A To Cultivate List.

Today I started a “to cultivate list” as I’ve been prioritising my to do list over cultivating habits that I really want in my life. However, I do find that there’s a lot of things I’d like to be part of my daily life that it would be overwhelming to force myself to try and get them done every day. So to take the pressure off I decided I don’t have to try to do all of them every day, I’d just like them to feature in my week at least once and to prioritise making as much space as possible for them around that to do list.

Speaking of to do lists I’ve also recently been going through mine and striking off anything that I don’t actually need to do. I love this quote from Francine Jay: “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” There are so many “to dos” on our lists that I want to question why they’re there. We’re told so much about what we need to do in order to be healthy and successful and fulfilled. Those things are so subjective that we need to decide what to eliminate and what to keep. There is no way that I am getting up at 5am or going to the gym. I’ve my own idea of what a fulfilled successful life looks like and it involves as many lie ins as possible and walks in nature over gyms. Everyone’s idea of success is different, a 5am run might feature on your list and you hate the idea of practicing yoga, just make sure your striving for your own and not someone else’s ideal.

Throughout May I’ve made it a priority to write ‘Morning Pages’. If you’ve not heard of them they come from The Artists Way, a book by Julia Cameron, and they’re a daily writing practice in which you fill 3 pages of long hand writing in a stream of consciousness style. It’s basically a brain dump of all the repetitive thoughts we have floating around in our heads, and although they’re called Morning Pages, mine rarely happen in the morning. I’ve only missed a couple of days, and rather than beat myself up about it I just accepted that those days didn’t have the space for them. For me it’s quite a private practice and some days I can’t get the alone time and that’s okay. One of the days the sun shone so much in North Wales that I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from the garden, and I consider that a day well lived. These tools that we bring into our lives like meditation and journaling are supposed to make our lives better. If we use them as another stick to beat ourselves with then they aren’t serving us. Try making your demands on yourself lighter, like doing something a few times a week rather than forcing yourself to do it every single day. Find what works for you.

I’ve been working through the Prioritization meditation course on the Headspace App, which I’d highly recommend if you’d like to cultivate a meditation practice. Today the question was asked, “what’s not getting done and why?” I decided to create this list and pick out why certain things weren’t getting done. I wasn’t consistently drawing as I didn’t have clarity over what I wanted that to look like. Other questions you could ask is do I need more clarity on this? Does it really fit in with the life I want to cultivate? Am I uncertain on how to approach this? Can I make it easier and simpler? Does tracking it help me to cultivate it? I’m going to track the things I’ve placed on my ‘to cultivate list’ and see what is getting left behind so that I can analyse why. I know already drawing is so important to me but is being very neglected. So starting from today I’ve decided to add in that I’ll fill a sketchbook page following writing my morning pages. I think when we’ve already nailed consistency with something then it’s good to try and tie that in with something else we want to cultivate. Think of the things that you do so regularly you wouldn’t’ consider not doing them. Can you be more mindful when brushing your teeth. Can you make sure you drink a glass of water every time you boil the kettle to make a cup of tea (presuming your tea drinking habit is as intertwined into your day as much as mine is!)

I hope you’ve found this a little helpful. I think cultivating the life we want rather than what we think we should want is really important. I’m also aware that there’s a lot of privilege around being able to make time for all these things, but I hope that whatever your life looks like, you can carve out a little space to grow where you want to. And if you’re curious this is my current to cultivate list:

To cultivate:

  1. Journaling
  2. Drawing
  3. Meditation
  4. Yoga
  5. Reading
  6. Walk
  7. Gardening
  8. Making paper
  9. Calligraphy

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