Expectations: Letting Go of Outcomes.

Expectations: Letting Go of Outcomes.

|This will be the first of a few posts on expectations. So I will start with a general discussion.|

Mindfulness of Expectations.

Practicing Mindfulness and Minimalism have made me realise how many things I need to let go of.So many are in the mind. Every time I hit a roadblock it is because of an idea I am clinging to. Anxiety is my biggest mental challenge. When I am anxious I try to watch my mind and body without judgement or making up a story about the feeling. And this helps immensely. Until I anticipate the next thing… Then it reappears. Then it fades and I anticipate.
I started thinking I should let go of anticipation but I realised that the root here was not the anticipation (although ‘anticipation’ definitely means I am not being mindful of that moment in the moment and so it is something to let go of.) I realised that the problem was my expectation of the outcome of whatever was happening whether good or bad.
So when I notice anxiety or excitement now I try to watch what the mind is expecting and let go of the expectation. Expectations will still arise but we can notice them and let them go. Specifically letting go of the outcome.
When we have an expectation it means we have an idea of an outcome and think or wish it to be a certain way. We try to control things in our future or as they occur.
In this way we are identifying ourselves with results. We are imposing our hopes on outcomes and trying to predict the future as though it were fixed.
This sets us up for frustration, demotivation, delusion, disappointment, suffering, heartbreak, feeling sorry for ourselves, underestimation, overestimation, narcissism, perfectionism, anxiety… The list gets longer the more one thinks about it.

Anticipation

Whenever the feeling of anxiety or excitement arises in us it is in anticipation of a certain expectation we hold.
We can become fixated on outcomes. In small ways – like how my next sip of tea will taste- and in big ways – like expecting someone to be your perfect partner and to make you whole and marry you before the age of 30.
What breaks us is our rigid mindset. We get so invested in these outcomes and when things change – even slightly – we can’t cope.
Whether we are expecting good things or bad things, we are expecting something from most situations.
Good expectations provide excitement and bad expectations give us anxiety. It is the anticipation of these expected results that are the feeling of excitement or anxiety.
We expect things to turn out a certain way or people to act or react a certain way.
Many of our decisions are based on our expectations of how other people will receive it. And many of our decisions are based on our expectations of other people’s expectations.
Excitement is when you are anticipating positive results.
When your positive expectations are realised, you feel good temporarily. If they are not you feel disappointed or unsatisfied. We can often have such high expectations that we will never be satisfied. This leads to feelings of frustration or even unhappiness.
Anxiety is a state where you are anticipating negative results.
When negative expectations are realized, you feel justified. If not, you feel relieved temporarily. Often you don’t even see that things are better than expected or you start expecting the next negative result.
When we are caught in the anticipation of expectations we miss out on reality on what is truly happening. We are not mindful of the moment.
All of this does not mean that we do not have goals, make plans or set intentions.

Confusing goals with Outcomes

A painting I was working on was frustrating me so much because I had invested in an expectation of what it should be. This perfectionism and obsession with the outcome paralysed me for months. And in the end: I was disappointed with it. As I always have been. I was dissapointed in myself. Why did I always feel this way about my work?
I became so fascinated by this question. After thinking about it for weeks it dawned on me: I always confuse the outcome with the goal. I associate myself and my worth with the result. Every single time. And the expectation of this was paralizing me and keeping me from my goal.
It seems like we confuse goals with results, outcomes and expectations.
A goal should not be a fixture. It should be a direction to move towards. If we can let go of outcomes and our expectations: we free ourselves from being disappointed or disheartened or even overly confident or righteous. The goal is still there no matter what the outcome. The intention is still set in the direction of our goal and the plan can change. We can get up and try again.
When you let go of the outcome you are free to work toward your goal.
It means that you can respond instead of react in changing situations. The world is in flux and we need to be flexible. If we let go of expectations we are flexible and open.
You can be calm.
You can be happy.
birds
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| Minimalism | how our journey is progressing and what now?

