Therapeutic Journaling Part 1: How I’ve Benefitted From Therapy So Far

Almost a decade ago now, I wrote about how you can Save $20,000 on Therapy by Buying a $20 Journal. To this day, I still hold the same position as I did back then in how journaling can help you reduce mental clutter, increase your self-knowledge, and potentially make you a whole lot happier with yourself. Especially if you’re upfront and honest in what you write in your journal.

Despite the tongue in cheek title of that blog post, though, I wasn’t actually arguing that you can replace therapy entirely solely by journaling. It was more so clickbait for a simpler lesson: that there are cost effective alternatives to therapy if you’re right on money like I was back then. Hence, buying a journal and doing the work all by yourself!

So after several jobs, a few entrepreneurial attempts, and many dollars later, I have given myself the honour and privilege of going to therapy—just like I’ve been wanting to since around the time of that original post (2014)—and I’ve got some insights I’d like to share with all of you.


There’s No Better Therapy Than Therapy

No amount of drugs, alcohol, or any other distractions will ever cure you from whatever pain and trauma you may hold within you. If you are wrought with grief, sadness, and despair, these are things you need to confront head on or they will persist in the background, pervading your very existence at every turn. You can mask the symptoms of these things, but like the nine headed hydra, you cut one head off, another will regrow in its place. Your pain needs to be confronted at the root, not the surface.

Even if you have good friends and family who ask you the right questions, and even give you all the unconditional empathy you need to feel validated, it will not rival the benefits that therapy can provide. I had the misconception that that’s all that therapy would be: I sit down and cry about my problems, then my therapist will pat me on the back and say “sorry to hear that,” ask me about my childhood to link a trauma from my past with a certain behaviour in the present, then it’s, “see you next week!”

On the contrary, a good therapist should also challenge your thoughts and beliefs about yourself, as well as your life circumstances so that you can cognitively reframe all these things in a healthy way. One that is as free as from your emotional bias as possible with some sense of objectivity that doesn’t weigh you down.

Sure, the empathetic moments are still there from time to time, but in my experience with therapy the past five months, I’ve found that the best sessions are the ones that challenged me to rethink my positions on love, life, and relationships so that I am better equipped at seeing how things actually are. Or at best, how things might actually be, since there’s no way to achieve true objectivity on a situation. This way, I can emotionally detach, healthily I must add, from certain situations that were causing me grief, and learn how not to get so attached to my own emotional bias.

A good therapist challenges you in a fair and helpful way. A way that is meant to guide you and question yourself without being judged or shamed for whatever dark deep secrets you may admit to in any of your sessions.

Not in that toxic way I have experienced from people who I thought were my friends, who I later realized were just be a bunch of concern trolls. You know the kind. They put on the air of “helping” you by challenging your perceptions, using your past history as a way to explain away why you’re so deficient now, but really they’re just finding a roundabout way to blame you for all your problems.

Even if it’s true, that you are the root of your own problems, that should never be thrown in your face to humiliate you. If you haven’t experienced this before, then count your lucky stars.

Offloading the Emotional Weight Off Your Shoulders

I started going to therapy at a time in my life where I felt drained from sacrificing myself for other people’s benefit. So many of my conversations would start with people crying to me about whatever problems they were facing and I would lend an empathetic ear, ask a few open ended questions, and just be there for these people. On the inverse, there were others who I also occasionally came to for emotional comfort on the offbeat chance I remembered to take care of myself and needed a helping hand with that.

In fact, for a lot of my adult life, I have spent in trying to form deep connections through this practice of shared pain and giving and getting as much unconditional empathy as I could. While this approach is still admirable even in hindsight, I’ve been woken up to the harsh reality that unloading your darkest deepest secrets with people, and expecting them to do the same, can lead to a lot of unhealthy relationships if not monitored correctly.

This doesn’t mean keep to yourself completely or never care about anyone else again, but learn to respect other people’s boundaries and set your own while you’re at it because not everyone should be an open book like this. There’s a time to share dark and deep secrets, but it sure as hell isn’t all day everyday because at some point, these kinds of friendships become unstable and too dependent on whether or not someone is troubled enough to help, let alone keep around.

Yep. That can happen sometimes. Friendships can definitely be formed in shared pain, as can romantic relationships, but that should not be the entire basis for any of these relationships since the whole point of unloading your pain is to eventually live a happy and fulfilling life. You can’t do that if there’s no measure for improvement and all you’re doing is using each other for free therapy that only ends up being a parody of the real thing.

