The Number 1 Reason Not To Should All Over Yourself – Or Anyone

We have so many choices in life. As a teacher I’m frequently asked questions like these.

“What should I do? Should I do this? Or, should I do that?”

I invariably reply, “What are you trying to do?”

Our choices imply our intents and we don’t all have the same goals, visions, or styles. (Thank goodness; our variety makes life so much more interesting.)

And then I recommend rephrasing those questions to get better results.

Here are questions that you can use instead.

How many ways can I do this?

This question is a creative challenge designed to open up many possibilities. Start here. Don’t skip it before rushing to the next question. (I recommend you write down all the answers you can think of and keep adding to your list over time.)

What happens when I do that?

This question provides clarity on the most likely consequences of your choices. It’s cause and effect, which can sometimes change in different contexts so add when and where into the equation.

Why am I doing this?

This question helps identify goals. (If you’re unsure of your goals ask “Why?” five times in a row. You may not find your final answer this quickly but you will develop a clearer picture.)

Should I do this or that?

It’s a question that limits your choices to two. This question is useful only after you’ve identified your goals, limited many possibilities to two, and you’ve asked the next question. So ask many other questions first.

Whenever possible, avoid using the word should. It’s limiting and in most situations, you have more choices. The word should often implies obligation. There are reasons you choose to do what you choose to do. You may not like all the choices you have and sometimes have to make the least objectionable rather than the most favorable. Still, you choose it. So own it.

Self-talk matters. Becoming more conscious of the language we use internally has many benefits including increased awareness of what’s going on outside and inside us as well as our reactions to these psychic events … and with that awareness comes choice. Once we’re aware of what’s going on inside us we can choose to let it flow uninterrupted or we can influence its speed, course, and tone. It’s not just stop or go, it’s also how and where would you like it to flow?

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Listen To Yourself

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You can learn a lot just by listening to yourself. Listen not only to the words you actually say, usually to others but also to the words you use in your inner dialog. When you speak about yourself, your creative life, and the works you produce, the words you use can be very revealing. They mean something to you. You choose them. Often you do this without realizing it and once you do new creative connections and opportunities will open to you.

Ask yourself …

Do you keep repeating specific words?

Do you use different words that all point to similar meanings, orientations, or attitudes?

Do the words you use share common concerns?

Do you tend to use more nouns (things), verbs (actions), or adjectives and adverbs (qualities)?

Do you tend to speak actively or passively?

Do you tend to speak in the past, present, or future tense?

Do you speak specifically and concretely or do you speak more generally and abstractly?

Do you finish your sentences or jump to new ones before you do?

It’s best if your observations about the words you use are made without judgment. Simply make observations. You can use this practice to savor the qualities of your everyday experiences that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It can be helpful to expand your statements; say more to describe it better and find its connections to other things. After that, it can help to distill it all back down to what’s most important. If you do this you’ll feel freer, clearer, and more energized. 

Becoming more aware of your concerns and attitudes will ultimately help you make more considered choices about your actions, reactions, emotional responses, and even self-image.

Greater awareness of the words you choose and how you use them can inform the images you make in many important ways – how you make them, the images you select, how you sequence them, how you process them, what you title them, what you write about them, how you talk about them, how you present them. Your words can help you discover and shape identity, meaning, and purpose.

Thinking too much about the words you use while you’re using them can sometimes get in the way. When this happens, record yourself and listen to it later.

It can also help to talk with someone about a subject that’s important to you. They can help you get your tongue rolling and keep it going by asking you helpful questions and offering you useful reactions while you’re talking together. Again, make notes while this is happening, or better yet record it and make notes then so you can stay in the flow while it’s happening.

It only takes one important observation to make the practice of observing how you speak extremely worthwhile – give it time and it will lead to breakthroughs if that doesn’t happen instantly.

Read more in my Writing Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

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“Using the power of photography, Chris Rainier, National Geographic Society fellow and photographer, takes us on a journey to cultures that are using computers, cameras, and video to archive and preserve their quickly disappearing ancient traditions. He will show clear examples of traditional communities using technology to revitalize and maintain their way of life. Traveling the planet for over 30 years, Rainier has been in a race against time — to document ancient communities struggling to save their ancient ways of living for future generations. Now, with the advent of technologically driven storytelling and social media, he focuses his energy on helping to empower indigenous communities to gather around the “fireplace” of the Web to tell stories — stories of what it means to be alive and human in the 21st century.”
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Talk To Yourself

Talk_to_Self
Talk to yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it. Speaking your mind can help you become clearer about what’s on it. It’s your choice, whether you decide to speak your mind silently in your head or speak your mind out loud, either alone or under the right circumstances in the presence of others. No one ever has to know how much you talk to yourself; they rarely know how much they talk to themselves. Everyone has an ongoing internal dialog. We see things, we hear things, we feel things, we do things, we react, and all the while we interpret what we’re experiencing. It takes years of training not to do this. Most of the time, we’ve become so accustomed to the familiar voice inside of us that we’re often unaware of what’s being said and who’s saying it. It seems natural to us. That’s just the way it is. But, in reality, that’s the way we are. If we actively listen to ourselves, we become more self-aware and realize we have many more choices available to us.
We may even come to realize that we have many different voices within us – aspects of ourselves that can be seen as being distinct from one another; a child, a warrior, a lover, a dreamer, a scientist, etc.  We can make the life of our inner community richer and more dynamic by encouraging these separate voices to speak in turn and even to speak to each other. Over time we may even discover that each voice has a consistent set of concerns and perspectives and knowing this can help us decide which voice to call on in a given situation. This imaginative exploration can be extremely revealing. We not only come to better understand ourselves and what makes us truly unique, we also come in contact with vast sources of information and understanding that we often leave untapped. The best thing about listening to our selves is that we come to realize we have many more perspectives to draw from and opportunities to choose from than we had previously imagined.
If you really want to learn a lot, put a neutral moderator in charge of these conversations. His or her job is simply to listen and observe non-judgmentally. Nothing shuts down communication faster than criticism. At times your moderator may direct specific questions or make a motion to move on to other subjects. Later, when all is said, you can weigh the evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions about what’s to be done or not done.
We all want to be heard. When was the last time you wished you had someone to listen to you? When was the last time you listened to yourself?
Go ahead, speak what’s on your mind. Who knows? Other people may want to hear what you have to say.
Find more inspiration in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.