Select Page

I've been reading (and enjoying) Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog for a few years… which means I've been thinking about crafting my own set of personal commandments for a few years as well. Over the past week, while I've been unplugged (mostly) and in a ponder-ful state (mostly), I created my list.

Each previous time I've started jotting down my list, I stopped because I got entirely too precious about it and wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted it to be book-worthy. Or audience-worthy. Or… well, you know, perfect. This time, I gave myself permission to pay attention to what felt solidly right, even if not “perfect,” for the sake of actually completing the exercise rather than halting myself mid-step for fear of not being perfect. (Perfection is such a vicious and unyielding bitch.)

So, vicious and unyielding bitch be damned, here is my list of Personal Commandments, with due hattip to Gretchen.

1. Be Marissa.

Trust my gut. Allow me to be wholly me, and not a watered-down half-version of me… all the time (including when it's scary). Honor my voice the same way I encourage others to honor theirs. Live fully in my own light and outside the shadow of the “who I think I'm supposed to be” judgments.

2. Observe much, judge little.

My unquenchable curiosity nudges me to observe a great deal–but my quick-to-solve, always-analyzing superprocessor-and-synthesizer brain is quick to add a great deal of backstory and framing to the observations. And that backstory and framing is what opens the floodgates of stress and fear, assumptions of judgments from others and assumptions of understanding on my part. When I remember to keep my observations plentiful and my judgments minimal, I'm much more present and mindful, not to mention significantly less bogged down by internal dialogue and stress.

3. Honor what is.

Honoring what is reminds me to act in the moment with what is actually there, rather than wistfully galavanting into the mire of wishing for something different or creating fantastic scenarios that could play out “if only.” For example, certain aspects of this moment are within my control; many are not. Certain parts of this day are very light; others are heavy and sticky. There is an element of learning and necessity in each, but only if I first acknowledge what is. I can flail blindly forward–and often do, god knows–but the road is much smoother if I'm mindful about what actually is.

4. Allow others.

Just as I grant myself permission to “Be Marissa,” I must allow others to be and act as they are and do. Being a self-confessed control freak (admitting it is the first step, and whatnot), a great many of my struggles boil down to me forgetting that I cannot control someone else (and that, when it all shakes out in the end, I wouldn't want to even if I could). “Allow others” also reminds me to allow others to support me when they're willing and able, another practice the control freak part of me deftly avoids. And it reminds me to honor the boundaries the I set for myself–I cannot properly honor my own boundaries if I'm simultaneously refusing to allow others their own actions and space.

5. Show up.

Be present, even when it feels safer to escape. Notice the here-and-now before deciding to hide out (hiding out is still a completely acceptable decision, as long as it's done as a choice and not a default). When it's all craptastic and hard and frustrating, just show up–fully–and then see what's what. Don't forecast the entire outcome of whatever before even showing up. Be there. Then decide.

6. Let go.

Is that a zen non-attachment reference in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Show up–but do so for the sake of showing up, not for the sake of the outcome. Revel in the process, not in the promise of the endgame. Love those days when I get lost inside the creation because the creative process is rocking my socks, not because I think someone might give me a metaphorical gold star for the end result. Kiss the projection goodbye, and go home with the journey instead. Show up, and just let go.

7. Nurture the personal.

I'm great at making sure that my clients' communications get due attention. I'm jolly swell at keeping other peoples' inboxes tidy. I write glad missives of good tidings on my clients' behalf every day. But my own personal connections? Sadly neglected. Nurturing the business is a given–but it is “Nurture the personal” that receives a spot on this list, because that's the one I forget about and let fall to the wayside. Connect on Twitter, make the phone call to catch up, or just respond to my personal emails with the same dedication I give to other peoples' emails.

8. Stoke the fire.

Attend to my own creative voice. Pursue my whims. Even the ones that don't seem to have some direct connection to my business. Perhaps especially those. Do that which makes me feel fluttery and excited, since that's usually when I do my best work. Care for myself in ways that leave me most able to set the world on fire however I might feel called to do so.

9. Identify the source.

When I'm feeling resentful or frustrated or just pissed off, pause, and identify the source. If it's really the person whose email I read when I started to feel resentful, then fine–notice that and determine what to do to address it. But if it's not that person and is, perhaps, the feeling of being tied to my email every hour of every single day, then that calls for a very different action. Either way, I can't really take a step forward until I identify the source of the problem. Likewise, when I suddenly get a jolt of fluttery excitement or a wave of motivation, identify the source. Was it the blog I just read? Subscribe, and get that jolt on a daily basis. Does it tend to happen after getting a massage? Make room in the schedule for the massage on a more regular basis. I'm great at figuring out what step to take next… as long as I first identify the source.

10. Take one small step.

Like I said, I'm great at taking a next step. But I have a tendency to take great leaps, rather than small steps. That tendency serves me well in many ways, and I don't intend to purge it from my vocabulary of movement. What I want to nurture, though, is granting myself permission to take a small step where one is necessary, or when I simply don't have the reserves or ability to take the giant leap. Where a giant leap isn't right–for whatever reason–my fallback is abandonment of the action altogether (and accompanying disappointment). I want it all, and I want it in one fell swoop. (Poster child for Type A, much?) One small step is permissible… and often, preferable. If the choices are: no action at all for lack of giant leap or one small step forward, take the one small step. (This goes nicely with nos. 5 & 6, yeah?)

…And you?

Do any of these personal commandments resonate with you? What rules of thumb serve you well? (Or, on the flipside, which have you tried out that really didn't work?)

Photo credit: John&Fish | license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0