So now that I’ve invested in an objective party to listen to me talk about my problems for an allotted amount of time every couple weeks, I no longer feel the need to burden other people with my problems unless it directly involved them or I know they have some experience in something similar and can actually help me. It’s very rare, but I will occasionally seek help from others outside of my therapist and myself when I really need it, which thankfully is not too often anymore.

Likewise, when it comes to people coming to me with their problems, as per my therapist’s suggestion, I should only do it if I’m happy enough to listen, which means I have to have had ample time to nurture myself properly before I can help anybody else.

Think of an airplane during extreme turbulence: you need to put on your own oxygen mask on first before you try and save anybody else. It’s like this in life because you cannot give what you do not have. So if you do not have self love, you’ll have no love to give to others, only a cheap imitation of it because you’re too drained to be authentic.

Such was my life last year in 2021.

So go to therapy, folks, as to help reduce the emotional baggage in which you might be coming into social interactions with, as well as become better able to handle the emotional baggage of others if you happen to be in the crossfire of it. But for the most part, try your best to seek healthy relationships based on fun, encouragement, and inspiration rather than the endless sharing of pain. There are groups for that.

Shedding Emotional Crutches

On top of over sharing my problems with people, and them doing the same for me, there were other things I used to use to distract myself from my problems. So while I did use other people to distract me from myself, I’ve also used alcohol and marijuana to cope with my emotions. Hell, I’ve even used work as an emotional crutch, both conventional work and my own business.

And while it’s not bad to partake in any substances in moderation, engaged empathetic relationships cautiously, or work hard at your job, using any of these things to cope with your emotions can have disastrous results. These can all be wonderful things to experience if engaged with when you’re free of emotional turbulence, because otherwise you can grow dependent on them to make you feel better in the short term rather than solving your problems for the long term benefit.

In fact, my dependence on marijuana is something my therapist challenged me on. Even if it is legal here in Ontario, it doesn’t make it not dangerous. I’m not trying to make a case about whether it should be legal or illegal, or even why you should or shouldn’t partake in marijuana. Just speaking from my own experience, I did grow dependent on it whenever I felt stressed in life, especially when I had a very under-stimulating office job between 2019 and 2020 before the pandemic hit, but that’s a story for another time.

Another story within a story I’d like to share is that there was a day where my dad had severe back pain and wanted me to go buy some back pain medicine for him. The problem was that I was high as hell, and as much of a rebel as I am, I’m not going to drive under the influence of marijuana, especially in the blistering cold and rain. All the while I was trying to get my dad to just do yoga, it’s natural after all, rather than hopping himself up with drugs. See where I’m going with this yet?

I shared this story with my therapist saying that I eventually got tired of my dad’s complaining and need for a quick fix, and walked to a pharmacy in the blistering cold with harsh winds nearly shoving me ever which way. I got up in arms about how my dad always just wants the quick fix, but then my therapist called me out on using marijuana as a quick fix for my problems. She asked me why I even go to therapy if I have this thing to cope with my emotions.

As I’ve always done, I made my excuses about how it helps me stop stressing quicker and makes media consumption, as well as therapy, a lot more fun and easier to engage in. And then she pointed out that I can definitely be doing both like I was saying I wanted to. You know, having my cake and eating it too. But then said that toking up would only solve things for me in the short term whereas therapy is more about long term healing.

Sixty minutes in therapy is a whole lot more work and requires a whole lot more time than packing my vape and toking up for about three minutes, but that only speaks to its superiority to a habit I had grown comfortable with in my adult life.

While I’m not perfect at it just yet, I can already feel my need for emotional crutches get left by the wayside thanks to the coping mechanisms and cognitive reframing strategies I’ve learned from therapy.

As of earlier this year of 2022, I have quit consuming marijuana and I’ve also stopped seeking out co-dependent relationships to ease any of my suffering, and that of others. There are still some individuals I keep in touch with and care for genuinely, but shared pain is no longer the central focus of our relationships. I’m also beginning to work on my business for its own sake rather than using it as a an angry response to an unfulfilling day job, a distraction from unhealthy relationships, or even just outright boredom and loneliness.


“And that’s how the cookie crumbles…”

Which cookie, you ask?

My mental health, of course.

Nah, I’m just kidding.

It has been a while since I’ve shared about my personal life here at Your Write to Live, so if you’ve made it this far into the post, I want to sincerely thank you for reading and possibly relating to what I’ve written. I hope you’ve also gleaned some value out of it as is my mission here in seeking to help other writers develop a better relationship with themselves in order to express themselves more freely in their creative endeavours.

