A Devastating Sting Pulverized My Positive Mindset
Nature, for the 4th time in 4 years, claimed a member of my treasured inner circle. The latest, without warning. Timing: extended 2018 Memorial Day weekend, as he enjoyed an annual Myrtle Beach play date.
As our family worked toward finalizing funeral arrangements, psychic danger signals mushroomed. I resolved to thwart the sinking-into-the-abyss feeling. That vow sent me scurrying to a church pew, that is, a bench at a local park. But the relief fostered by humongous trees and the expansive lake proved only temporary.
Back at home, one thought permeated my senses: I NEED a way to tame my head day by day. I picked up my bullet journal, seeking a mental massage from the pages listing inspirational quotes. But again, relief played a wicked game of peekaboo.
Problem: Had my purpose, i.e. the why —prevent an internal wipe-out. Had the who: me. But I didn’t have their usual companions: the
- how → travel vs exercise vs indoors vs ???
- what → (no clue)
- when → daily?
- where → ummmmm …
I slumped to the fridge, then poured some iced tea. As I plopped a few ice cubes into the glass, my internal light bulb jumped from nightlight to 100-watt glow.
The Universe gifted a single word: journaling. But instinct rushed to caution: Danger, Will Robinson! I knew: what I handwrite embeds within my being. I feared standard journaling would further underscore the loss(es) I could not change.
Against that background, I remembered something —albeit vaguely— as I handled those ice cubes. Long ago, I bumped into some sort of 1-minute or 5-minute journaling book.
1️⃣ The Skeletal Framework for a New Habit Materializes
Google brought several “minute” journaling books to my attention. Studying the innards unveiled several points:
- copyright law forces changes in phraseology, but ideas remain beyond its stranglehold
- all books in the “guided journaling” genre contain common threads
- brevity in responding appeared key in meshing written thoughts with psyche
Several hours later a list of questions filled several pages, a motherload of potential journaling prompts.
I plucked, trimmed, and tweaked down to a handful of prompts. Once I pronounced this part of my mini-project Done!, roughly a dozen questions awaited a formal container.
2️⃣ Choosing a Book for this Cement a Positive Mindset Mission
Visiting my #StationeryNerd bookcase typically yields a paper container meeting my desires of the moment. I scrutinized the inside of assorted notebooks:
- Quo Vadis
None tapped my Bingo! button. Made sense. For this venture, I knew I was a special needs kid.
My greatest strength lies in my willingness to acknowledge and confront a weakness, then devise a cure or workaround. Here, I realized natural resistance would imperil the new habit. To counteract that reality, I demanded a dated daily journal. Why dated?
Undated pages would inherently bury reminders of skipped days. If I instead targeted a dated book, missed days would smack a “you chumped, girlfriend” each time I touched it. That little push would improve the odds of my fidelity to the new habit. Given the downward spiral threatening to engulph me, I craved every push I could get.
Dated pages, by their nature, also restrict the amount of content entered. That fact would short-circuit likely free-flow tendencies.
Another area of that bookcase holds archived books, including old planners and bullet journals.
- Moleskine? Heck no! Like DayTimer products, paper quality issues irked. Some will disagree. That’s fine. Perhaps the quality improved during recent years. Don’t care. They’re banished from this household, permanently.
- Leuchtturm? Nope. The horizontal weekly day slots withered in the face of the contemplated data store.
- Arc System? Loved the paper. Even bought the hole puncher. The problem manifested as I wrote. While scribbling on the left-side pages, my hand invariably bumped into the center discs. That mild irritation blossomed into loathing, resulting in abandonment.
- Kokuyo’s Jibun Techo planner? A few models were in use last year, a love affair extending to this day. I’d already checked: no room at the inn. No Daily section. Sigh.
- Hobonichi Techo, Weeks, or Cousin?
- A6 Techo: Sweet little book, but again, the actual writing process vexed me. The A6 is just short and thick enough to produce a noticeable cliff. My hand always seemed to strattle the book’s bottom and underlying surface. Read: comfort hung out in a different zip code. After that single purchase, I vowed never again.
- Weeks: I anticipated too much info to comfortably pour into the Weeks area of this fine lil dude. The Notes section lacks dates. Sigh. Love him, but he offered zip for the present mission.
- Cousin: I long ago interrupted my prolonged dance with this beauty to boogie with the Jibun Techo. At the time, I had no true use for the Cousin’s luscious Daily pages. The Jibun lost the Daily deal while sporting similar Week and Month views, tossing in delightful extras; it won my heart. But holding the Hobo reawakened the fire, especially given my current craving for preprinted daily pages.
I returned to the bookcase area to clean up the mess I created. I had snatched two books, intending to use them to hammer out draft spreads. Books left without their shelved siblings responded to gravity, slouching every which way. Dudes looked like they pulled an all-nighter on stools in front of a well-stocked bar. To recapture an organized appearance, I searched for, and found, a bookends set.
