“Yes I remembered The List, and I did them!”, my client pings me a year after our work together.
I love making these lists because they are memorable and more importantly, they circumvent how we’re wired to sabotage ourselves.
Writing them out means we can’t wake up and make the excuse that we’re in a fog or anxious state, and therefore have no idea what to do. So, we cannot languish in feeling ‘meh’.
And, this isn’t simply about forcing prescriptions upon you— just because a bubble bath and unicorn latte are instagrammable doesn’t mean they work. If you happen to like those, great. If you don’t, they just clog up your list.
Studies have shown that well-intentioned organisational wellness policies like doing yoga and mindfulness can have a detrimental effect, as some participants not only feel worse, they feel crappy about how others are benefiting (or seem to be). And yet they soldier on, hoping for the miracle to happen, whilst feeling like they have less and less time and energy. Whilst good ol’ resentment builds up.
Instead, this really is about drawing from what we already know works best, from deep inside us.
Hands up everyone who winces at the mention of ‘self-care’?
I’ll admit my hand would have been the first to shoot up back in the day. Similarly, with the term ‘self-compassion’.
Here’s something to get your brains on-board:
- Self-care is really about learning to replenish yourself, rather than operating on Reserve Battery Mode.
- If you learn to take care of yourself, you set a great example for your team and your younger generation— especially if you have kids, they learn from what they see.
- Self-care won’t get you all soft and wooly, and cause you to lose your focus and ambition. It’ll actually turbocharge your performance, and leave you with more time and energy.
- Studies have found that high performers who take care of themselves have better outcomes and mental fitness, as compared to those who are led by the stick.
And finally, if you don’t like the term ‘self-compassion’ (I still don’t), do what my 2x-Olympian friend taught me. Rebrand it as ‘being good to yourself’.
Here’s a list for you to fill up. Consider the following prompts, and then work accordingly.
List one: Order
Why: Quite often, when we’re not at our best, our environments mirror what’s going on inside our heads. It can start from a chair where you dump all your mess onto, and then it spills into the entire room. Momentum builds, right? And so mess begets more mess. Sometimes, we get into a disorderly state because we are punishing ourselves— sounds perverse, but humans are excellent at self-punishment, and it isn’t just about beating ourselves up.
What: Order is about two categories— cleanliness, and neatness. Neatness can refer to how your physical stuff are organised— maybe your room looks neat, but the insides of your drawers and your boxes are messy. Or your digital stuff.
- In which areas do you need more cleanliness?
- In which areas do you need more order?
- What stops you from doing that?
- What’s the one small action step you can take.
List two: Mastery
Why: Having a sense of mastery helps us feel accomplished. It can also grow our sense of curiosity, and that can boost dopamine levels in the brain. These make us want to repeat the action over and over again. Plus, we also feel like we’re growing.
What: Mastery is about (1) new skills and (2) old skills.
- What new skill have you always wanted to learn?
- Which feels the most relevant right now? And why?
- What existing skills can you sharpen?
- Schedule these in and reward yourself, to further boost your dopamine.
List three: Feeling good
Why: Feeling good sets the tone for enjoying ourselves, being engaged in what we do, stronger relationships and generally, more positive experiences. Research has shown that we need 3 positive experiences to nullify the effects of a negative one.
What: Feeling Good is about (1) joy— arising from your deep inner wells or something you do, that adds to your quality of life; (2) pleasure— happiness from outside sources, that may not contribute to your quality of life. For instance, joy could come from giving your cat or dog a big hug. And pleasure from a new pair of shoes. Pleasure is sometimes also tied up with escape behaviours— things we do to self-medicate from our heads; this is when pleasure can become dangerous.
- What things bring you joy?
- How can you do them more often?
- What things bring you pleasure?
- Are these always healthy pleasures? If not, what can you do to impose limits to ensure you don’t go overboard?
And pairing it with personality
Most of us have some inkling about how we’re wired. After all, we all know at least one person who’s borderline-obsessed with taking personality tests.
Some dimensions of personality can include:—
- Pace— if you do things and think quickly, slowly or at medium-speed.
- Type A/B— are you more ambitious with many goals; or are you more calm and composed within.
- Type C/D— are you more detail-oriented; or are you more melancholic and philosophical.
- Openness— how curious are you and how likely are you to try new things?
- Introvert/Extrovert/Ambivert— do you recharge best on your own; with others and in highly-stimulating environments; or both.
As you reflect on your personality, then you can start to align your self-care activities with how you’re wired.
For instance, someone who’s more Type A and active, might recharge best by weight-training or running. As compared to a Type B, who might benefit more from yoga.
Someone highly open and Type A might love learning more new skills, whilst someone who’s Type D and introverted may enjoy journalling.
Most importantly, have fun with this exercise, then snap a picture/screenshot of this, and use it as your phone wallpaper so you’ll always know how to best take care of yourself.
If you’d like more help with your self-care routine, please get in touch.