Things seem to have started slowing down a little after our initial feverish and frenzied start a few weeks ago. But we are still going strong. One step at a time.
Mastering our money matters:
We hope to have our car sold this week. This will be the biggest relief financially as well as mentally. We will be spending much less per month on payments and fuel.  As a bonus our carbon footprint will be much lighter too.
We have also sold things like a guitar and keyboard and some other smaller items. These have brought in a bit of cash and we have paid it into our debt.
The biggest change we have made so far is that we are not purchasing new things – except for food and amenities. We have also been using cash to do our shopping. This means having an exact grasp of how much money you have and what things cost. Surprisingly this has not necessarily meant that we shop for the cheapest items . It is entirely possible to do shopping with very limited cash and still balance quantity and quality. It means getting only the essentials. So often that would still be quality items. So we still buy fresh produce for instance but we are limiting the waste. (Nothing that will go off in the time it would take us to consume it.)
This has meant steering clear of buy in bulk bargains and three for two deals (unless it is storage-friendly). Often these deals only mean you are paying more money because you end up throwing so much away. Sometimes buying the smaller amount of carrots for more money per item is the better deal.
You also find yourself being more creative with what is already in your food cupboards. You end up finally using those dried beans, quinoa or risotto rice hiding in the dark corners behind the cereal.
Decluttering strategies for difficult items: 
Decluttering has brought on a few bumps in the road. This week I found myself needing and looking for things… then realising I had thrown them out a couple of weeks ago (in the frenzy phase).
I have had a very strict ongoing ’keep it or toss it’ policy. Very black and white. But I realise that this has been a bit hasty and harsh.
Yesterday one of my friends suggested to me  that I make three piles instead of two.
* a definite keep pile
* a ’not sure’ pile
* a definitely throw out (or gift, donate or sell) pile
She explained that she does this regularly (every few weeks) and if she has not decided by the next decluttering what to do with items in the ‘not sure’ pile she throws them out.
This seems obvious and much saner than my attempt.
Originally I didn’t want to even give myself a ‘not sure’ or ‘maybe’ option for fear that this would allow me to re-establish my misguided relationship with the objects. But this was not the kindest way of dealing with myself. So I am now going to apply this new strategy from now on and will report back on its efficacy.
I also love jasminkrat’s post IS IT WORTH KEEPING? She has a very effective list of questions to ask oneself when deciding about difficult items and it may makethe choice between keeping something or not a much easier one. I will be incorporating these questions to help me along too.
to keep or not to keep...
to keep or not to keep…
Minimalism is an incredible journey so far. It is amazing how little we know about the items we surround ourselves with. We seem to misinterpret our relationships to and with them. What a hold they seem to have on us and yet it is all projected onto them by us. This journey is teaching me so much and promises to continue doing so.

Navigating Your Personality

Navigating Your Personality
Are personality tests limiting or freeing?

Finding out your ’type’

