I’ve had a bit of a tricky week to be honest. Without realising it, I’ve allowed my ‘chatterbox’ to creep up on me and feed me negative thoughts. This sabbatical is actually quite short you know….There’s not much time left to get everything done…. You’ve managed to waste a lot of time today haven’t you. …Anyone else would use this time to be creative and do something productive. …Come on! Why aren’t you being productive! Phew! No wonder I have steadily felt bad over the past few days – I’ve been engaging with these negative thoughts instead of challenging them.
I’ve been learning how to challenge negative thought processes for the past year or so. It’s not about hushing up negative thoughts; it’s about challenging them with alternative perspectives which are backed up with factual evidence.
Essentially all these chatterbox induced thoughts represent my core beliefs (established from the moment I was born, cemented by my upbringing and internalised) and these are what I constantly need to challenge and confront with evidence. (Example: if I am not working then I must be lazy and worthless). As if putting the thoughts on trial, once I weigh up the factual evidence for and against the thought, then the alternative perspective usually wins and the negative thought goes away – hurrah! Eventually my goal is to be able to have this thought process automatically. However, as I’m trying to unravel core beliefs reinforced over the last 30-something years it takes daily practice, and this week I slipped.
Another thing this experience made me think about was the relationship between productivity (or creativity) and investment (into myself).
With core beliefs getting in the way and the chatterbox telling me I’m not good enough it is unsurprising if I am not feeling particularly productive or creative. Who would under such circumstances! It reminded me of something I initiated at work last year. I have a wonderful team of hardworking employees and I wanted to let them know they were valued and give them a boost. So I came up with the idea of giving everyone a day off on full pay, on the condition that they used their day to do something for themselves. The rules were that they were not allowed to spend the day catching up on the laundry or doing chores – they had to choose an activity that would feel like a treat. Some of them went to the cinema by themselves, others went for a walk, or out for lunch, or simply curled up and read their favourite book. Afterwards they said they felt more valued and motivated at work.
It’s not rocket science to hypothesise that investing in people makes them more productive. Soooo, if I invest in myself then I too will eventually feel more productive and creative. It may not happen straightaway but it WILL happen!
Part of that investment is in challenging those negative thoughts telling me I’m not doing enough. The next step is viewing this sabbatical as an opportunity to to do things I feel excited about, inspired by and interested in, and giving myself that special treat each day. Onwards and upwards!