That’s it for today’s Meaningful Monday, stick around for Therapeutic Journaling Part 2 for this week’s Workshop Wednesday where I will delve even deeper as to how to journal effectively.

How to Objectively Measure the Value of Art

You can’t.

It’s all subjective.

See you in the next Meaningful Monday post!

Just kidding, but also not really because although this is how most conversations about art end up, I think it’s worth exploring the conversation killing statement that “art is subjective.” There is a cold hard truth to it that is way more objective than anybody’s subjective opinion could ever be on any piece of art.

Be it a painting, a film, a novel—hell, even video games—anything put out into the world for our consumption and entertainment is subject to being criticized by the masses, assuming it’s lucky enough to reach that wide of an audience. Otherwise, there will always be that dedicated minority who stumbles upon, and actively seeks out, the more obscure art out there to be subject to their criticism.

In today’s post we will explore what it means to criticize art, to converse about it, and to wrap it all up, what art means to all of us at the end of the day. With Your Write to Live being a proponent for fostering creative expression, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle the potentially darker side of creativity where you put your work out there for all to criticize.

Criticizing Creation

First off, I should note that when I say “art,” it is an all encompassing term that refers to not only paintings, but also films, novels, video games, music, and everything in between. Simply put, art is the creative expression of human skill and imagination.

The function of art is to draw attention to certain aspects of the world and the human condition to its audience. Artists do this by being attentive to nuanced details that we may or may not be aware of in our day to day lives. In turn, they highlight these details in their artwork, thus making us hyperaware of these aspects of life that we may not have otherwise noticed, at least not consciously.

A painting can capture how beautifully the sunlight reflects off the surface of a lake, music can capture the sonic expression of human emotion, and a well told story can demonstrate the complexities of human relationships, as well as our unending drive to strive for what we want to achieve in life.

So then to criticize a piece of art is to criticize the world, the artist, and potentially ourselves because of all the thoughts and feelings it may evoke in us. Some pieces of art speak to us while others may not, and there is an endless amount of factors that can affect our experience with every piece out there.

Maybe the piece doesn’t offer anything new or exciting. Maybe it reveals to us that which we do not want to see. Or better yet, a piece itself has been put together so haphazardly that it is hard to tell what it is trying to convey in the first place.

Whatever the reasons are, every piece of art isn’t for everybody. And how can it be? Even when you try to appeal to a mass audience, there will always be those who prefer the more obscure stuff. And on the flipside, there are some pieces of art that—for better or for worse—are so esoteric that only a minority of people will appreciate, let alone understand it.

Depending on what kind of art appreciator you are, you can be veering off to one extreme to another or finding some kind of healthy balance between the both, but at the end of the day, the popularity of a piece does not reflect as a measure for its quality. And even if a small minority of people love a more obscure piece of art with way more passion combined than the masses simple acceptance of what’s in the mainstream, even that becomes a hard thing to measure.

Because how can you measure the value of art?

Criticizing Criticisms

We’ve all had this happen before. We bring up a piece of art that we love and someone else agrees, and together you just go off stating all the reasons as to why that piece of art is “so good.” But then comes along some other person who disagrees and says that that piece of art is actually “bad.” Then maybe you all get a little heated and start arguing over the reasons as to why that piece is “good” or “bad.”

Depending on your debate style and skills, these kinds of conversations usually go in one or three possible ways:

  1. You and the other person endlessly defend your respective opinions and nobody learns anything from anybody.
  2. You and the other person defend your respective opinions and actually start to see the validity of each other’s opinions, while still maintaining your original stances.
  3. One of you actually changes the viewpoints of the other and the opposing party concedes to agree with some, if not all, counterarguments.

If you can achieve outcome number three, I definitely applaud you for your passion and logic because if it is so sound that someone else can finally open their eyes to the light, then hot damn is that a gratifying feeling to have.

And while that’s all well and good, you shouldn’t get too ahead of yourself because at the end of the day, these are nothing but subjective opinions that are barely, if at all, grounded in some kind of objective metric that can measure the value of art.

To beat the dead horse, art is still subjective and it I think I figured out the problem to how you can measure the value of art. It’s something you really can’t do, so the better question we should be asking ourselves is, “why does this person like or not like this piece of art?”

It took me a while to realize this, but basically when someone ever says anything is “good,” or “bad,” it’s just shorthand for “I like it,” and “I don’t like it.” Or to go even further if someone isn’t fully enamoured by a piece of art and they like some aspects, while not liking others, then that’s when you begin to develop a more nuanced understanding of art, and by extension life.