One of the most valuable and life altering things I ever did was my first personality test. It was done by a psychologist about 10 years ago. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I tested as an INFP. It was such a relief to see that I was not crazy. I was behaving exactly like my ‘type’ would. It explained why I couldn’t handle certain things the same way others did.
Is this really me?
I took another Meyers Briggs test (via a psychologist friend) about 5 years later and, at that point it was to ‘my horror’, I received the same result: INFP. This meant, to my naïve mind, that I had been working SO hard at ’bettering’ my(weak)self for 5 years with no result! How could this be? Then I did another and another and another online – always a different one – and got. Yes. The same result. I felt so boxed in. Is this me?
The relief I had initially felt, after the first test result, had now evaporated. Originally this result was something I thought I could change. I knew who I was and what the problems were and I would fix them.
Luckily my husband has an amazing way of clearing things up for me (INTP) and he explained and reminded me that it was not ‘me’, these results reflected my ‘preferences’.
Although the MBTI is probably not the most scientific of tests in many ways: it does give you a view into your or someone else’s preferences. It provided incredible insight for me at a time when I really needed it. It shows (granted it is broad) how and why you might react in certain situations in certain ways. So it can be an amazing relief to understand this.
Still. Would I always end up in the same spiral?
It was also around that time that I became familiar with Positive Psychology and Martin Seligman‘s work. I read his book Authentic Happiness. This changed my life. I joined the website and did the tests. Specifically the VIA Survey of Character Strengths
test. I learned that it is much more productive to focus on your strengths and that everybody has them. This way you don’t end up dwelling and getting too caught up in your perceived weaknesses and trying to ‘fix’ them. Personality is not fixable. But you can evolve it and develop it and in this way it can change.
Mindset
More recently I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. The book focusses on her discovery of and research into two mindsets that people have and how this can influences their lives. According to her, there are people with ‘fixed mindsets’ and people with ’growth mindsets’.
Research shows that those with growth mindsets don’t give up as easily, they work until the problem is solved and they believe in change and growth. The science backs them up. The brain can change and grow at any age. You can change. Maybe not fundamentally alter your personality but you can learn new skills and develop your strengths.
This topic will come up again in future posts.
Here is the short and sweet test on the Mindset site.
Why Mindfulness?
Mindfulness would be beneficial for any person or personality type. Although some may find it more challenging than others to practice. The people who find it most challenging would possibly benefit the most.
Practicing mindfulness meditation every day, for a bit more than a year now, has been the single biggest help for me.
  • mindfulness teaches you to be in the moment – it helps ease anxiety about the future and the past.
  • it teaches you to let things be the way they are – acceptance. You are fine the way you are. You deserve love and acceptance and everything is as it is.
  • it teaches focus. One thing at a time. Cluttered minds become more settled. You do not force it yet your mind becomes clearer.
Why Minimalism?
This week I slipped into a bit of a fixed mindset. Am I a minimalist? Could an INFP possibly live without clutter (inside or out)? Is this whole experiment crazy?
Some wonderfully supportive comments on my previous post and the mindfulness practice helped me realise that this was just the way I react. This is how it is and that is ok. Then the reasons why minimalism is so important to me became clear again. I could see why someone like me would thrive as a minimalist and why I took this on in the first place.
Why minimalism is so important:
  •   Minimalism is a wonderful extension of mindfulness. I need my environment to support my inner world. Decluttering is a big part of minimalism. Shedding the excess. Yet it is not what it is truly or entirely about. It is as symbolic an exercise as it is a physical one. It brings you face to face with your own excess, your past, the things you don’t pay attention to. It has definitely meant some self confrontation (INFPs hate confrontation :p )… And I am expecting more as this journey unfolds. I just have to be careful of the over-thinking trap and getting lost in my head (INFP trap) So this is a great exercise in acceptance.
  • I feel happier in cleaner, uncluttered spaces. There is more space for my wild mind. And it also helps to calm my mind and helps me focus. Aesthetics are important to me. It is important to be in a space that is harmonious and does not disturb or disrupt your sense of well-being. Especially when it is your home.
  • Support creativity. It is also important that your workspace support maximum focus and creativity. My mind is already so busy that my environment needs to be a space I feel comfortable in, one in which I can be creative and doesn’t limit me by breaking my concentration.
  • I need to live an honest life. Live life in a ‘real’ way. No more debt. No more living above our means.
  • Freedom is so important. Freedom from the pressure of having to be like everybody else. Free from debt. Physically free. Free from guilt and the past. You can be more authentic if you strip the excess from your life.
The Big Five personality test:
For a more scientifically based test, try a Big Five Personality Dimensions test. There are many free ones online. It is a great personality test and gives amazing insight. Because you land on a grayscale it also reflects more flexibility in different people’s personalities even though there are only 5 factors.
Why I still like MBTI: 
Although it does limit people into sixteen types or ‘boxes’ it is also for this very reason that the test allows some generalizations which actually help you understand broad preferences. Within every type there is also a gray-scale. Not every factor counts for every person or every situation and some will be borderline.
And although I seem to score as an INFP every time, other people seem more flexible and score differently every time they do the test.
I like that this is possible, even though this very factor could be seen as the weakness of these tests – or any personality tests for that matter.
So it is good to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone and that we all grow, change and are unique. Yet they can be tools that give some limited insight and understanding into how we all can, and do, differ from one another.
So: keep a growth mindset about it and use these tests as a looking-glass that could help you reflect but should never hinder or limit you. 😉
| This has been a very difficult post since it is very personal in some ways.  The reason I wrote it is because I have benefited so much from other bloggers on this same minimalist journey as well as bloggers with my INFP personality type. It is important not to feel alone as much as it is to recognize our uniqueness. So here I am: Pleased to meet you 🙂 |
figuring it out
figuring it out

