Before you Begin

Painting by Carlos Caban

If you have been reading my posts for the last few months, one of the things that I always seem to be talking about is clarifying the process of doing anything that you choose to do. The act of bringing more of yourself to any activity.

Today’s bit of clarity happens before you are engaged in what you are about to do.

For over 30 years now I have been going to classes 2-3 times a week. It has been a great gift in my life and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. As you can imagine there have been a few turbulent times in my life, where there were relationship problems, moves to different cities, job changes, money troubles, an overblown ego, mental burnout, mental and emotional walls or I was just being an ass. I am sure there are more ways life has been difficult, but this is a good start! These things are part of a healthy life. Yes, dealing with troubles and change is a part of a healthy life.

One thing I have learned over the years for my benefit and those around me is the ability to form a clean slate at will.

What that means is I drop my troubles at the door before I walk into class or any activity and create a clean space. Creating a clean mental slate is a skill that I had to learn, and many times fake it until it became a habit that I could call upon quickly.

So this is the formula that seems to work. It is excellent for anything you need to do well, or want to do well. It also helps those around you.

Step 1. As I am getting ready to travel to my destination, I take stock of what I am going to be doing and begin to ask questions of myself. What it is that I am going to need? ( I can tell you as a photographer this has saved my butt more than once) What is it that I want to accomplish? ( if you are a student that means you want to be a blank slate for your teachers to engage you in the subject they are teaching) How long will it take to get to where I am going? (Being late to me is passive aggressive behavior, sometimes it can’t be helped, but people who make a habit of being late are always being disrespectful of your time.) So to recap in this step, I ask what am I doing? What do I need? What do I want to accomplish? How long does it take to get there?

Step 2: While on route to the class, or meeting even in another room, I start to fill my mind with things I should be thinking about to make it easier to get into the flow of the activity. If I am going to a photography shoot, I start thinking about what story is to tell, what the client needs from me, and what I need to do to make it happen. Or lighting challenges. If I am going to Tai Chi or Chi Gung class I start watching my breath, and start playing chi gung visually; this is also helpful if I am driving because I am much more aware of what is going on at present. The Idea here is to get yourself mentally prepared for the activity at hand.

Step 3. Before walking into the room to engage my task, I imagine all of my troubles anything that I am carrying with me that is not needed, and I hang it in a bag outside of the door.These are mental worries like my fears, anger, even things that I am excited about like an upcoming trip or anything that I might be happy about that happens after class, or something that happened before class. The idea here is to check anything at the door that will get in the way of what you are about to do. Don’t worry it will all be there when you leave though it may change for the better.

Step 4. As I walk into the room, I smile and open myself to whatever is going to happen with a positive mental attitude.

This sequence I do now before everything that I do. Even writing a blog post, or going to the store, or getting ready to make a phone call. I do this before every playtime, which is nearly every morning. It is an exercise of clarity that has tremendous payback. Start with one task first, such as going to work, or going to class, or going to bed and see how it begins to transform your activity.

Let me know how it goes!


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