Of Breaking Habits and Following Signs

People rarely give me journals for gifts. That has worked out well because a long time ago I started using spiral notebooks to journal and to write my Morning Pages. For those unfamiliar with the latter, they are the creation of author Julia Cameron and they involve writing three pages, stream of consciousness, every morning to start the day with clarity.

There is a freedom to using a run-of-the-mill, one-subject notebook. No pressure to be profound or express organized thoughts or even to be neat. I just dash off whatever comes in. It feels like downloading whatever is swirling around in my oh-so-fertile mind. I like it. It's cleansing and clarifying.

But then my goddaughter gave me a beautiful journal for my recent birthday. A gorgeous design, nicely spaced lines and not too thick. Much to the surprise of no one who knows me, I saw it as a sign.

As I write this from a sprawling golf and spa resort in California, I am finding this new journal to be a treasured challenge. On the plane ride from my East Coast home to here, I cracked it open and began to write and it felt positively delicious. Something about those fresh pages, but also the feeling that I wanted to express more reflectively and, yes, in neater handwriting. (A rush from clear cursive? Sister Benita from St. Gregory the Great grammar school would be so proud.)

Go figure.

There are several messages in this little writing development of mine. The first is to always stay open to re-evaluating a habit you may have formed. It was with good reason that I began writing in notebooks. The casualness of them allowed me to push through blocks inhibiting my creative process. Who needs to get hung up on every word as if it's precious? It was like staring down my inner perfectionist, saying, "Look, it's just lined paper. Do you really care what comes off the pen in this dinky notebook?"

I often tell clients to make little deals with themselves in whatever their equivalent is. If this, then that. As in, "If I use this spiral thing, then I give myself permission to scribble over whole sentences and to write nearly illegibly sometimes." If the person is into photography and feeling pressured or blocked, maybe he feels freer to take pictures with a smartphone for a while instead of insisting on shooting with a coveted Nikon.

Voila. Unfettered creativity unleashed. But that doesn't mean the small shift has to be permanent. Switch it up. Therein lies the wisdom. Knowing when to say maybe it's time for change, for pushing against inner resistance, to bring in something fresh.

Which brings me to another important message in this -- read seemingly random occurrences as signs. This seems like a trivial thing to some, but it is pivotal to living a life that has flow and purpose.

As we close out 2011 and usher in 2012, trust me when I tell you that paying attention to signs will enhance your life. The fact that you're reading this column and it's triggering something is a sign. My goddaughter giving me a journal was a sign. When I opened it I had a momentary feeling of, hmmmm, I don't use these anymore. But then almost just as quickly I smiled and realized it meant I'm supposed to and the reason doesn't even have to be clear yet.

Look for these little markers in your life.

If you run into your ex and you look like you just dragged yourself out of bed and you're completely undone by that, it's a sign. My guess is it means you should be taking more care with your appearance. Or you're not over him. Or you're way over him. Either way, you're supposed to see it at that time. Take it in and be aware of what it might mean.

If you get an offer for a job just days after deciding you want more than anything to be self-employed, it's a sign. Perhaps to test your commitment to your new business venture. Or to make you double check your resources and validate your decision. Or even to make you reconsider if this is the right decision for you at this time.

Years ago I applied to college as a business major. I received a letter back saying that my grades were good enough to get me in, but that the business department was full. However, I would get in if I applied under another major. My high school guidance counselor suggested English since that was my strongest subject. Not only did I get in, I wound up on the proper path to a degree in journalism and professional writing.

How's that for a big, fat sign? One of the best decisions of my life. Clearly meant to be.

Might have to reflect some more about that later ... in my gorgeous new journal.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.