Why I write. Psychology and the power of the story.

Why I write. Psychology and the power of the story.
You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say - Ernest Hemingway

Maybe that's what drives all creativity? All artists. All writers. All scientists. All makers. It's not a decision. It's a compulsion. A need to tell a story.

A good story brings the senses to life; captures hearts and minds. Changes lives.

This is a piece of my story. Tell me yours.


Doing it Wednesday: Your antidote to Hump Day

I've got the first post in a new series for your today PPPs (Potential Psychology Peeps).  It's 'Doing it Wednesday': Your antidote to Hump Day. 

A few weeks ago I talked about how excited I get when I see people getting out there, following their hearts and starting up exciting and innovative projects.  You can read about Kasia Gospos, Leaders in Heels and the Make Your Mark project here  and today I have a new one for you!  

Jay Boolkin is the founder of Promise or Pay.  I discovered Promise or Pay when their Facebook page liked the Potential Psychology Blog Facebook page.  A kind of social media organisational hook up. Anyhoo, I followed the Promise or Pay profile through to their website and just loved what I found.  It was a wonderful synergy of goal setting and self-help combined with social enterprise and a passionate individual getting out there and pursuing his dreams. Everything that pushes my buttons!

I made my promise - here it is -  and I contacted Jay to ask him to share his story so that you, my lovely readers, could also discover the brilliant idea that is Promise or Pay and maybe set your own goal and make a promise?  I know that Jay's passion and innovation will rub off and inspire you just as it has for me.   

I asked Jay a few questions about Promise and Pay, his hopes and his inspiration. Here are his answers.  Read on!

                                                                                                This is Jay.

                                                                                                This is Jay.

What is Promise or Pay?

Promise of Pay is a social motivation platform that encourages you to set and stick to your goals by donating money to your selected charity if you don't follow through, and encouraging others to donate if you succeed.  I discovered that when it comes to achieving goals, research shows that the chance of success increases by 33% if your pledge to achieve the goal is shared by others and this goes up to 72% if money is put on the line.  Promise or Pay combines these two approaches and in doing so ensures a win-win outcome and you are left feeling good.  Promise or Pay also creates a more engaging, personal and empowering way for you to make charitable donations. 

Where did the idea for Promise or Pay come from?

The initial idea behind Promise or Pay came up while I was living and working full-time in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development.  It was born out of my own struggles to achieve my personal goals as well as my experience with the not-for-profit sector and the desperate need for alternatives to hard-sell fundraising.  I was able to build a beta site as a result of winning the Social Startups MPV program, a worldwide competition based on social impact scalability and business model sustainability.  The success of the beta site (considering the limited time and resources at my disposal) inspired me to move back to Sydney to give it a full-time crack.

What has been the greatest challenge along the way?

The biggest challenge I faced initially was simply slowing down - taking a moment to stop and take a breath.  This is a cliché but the truth is that without giving myself some space (away from Promise or Pay) to stay inspired I would probably have burnt out by now.  My experience of starting a social enterprise startup, and I'm sure this is not an uncommon experience, is that it is absolutely engrossing - Promise or Pay is my life.  My passion and commitment to seeing it through to success (or failure) means that all my energy is devoted to it.  For the first few months there were countless nights when I wouldn't sleep and would work  until the sun began to rise.

Promise of Pay is my precious baby and there was a point where my emotional involvement became detrimental to the project.  Very quickly my health, my relationships and my creativity began to suffer.  I ideas that were once flowing through me like a waterfall began to slow, I was taking longer to do simple things and I began to just lose momentum.  I have learnt that while unregulated enthusiasm is a wonderful thing, if you don't get (let) yourself live outside your startup it will eventually begin to work against you.  Now having a break from the work is just as important as actually doing the work.  

Having now moved back to Australia I find that the high cost of living can make it difficult to test out ideas and move fast – especially since there is tech involved – I don’t have the skills myself (or know someone who does and is willing to work for nothing) or the money to pay for them. Finding the right people to bring on board has been tough. I feel that to get to where I am today is a testament to my resilience and passion to see Promise or Pay succeed. Although not specific to the Australian context, being a sole-founder has also been challenge, as I’m not able to delegate work and find it difficult to switch off. 

What has been most rewarding?

Starting Promise or Pay has been an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience. To know that I can take an idea, a simple thought, and make it a reality is a wonderful and encouraging feeling. If you have an idea that you think is worth pursuing then put your doubts to one side and follow your instinct. I promise it will be one hell of an experience. Think big. Start small. Stay focused. And have fun.

 Where to from here?

I am currently focused on fixing up some of the bugs on the new site, adding additional content pages, and spreading the word with the aim of capitalising on the potential for New Year’s Resolutions to be made on the platform. In twelve months I intend to have validated the platform and be on my way towards achieving Promise or Pay's mission, which is to inspire millions of people around the world to be the best that they can be, and, at the same time, to have encouraged and facilitated millions of dollars in donations to charities.

What inspires and motivates you?

Engaging with like-minded people who seek knowledge and understanding, who dare to dream and who give more to the world than they take. My hunt for genuine connection is perhaps the reason I love stories so much. I love stories because I love people – the flawed, the bizarre, the carefree, the milquetoast. I love stories because they allow me to identify with something outside of my own experience, to communicate more directly, and to connect with what is real. Seeking out things that inspire me is incredibly important. Being inspired allow me to be more effective at driving change, ensure I stay true to myself, and remind me of my commitment towards creating a better world, towards creating my own story - a story with meaning and purpose and value. 

