I’ve been spending at least 20% more time on social media than I’d normally prefer due to quarantine and anxiety and distraction and, well, generally being crappy at holding myself to rigid standards about it. Meh, now’s not really the time to be hard on myself about this stuff.
Anywho, I am, at least, happy that I haven’t really increased the number of accounts I’m following, so my feed (still solely Instagram, nothing on Facebook) is highly curated. I’ve added just a couple of artist accounts, and they’ve added joy to the scrolling, which I’m totally cool with.
The other day, I scrolled across a post from one of these artists, @tyler_spangler. His style is bright and graphic and not typically what I’m into, but I love his stylized text work, so this one stood out to me. The quote was:
Figure out what you don’t want and go from there.
Not a new or original concept, I know. But, a really, really, crucial one. And definitely one that I live by and have found a lot of success and solace in.
There seems to be a lot of, “what do you need?” going around, and sometimes, that’s just too much. It usually goes and feels something like this: Oh, you’re totally overwhelmed? Hey, don’t think about that! Just focus on you and what you need! Wait…I have no freaking clue.
Now, there are, of course, multiple ways to go about figuring this out. You can, I suppose, try to find some time and meditate on it or journal about it. Perhaps take a walk by yourself without your cell phone.
But, like, does that stuff feel even remotely possible? Or does even the thought of thinking about what you want or need – in any sense of the word – overwhelm you further?
Yeah, I get it.
So, another approach could be to test out a few established ideas, like bathing, reading, or working out. Perhaps calling a friend to chat, doing a little decluttering, or just zoning out for a few episodes of your latest bingeworthy TV series. I think this can work, sometimes, because it takes the thinking out it and might inspire you to something a bit more personalized. It’s why I created this Menu of Care Solutions.
But, it doesn’t always help. Sometimes you’re still left thinking, does that feel like a fit? Or does it feel kind of hollow?
Yeah, I get that too.
And here’s where inverting the thinking comes in handy:
When you don’t know what you want, it can be useful to think about what you know for sure you don’t.
Like, right now, do you really want people in your feed badgering you about productivity? If not, get it out.
Similarly, do you want to see people in your feed emotionally processing in a way that drags you down because you’re an empath and interrupts your own processing? If not, press pause on that.
Do you want to be seeing lots of visual reminders of diet and fitness culture, thinly veiled as health and wellness inspiration, that actually make you feel bad about your body or your fitness? (Cue here: If you are thinking about your weight and what you’re eating and how many calories you’re burning every day, this is worth reflecting on.) If not, drop them.
Do you want to put pressure on yourself to be the most patient mom and most supportive and understanding partner in the world? If not, do your best to release some of the pressure.
Do you want to be arguing on social media? I’ll answer this one (along with an ethicist at UCLA) for you – no.
Do you want to be exercising? If not, chill.
Do you want to be texting everyone back immediately? If it can wait, wait.
Do you want to read the news continually throughout the day? If not, condense it.
And go from there.
I realize I’m presenting each of these “what you don’t want” ideas as a question of what you do want, but it’s an easy flip. You feel these in your life all the time. If your first thought when you start to do something, or when you even think about it is, “I do NOT need this,” well, there you go. Now, you know something you don’t want. Pay attention.
Here’s something I do not want: one more patronizing “in times like these,” “now, more than ever,” or “in these challenging times” caveats. So, this isn’t a caveat. Does this idea of starting with what you don’t want or need apply particularly to what we’re all dealing with in the current and foreseeable future state of the world? Yeah, I think it does. But does it apply always and no matter what?
Think of it as decluttering or going minimalist with your life, with your emotional and mental health capacity. Eliminate the shit you do not need and want, build around the shit you do.
By starting with what you don’t want, you’ll open the doors to figuring out what you do. By allowing yourself to listen to your own voice without as much external interruption, you’ll get more familiar and comfortable with hearing yourself first. By gaining a better understanding of what you don’t want or need, you will ultimately learn where – and how – to focus on what you do. It tells you more about you, and makes the path to “live the life you want!” a heck of a lot clearer, like a really helpful and enlightened process of elimination.
You’ve probably figured out that truly, this is only a starting point. That’s why the phrase is “start with what you don’t want and go from there.” Figuring out what you don’t want doesn’t do everything for you. It might mean a heck of a lot more work, in fact, a whole chain reaction. But it’s an option. And when the work of starting with a different option feels like too much, this is a good one. Just consider it.
You never know how freeing it could be to find out you don’t actually want to take a bath at all.
Struggling to figure out what you want and don’t want and where to go from there? I can help you sort through it. Set up a call to chat below, or email me anytime about coaching.