Because art and life are a beautiful cacophony of chaos and order, and a strange balancing act between the two. Not everything can be loved or hated to the most extreme level, or at least for not very long, because nothing is so perfect or so imperfect that there is absolutely no bad or good residing within it.

Art is Who We Are

We are perfectly imperfect beings with so many idiosyncrasies about ourselves that only we may ever truly understand within ourselves. Close friends, family members, or even extremely good therapists can definitely try to understand you as much as they can, but at the end of the day, only you know the true meaning of what any piece of art does for you because of your own unique lived experience.

Anyone who tells you that they know you more than you know yourself is really just getting too in love with their own genius in seeing some of your blind spots for you, but they don’t know the whole story or see the whole picture that is you. If anyone ever makes this claim about you, I would suggest you develop some skepticism and learn to know yourself better so you can learn how egregious that claim can be whenever anybody makes it.

You and only you can truly know yourself. It’s not up to anyone else, but you, and the way in which you relate to art is one of the best ways to get a better understanding of yourself. Begin to ask why you are drawn to certain genres, styles, and themes in art, and you’ll quickly learn what you truly value in life.

If you love horror, perhaps you enjoy confronting your fears head on.

If you love romance, perhaps you’re a romantic person in love with the concept of love itself.

If you love fantasy, perhaps you value the courage it takes to embark on an epic adventure.

Whatever your personal preferences are in art, they speak to you because in a way, they also speak for you, expressing all the inner workings of your being in visual, auditory, and conceptual fashion. You can tell a lot about somebody’s psychological make up based on what kind of art they consume, but again only they truly know themselves enough while you on the outside can only speculate so much about them.

And this is why a lot of conversations about art can devolve into petty debates about what’s good and bad, especially your taste in it. I was like this for a long time too where I mistook criticisms of my favourite art as a criticism of myself, just as much as it would be to have my own creative work criticized as well.

Art is Who We Are and it’s no wonder why we take our preferences seriously at times. I’m not in the business of telling you whether or not you should be offended if someone takes a jab at your favourite stuff, in fact there are some people out there who make it a point to make fun of their own favourite stuff, possibly because being full out positive about it might be seen as too fanboy-ish or fangirly.

But honestly, if you’re in love with a piece of art, paint the town with your love for it because art is what makes life more meaningful and definitely way more worth bearing with. It beautifies our lives with its attention to details we otherwise would not notice had artist not take the time to express themselves and embellish those details.

Resisting Rejuvenation

For as long as I can remember, I have contended with resistance to expressing my own creativity. This has ranged from writing novels, writing music, and editing videos. I often question how these things I find so enjoyable can also become so difficult to jump back into, especially when it gets to the point where I constantly have to remind myself how good it feels to get into the flow state because I can’t seem to as quickly as I once did when I first started a project.

Couple that with life’s little curveballs and it could be a recipe for disaster. Competing for our attention, there’s work, maintaining an active social life, and other responsibilities that seem to get in the way of our creative self expression. When all of these curveballs are successfully caught, evaded, or even if they end up hitting us in the face, it can seem pretty easy to feel like we just don’t have any energy left to work on any of our creative projects.

The crazier thing is that even when you do have a full day, week, or even a month to do whatever you want, resistance can still creep up on you. I’ve certainly experienced this throughout my life where I’ve had a significant amount of downtime from working, while all these creative projects I know I want to do work on fell by the wayside. Despite remembering the joy these projects brought me, I rationalized that I deserve to sit around all day like a potato, binge watching stuff on Netflix and YouTube, playing the hell out of video games, and then dozing off in the middle of the day when all entertainment options have been exhausted.

If you can relate to this, then I’ve got the solution for you, and it’s actually quite simple. It may seem counterintuitive and pretty obvious in hindsight, but what we must do in the heat of resistance is push through it and get to work anyway.

Even when you’re not feeling it, nay, especially when you’re not feeling it.

Here’s why:

Creativity is Our Life Blood

If you are a creative person with a ton of ideas, with little to no execution of said ideas, you know very well how excruciating it may be to “not have the time” or “not have the energy” to create something. All the while your other creative friends and family members, along with other creatives who have their work put out into the world, are pumping out piece after piece, and you’re stuck staring at a blank page or canvas.

Or maybe you’re not even at that stage, and instead choose to distract yourself with TV and video games, but no matter how hard you try to pay attention to your distraction, the back of your mind is nagging you about that thing you know you should be working on. That project you tell all your friends and family about with the utmost gusto like it would be the coolest thing put out into the world, but you’ve yet to put pen to paper.