minimalism vs personality

a short update on our minimising efforts

The knot we are trying to untangle feels like it might be choking us. But we are getting through it. The relief will be sweet (that’s the promise, anyway).

This week I worked on cleaning my studio. It ended up being more of an organising mission than a getting-rid-of one (although there were quite a few boxes and bags of junk that left the space). This was a tough one to get started and is even tougher to continue and progress with. Yet, it is happening, slowly.

This is starting to feel like a big struggle against my personality. Hopefully this is not going to leave me feeling empty and as though I have rationalised meaningful things out of my life. Hopefully I won’t miss the memory triggers like the smell of some of the items that evoke strong memories and emotions. Hopefully this will help get my family out of our debt and won’t be a very high price for no reward.

The perfectionist in me wants to get all this ‘right’ and seems a bit disappointed at the slow progress. The sentimentalist and meaning maker is finding it hard not to just bury herself in it all and hide. Then there is a very strong need for freedom that keeps pushing and searching for an escape.

I think I should leave it there. I need to reflect on all of this. This experiment is a tough one. But that might be a very good thing.

So let’s keep going and see where it leads.

Minimalism vs. Art and Crafting

The creative clutter has taken over
The creative clutter has taken over

This has been a slight conundrum: How can one marry the philosophy of Minimalism with the chaos (and heaps of junk) that have always, for me, defined what a creative space is and what an artist needs? Isn’t this creative freedom?

Recently, however, being influenced by my mindfulness practice and even my daughter’s Montessori education, this dilemma seems like less of a problem. Things are not as they seem.  In fact, we may have been tricked or confused by society into thinking that artists are certain types of bohemian, care-free, muddled, cluttered people.  Yet, this may not be true. Or at least not the whole story. (How could you be care-free when you are weighed down?)

The Montessori method of education teaches children to work on one thing at a time. It teaches them to focus and to finish problems and then move on. There is structure. A lot of structure, yet, this structure is precisely what gives them freedom. They choose freely what they want to work on, yet they are encouraged to stay focussed without interruption. They work within a prepared environment. Everything has its place. You work on a project and put it away before starting the next one. It is a fascinating way of viewing education and life. Our little three year old is thriving.

In other words: it encourages Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s concept of FlowThis is definitely something I experience when creating artworks or dolls or any kind of handwork. Everybody experiences this state of being completely focussed, alert, motivated and losing one’s sense of self and time in a task or experience. This could be anything from a sport to reading or solving mathematical equations.

What Mindfulness and the Montessori method have taught me (unlike all the years of ‘traditional schooling’) is how to focus and create a mindset and space which encourages flow. When you have a clear, structured space and mindset that sense of freedom and creativity are easier to achieve. A fascinating read is Daily Rituals: How Artists Work written by Mason Currey. This book was such an eye opener to me. Most creative people do have structure in their daily lives. They thrive on it.

