Last month I came upon a journaling prompt while I was doing my beloved morning ritual.
Weeks (or maybe, months) before, I had been inspired by an article from Martha Beck called 20 Questions That Could Change Your Life. When I came across that article, I decided that some of those questions would make great writing prompts and I wrote them in the margins of my journal. Then, as I encountered each question, I’d answer it according to however I was feeling that day.
The Last Prompt
The very last prompt I wrote towards the end of a notebook was “what questions should I be asking myself?”
When I finally arrived at that prompt, I saw it that morning, and I remember thinking – “I don’t have any questions to ask myself” and “I don’t have enough space left in the rest of this journal to ask and answer a bunch of questions.. And, I also remember thinking it was getting late and since I didn’t have any questions to ask myself, maybe this was a good time to finish writing and start my day. I could save this prompt for later, or skip it completely.
But, since I am practicing noticing resistance in my own thoughts and actions, I recognized, all those reasons I was giving myself were just resistance. (and) I thought “ok, let me think.. What questions should I be asking myself?”
The First Question
One came to mind immediately – almost like a message from my inner voice “Am I in alignment?” Oh, no wonder I was resistant to asking this question since this is one of the MOST important questions, and I already knew, sadly, the answer was maybe not. Uh oh. This was going to be tough.
The next question that came to mind was “am I taking care of myself?” This question refers to a list of questions I learned and adapted from another one of my favorite teachers, Jenny Blake, to ask when you feel off. There’s a list of questions you can check in with yourself to identify why you’re not feeling the way you want to feel. So by this point, I knew 2 questions I should be asking myself that I was resisting.
Then, since I know my purpose in life is to be It Girl – the Future Me alter ego I created for myself, I wrote: Am I being It Girl? Again, I realized, lately, maybe, not so much.
The Questions Kept Coming
Am I doing what I want to be doing?
How do I feel in the moment?
What am I currently resisting?
And at that point, I realized that these were all really good questions and could become journaling prompts for the next blank journal that was waiting for me to crack open the next day.
I also realized maybe this exercise of asking myself what questions should I be asking, wasn’t meant for me to ask and answer questions today- in the remaining pages and remaining minutes, but as a way to come up with really personal and interesting writing prompts for the coming days and weeks.
My Mind Shifted
I was no longer resistant to this question. I no longer felt like I didn’t have enough space and time. Now, I was curious. Now, I kind of wanted to dig around in my brain and explore my thoughts and answer the questions I had come up with so far. I was up to 6 questions by this point. And you know me, when I start a list, once it gets past a certain point, it’s destined to become a List of 10.
And the interesting and thought-provoking questions kept pouring out of me:
What am I telling myself I don’t want to do? Why?
What’s delighting me right now?
What does my inner voice want to tell me? (it was obviously already offering me so much with just this list of questions)
How can I be unconditionally loving today?
And finally, a bonus question (an old favorite standby that I love so much): What am I grateful for?
An Unexpected Exercise
This was an exciting exercise and list of questions for me. It was completely unexpected(. and) At the same time, I really couldn’t wait to dive in and start answering. I didn’t even skip a line (probably because I also wanted to save space so I’d have enough room to write).
I immediately started answering the first question and kept going through the next 5 questions that morning- even though it meant I had to carve space around other notes I had already made in the back pages of the journal – it worked, I drew arrows and made lines and boxes around what I wrote so when I re-read it in the future, I’ll be able to follow the thread of what I was writing.
It was a great morning of journaling and started my day off exactly right. And, I kept thinking about it throughout the day. Later on, I did grab another notebook, my next journal, and starting with question #7, I wrote the prompts in the margins for me to continue the exercise as I journal in the coming days.
Thanks Martha! That 1 question was the gift that keeps on giving, the prompt that keeps on prompting!
Co Creating a Q + A session
I turned a journaling prompt into a list of 10 questions (plus a bonus). Then, I reduced the questions down to a shorter list of topics that I could share and ask people about, and I reached out to my podcast listeners, my facebook groups and friends and colleagues to get more thoughts and ideas to share in today’s co-created Q + A episode.
I want to inspire you to ask yourself these questions – or come up with additional or different questions that are more meaningful to you.. And maybe even encourage you to connect with other people to get their insights and a different perspective.
As I tell you about some of the shortened topics, I’m curious if you have any immediate reaction- like a spark of emotion or a little intuitive hit.
Alignment, Future Self, What I want, what I don’t want, resisting, how I feel, intuition, unconditional love, gratitude.
