Our western society is a culture of striving. The prevailing attitude is that if you’re not knocking yourself out striving toward a goal, you’re wasting time and taking up space.
While I agree that it’s important to know where you want to go and what you want to do to make your life feel worthwhile, too many of us are striving at breakneck speed toward the unknown. Believe it our not, there is a word for this: coddiwomple. It means to travel purposefully toward a vague destination.
When I first read that word, I had to stop and ask myself if that’s what I’m doing. And surprisingly, the answer is, at least in some areas, yes. I’m busy working, striving, and reaching for a destination that’s kind of blurry.
How does this happen?
I believe that we’re products of our environment to such an extent that we simply flow in the direction of everyone else. (There is a reason Jesus compared us to sheep.)
But what would happen if you stopped? If we each took time to look carefully at all the “things” we are chasing, would we still want them?
To find that out, two things are necessary.
1) We must know what we truly value.
2) We must seek peace in our lives and live in that place where peace resides.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
In my program, The Wish Plan, which I wrote and teach, the very first exercise assists you in determining what you truly value. I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of knowing this.
It’s easy to spend precious hours, days, and years of our lives striving for something that we don’t really, in our hearts, even want. That’s not a good way to spend a life.
So, if you decide for even a day to stop striving for whatever you’re reaching for, and simply pay attention to what is right in front of you, how would that feel?
Sometimes when we stop, take a rest, and listen to our hearts, the answers come. So does the peace.
I once read a story about a woman who had survived several tragedies in a fairly short time. With no warning her husband left her, someone close to her died, her house burned, and she had lost her job. I’m not going to say that she didn’t suffer, because she did, and greatly, but she managed to pull herself together and move on.
She moved to a different city and started over. In the process she made the decision that she would say ‘yes’ to whatever opportunities came her way. As she made friends in her new location, she became known as the one who would always say yes to requests for new adventures. Taking this attitude completely changed the woman’s life.
I believe it will change your life, too, when you decide to say yes to life, to your dreams, or simply to a new experience.
It is time to say ‘yes’ to:
You will never have the time is you don’t say yes now. None of us really knows how much time we have, and the tomorrow that we are putting things off until may never come. We only have so many days here on this earth and when it’s over, well dear, it’s going to be too late to take your kids to see the ocean, or go on that romantic weekend with your sweetheart, or study French.
This was brought up close and personally to me when I nearly died one night from internal hemorrhaging. Coming face to face with my own mortality made me sit up and take notice of where I wanted my life to go. I realized that the ‘some day’ I had been putting things off for, had to happen now, not later.
We women are often guilty of saying yes to everyone else’s wants and needs instead of our own. Doesn’t that imply that the needs of others are more important than your own? If you think about that for a moment, you must agree that it just isn’t so.
Everyone’s needs are of equal value, it is just more important to the owner of those needs that you drop everything and attend to them rather than to your own. Get some perspective. Just because someone demands that you submit to his or her wishes, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Think about what you need to say yes to. Your life is numbered by days, and they go by with shocking regularity and speed. Now is the time to start saying yes to what makes your life really worthwhile. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Say yes now.
Not sure what you want to say yes to? My program, The Wish Plan, can help you discover what you value, and make a plan to get it.
Celebrate often and laugh lots
Most of what we think is a big deal is really no big deal. Holidays and family events are obvious reasons to celebrate, but can sometimes also be exhausting if you are trying to live up to traditional standards or other people’s ideas about how a celebration should happen. Instead, why not pick your own reasons and ways to celebrate?
Celebrate a perfect hair day by taking yourself out for iced coffee. The fact that your bathroom got cleaned is cause for celebration, especially if someone else did it. How about celebrating a good night’s sleep? What about the first daffodil bloom in your garden or the first hummingbird at your feeder? Life is full of special and ordinary moments so why not just pick some and make them a celebration?
While you are at it, choose fun people with whom to celebrate. Choose to spend as much time as possible with people who make you laugh. It has been known for ages that laughter is good for you. The Bible says that a happy heart is as good as medicine. Plus it’s also a lot cheaper and far more fun than drugs and surgery!
Here are some ideas of how to celebrate and laugh:
Simply adding more laughter and fun to your life can not only improve your life, but prolong it as well. Laughter is a spirit lifter and the best antidote for depression. It is also known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain functioning, protect the heart, connect you to others, foster instant relaxation, make you feel good. There are so many reasons to laugh, it is really important to find more laughter in your life.
I know that it is not always easy to avoid people who get you down, but you can do things to offset their effect on you. By finding more reasons to laugh, you counteract the dampening affect of the negative influences with which you come into contact. Your light-hearted approach to life may even turn those grumpy folks into happier people, too.
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I have a friend who claims she hates change. She balks at the possibility of change and even at new opportunities, because they may require change in her life. When confronted by a new idea, her first reaction is usually, ‘Hold on a minute. What if…?”