What Minimalism is starting to create for me is a space to be more creative in. A space that is clearer. Not one with the blank canvas/ blank page effect but one in which I have exactly what I need to do the task at hand. No clutter. Just enough. I have found that when I limit my palette I am much more engaged. Suddenly you have to be much more creative because you need to use what you have in new and interesting ways. So: All the ‘just incase’ or ‘this could become a…’ objects need to be removed from my space.

I have to be honest here: I have not started working on my studio yet. It has taken me some time to come to this realisation. I have been afraid of it. But I have started sorting through my crafting things. The upcycling and repurposing movement is very inspirational. I plan to only use what I have to create my dolls. Until I run out of essentials. Anything I do not use needs to move on and everything else needs to be used up. Sometimes you need a box before you can think out of it.

Another aspect to this is that I feel guilty because some potential projects are never touched and I keep moving with boxes of junk that could become works of art. This is also a way of purging that heavy guilt. Work on one thing at a time, no guilt involved.

So this coming week will mean starting a very big mission of minimising and simplifying my creative spaces, preparing my environment and hopefully freeing myself.  Let’s see how it goes 😉

|My art is here: StateoftheART Gallery  and here: Jodi Hugo. Fine Art – for those interested|

Aesthetics and Minimalism

Aesthetics and Minimalism

natural

At first glance the word Minimalism might conjure up an image of vacant, sterile environments – those living spaces where you feel so uncomfortable because everything around you is so perfect and sitting on the clean white couch might wrinkle the impeccably placed scatter cushion. This was the association I used to have with the term. Minimalism meant straight lines, cold, clean, untouched, futuristic and white. Although this may be what some people love and what speaks to them, it put me off. And then I started looking a little closer.

This is not what it needs to mean. For every person their minimalist life will probably be completely unique form anybody else’s. It breaks down life to the essentials. This means that you need to really resonate with the objects around you to incorporate them into your life. The space around you can thus say more about you because the objects in it have been chosen for specific reasons.

Wabi-sabi | another view of Minimalism

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. Nothing is finished, nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent. This is a very different view from the Western perspective of idealistic beauty.

Wabi-sabi is a perspective that is completely compatible with a minimalist view of the world. It is about being mindful about the beauty around you and finding the value in that which is temporary and unique. Even finding the beauty in yourself and your ’flaws’. This is how I wish to view everything around me in future.

This includes no more junk and no more dissonance. Life and the objects in it are temporary and if an item does not serve you, it may serve someone else. Surround yourself with that which brings you closer to yourself, your community and your environment.

Things don’t have to be stark and sterile. Your space can be warm, organic and natural. The key is simplicity and not stripping your life of meaning. Simplify and you open yourself up to noticing and valuing that which is truly meaningful to you and allowing that in as long as it serves you. If it does not do that anymore, let it go. It could add value to someone else’s life.

It is the difference between tending a garden and controlling it. Minimalism can bring you closer to the earth, it can make you tread lighter.

I love this thought. This is what we are striving for.

Could we become Minimalists? | a short update |

This has been a tougher week than expected. It is a slower process and a more emotional one than I thought it would be.

 

This may have to do with living in an age where one expects some kind of immediate gratification. My house seems more jumbled and chaotic than before because we have all our things out in the open waiting to find new homes. The clean slate will come (I am anticipating the freedom!) but it will be a slow process. We have come face to face with everything we weren’t paying attention to. And it is quite overwhelming.

Still, we managed to get quite a lot done toward our new Minimalist lifestyle. We have donated some clothes and other household items. We also managed to sell a few things. I also had the privilege of giving some wonderful baby things to my sister who is expecting her first child. And, yes! I am the proudest aunt already 😉

Selling items seems to be a real challenge. In a sense we have very few things that are valuable. So the debt is still a big obstacle.

Becoming a Minimalist seems to mean dealing with many ghosts and false senses of stability and permanence. It means dealing with yourself and where you are in your life. A tough but valuable lesson.

This week we will continue our simplifying mission with updates as we progress. There will also be a post about my new doll crafting project this week. So: keep an eye out!