If any of those topics popped out to you- leave a comment below and let me know, but in the meantime, I’ll tell you what I think about these topics as well as some of the input I got from others.
What I mean by alignment, my personal explanation to myself, is when everything just clicks. It’s when I feel physically and mentally and emotionally neutral. (Or maybe good). And being in alignment means that I am open to and aware of my intuition. So, if I usually have a morning ritual, for example, and I get the insight to switch it up, to try something different, if it’s aligning for me and I do it- it’s amazing. I get some unexpected surprise or a wonderful result.
I was also so encouraged to discover that my immediate answer to the question am I in alignment when I first started doing the question exercise was “oh no, I’m not.” But as I released my resistance to doing the exercise and as I kept going, I felt myself open up, and get curious, and get into alignment.
So I think this was a perfect example of how you can get into alignment in an instant. With a change of a thought. Or a memory. Or a change of scenery, a whiff of a scent. So then I have to wonder, is the opposite also true? Can I be in alignment, and let myself slip out because of a thought, or a memory, or a bad smell? And of course, that’s probably true… So this realization allows me to be on the lookout, open my awareness for when that might happen so that I can decide to switch myself back into alignment.
My concept of a future self is the person I am becoming. And I’m becoming her intentionally, not because of marketing or societal expectations or what I always thought my path was – but through consideration and exploration and through thinking about who I want to become and why.
I was talking about the concept of future self with a colleague of mine and it was so interesting to hear her perspective. She described the possibility of fearing the reaction from your future self. What if you think your future self will judge you, your current self. What if she berates you for your current actions and current decisions? Does the future you want the product the current you is producing? I have to admit, when I heard this perspective and considered that someone may have this kind of fear, I was shocked. It sounded so foreign to me. But, in the following days, I started to recognize this a little (maybe not the same fear that my colleague was describing to me) but I started to notice that I sometimes use the threat of my future self’s disappointment against myself. Wow! Who knew! So I’m grateful we had this conversation, that was a result of the question, that came from the journal prompt. Again, the gift that keeps on giving. The awareness that provides more and more awareness!
What I Want
I know what I want in the short term (and maybe the long term) because of the character development work and perfect day exercises I have done for myself. I love to make to -do lists and schedule things on my calendars so that I know what I want to do.
I’m pretty decisive about knowing what I want to have as far as possessions and material things go. Do I struggle with knowing what I want?
What if you Don’t Know What You Want
I know of a few podcast listeners who have let me know they feel like they don’t know what they want. I can empathize with this not knowing. I’ve been there myself and it made me feel so frustrated. And my suggestion for anyone who feels that way is to accept that you might not know exactly what you want right now. Don’t make it worse by blaming yourself and resisting reality and telling yourself you should know.
How to Figure Out What You Want
If you find yourself in this situation, one experiment could be to practice choosing what you want in very small and mundane things- like what to order at the coffee shop, or which soap to buy. Just get in the habit of asking yourself what you do want, and allow yourself to listen for the answer. And work your way up from decisions about soap to decisions about your life choices. I also suggest journaling, thought work, and maybe working with a coach.. There are so many different routes you can take to learn how to figure out what you want.
What I Don’t Want
I love the expression contrast shows me what I don’t want so that I know what I do want.
But, I don’t frequently employ that recognition technique when I notice what I don’t want. More often, I notice myself getting frustrated about seeing what I don’t want and I don’t usually take the extra step of translating that into “well, what does this mean? What do I want instead if I don’t want this.”
So, this question gave me the reminder to check in myself when I’m noticing I don’t want something.
I got some great input and examples when I asked people about resistance. Hope said “I feel that I unconsciously resist healing for myself”
What a powerful realization and acknowledgment. Hope (and everyone listening to this) now that you know that you may resist healing, you can powerfully ask yourself why, and explore that.
On a similar note: Lisa brought up the question: “What is the source of anxiety and how to overcome to experience trust, peace, relaxation and calm.”
Another listener brought up procrastination with the topic of resistance. That makes perfect sense, I definitely believe procrastination is a form of resistance. Do you see that in your own procrastination patterns?
Another listener who is now closer to fleshing out what her business will be said “I find myself telling myself all kinds of lies about what it can and can’t be. I can’t monetize it, it won’t help people, I’m not expert enough, people won’t want it).
Again, what powerful awareness to have as a result of asking that question. Because each of those resistant thoughts are just sentences in her mind. And I love that she identified them as lies – because she decides what’s true. Of course she can monetize her business idea. Of course she can help people. She decides how expert she is. She can choose to believe that people will want what she’s offering.
