First, a confession: I don’t always manage to get creating in the ways I’d like every single day.
I stumble. All humans do.
Two things about that:
1) Beating myself up never helps.
(Think about this: if you know you’re going to get a beating if you stumble, why would you even try?)
My Golden Formula is: “Self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good.” (Click to tweet!)
Here’s how that plays out:
It starts with self-awareness:
Dagnabbit! I didn’t get to my art/writing/music/macaroni necklaces today!
Here’s where the typical response is to pull out the whip and start beating oneself mercilessly. Instead, I recommend taking a slight left-turn and staying in self-awareness for a bit. As in the following…
Hey, I’m noticing that I’m feeling malnourished now. And cranky. Annoyed with myself, yes, and sad. Maybe a little hopeless.
Before I go further down that path, though, I want to notice how this feeling compares to when I do get to my art/writing/music/macaroni necklaces.
When that happens, I feel happy. Well-fed. Free. Hopefully. Enthusiastic about life.
Now is when we pull out the self-compassion component:
Oh, dear self, you are only human. Remember, everyone stumbles. You deserve to be treated with love and kindness, especially when you stumble! So what can we do to have a better day tomorrow?
Which brings me to the second thing I have to say about stumbling:
2) The most important practice is the practice of getting back on the wagon. (Click to tweet!)
This is, of course, ever so much easier when you don’t beat yourself up!
It also helps immensely to make your wagon really short. A “short” wagon (ie, a tiny commitment of, say, ten or fifteen minutes a day) is just a helluva lot easier to climb back on!
In other words, stop expecting perfection — it will only paralyze you. Better to stumble forward than to stay frozen in your tracks! (Click to tweet!)
First Things First
Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I want to share with you the super-simple tactic that, when I implement it, virtually guarantees I’ll get creating:
Do it first thing.
Seriously. That’s it.
My mantra here is:
The thing I do first is the thing that gets done. So schedule it in, baby! (Click to tweet!)
So if I want to make sure I write every day, I write first thing — before checking email, before breakfast, before letting the dog out (on the days when I’m dogsitting for my parents’ German Shepherd, Chloe).
If I want to make sure I make art, I do that first thing.
If I want to make sure I meditate, I do that first thing.
If I want to make sure I play my ukulele, I do that first thing.
Tips for Passion Pluralites
Of course, if you’re a passion pluralite, like me, no doubt you’re asking yourself, “Yeah, but what if I want to do ALL of those things? I can’t do all of them first thing!”
You do have to choose one thing to be first. Until we learn to bend the time-space continuum, it is a law of nature we’re just gonna have to deal with.
However, all is not lost! If you have a flexible schedule, like I do, you may be able to “chain” a number of important-things-you-want-to-do together.
On my best days this is exactly what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll write longhand in my journal for fifteen or twenty minutes, then meditate for ten or fifteen minutes, then paint at my drafting table for fifteen minutes, then strum my ukulele for a few minutes.
Alas, it doesn’t always work so smoothly, which is why I draw on my Stovetop Model.
As a passion pluralite I’ve learned that I do get to do everything, just not all at the same time. So yes, I have to choose. I have to prioritize. There’s simply no getting around that.
Course Corrections & Reboots
BUT, I also get to rotate my pots at will! I get to pull out my Golden Formula again and practice self-awareness to help me notice when I’m feeling out of balance. I get to notice when it’s time for a course correction or a total reboot.
I get to take a fresh start, with self-compassion.
For a few months last year I tried riding my exercise bike first thing, while typing on 750words.com. It worked okay, but I noticed (thank you, self-awareness!) that, for me, a brain dump on the computer just doesn’t feed me the way writing longhand in my journal does. And trying to do that brain dump while riding my (uncomfortable, ancient) exercise bike was also kind of frustrating.*
So I tweaked my morning routing and went back to pen and paper, propped up in bed.
Another month, inspired by Will Hewett’s Sing15 practice, I tried out free-singing (vocalizing) for five minutes a day, first thing before meditating. It was a good experiment, but when I noticed that it wasn’t feeding me I gave myself permission to stop and reboot again.
In short, I get to pay attention to my creative hungers and lovingly nourish myself, and so do you. (Click to tweet!)
Sometimes I’m most hungry for music. Other times I’m hungry to make things with my hands. Whatever I’m most hungry for, I set the intention to do that, first thing.
When I succeed at doing it first, even if it’s just for ten or fifteen minutes, the whole rest of my day goes better. And how can that be anything but good?
* I’ve since installed a treadmill desk in my studio, and that’s where I do virtually all my work on the computer, including typing up and editing this blog post, which I drafted in my journal, longhand. More about my adventures with the treadmill desk in a future dispatch…
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!