It took me a while to recognize, but I believe the reason for this reluctance to change is that the first things my friend sees are all the possible negative consequences. These terrible outcomes loom so large, that she can see little else. Then she makes her decision based on what she fears. In essence, she says, “What if these things I fear turn out to be true? If they do, then I don’t want to go there. I’m afraid.” Even though she denies that her reasons are based in fear, in fact, fear is her strongest motivator.
Amazingly, many of the difficulties we experience in life stem from our fears. Think about it. If I’m resisting something that I know I should do, or want to do, or I even believe will be good for me, I can be sure that there is probably some kind of fear hiding behind that resistance.
Take a closer look at such habits as self-sabotage and procrastination. Neither of these serve us, so why do we continue to indulge in them? Probably because we are afraid something bad will happen. Without analyzing why we hesitate, we worry, we fret, and we put off taking action.
Do you have areas in your life where you feel stuck? Is there something you need to change? If you feel that you come up against a wall every time you try to make a move, or even think about a proposed change, then take a look and see if there is a fear behind it. And don’t be fooled. Fear masquerades in many disguises, such as these:
Take a moment to follow the trail to the fears that may lurk behind these and other common excuses and you will find that they are nothing more than lies. Identify and confront the lies that are stopping you in your tracks and look past those fears that pop up automatically when you face something new. Once you’ve identified those fear-lies, then turn them over and look at the other side. You may find the truth was there all the time, just waiting to be recognized.
Rather than listening to the fears and concluding the worst, why not try asking yourself instead, “What if it turned out differently? What if these good things happen?” Then list them. This view changes everything. By seeing the positive side, we can clearly make a balanced decision or take action.
For example, “What if I mess this up?” when flipped over becomes, “What if I do really well?”.
“What if everyone laughs at me?” becomes, “What if everyone cheers for me?”
“What if my work is no good?” becomes, “What if my work is great?” or even,
“What if only a few like it, but I derive great enjoyment out of creating it?”
Find an appropriate positive thought, statement or truth to counter the negative one and next time that little fear comes up, confront it with its opposite. Keep on doing this until the fear gives up and slinks away in defeat. It will, you know, and you’ll be the winner for your efforts.
It is considered common knowledge that people fear and resist change. Not true. What people really fear is that change will bring negative consequences. If what you plan will make you happy, you don’t fear change at all, do you?
Change is not scary when you plan for positive outcomes. I encourage you to switch from listening to your fears to expecting the best. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it becomes to make decisions and how much more fun your life will be.
Being fearless is a wonderful way to live.
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When I set out to create a daily journal I thought it would be easy. I’d sit down each morning at my computer and dash off a note about whatever was happening with me, and hope that there is someone out in computer land who finds it and finds it useful or interesting.
As with many things, the doing has been more challenging than I expected. I imagine that this is a metaphor for most of our lives. I want to spend quiet time each day, stopping the busyness, and hushing the whirr of demands, but day after day goes by and that time doesn’t happen.
The mornings begin with the telephone ringing or a deadline looming. The others in the house demand attention or there is a plan to go somewhere, and that sweet silent morning break gets pushed aside for the noisier demands of the day.
So how do we manage to take the time we need to be quiet, to really relax, to pray or meditate, or to just read or write for a few minutes?
Obviously, I’m no authority on this or I would be doing it everyday. I have no children at home, no dog, no job to rush off to by a certain time (for which I thank God—the job, not the kids or dog). But I do run a business, and sometimes that can be more demanding than all the others put together.
So here is what I do when my brain is so full and so busy that I am beginning to feel fractured and scattered in a hundred places. Around four o’clock in the afternoon, just when I start to feel draggy and a bit hungry, I stop what I’m doing and make myself a cup of tea. Then I take it to the wicker settee in the corner of my living room, under the palm tree.
Sometimes I read a book for a while, and sometimes I just look out the window and think. Sometimes I write in my journal or pray, talking to God about my day, my plans, or my frustrations, or about my friends and family who need help just now.
This bit of time, perhaps twenty minutes or a half hour, calms my soul again. For a little while I can put aside the demands of business and maintaining daily life and rise above the din of it all. Those minutes help me be clear about what I am doing and why I am doing it.
So now, I am trying to take a few minutes in the morning before I launch into my busy day, to write something down. My hope is that what I write will touch someone who needs to read it, at the moment she needs to read it; that my experiences and how I deal with issues in my life will resonate with someone who needs to know that she is not the only one struggling.
I know I’m not the only one who has trouble finding a quiet space in my days to just be still for a few minutes, to collect my scattered thoughts and to sit in silence even listening to my own heartbeat. But I encourage you, like me, to keep trying to find those minutes. Those times of peace hold our lives together.
