Happy Merry Joy! I’m in Alabama right now, spending my first December 25th ever away from my family, so that my sweetie and I can spend the holiday with his family (another first).
Whether or not you’re celebrating any particular holiday today, I hope you’re experiencing joy. And I hope this post (and the free worksheet I’ve attached below) will help you bring in more joy in the coming year.
Let me know your thoughts, ‘k?
Scene: A small second bedroom in a tiny duplex apartment. Hardwood floors. Old, inherited furniture, including a tiny desk by a window looking out on a tiny backyard (mostly concrete).
A young woman sits at the desk in a creaky chair bought at an estate sale. In her right hand is an X-acto blade, which she guides with precision to cut a delicate design out of paper.
A clock ticks, but she’s unaware of the passage of time, so intent is she on the task at hand. A black and white cat purrs by her feet.
The window darkens as the sun goes down, until it’s a black rectangle. The only light is now coming from the desk lamp, creating a puddle of illumination that contains her hands and not much beyond.
The young woman stops to change the blade on her knife, and only then notices that darkness has fallen.
It’s full night, and she started her paper cutting at lunchtime!
Six hours have gone by without her even realizing it!
That young woman was me, so long ago now it feels like another lifetime. Like the memory is of a movie I watched once, rather than the life I actually lived.
I remember the tight-in-the-chest, wanting-to-jump-up-and-down excitement of discovering a creative passion.
Or should I say re-discovering — I’d loved making art as a kid, but I got caught in the Comparison Trap early on, and in high school, when other kids were drawing amazing things that seemed just so much cooler than anything I ever made, I gave up on art.
They were the artists. Therefore (or so I thought), I wasn’t.
Of course that was a lie, but it took me a decade and a half to figure that out. (I now refer to the time between age 13 and 28 as my “fifteen-year-hiatus.”)
What lights you up
Perhaps you’ve had the same experience, discovering a creative passion. Finding that thing that makes you light up with joy.
Are you thinking of that thing now? I imagine your lips curving into a smile if you are.
And yet, if you’re like most people, you don’t spend nearly as much time doing that thing as you would like.
What shuts you down
The young woman who discovered paper cutting and calligraphy and painting and book arts at age 28, who would lose herself for hours in her passion, went on to build a business around her art, and then (ironically) gradually found herself doing it less and less.
Partly she got busy (who has time to make art “just because?”). Partly she got weighed down by a heavy load of expectations (perfectionism, anyone?). Everyone said she had “so much potential,” and suddenly it felt as if every piece she made had to be Amazingly Brilliant, or why even bother.
The Suck Duck took up residence on her shoulder, telling her she wasn’t good enough. Hell, it built a freakin’ nest there.
But all of those reasons for not doing the thing that made her so jump-for-joy happy were simply excuses. Just multiple forms of Resistance.
Resistance — the bane of all Creatives.
Getting back to joy
I’m not going to spend time right here outlining the many different forms that Resistance can take (Steven Pressfield does a brilliant job of this in his gem of a book, The War of Art).
I am going to say, however, that if you think Resistance can be overcome in one fell swoop, once and for all, you’re sadly mistaken.
Just this past week, yours truly allowed deadline urgency to push me out of my lovely routine of daily writing, making art and getting some damn exercise, thank you very much.
This did not make me a happy camper!
And just like everyone else, whenever I fall off the wagon it takes extra effort to get myself back on again.
My regular rituals create a structure that keeps me plugged into the things that make me happy. Those rituals — certain habits that I perform on a regular schedule — build up momentum over time, and any little interruption can make it hard to get the momentum back.
Hard, but not impossible!
Three secrets of the super-productive
The truth is, very, very few people don’t struggle with Resistance. It may appear that “everyone else” (or at least the select few you’re actually paying attention to) blithely cranks out work by the metric ton, without a care in the world.
In fact, if I were a betting woman I’d stake my @$$ that these high-producers, to a person, have done three things differently from everyone else:
1) They’ve figured out what matters to them, what makes them happy and why
2) They’ve figured out and implemented systems that support them in doing #1
3) They’ve also figured out how to get back to the systems in #2, whenever they’re (invariably) knocked a bit off track
Pretty simple. Though I’d be the last person to call it easy.
First steps first
My philosophy is to seek help wherever and whenever it’s available.
At the Day of Genius, the virtual retreat I’m co-creating with Michelle Nickolaisen on January 8, our goal is to help you build a plan for 2012, and to equip you to stick with it so you reach those %*$#@& goals already.
In her seminar, Michelle is going to focus on #2 above — establishing “anchor habits” to help you create and maintain forward momentum.
But before we start building and implementing systems and habits to help you toward your goals, you have to figure out what the hell they are in the first place!
What makes you happy? What do you want to create? What do you want to spend your time doing? And why?
That’s what my Day of Genius seminar will be focusing on (we’re making a vision map! a kindergarten art project where you can tap into your creativity and intuition and make a physical touchstone for your biggest dreams and visions for 2012).
It’s also what today’s Mind Map to Happiness worksheet, the 3rd piece of the Day of Genius workbook, is intended to help you figure out!
Download the Mind Map to Happiness worksheet, print it out and spend 10 or 15 minutes with it. Then hop on over to the LACL Facebook page and tell me what you gleaned!
My hope is that these worksheets will help you be more like that young woman in the opening scene of this post — fully engaged with the thing(s) that bring you the most joy.
Have fun, and come back in a few days for the next piece of the workbook! (Subscribe to my blog feed at the upper right to make sure you don’t miss it.)
REMINDER: You could win a ticket to the Day of Genius! Hop on over to Facebook and share your insights to any of the blog posts here that reference the Day of Genius, along with your reasons for wanting to attend, AND share and/or tweet the post, and you’ll be entered to win a full-day pass.
After the New Year, I and my panel of partial judges will pick one winner from among the commenters to join us for free. (Yes, commenting on/sharing of multiple posts will weigh heavily in your favor — we’re looking to add participants who really want to be there, so quality AND quantity will be taken into consideration.)
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!