This is another in a series of posts derived from my book, “Sustainable You,” a workbook that explores the implications of the question, “What good is sustaining the planet if we’re not sustaining ourselves?”
Knowing your way around is comforting. But when are you more likely to stumble upon something truly cool — when you’re on familiar ground or when you’re following a suggestion to do something new?
My favorite example is that I became a better writer via an exercise that had nothing to do with becoming a better writer.
When I was in rehab, they told me to start keeping a journal. Journaling was hardly a new idea to me, but I’d never done it — not for more than a day or two, anyway. I’d had the thought, in the run-up to rehab, to keep a journal in case I ever wanted to write about the experience later. But if the institution hadn’t required it as a means for counselors to glimpse patients’ inner dialogue, I doubt I would have this time, either.
But I complied, and my counselor — though initially concerned that I was describing events, rather than emotions — got what the institution wanted to get. That’s what was supposed to happen.
But from the beginning of my journalism career, my opinion had been that I was a clear writer — which was good, important, useful — but that there wasn’t much art to what I did. As I built up time in the business, I saw no evidence that there ever would be.
Now I think differently. I write well, in my opinion, though I’m happy to leave independent judgment of that to each of you, and others. My conclusion is that writing daily developed my craft, more than any other influence.
Even allowing for the duh factor (“What? Daily practice developed a skill?”) I had absolutely no thought that my writing a journal for my rehab counselor would lead to what I now think of as one of my best gifts.
It illustrates the value of taking assignments, or following guidance. You’ll probably achieve what was expected. But you have no idea of what else might bloom from your willingness.