It sounds simple but it’s this daily & conscious commitment that keeps the balance of my Five Souls
Do you know these days or weeks when you feel low and too many things are not working out. When you seem to be out of balance? When your week feels heavy but also boring, when you feel stuck, stressed and you have no idea how to start improving any of what’s currently going wrong? I’m sure that everyone went through such a phase. And let’s be honest, that’s life. This can be part of our life once in a while. Only when we start accepting to live with it, when we get comfortable with it but still do not feel good about it, then it’s going to get worse and eventually drags us further down in a black hole. Instead of searching in panic for something to switch on the light in that black hole, it would be better if we start seeing this whole black surrounding with different eyes, with a changed perspective. Who said we can’t see light only because our eyes are not seeing it? Where is our imagination and fantasy?
I’m not an expert when it comes to DEpression but I am under the IMpression that during the past decade depression has become more of an excuse of someone’s not so ideal situation and the inability (lack of motivation and confidence, laziness?) of taking actions to improve it. That’s the most important thing: Take action, do something! Away with the poor me! I know that taking the first step is always hard but once we start and once we move towards a more positive direction we will see, tackling one unideal situation after the other makes it easier to deal with whatever comes after that. But remember, do something, right now.
When I was in such a situation - let’s say because I’ve lost a job, struggled financially, lost motivation, got sick and couldn’t get rid of it for ages, lost a lot of energy in general, or when one of my relationships ended - what did I do?
I sat down and asked myself: So, what are the most important areas of my daily life that I would need to work on? What is it that makes me happy in each of these areas? And I came up with five areas.
By breaking and noting down what makes me happy in each of these areas helped me to bring them back into my consciousness and remind me of what is really important in my life. This way I can keep them all balanced and that simply makes me feel balanced. And not only that, it will make me feel alive, happy, satisfied and more excited. By clearly naming what makes me cheerful and what fills my life with joy, I came down to my Five Souls Concept.
It sounds super simple and comprehensible, though the challenge lies in the daily realisation and in the weekly balance of all of them. More than once have I completely lost it! My balance, my joy, my fun, drive, energy, purpose and so on. The more I practise my Five Souls Concept the better I get, the better I internalise them and the better I create a lifestyle that is built around them. I also feel more confident to cut out the negative and distracting things the world is telling me I should surround myself with. I focus on what I truly need and like.
I don’t want this to sound like hard work because it’s actually not. And you will see, with a bit of practise, meaning with self reflection and writing, it becomes easier to internalise and really live by them. And you can do this self reflection without being judged as a ‘softy’. I'm not asking you to spend all your spare time in your head thinking. The challenge is to have, appreciate and use that little extra time for yourself. It's a challenge to feel comfortable being only with yourself and your thoughts. Most of us tend to distract ourselves with the digital world and never allow us to think a little deeper or to reflect. Well, do not overthink but enjoy the results of your thinking and maybe write them down? In fact, I wrote them down.
So what are these souls exactly?
In short they are CCSBC and that stands for:
The Creative Soul
The Contributing Soul
The Social Soul
The Body Soul
The Curious Soul
1) The Creative Soul. The above order of my Souls doesn’t mean that one Soul is more important than the other, they all are important. But when I wrote them down “Creativity” naturally came first to my mind. Being creative is a form of freedom to me. A freedom of expressing myself. It also functions as a meditation and I calm down because of its therapeutic power. Since I’ve been a child, drawing and writing have been my favourite creative activities. Still today, I completely switch off and process the world around me. Of course with my own lines and in my own words. Surely, my work didn’t and doesn’t necessarily make sense to others. It’s not my aim to please anyone else but I'm definitely smiling and feeling happy if you like my art. All I want is letting out my thoughts and feelings.
At the age of eight, I wrote my first short stories about humanity and why we all should be kinder to each other, about inequality, environment issues and my relationships. When I was five years old, I loved to draw deers, then cars, then houses and later in school I already discovered that drawing faces is cool and that I love it. The abstract and colourful phase started when I was around 18 years old after my parents introduced me to Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s paintings. I feel very at peace with myself when I draw, paint, write or compose songs on the piano. I truly recharge my batteries by being creative. I create something that I can physically see, read or hear and that creates a certain feeling of satisfaction which is so crucial to my wellbeing. I kind of digest the world around me whilst I enjoy just being by myself.
2) The Contributing Soul. As much as I love spending “me time”, I love being part of a team, a group and/or organisation that is working together on projects. I like to contribute to something that’s bigger than me, something that would not be possible or achievable to do alone, something that really needs a collective. I’m working at a leadership consulting firm at the moment and for the first time since I’ve been starting to work for companies I feel I am part of a team and an organisation that resonates with what I want to give back to this world. I enjoy that we help other companies to spot and develop their leaders. It’s improving the way a company will be managed. It improves human interaction and communication and the way people work together. It’s something that adds value.
