a backup of this site from just before I wiped it, and I’ve now added all the posts back into the archive. There’s still a bit of tidying up to do but for the most part the archives now extend all the way back to January 2011. I’m also hoping to be able to locate an old backup of my very first blog, the one that existed prior to this one. I’ve been writing on the internet for nearly a decade now, it should be preserved and maintained in some form or another not consigned to oblivion.
All of this to say, I’ve added the archives back to this place. If you’re interested and have the time, why not have a dig through and see what you can find.
I can’t remember how I came across the article Be Yourself by Tim Nahumck but I instanty saved it. I’ve read twice since then. It resonated with me, in fact the tweets by Aaron Mahnke which triggered this article resonated with me. But most of all, this quote is what I connected with the most. Never have I been more aware of the true meaning of this quote than in the last six months.
I think for most, being yourself is one of the hardest things to do as a human. It takes a lot to get out of your own way, remove the internal barriers, and open up your world to others.