Something I learned recently is that creativity actually fuels us, not drain us. You may feel mental and/or physical fatigue from the stresses of life, but actually starting a project can wake your soul back up and bring you back to life. Creative people die inside when they’re not creating because all of these ideas get locked up inside our minds and the overwhelm of having things left unexpressed brings about a ton of anxiety.

The funny thing about anxiety is that it’s really just a bunch of unspent energy. At the psychological and emotional level, anxiety is all about fearing death and being too afraid to act in the face of it. Yes, there’s a sense of possible death when we dare to do something creative because if you plan to put your work out there you risk getting criticized and having said criticism make your work feel like a waste of time. It would hurt to admit your ego was right, that you’re not that very good at the thing you do.

Or if you never plan to put your work out there to share with the world because you’re more of a solitary hobbyist, you can still run up against that perfectionism and potential fear of death. You may be doing it just to entertain yourself, but being your own worst critic and hardest fan to please, what would it say about you if you can’t even entertain yourself?

All these anxieties and more are there because creating art is a risk for the reasons above and more. While valid, you shouldn’t let them stop you from simply expressing the depths of your soul in whatever form you choose.

At the physiological level, anxiety and excitement are exactly the same. That surge of adrenaline coursing through our bodies that makes our hearts race? That’s our body’s way of readying itself for action, and if that action isn’t taken, that energy stays locked up inside and eats away at you.

It’s pretty much the same thing as wanting to confess your love for someone. The longer you keep it in, the harder it becomes to take the next opportunity to do so, all the while just feeling the pain of having something meaningful to you left unexpressed. Art is the exact same way, except it’s you confessing your love for yourself, and by extension, your love for the world and expressing how you see it so others can see it the way that you do.

This is why it is of utmost importance that if you do have a creative project constantly brewing in the back of your mind, that you get to it as soon as you have the time. In fact, I’d say you should make the time. It’s important. It’s in your soul to express it, so instead of creating excuses as to why you can’t or shouldn’t do it, just create the thing to begin with.

Free Yourself From Your Ego

Even when you have “good reasons” as to why you shouldn’t start that project, what it really comes down to is your ego getting control over you. It’s afraid that it’ll die once you start working on something, and so it tells you you’re not good enough to start yet, that you’re not ready, and no one is going to care about what you create, so why bother, right?

If these excuses sound familiar, then it’s time you recognize your ego for what it is and learn how to fight back. If you’ve ever been in a flow state while creating something, you know very well how good that can feel. Time seems to fly by and all your worries go away.

That’s the death of the ego.

The ego wants to stay alive by robbing you of the present moment because all it wants you to do is think about your past failures and regrets, and all the fears you have about the future. Creativity, on the other hand, brings you straight to the present and converts your mind’s proclivity to obsess over the past and future into a wonderful tool.

If you’re writing a novel, then you start to think about what has happened in the story so far and use that to inform the current scene you’re writing, and that’s a useful function of our ability to recall the past. And since novels aim to have an end goal in mind, you also start to think about what needs to happen next as a natural consequence to what you just wrote, and that’s a useful function of our ability to think about the future.

Life only happens in The Now, the present moment. When you experienced the past, that was the form The Now took, and when the future comes, it only happens in The Now as well. This is all we ever have and then seemingly in an instant, it’s gone. So why waste time worrying about the things that have past and things that may yet to be when you can seize the moment and create something that immortalizes your soul for eternity?

How to Achieve Immortality

If it’s the fear of death that stops us from creating, perhaps it’s the very act of creation where we achieve immortality. When you stop to really think about it, all of the artists that have come before us still live on in their work.

Jimi Hendrix’s physical body may be dead, but his spirit lives on in the music he bestowed upon the world. Those tasty guitar licks and funky vocals of his are the encapsulation of his soul at certain points in time of his life. Every studio track and live performance is a record of not only his existence that we can experience from now until eternity, but also the deepest depths of his soul with what he expressed through his music.

You may or may not reach the level of stardom Jimi Hendrix has, but one thing is for certain; if you too create something that is the genuine expression of your being, a piece of your soul will live on in that artwork for all time. Assuming, of course, that you have a means to preserve it and ensure that it remains preserved long after your physical being fades away.

Just having anything created is one step closer to immortality. If you’ve got a painting, a document containing your novel, or a sound file containing your music, that is a piece of your soul you’ve captured for any potential audiences to experience long after you’re gone.

Whether you do it for yourself and/or for the world, that is how immortality can be achieved. To what degree do you want others to remember you by is completely up to you and that’s why there are many services out there that provide ways in which your work can be shared and preserved.

