There’s this thing that I notice I do both during and after listening to the podcast episodes of Debbie Millman’s Design Matters, Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, and Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative.
I find myself having a conversation with the host, in my head.
Without really meaning to, I go to this place a few years in the future, when I’ve actually reached the level of creative and entrepreneurial success that at times I think I’m capable of, and I tell the story of how I got there, and how the current moment (my actual situation while I’m daydreaming) fits into the larger story of my life and career.
I think that there is both positive and negative potential in this habit.
Let’s start with the positive.
I consider those hosts – Debbie, Jonathan, and Todd – to be my mentors.
Even though I’ve only met one in person, and very briefly at that (Jonathan Fields and the 2015 World Domination Summit), I’ve listened long enough to each to be able to recreate their voice in my head, along with their interview style. I imagine how they would react to certain things that I would say and the follow-up questions they would ask.
Via that dialogue I’m often able to put my current struggles in the proper context, and sometimes I stumble upon a breakthrough that helps me to take the next step in what feels like the right direction.
That’s the positive type of internal dialogue that I’m trying to develop.
Now let’s address the two different ways in which those made-up conversations can turn negative: 1) if I spend too much time in that successful future I’m daydreaming about and 2) if I lose a realistic view of my current situation.
It can be healthy and helpful to spend brief periods of time in an imagined future to remind yourself of where you’re going and why, but if you spend too much time there you’ll forget that the real work – the steps that will carry you toward that future – can only be taken when your mind is in the present.
So I try not to let those conversations run on too long. I let them serve their purpose – a brief chat with a mentor and a reminder of where I’m headed – and then I get back to work.
This topic of mindfulness has been on my mind for a while now, and the rough flowchart above is one I created a few years back (in a bar at the end of the day, if my memory serves me well).
It’s not bulletproof by any means, but I’ve found it helpful. Maybe you will too.