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A few years ago I was working a trade show and while taking a break I walked past a booth advertising a new resort project. When I made eye contact with the man behind the table, we both had a jolt of recognition and said at the same time, “I know you.” It took a few minutes to trace our past connection, but we remembered that he had been the realtor who sold our house several years before. We had also attended the same church for a while.
We agreed to have lunch together to talk about old times, and during our conversation over burgers and fries, he made a comment that I have never forgotten. “A hundred years from now there will be all new people on the earth.” I realized, that with only a few exceptions, the statement was true.
Since then I’ve given that concept a lot of thought. If I am one of the people here now, then there must be a reason for me to be here.
What if we are all here at this time because we are the exact complement to the people with whom we will come into contact?
What if we are each here to be the one to help someone or several others get through this journey we call life?
If that is the case, then what do I bring to the table to offer others as a means to aid them on their journey? What talents and abilities do I possess that will make someone else’s journey easier?
If I have a responsibility to the other people who are inhabiting this earth in my time, then I need to look at what my abilities are that I can offer you. If I am to offer you my very best, then I need to use the talents that God gave me to the best of my ability.
There is no point in me spending a lot of time and effort trying to be something I’m not, since my purpose will be thwarted. Assuming that we are given talents and natural abilities which we might develop for the purpose of using them to make the world a better place, then it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to not maximize those talents and abilities.
If I spent an inordinate amount of time on meaningless tasks, am I not wasting the time I have been given to develop my talents for the benefit of those around me? Am I not squandering my abilities, to not develop them?
Why am I here now?
Who am I here with and why them?
What do I have to offer ?
Am I maximizing my talents for the good of myself and the rest of the world?
Do you have notice that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to figure out what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.
Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing habits and routines. That way we save them for the important stuff. It also frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
Chances are you already have a morning routine. You get up, you get your coffee, read the paper or check email and fix some toast before heading into the shower. Let’s expand on that. If you create a “uniform” for yourself, you don’t even have to think about what to wear. You just grab a pair of pants and a shirt, or a skirt, tights and sweater and off you go.
Implement some routines into your workday wherever possible. Meal planning helps you figure out what meals to fix and eat. A cleaning schedule makes sure you stay on track with your household chores without you having to spend any valuable decision making skills in the process.
Building your creative work—writing time, or art—into your routine soon makes it a habit. When it’s already a habit, you don’t need to try to fit it into your day because it’s already part of your routine.
Wrap your day up with a bedtime routine that not only helps when you’re too tired to make smart choices, it also helps you fall asleep more easily.
Start by doing a few chores that make the next morning easier. Making sure the kitchen is clean and the kids’ school things are in order are great examples. Come up with a few calming things that help you slow down and get ready for sleep. Read a book, listen to some music, or wind down with a cup of herbal tea.
Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and think about what parts of your day and week you can turn into routines. Write the down and create daily to-do lists for yourself until you’ve established these new habits and routines.
Spending a little bit of time creating routines and habits will make your day run a lot smoother. You might just find yourself less stressed and get more done during your productive hours. And that’s a beautiful thing. It allows you to save plenty of decision making for the fun stuff like figuring out what park to go to, what family movie to watch or what board game to play.
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Creating new habits isn’t easy. Here are six simple tricks that will make it a little easier. Use them until you’ve internalized your new creative habit and don’t need them anymore.
Schedule It And Put It On The To-Do List
Sometimes we forget to do that new thing we were trying. Maybe we forget that we’re supposed to be writing first thing in the morning instead of reading the news, or that we need to get that daily walk in that charges up creative energy.
Schedule your new creative habits or make them part of your daily to-do list until they become something you do automatically.
Make It Public and Be Accountable
Let family and friends know what new creative habits you’re trying to establish. They will call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and get you back on track.
You may even go as far as sharing it publicly on Facebook or write a blog about your new journey. Knowing that others read it and know about it might be just enough to keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel or slipping back into old routines.
Piggyback On A Habit You Already Have
Whenever possible, add the new habit to one you already have. For example, if you fix a cup of tea or coffee at 4:00 pm, and you want to get in the habit writing in your journal, make the new ritual to do your journalling while enjoy your tea.
It’s much easier to amend an existing habit or ritual than creating an entirely new one.
Make Slip-ups Costly
Here’s a fun idea. Put a jar on the kitchen counter and each time you slip back into your bad habit or forget to stick to the new one you have to put five dollars in the jar. It will quickly help you remember to skip wasting time surfing Facebook instead of working on your creative project. For extra motivation donate the money to charity at the end of the month or hand it over to your spouse to go spend.
Find A Partner and Help Each Other Along
Find someone with the same or similar creative goal. This could be a writing partner or fellow artist. Keep tabs on each other and encourage each other to keep going. It’s much harder to skip if you know someone else is depending on you.
