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Hi there, and welcome back to the Monthly Missive. You can save anything in here to read later in Pocket, and email me at sophie@sophiebenjamin.com. You can also see what I'm listening to here, and see what books I am reading here

This is the 50th Missive I have put out over a five year period! A lot has changed in my life, and this has been a notebook of sorts. Thanks for inviting it into your inboxes. 

INSIDE YOUR SKULL


I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between fear, motivation, anxiety and productivity. I've personally found that I need a combination of a little bit of anxiety and/or a belief that something will be enjoyable in order to be motivated to do anything. It explains why I've always been drawn to pursuits that mix the two. For example, last year I went back to the gym and cut down on junk food after becoming anxious that staying unhealthy would give me fewer physical reserves to fight current emotional stresses and any future health problems. However, I only did strength training because I enjoy it (death to cardio). Playing music mixes the joy of creating with stage fright and risk of embarrassment. Journalism allows me to mix my curiosity about people with the motivation of looming deadlines. Clearly this is just how I am and I am not the only one - this article discusses how you can motivate yourself with behavioral psychology, and this one explains how routines and rituals boost your productivity and make your life richer. Hobbies can be baked into your routine as well, and they'll probably make you better at your day job. I also really identified with how full-time freelance work can put people into the vice-grip of constant time vs money calculations. 

I love advice columns, and Dear Polly over at The Cut is my all-time favourite. She always goes a step or two deeper in her columns - not just throwing out a solution to the perceived problem, but trying to figure out why the problem might have happened in the first place. These replies to a person who believes they may be too weird and contradictory to find love, someone who can't figure out what to do with their life, and someone addicted to social media all centre around shame and are very good. 

And finally - asking "what happened to me" rather than "what's wrong with me" might be a better way to deal with mental illness and psychological injury. 

OFFLINE


I've been recovering from surgery and have watched more TV in the past two weeks than I have in the previous six months. I highly recommend Russian Doll, Dirty John (I believe I recommended the podcast too in a past Missive), Big Mouth, Evil Genius and seasons 4 & 5 of The Simpsons for comfort. 

I've also really enjoyed reading Dark Emu (which should be mandatory reading in all Australian schools from now on), How Music Got Free (thanks to my friend Dan for the hot tip) and The Last Days of August (Jon Ronson's latest work for Audible). 

MORE

OBLIGATORY DOG CONTENT


In news that comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever spent any time with the breed, a border collie named Verb was the Grand Champion of the the agility competition in this year's Westminster Dog Show. Yes, he was very fast and very clever but the thing I love is the look of utter focus and determination in his eyes. Our family's border collie Jack has the same look when playing fetch, chasing a cat out of the yard or trying to make one of his humans give him their roast chicken. It's a trait of the breed - "eye collies" give this look to sheep while creeping towards them, which thoroughly freaks out the sheep and gets them moving. Watch him here (concentration face begins at 18 seconds).  I also admired Rudy the English Bulldog's efforts (he was surprisingly speedy for a chunky boy) and Winky the Bichon Frise's commitment to leisurely prancing through the course rather than running. 
Copyright © 2019 Sophie Benjamin, All rights reserved.


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