So next time you’re not “feeling it,” take a moment to stop and think. If we’re all destined to be dust one day, why not express what big emotions we have in the very little time that we have?

Productive Procrastination

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head and just couldn’t remember the title of it even if it was at the tip of your tongue? Then went on about your day like normal and just when you thought you’ve forgotten all about it, then suddenly you remember the song title?

This is the power of the subconscious mind. When you try to engage it consciously it often does not yield any benefit because that’s not how this sneaky mental ninja works. It’s actually best to set an intention for something you want, let it wonder in the back of your mind, and allow for your subconscious to work on it in the background.

This is why a lot of creative people come up with their greatest ideas in the shower, while they’re driving, and doing anything else that can be as far removed from the intended activity as possible. And this is also why you might not have to feel too guilty about procrastinating on any creative endeavour, so long as you actually sit down and chip away at it at some point in a reasonable timeframe.

Binging Netflix

When I used to party a lot in my twenties, a common thing people would express guilt about was the amount of Netflix they were watching. Someone would ask, “what have you been up to?” And the response would be, “binging Netflix,” through chuckles that would be an attempt to hide their shame for not looking for a job or enrolling in some kind of post secondary education.

They had this preconception that being an adult meant always being busy and tired, and it actually made me feel kind of sad for them that they did appreciate this mental health break habit a little more than they could have.

The way I saw it was, based on the kinds of shows and movies they were watching, they were passively submitting an avatar of themselves to project onto the screen in the form of the show or movie’s protagonist who would overcome insurmountable obstacles. It’s not that these people were being lazy and doing absolutely nothing, per se, rather they were doing a whole lot while not doing a whole lot at the same time.

They were productively procrastinating.

When we watch our favourite characters contend with the conflict of the plot and other characters in a story, we are seeing ourselves in them and expanding our capacity to see the possibilities in tough situations we may encounter ourselves. To watch our characters grow and evolve, especially when their struggles hit home for us, we are inadvertently learning how to process our own struggles and develop the strength and courage act thereafter.

The thing that would often happen with these people I would run into at parties is that a few months down the line I’d hear that they started going to school or gotten jobs, or if they were already employed and/or educated, they took up new hobbies and interests that enriched their lives.

It was as if they needed those couple of months to decompress and binge watch their favourite shows, much to the dismay of their parents and other people in their lives, including themselves, who were expecting a little more out of them than lazing around “doing nothing.”

As far as I can tell, that Netflix binging period of their lives served as time to buffer while they reoriented themselves physically and mentally, and maybe even emotionally, to reengage with the world when they felt safe and confident to do so again.

The Self Help Junkie

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “how can self help be considered procrastination?”

A lot of people assume that pursuing personal development means personal perfection. That they cannot engage with the world and form relationships until they are absolutely perfect in knowing themselves, and only then will they be able to go out into the world and show that true self that’s been locked away from years of pain and anguish.

This was me for a very long time. I would read every self help book I can and watch all these motivational videos, all the while not really doing much in the real world in terms of seeking employment or even forming relationships with people. Sometimes the feeling of reassurance from the motivational talks and the rush of discovering all these insights about myself was enough to make me feel good about myself and then not do much else with it.

I once had a friend who asked me, “what if all this self knowledge stuff is what’s preventing you from finding a partner?” And at the time my ego came up with the defensive retort, “maybe you lacking in self knowledge is why you always end up in crappy relationships. I want to avoid that by becoming the best me possible so my future girlfriend and I don’t have to suffer through the dysfunctions you guys are experiencing.”

Looking back now, I can see just how extreme and black and white I was in my thinking. I can’t say for sure if what I said about my friend was correct, it’s not my place to really say since only he knows the details of his personal journey as intimately as he does. Anything coming from me would just be a bunch of baseless and defensive assumptions.

But one thing I can say for sure was that he was right about me. For a long time I invested in personal development and thought I knew myself to a T, but you only really get to know how well you’ve developed as a person when you engage with other people and see how this new and improved you actually manages in relationships.

So alas, my arrogance was often squelched by my own set of weird and dysfunctional relationships that gave me a very rude awakening: I really didn’t know myself as much as I thought I did. It only felt like that because I had consumed countless of books and videos about personal development that made me feel good about myself, but without proper application and guidance by a mentor and/or therapist, you can never really know if what you’re learning is even valid.

Which is why as a side note, I highly suggest you hire a life coach and/or a therapist to help guide you through your personal development. No one should have to do it alone, we’re all in this together. And you can have some of the most empathic friends and family who listen to you well, ask you all the right questions, and give you all the reassurance you need.