I appreciate my days and weeks off work. However, I always miss being part of a team after a while. Maybe because I’ve been conditioned like this from Kindergarten on to school, uni or maybe because I'm simply a social human being. Speaking of which, the social side is crucial for me feeling understood, useful, connected, loved, appreciated, challenged and much more.
3) The Social Soul. Without friends and family my life would be super one-sided and lonely. I don’t need to pretend to be that strong and independent because I love to be with others. It took me years to enjoy eating and cooking by myself because it’s still something I prefer to share with a bunch of nice people. Like my grand dad, I’m always up for a flirt with a stranger and I truly love to meet new people, network and make new friends.
Although I prefer to recharge my batteries mainly with being by myself, I need the interaction with others. I could not stand the feeling of isolation forever.
4) The Body Soul. A life without sport? Not possible! Not in my life! My parents told me that when I was a little child I loved to dance and loved to climb up on trees. Pictures prove that and I do believe my parents because I still need to move, move, move my body. Running, dancing, stretching, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, karate, kick boxing, swimming, yoga, pilates, callanetics, roller skating, ballet active … etc. Why should I ever stop moving when it’s so enjoyable? My dad was and is very sporty (just told my manager that he visited me in London by bike. Yep, he travelled from Germany to London by bike at the age of 60). My dad taught me to train my body regularly and to eat a lot of vegetables. In the beginning, it was more out of an aesthetic and vain reason to look healthy and avoid gaining weight but later and especially today, working out, strengthening my muscles is the minimum I can do to keep my ageing body in the best possible shape. Why? Because I want to be able to do all the things I love to do as long as possible. I need to walk, move, dance, run, kick. I love the thrill of endorphins. I love how I feel afterwards and I enjoy exploring what my body is actually capable of.
That’s one part of the Body Soul, the other part is nutrition and I'm going to write about that on a separate note soon. Moving to London changed the way I consume food. I developed appetite for much more things, I vary a lot more, cook more, cook new things, enjoy eating dishes from all over the world. London is a perfect place to become a foodie. If you don’t become a foodie here, something’s wrong with you. A healthy and balanced diet works magic with your energy. Fuel your machine / body the right way and you have much more energy to perform in your job and to enjoy your life.
5) The Curious Soul. Only today whilst writing this article my Brazilian friend Clara, who’s in her 60’s and writing her master dissertation in art history, introduced me to the works of Leni Riefenstahl. I had no idea how fascinating this German director and photographer was. Wow! And there we are ... I'm totally like a child, soaking up everything I can find about her, watching movies, diving into her world, looking through her books, learning and reading everything about her. I enjoy this exploration very much. It’s pure fun for me. This curiosity is driving me to learn about the world I’m living in. It feeds me because I’m super hungry to learn new things. I need new things, I need change, challenges, always want to grow and grow and grow.
To combine and look out for my Five Souls sounds like a lot of work. It isn’t. I start with one or two. If I stopped working out, that’s the first thing I'm getting back into it. And it takes some courage to say NO to all the temptations out here in London. Most people think that discipline and a strong will are character traits but they aren't. You can cultivate them within yourself. All you need is patience and the experience of the rewarding effects of being disciplined. I’m not afraid anymore of being a bit unsocial. So you will hear me saying no more often to your invitation because I have already plans after work. I don’t go to the pub, sorry, and thanks no dining out this week nor Netflix . I prefer to enjoy working out or take a dance class because I sleep better, gain a better perception of my own body and I have more energy the very next day. I’m in a better mood, I feel more motivated and balanced.
I google for new recipes, cook from scratch even if that’s at 21:00 o’clock in the evening. The joy of eating my own dish the next day during lunch time is so much more rewarding than buying another Pret A Manger sandwich (although I really like them). I gain more energy, day by day, week by week and I reward myself with going out. I look forward to Friday or Saturday evenings and discover a new bar. I dance, have drinks with friends and meet new people.
I start reading more books again, make a list of all the books that sound interesting to read. I also start a social diet but I will write about that on another note as well. I watch documentaries and films and I avoid too heavy topics. In fact, when I feel low and lack energy I really avoid reading news at all. Too negative. I chose what I want to read. And I do the same with people. I maybe cannot always chose the people I work with but I have the choice in my spare time and prefer to spend my time with positive and energetic people. Of course, even positive and life embracing people have their bad times but it’s their attitude how they face these bad times and how they get out of it that attracts me.
I remind myself, life is beautiful, life is a gift and I love to enjoy that gift as much as I can. I try to fill my days with what I think are beautiful things in life. I don’t tell myself, oh ... I don’t have time for this and that. I make time for it! Start making time for your own souls! Start today!
Let me know how you find your balance and what you do when you've lost it. Leave your comment below ...
Text & Illustrations by Marie Janine Murmann