As I shoved the second bookend under some books, an internal spotlight beamed a thought:
- Bookends. Keep. Books. Upright.
- Set of two → restores order.
And with that realization came a name and two-fold configuration for this new habit.
3️⃣ New Mindset Habit: HeadCheck Bookends (HCB) BuJo Spread
The combined effect of my research —guided journaling, handling grief— pushed me toward meditation.
The Meditation Vibe
Because I never viewed myself as a homminna homminna kinda gal, I always ignored related articles. Now, one aspect of meditation succeeded in coercing my attention: stillness. I committed to a one-week trial, but my way. None of that crossed-legs/forearms-held-out stuff for Da Kidd.
Thought: I’d start the day with a stillness session, then dovetail into my morning routine, incorporating the HCB. I’d also revise my evening routine, to handle the p.m. segment of the HCB.
Highlights of my Initial PreDawn Routine
The day begins when my internal alarm rings between 3:45 and 4:15a. A variant of my speak-it-out-loud a.m. mantra ensues, e.g. thanks for another day and the continuing gift of my 5 senses.
Alexa next marches in, responding to my request for a certain old-school Motown funk tune. The music guarantees tappin’ toes WILL propel me outta bed, despite the 4 a.m. hour.
As I pull myself together, Alexa turns on the mini coffee brewer situated next to my home office desk downstairs. I deliver DarbyKlan (cockatiel) to his primary condo, within view of my home office. Then, I’m at the desk, sipping coffee while reviewing & planning with my BuJo.
Speed forward, to witness the revised routine.
Revising the Morning Routine to Accommodate Stillness & the HCB
The a.m. segment of the HeadCheck Bookends habit induced new steps, inserted between Motown and coffee.
Once my pretend 🎵SouuuulTrain🎵 session ends, I do a quickie hygiene deal. When that concludes, I slap on sufficient clothing to preclude arrest for indecency. It’s a genuine outfit, as in → fit only for going out on the porch.
I delay coffee. Why? I want a different opening step, my way of alerting my brain to a new process.
After descending the staircase, I pour a glass of water. I squeeze a lemon, its juice dripping into the glass. A few quick slides along a grater ensures the lemon’s essence also graces the water.
(Cockatiel) DarbyKlan, riding my left shoulder, flies through his condo door when I deliver him to the bird room (read: laundry / utility room).
Blessed with a covered front porch, I grab the water and slip outside. A kinda comfortable chair nestles me, as a nearby “tv tray” hosts my glass. A few sips awaken all senses, fueling full appreciation of Nature’s nuanced first yawns. The blackness robs sight while enhancing the remaining four senses:
- Taste: The lemon twangs my tastebuds.
- Touch: Breezes kiss my exposed skin.
- Smell: Pre-dawn air actually delights nostrils with its crisp and clean aroma, a sensation destined to dissipate as hours pass. Likewise, dampness from a night’s rain deodorizes the air.
- Hear: Squirrels bicker. Birds flit from limb to limb. Some days, a rabbit or possum (HUGE grin) scrambles into view, moments after my eyes adjust to the darkness.
Ain’t it a blip? The same Lady Nature opting to rip out my heart from time to time now soothes and replenishes. Talk ’bout a true, uh, Witch. 😏
Watching / feeling / experiencing the birth of a new day instills a calm unrivaled by the contents of any prescription bottle. The external stillness begets internal stillness, transforming mourning grief into morning relief. Relaxed, my thoughts naturally turn to the day, the tasks I’ll tackle, and how much time I’ll assign to each.
With demons vamoosed, I return inside. At the desk, I pour my coffee, sit, then swivel up close to the desk. The next phase, designed to hammer a positive mindset, unfolds: working through my a.m. HeadCheck Bookends journaling prompts.
Tweaking the HeadCheck Bookends Process
I use the word hammer to highlight a point. The first week of this new scheme instilled an excruciating lesson. The vast space teased by an A5 Cousin Daily page prompted dissertation-style writing. All that verbiage had me surfing the waves of woe, drowning in the very thoughts I needed to tame.
The fix came in the form of relocation. I moved the HCB off of the Daily page, and into the Week section of old Cousin pages. Another week confirmed the wisdom of that relocation.
The narrow columns reinforced brevity which, in turn, nailed positive pronouncements. The serial brevity, per answered prompts, hammered the positive.
The Evening Routine’s HCB Positive Mindset Segment
Let’s jump to the Why, as in: why in the world would I subject myself to two daily guided journaling sessions? Succinct answer: Ever drop your head on a pillow, only to be greeted by negative varmints doin’ a joint River Dance in your head?