But the value of a mentor via therapy or life coaching is that this person can have emotional objectivity about you since they don’t have a personal connection to you beyond hired professional and paying client. They’ll be able to see you from an even higher bird’s eye view than your friends and family. A therapist especially, since they know how the human mind works, can really help you understand yourself a whole lot better based on neuroscience and psychology.

Last thing I’ll say on self help is that engaging in personal development assumes you’re flawed in some way, hence your desire to develop personally. But that shouldn’t come at the cost of your self esteem because it’s easy to fall under the trap of perfectionism with it.

Never be too afraid to apply what you learn from self help books, videos, and programs to see if what you’re being taught is valuable. There is no one size fits all solution to personal growth so you’ll have to take and discard principles from varying sources that work particularly for you. And if you also experience a period where you become a self help junkie yourself, see that as a time for you to incubate before you’re ready to hatch and get out into the world.

Mindlessly Browsing the Internet

Even mindlessly browsing the internet can be a source of productive procrastination regardless of the content you’re consuming. Best case scenario is that you are watching things relevant to your goals and learning things, but even if you are just watching cat videos and stupid dance videos on TikTok, there’s always gonna be that voice in the back of your mind that is constantly reminding you of the things you know you should be doing.

Listen to that voice, especially when it begins to get louder and louder over time. It’s crucial. If you try and ignore it, it will definitely be upset with you, but at the same time it will take your intended goals into your subconscious and work it out for you before you engage in the activity you know you could be doing.

If you are consuming content that does educate you on your interests and profession, then great, just make sure not to let it all slip out of your mind without proper application down the line. If you’re watching pointless cat and meme videos, just recognize that our brains don’t always have to be all go, go, go! at all times. Speaking as someone who has ADHD, there is a ton of value in some passive brain activity. We all need the mental break from time to time.

Even as you read this article, maybe there is something nagging at the back of your mind that you should be doing so I don’t want to keep you any longer than I need to. I appreciate your time and attention to read this and hope that you can eventually pick up your socks and do the things you know you “should” be doing.

Final Thoughts

You should still carve out some time to do the thing you know you should be doing. Maybe it’s writing a novel, recording a song, or other responsibilities in life like chores around the house Whatever it is that you’re putting off, just know that as you put it off, your subconscious mind is priming yourself to kick ass at it once you get down to it, assuming you let yourself engage in it in the first place.

But hey, don’t get too down on yourself when you’re procrastinating. Because maybe it’s just the buffer time you need to before you feel ready and competent enough to engage with the world at large.

What are you currently procrastinating on?

Is there a productive outcome from this procrastination?

Let me know in the comments below!

The Importance of Mentorship

In order to achieve mastery in a given field, it is important to have mentors whose mastery you would wish to emulate. Forming a connection with someone who has already achieved the same goals as you can vastly increase your chances of succeeding. Not only do they show you how they made it possible for themselves, but they could also see the potential in you to do the same and tease out what you might have to do in order to improve.

The Eternal Student

One of the best ways to approach life is to act as if you are a student from now until eternity, constantly learning and constantly growing. While it is important to celebrate victories and milestones as they come, you cannot allow yourself to get too attached to those small instances of joy. They can feel really good in the moment, as they should, but a sense of pride and enjoy are fleeting, much like most things in life. It’s all temporary and not meant to last.

If you veer off too much into being proud of your accomplishment, you can risk stifling your growth because you will have become so arrogant as to think you know it all now because of this one peak among the valleys. Know that you can always be reaching one peak higher than the last so long as you draw breath. And all the other valleys that come in between are nothing but stepping stones toward that next peak.

Having a mentor guide you through your journey can help you measure whether or not the challenges you come across in your given field are worth conquering or if they are nothing but dead weight. Operating from your frame of reference you will only be seeing the forest for the trees and a good mentor will be able to see where you are at from the bird’s eye view above the said forest.

If you remain open minded about seeing each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new about the world and yourself, then you are already ahead of most people who do nothing but complain about life not giving them what they want. Important things in life must be earned through our own sheer hard work and determination. Almost nothing gets handed to us for free, and even if you do receive something for free, it’s not really free–but that’s a topic for another day.

If you also have a mentor while having this mentality then you can accelerate your growth if you are willing to take their feedback and criticisms of your ever growing mode of being. Mistakes will happen and you have to accept that. If we already knew exactly what to do and how, there would be no point in even experiencing life because then you would be operating from a place of absolute perfection that it’s not even human.