Thanks Jay!  Every time I read this (and I've read it quite a few times now) I am inspired by Jay's passion, his belief, his willingness to take risks and his insight into the importance of not only pursuing our dreams but the need to balance our project-focused energy with all of the other facets of life.  

If you'd like to make a promise, you can right here.  If you'd like to learn more about Promise or Pay, read this.

And if you'd like to leave a thought or comment, please do.  Jay and I would love to hear from you!

Positive Life: Slow hunches and getting great ideas

Ever wondered where good ideas come from?  Do you have your best ideas in the shower? While exercising? Talking to other people?  

I've always been intrigued about the process of coming up with new ideas.  Not the simple ones like new dinner options.  There's nothing much about cooking dinner that gets me inspired.  It's the more complex ideas like how to write about psychology in a way that is interesting and accessible to other people (blog, anyone?).  Or how to help school students to better understand themselves and their strengths so that they can make decisions about what's next, with less anxiety and greater confidence (something I'm working on with a local school at the moment). 

What is it exactly that allows the thoughts and ideas start to flow and to converge into a string of possibilities that bring that little edge of excitement, of inspiration?

I know when ideas don't come for me - when I'm busy with drudgery (washing, tidying, shopping, errands, laundry, you know the drill), when I'm tired, when I'm cranky (usually due to a combination of the tired thing and the drudgery thing).  There's very little inspiration there.

I've never really thought about the set of circumstances - if they exist - that allow me to come up with good, workable ideas though.  The ones that send me rushing for my notebook, or laptop.  I know it happens and when I'm on a little creative streak I seem to be able to quickly build on the initial idea to form at least the skeleton of an exciting new project.  That is until I get interrupted by someone who needs something to eat. 

But often I feel like I have bits of ideas floating around in my head.  Things I would love to do but don't really know where to start. Or when I try to force the idea to become a project it doesn't stack up to much more than a set of very loose half-baked bits and pieces.  

Steven Johnson, a US based science author, has spent a lot of time thinking about where ideas come from - five years to be exact, and he has a theory that good ideas grow over time from a 'slow hunch' and that they kind of burst forth into a vision of real possibilities when one slow hunch meets another slow hunch.  So it seems that talking to other like-minded people is one important part of the idea process,  and time - sometimes years - is another.  

Well that made me happy.  I can stop being impatient and trying to force ideas to become workable projects. I can slow down and let the ideas incubate.  Maybe chat to a few people to see if my incubating ideas would like to get together with their incubating ideas?

I had one of those conversations this morning and I can see the flicker of possible, workable ideas that might, just might become the kind of workplace workshops that I have had in mind for oh so long a time.  I'll just let that linger for a little while and see if the slow hunch really can become reality.

In the meantime I'm going to watch this little video by Steven Johnson again. It's four minutes on his ideas about ideas and where they come from, done in great illustration.  Hopefully it will get you thinking about your slow hunches and what they might need to become great ideas! 

Positive Life: Fast facts on inspiration

This morning I had the luxury* of sitting up in bed with a cup of tea and the iPad doing some research.  Sadly I was not researching a trip to New York or child free holidays in Tahiti.  I was researching cheap block out roller blinds. And despite the unlikely set of circumstances I felt a flash of that heady mix of excitement, motivation and future possibilities that comes with inspiration.  

The endless pictures of drab synthetic blinds triggered a flow of mental activity that had me effortlessly cleaning, painting and decorating the very broken down old house that we've just purchased, turning it into a piece de resistance of budget driven yet understated elegant style.

I revelled in this little fantasy for a minute or two, visualising my beautiful home that bears no resemblance to its current state (and somehow transforms without the massive physical effort that it's really going to require) and I then started thinking about inspiration. What is inspiration really?  Why is it that the the 'inspiration' memes that get flashed about on Facebook with their pastel colours and pictures of sunsets and small children leave me cold but I can get quite excited about the possibilities associated with roller blinds?

I'm going to do a bit of exploration of inspiration in the next week or so.  Please join me.  In the meantime, here are a few fast inspiration facts to kick us off:

  1. Until very recently - the last few years really - there has been very little scientific research into inspiration.  So what do the science heads know about inspiration - what it is, how it works and how to get more?  Well until very recently not much at all, despite all the memes.
  2. From what we have learnt recently inspiration seems to be made up of three parts - evocation (it hits us from nowhere), transcendence (it disregards practical, self-serving and animal instincts and brings a flash of future possibilities, sometimes a grand vision) and approach motivation (it compels us to take action). 
  3. Some of us are by nature more easily inspired than others.  It comes with along with a mixture of personality traits. 
  4. We can't force inspiration but we might just be able to create the right environment to let it thrive.

I'm going to run with my roller-blind inspiration and get some of my myriad of tasks ticked off my list today. My challenge to you?  Think about what last inspired you, harness that thought, take it and run! Go get inspired. 

*The luxury of a slow morning and a cup of tea in bed was compensation for spending the hour between midnight and 1am consoling and cajoling a super fractious three year old who, after an hour of not much success, ended up in bed with me for the rest of the night.  Kids eh?

You can see it's going to take a little more than just inspiration....