To coax restful sleep, I returned to Google, researching additional prompts. The finalized result appears as the spread’s brief yet comprehensive Review section.
Did it work, i.e. a head change?
Oh yeeeeeeeaaaaah! 💃🏽💃🏽
After tweaking the spread’s location, as well as the phraseology of some prompts, the scheme worked like magic. Because my Monday through Friday mindset improved beyond measure, greed eased in. I wanted that vibe to continue on Saturday and Sunday. But I didn’t want to risk burn-out, the natural result of anything taken to the extreme.
My compromise: on weekdays, I write my responses following a front-porch stillness session. On weekends, I instead sit quietly in a comfy lounge chair on our enclosed backyard deck. A window wall permits my unobstructed view of trees. A checklist of the questions triggers my back-to-back responses, mentally.
Conclusion: without the BuJo spread, I’d still be rolling around in psychic and emotional mud.
What about “those moments”?
The waves of ain’t-helpin’-nobody thoughts still attacked, albeit not as frequently. My good fortune: a litigation background.
Attorneys know the critical importance of maintaining a poker face in front of a jury. We also comprehend this equation:
- give in to a severe urge to tell a judge what we think of a ruling
- enjoy a weekend in a jail cell, period.
During my prosecutor days, I developed a trick. I’d find something physical within the courtroom, and study it. Rug? Count the naps. Chair? Visualize who made it; domestic argument that morning?; etc. I’d return to present reality only after doctoring my perspective which, in turn, muscled my self-control.
Lesson learned: ya gotta play games to master thoughts. The direct approach fails. Proof? Tell yourself you didn’t hear a car honk. The more you focus, the louder the sound. Lawyers dub this the “unring the bell” syndrome. Ain’t gonna happen.
But changing actual focus works every dang time! It gets you past the heat of painful thoughts, so the good-guy thoughts can sneak back into consciousness. Turns out, the muscles of (inner critic) Poindexter and his henchmen shrivel when confronted with kryptonite → the fools can NOT handle being ignored!
The HCB BuJo Spread, Cementing the Day’s Positive Mindset
Two parts comprise the spread. The first section, under a highlighted Today title, hones in on my intent for the day. From my chosen focus word and quote, down to precise thingies I will avoid and release, I contour my attitude for the day.
The second / p.m. segment elicits a capsule summary of the day. Explicitly reminding myself of the day’s positives, just before bedtime, cripples the River Dance crew. Oh, they still try to stomp, but their feet land in quicksand. As they struggle, I drift off to peaceful restorative sleep.
The BuJo Spread (for copy/paste ease)
Because my handwriting merely flirts with legibility, I reproduce the prompts here. First, the preDawn prompts:
- ✦︎ —TODAY—
- I appreciate …
- Today will be great because … // I’m excited about …
- I will
- do …
- be / feel …
- avoid / release …
- attract …
- I can improve my life tomorrow by at least 1% if today I …
- I will accomplish this one thing …
I present two versions of the p.m. prompts, the second ultimately replacing the first:
- (initial version) ✦︎ —Review—
- I can overcome the struggles by …
- RAoK/ Random Act of Kindness
- Today, I learned …
- (revised/current version) ✦︎ —Review—
- T ← Gratitude
- O ← what’s still Open (unmet plan/intention, a struggle, etc)
- T ← what Tickled me
- A ← what one big Accomplishment
- L ← what I Learned
Why the tweak to the HeadCheck Bookends
During weeks 1 and 2 of this new habit’s implementation, the initial p.m. Review section’s struggles queries caused a problem. I found myself carrying the struggles stuff into bed. Translation: compromised sleep. Hey, I messed up, showcasing a negative rather than a positive before bedtime.
As I sat hunched over the HCB statements one Saturday, I marveled at the total psychic picture provided. I snatched TOTAL as my acronym, spelling out its particulars within seconds. That acronym replaced the former Review particulars.
It’s impossible to miss. The days my heart overflows with gratitude = the days I soar within an enhanced productivity zone. This explains why gratitude earned a spot within both the a.m. and p.m. sections of my HeadCheck Bookends habit.
Open covers one main thing left undone, including unresolved struggles. Notice: ONE thing! My way of minimizing potential negativity before I close my peepers. “Open” doesn’t feel as onerous as “struggle.” Covers the same terrain, but in a gentler manner. Think: momma, gimme the car keys vs momma, may I use the car, please. Same thing; different vibe results.
3️⃣ Tickled me (Delight)
With respect to the what Tickled me prompt, responding tells me if I’ve tended to me that day. If I catch heck TRYing to fathom an answer, I know I was sloppy ’bout me. Dumb! It also tells me I failed to snatch a positive out of the ordinary or negative. Equally dumb.
