Change Your Mind

10:27 Wed 20 Dec 2006. Updated: 13:51 01 Apr 2015
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I’ve had this item on my to-do list for a while: come up with list of instructions to self for getting into/out of certain emotional states. This mainly applies to creativity, motivation, and productivity (all of which are related).

The first one, creativity, I touched on in my post about inspiration. I think it should be possible to deliberately put myself into a mode where I’m going to either come up with ideas or do things with the ideas I already have. (This seems a more optimistic approach than simply waiting for inspiration to “strike”.)

And if that’s possible, it should be possible to push myself into other active mental states as well. By “active” I mean action-oriented—I have my doubts about moving into something like “happiness” with this kind of exercise. (An extended version of this kind of thing might qualify as “meditation”, however, and it appears likely that various forms of happiness can be aided significantly through meditation.) For the moment, I’m concerned with putting myself into a good state to do specific things.

The first one of these I actually came up with, and which gave me the idea for the others, was “consideration steps”. This could also be called “how to make a decision”. I found myself with a bunch of things to do like “Consider mootools (<http://mootools.net/download/release>)” and “consider [some] directory structure”, and found that I was shying away from those, so I came up with these steps:

  • Take 5 deep breaths (I think this should probably be added to more or less every checklist…).
  • Read over whatever it is.
  • Write 5 or more thoughts that come to mind after reading it.
  • Decide whether there are future actions that could be taken.
  • List those actions, and list how much time (approximately) that each might take.
  • If the action is “further consideration”, move onto separate list for this.
  • If actions are indeterminate, that is, I’m not sure whether I really want to do them, move to “possible future action” list.
  • Make notes on this process, and make sure that the action items (that is, the actions I’ve decided I want to take) are clear.

Nothing radical there, just a checklist for considering something and coming up with some kind of decision. The important thing appears to be deciding to make the decision, actually… and these steps help with that in the standard “delineated small things are easier to achieve than undifferentiated big things” way. At the least, I think these will get me in the right state of mind for decision-making. They’ve worked so far—except that I don’t always apply them. Decisions tend to go better when I do.

One I’ve only tried a couple of times, and which I’m superstitiously leery of using more often (something I want to get over by using it more often), and which I haven’t codified until now, is for getting inspiration, or getting into a creative mindset. What I note below is something I’ve never used (except in unconnected bits), and which I intend to try out.

  • Take 5 deep breaths.
  • Prepare working space for whatever creativity is going to take place. This could be notebooks, a computer, a whiteboard, paint and a canvas, whatever. But there has to be a record of some sort.
  • Write down the theme or setting or desired output or whatever it is that you know about what you want to get inspiration about.
  • Take 5 deep breaths again.
  • Recite:
    Cast a cold eye
    On life, on death.
    Horseman, pass by!

    (Obviously, substitute whatever works for you here. The Yeats is just something that seems to do it for me.)

  • Close eyes and focus on the theme/setting/desire output/whatever. Write (or paint, or output however you like) whatever comes to you at this point. Repeat this step, and keep repeating it, until you have something you think you can work on. If that doesn’t happen and you get stuck, repeat the last two steps and this one. If you get more stuck than that, go away and do something else for a while, then come back and repeat the whole thing.

Obviously, I can’t really *recommend* this, as I haven’t tried it as a whole! But I’ll use it for all my blog posts (and possibly my work on my novel) in the next week, and then report back on how it goes. (Update: I used it, it went very well, I now recommend it.)

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