It does not matter how driven or ambitious you are, anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work and determination, and none of that comes easy. And so a good mentor will constantly remind you that while you may make mistakes along the way, they can reassure you that it is all part of the process and in fact, they are important for the process because that sting of failure can often be a strong motivator to not make the same or similar mistakes down the line.

Choosing Your Mentors

A mentor can be anybody you look up to. Maybe you’re a bodybuilder and need a personal trainer to be your mentor. Maybe you’re an artist and need a professional artist to be your mentor. Or maybe you’re a writer and need a writing coach to be your mentor.

A mentor should be someone who you can talk to on a regular basis and share your progress with and have the express purpose of getting open and honest feedback on how you can improve yourself. They need to be well accomplished in a way that you wish to be and need to be willing to show you the ropes rather than see you as a burden to their own growth, in which case they might not be mentor material because they have yet to establish themselves in their field.

However, if for whatever reason you cannot find a mentor you can talk to in person or even online, there is also the concept of virtual mentors. These can range from a plethora of rich and famous people who may or may not even be in the same field of expertise you are wishing to excel at. For instance, as a writer, you can still look up to an actor not so much in content of what they do since it’s different from your work, but the content will be very much the same: a creative person who is constantly taking on new projects and exploring different sides of their self expression.

If you go the virtual mentor route, pay close attention to interviews involving these people and learn from how they compose and explain themselves when they are asked questions regarding their professions. The real questions, though, not the celebrity fluff like what their favorite flower is or if they like Christmas. Real questions that could be asked of an accomplished writer such as Stephen King that could be along the lines of, “how are you able to consistently write 1000 words a day?”

The first thing to note is that he has a very reasonable daily goal. Two thousand words a day might sound like a lot to some people–it certainly would have when I was still starting out as a writer–but it is definitely manageable with enough practice. Then the second thing is that it’s an almost daily accomplishment for him which can tip you to the fact that there has to be some kind of routine he goes through before he gets himself to sit down and write those 2000 words a day. And lastly, how he handles himself in the zone of writing those 1000 words is important to note as well.

What Stephen King does before he sits down to the write for the day is have a glass of water or tea around the same time every morning, about 8:00am-8:30 and ensures that his papers and desk are set in the right order as he sits in the same seat each day. This ritualistic approach to his writing primes his brain to remember that when he takes these certain actions that they will inevitably lead toward writing those 2000 words he sets out to write each day. And he does not allow himself to stop until all is said and done which happens between 11:30am-1:30pm before he is free to go about his day any way he pleases afterward.

Now while you might not take the exact approach as Stephen King would, as a writer it is important to establish daily rituals that get you into the mood for writing as consistently as possible. The content of Stephen King’s routine are not important, at least not for you. The context is more important. The context of someone who has reached a certain level of mastery in his given field who has an established routine that makes it almost certain that he accomplishes what he sets out to do for the day.

The advantage of having a mentor you can actually talk to, though, is that they can provide you with even more insight about their routines in a way that just reading a book about them would not suffice. Because then you can ask more nuanced questions about what happens if certain aspects of the routine are disrupted or somehow not possible, or what they would do if they still cannot engage in their practice despite having done their seemingly surefire routine. And if they are generous and humble enough, they could share how they deal with their own self doubt and how they squash it in favor of higher pursuits.

Humanizing Your Mentors

As great as mentors can be in showing you what is possible in a given field, we must also remember that they are still human and are prone to mistakes themselves. The point of having a mentor may be to emulate what they do in order to succeed, but that does not mean you need to follow their advice and examples to a tee.

While it is great to choose a mentor who is much further along than you are and is in a position to help you out immensely, you cannot fall under the trap of thinking that they are the paragons of success. If it is not enough for you to listen to them share about their past challenges and how they overcame them, you need to be hyperaware of the challenges they may still be facing in the present all the while lending you a hand with your endeavors.

So do not idealize or idolize your mentors. They may be ahead of you in your current field, but remember that they too may be lacking or struggles in other areas of life so not all of their advice and guidance may be valid. You will have to be very discerning in deciding whether or not to follow what they say. For all you know what works for them may not actually work for you, but a good mentor will always be adamant about letting you know that there is a multiplicity of paths that can lead you to your destination, not just theirs.

This doesn’t mean that mentors are completely useless in the end. It just means that you are better off with mentors than you are without, but you cannot depend on them to show you all the ropes. A lot of those other ropes they cannot show you are the ones you need to discover and explore on your own, using all that you have learned from your mentors in order to orient toward the right direction.

Do you have any mentors in your life?

What difference have they made in your life?

Let me know in the comments below!