Make It A Group Challenge
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive group creative online and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days or so. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these simple little tricks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until you have made new creative habits you can stick with without the help of any tools or support.
To stay in touch, join my mailing list and receive an illustrated Creative Inspiration every day. Click HERE.
Today I've decided to take this video outside on my deck because it's such a beautiful summer day out. I've got these beautiful flowers in my little handing basket there. Today I'm going to talk to you about looking back. You know as creative people, we so often look back at our lives and go, "That didn't work out," or "I tried this and it just didn't happen like I expected," or "I thought I'd make money at this and I put all that time and effort into it, and it didn't work."
It can be really, really discouraging. I want to encourage you today not to look at your past like that. Just say, you know what, things happen. As creative people we always have lots of ideas. You know you're competent in what you do, but sometimes things don't work out perfectly, and sometimes through no fault of your own.
It's important to put things in context, and say, "Okay, this happened.”
It's easy to say, "It was my fault. I failed again."
I want urge you not to do that, but instead look at those things in context. Say, "Okay, these are the things that happened. Why did they happen? What can I learn from it? What can I take away? What was positive?"
It is so easy to think about the negative. Oh my goodness! And we tend to go that way. As creative people, self-doubt creeps in and with it all that kind of bad stuff. Just don't go there.
Instead say, "Okay, this is what's positive that happened. This is what I learned. This is what I can take to my next project, to my art career, my writing career, whatever your creative pursuit is.” Look at it that way.
Don't dwell on it. It happened, it's behind you, move forward.
Another thought is, don't entertain those bad memories. Don't invite them in. Don't serve them tea. Don't give them space in your mind, in your heart, in your emotions. Just don't give them space.
Then when those reminders come up, switch them over. Just flip them over and say, "Yes, that happened but…this is the good part. That was then, this is now."
That's my message today. Keep it positive. Keep it forward thinking. Just keep on moving in the direction that your creative dreams are taking you, because it's important. It's important to the world that creative people keep creating. It's just how it is.
Recently, the writing world is all a-flutter with the sudden (How could it be sudden?) revelation that Huffington Post apparently requires its writers to work for free. While I have no opinion on HuffPo in particular, this scenario does bring up the unpleasant truth that creative people are asked to, and agree to, work for free far too often.
Sure, I know it happens in other occupations too, but it’s particularly rampant in the arts. The contention is that because you love what you do that should be compensation enough.
But you’ll get exposure
The carrot that’s dangled in front of our noses is, “but it will be great exposure.” As a visual artist as well as a writer, I fell for that stinker many years ago, until I wised up and realized that my work was being used and the benefit to me was zero.
People gush over talent but forget that the artist or writer is not building a career on a gift that dropped from the sky onto her head. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing her art. Giving it away is career madness.
For creatives, who admittedly tend to be right-brained people, demanding money for art can be difficult. Part of the reason is that we all know that while people love art they don’t want to pay for it. The same folks who ask an artist or writer to work for free wouldn’t dream of asking a dentist or car mechanic to do the same.
The other issue is that silence about money in artistic fields leaves us all at a disadvantage because we don’t know how to value our work. It takes work, time, and gumption to become intelligent in these areas and to learn how to market your own work.
Small pond, many fish
With the advent of print on demand and digital publishing, the market has been flooded with written materials that in days gone by wouldn’t have made it onto a shelf. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing but a result I’ve noticed from this influx is price competition between authors. It’s no secret that when you compete on price the winners are the buying public, not the people who produce the product and sell it. But if you keep giving the milk away, no one is going to want to pay for it.
Don’t worry; I don’t need to eat
When others consume the creative person’s work without paying, it directly affects the economy of a family. My kids aren’t going to be happy when I try to feed them “exposure” for dinner. My mortgage company won’t accept “I did it for free because I love it” in payment either.
Just stop it
So what’s a writer, artist, or musician to do? Here are some suggestions:
This isn’t just about Huffington Post exploiting writers, it’s about all creatives giving our work away for free so we can be more than the plain girl/guy at the prom “hoping someone will like me.” I learned years ago as a visual artist that benefitting someone else and hoping for “exposure” was worthless and always resulted in a net loss in time, energy, and money for me.
If all creatives stopped “giving the milk away” and stopped competing with each other on price, we would all benefit. So value your work, your skills, your talent, your hours. Charge more, demand more, and laugh when someone suggests that you do it for free.
Value is measured in money. Value yourself.
People ooh and aah over talent, but the artist, writer, or musician is not building a career on talent. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing their art. Giving it away is career suicide.
Do visions of the sleazy used car salesman in a gaudy plaid jacket and polyester pants leap to mind when you think of marketing?
Most creatives dream of quitting the day job and going full-time. Oh, and making boatloads of money. Rather than toil away in obscurity, clinging to fragments of that far-off dream, perhaps it’s time to:
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to help us all make life pretty.