I treat such head-scratching instances as a mental 🚨911🚨 call, and race to the next day’s scheduled time blocks. I choose one hour; white out the previously assigned color; and replace it with a purple block. Purple, the color of royalty, denotes personal.
Maybe I’ll read a novel, as opposed to how-to book, during that hour. Or visit the park around the corner. Or play with cockatiel DarbyKlan (we lost our beloved 4-legged son last year). Or ride my bike. Or … The idea = pampering, with no hint of work.
This ain’t about courtroom victories or successful story submissions. Yeah, I’ll acknowledge such things when relevant, but they form mere conclusions. As such, they appear only in the notes section of the day’s HCB column. ( Yet another reason why I took pains to provide extra space at the bottom.) I’m after the underlying facts.
Example: I’m developing awareness and control of thoughts invading my sense of peace. Debilitating thoughts may pop up, but I choose which to embrace and massage. The huge achievement: beating down thoughts trying to beat me down. I list the How, e.g. : walked to the corner & back.) The Learned segment: Movement is a friend at crunch time. The “accomplished,” for HCB chart purposes: muscle-izing my ability to tame thoughts. That’s the beauty of a personal journal: I can and do make up words as I see fit. 😎
Bottom-line: the more I exercise my master-thoughts muscle, the stronger it becomes. With my thoughts tamed, I’m unstoppable. With my thoughts lame, I instead limp through the day. Talk ’bout built-in motivation, eh?!
My response to this prompt runs the gamut from ha! created my first WP shortcode to pinpointed a trigger for xyz thoughts. As regards the latter, I spell out the trigger in the notes section at the bottom of the day’s HCB column.
The Spread, as it Appears within My Bullet Journal
As October 2018 opens, I’m into month #4 of this habit. It now lives within the Weeks section of an A5 Jibun Techo Standard planner. Why the switch from the Hobo Cousin? I evicted the former tenant of the Jibun weeks section, deeming the replacement critical. One Jibun already served as my self-care receptacle. The switch allowed me to minimize books.
Other Parts of the HCB BuJo Spread
Tweaking the HCB spread also sparked a few additions.
Week’s Intention (top left / light green block)
I elevate one project among many to Top Dog position. This prevents a scattershot approach, ensuring the one goal of most importance will, in fact, be tackled.
Focus Word (top / orange block)
I choose a focus word each weekday morning, during my stillness session. No grabbing at mental straws. No fighting for THE word. It just pops. Turns out, when you set the stage, the Universe cooperates.
Mon.–Fri. Daily Quote (red handwriting)
Each week, I set up this spread on Sunday. My Pinterest account includes hundreds of quotes, so I’m rarely at a loss for material.
I add the quotes in serial fashion on Sundays. Simple reason: I establish a skeletal framework for my work week on Sunday. It seemed wise to devote at least a few minutes of such planning sessions to quotes reminding me of priorities.
I’ve learned: the whole get & write quotes deal acts like an exclamation point, elevating an otherwise meh! Sunday planning session. It’s kinda like topping off a tank of gas in prep for a long road trip.
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Personal opinion: Living Life on this planet amounts to a decades-long learning process, feeding six umbrella goals:
- learn how to respond, with finesse, to every dang thing tossed at ya
- continue, or recapture the ability, to stand upright during or following tough times
- maintain, or conjure, a positive perspective
- ensure integrity shadows your every move
- exploit and polish your God-given talents
- pass on the lessons learned, to help others
My nuanced funeral familiarity began at age 5 (Dad). This most recent reminder of Life’s flipped twin—death—coldcocked my essence.
Maybe it was the timing of the emotional uppercut —we hung out in our home laughin’ and actin da fool one puny weekend before heartache snatched all senses. Perhaps the Rope-a-Dope repetition got to me —4 gut-punch losses within 4 years: that outta-da-blue heartache, mom, brother, and walking away from an unmasked fake BFF. Heck, we even lost our pooch during this timeframe. Add: I had the thrill 😒 of two 911’d trips to the emergency ward, courtesy of hub’s heart-related health problems.
Whatever the case, my mission = crawl my way off the canvas when Lady Life pummels me. Hubs and loved ones tried to lend an assist, but I absolutely know → perspective jealously guards its status as an inside job.
Sadly, I know others will walk my path. I remain a “privacy freak”. Yet here, I share. One reason: detailing precisely how I attacked the attack on me might lighten someone’s load.
I reiterate a statement appearing on many pages at this site → the strength of any self-management / life-management system lies in its ability to satisfy needs as they arise.
Suggestion: if your chosen system offers nothing at crunch time, treat it to an emphatic Bye Felicia! and start anew.
Read / Discover More
Successful Self-Management : Excerpt / Skills for Success
Singapore Ministry of Eucation: Social & Emotional Learning
TED Talk: Increase your self-awareness
TransformingEducation.org: Let’s talk about Self-Management