How I Feel
You can do this right now, while reading. Just scan your body. How do you feel? Is there any discomfort anywhere? Any tightness? Are you holding your breath?
Are your shoulders tense, or hunched or relaxed? Is there any reaction? Or has there been any reaction to anything we’ve talked about so far? Like a tickle or a tingle when a certain topic or memory came up? Or a tightness?
Describe the Physical Sensations
I love asking my coaching clients to describe the physical sensations that accompany their emotions. I have one client who tells me she feels some of her emotions in her chest and gut. I have another who can feel her face and neck get hot.
From my own experience, I notice when I start to feel angry or threatened I feel it in my biceps. I have a friend who will point it out mid conversation when we wander into touchy topics: “I’m getting strong reaction in my sternum.”
You can set a reminder on your phone to check in with your body at a certain time (or times) every day so that you drop into your body to notice how you’re feeling- physically and emotionally. Describe those feelings and sensations to yourself so that you’re more able to recognize them and tune into them later.
Laurie told me “I have heard 2 friends who ask their body to give a yes or no about a question – And then they listen to the body, and the body actually gives them an answer.”
The way that Laurie describes it, that almost sounds like an unbelievable skill, and I used to think so too. I used to be completely disconnected from my intuition.. and only figured out how to use it and trust it in the past 4-5 years. I credit a few things with learning this skill – Tarot was my gateway and learning about my Inner Voice from Jess, and later Nicole.
The 3 suggestions I have for you about your intuition are to notice it, check in with it and then trust it. These suggestions take practice and belief. (And) I do believe that this is a skill that can be learned.
Unconditional love is an area that I am constantly working on. Going back to the question of what I want, I want to practice unconditional love. And going back to the question of what I don’t want, I don’t want to judge others and myself. Yet, I still find myself frequently, judging myself very harshly. And I wish I could be more unconditionally loving to myself.
The Lesson at This Stage
I guess this is the lesson for me to learn at this stage of my life. Sometimes, I actually think it is so much easier to love others unconditionally especially those who I don’t know. It’s easy for my brain to come up with reasons why they behave the way they do from a non-judgmental place. But this is not something that I do the majority of the time for myself.
This also ties back to the surprise realization about the possibility of being judged by my future self. Even though we were hypothetically talking about “someone else” (the future version of me), I recognized there’s still only 1 constant me – not 3 versions: past me, current me and future me. The judgmental future thoughts are still coming from this one source, my own brain.
So this is a practice I continue. To recognize opportunities to love others and myself unconditionally.
I’m sure I must have heard about gratitude practices before, but the pivotal gratitude practice that really caught my attention was when I heard a presentation by Sean Achor who is the author of the Happiness Advantage. He gave some research-based reasons of why having a gratitude practice was so beneficial to us psychologically. That’s when I decided to create a gratitude practice for myself. But it was inconsistent and maybe at times unintentional.
Lately I’ve made gratitude much more of a daily, and certainly, a monthly practice. I wonder what other ways I can incorporate gratitude not only into my writing, but just into my noticing, and my thinking, and even conversationally with people that I encounter. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?
What did you think as you heard me talking about these topics? Would you ask yourself the questions I came up with? – or come up with additional or different questions and topics that are more meaningful to you?
Could you imagine yourself starting a conversation with a friend, someone you love, or even a stranger about these topics (or others) in order to connect and get their insight and a different perspective?
Release Your Resistance Podcast Milestone
We just passed 10,000 downloads of the Release Your Resistance podcast in October 2020. Thank you! This BLOWS my mind! and even though reaching a specific download number has never been a goal or a priority for me – I’m really touched, and excited, and proud and humble all at the same time that listeners have listened to each episode, and shared them, and re-listened.
I’m starting to make plans for the 2021 season of this podcast. I would LOVE your input!
You can share your feedback with me: anonymously with an online survey – or on a voice to voice phone call where we can actually talk to each other and ask and answer questions!
In exchange for your time and thoughtful responses, I’ll give you some of my time and thoughtful responses. Let’s spend an hour on the phone together – 30 minutes for me to interview you about this podcast and 30 minutes for you to have coaching, brainstorming or tech tutoring with me.
Get the Companion Workbook
Want to get the list of 10 questions I created that I’m currently using as journaling prompts? It’s included in the companion workbook, along with many of the exercises and worksheets that go along with each of the other posts on this site – so no matter when you joined me, and no matter what you’re currently working on, if you download the companion workbook you should be able to follow along with most of the worksheets and exercises that I mention. Go get that pdf right now.