Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Have you used up your future?

A few years ago, as I was heading into a period of sabbatical, soul searching and reinvention, I found myself feeling very lost and a little unhinged…..and yet a little excited at the same time.  I realized I had left behind so much that had identified and grounded me to that point—my career, home, friends, lifestyle—in order to create some space to explore new directions.  The words ‘lose yourself to find yourself’ resonated daily in my head. The ‘losing yourself’ part isn’t easy; much of it involves dis-identifying with so much comfort and ease….why would we choose that? In need of some guidance I reached out to an advisor of sorts–a spiritual ‘coach’ more or less. As I was grumbling about my career winding down, my empty nest, my dissatisfaction with just about everything in my life at that point—framing it all as some sort of failure on my part, he laughed. He said “Elizabeth, you haven’t failed at anything. That’s the problem… succeeded at all of it. You simply used up your future.”

Wow. That simple shift in perspective, that I had fulfilled my vision for my life up until that point and I simply needed a new script to follow…felt so empowering and relieving somehow. By choosing to operate from a place of abundance rather than lack changed my inner dialogue. It’s simply the ebb and flow of life. To choose to bloom again is not always the easiest choice….but it’s far richer and enlivening than staying tight within the bud.

Tip #2 Keep an Idea Journal

Keep a notebook/journal for each area of your life. Write down ideas, facts, questions, random thoughts—any information you stumble across throughout the day. There are many planners out there but it’s much more useful, fun and creative to make your own, organizing the information in a way that works best for you. I refer to mine as my ‘meaning maker’ or ‘idea bank. The more problems, thoughts and ideas that you record and review from time to time, the more complex becomes the network of information in your mind. Also keep a box of interesting advertisements, quotes, pictures, news clippings, doodles, words, swatches–anything you are drawn to that might trigger ideas by association. Chances are you’re drawn to an item for a reason; you just don’t know as yet how to apply it. By periodically reviewing the notebook you activate all the recorded information in your conscious AND subconscious mind, as a way of stimulating ‘mind-popping’. also, the practice of writing a thought or idea down embeds it in your long-term memory. Einstein was said to have 3500 notebooks which he referred to over and over again throughout his lifetime. Walt Whitman kept little pieces of paper with notes separated into envelopes by category. Charles Dickens would scan graveyards for the names of his characters (think Martin Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep) all written in notebooks, and Thoreau kept detailed nature journals…both of which, and more, I had the privilege of photographing in the collection of the NY Public Library several years back.

My notebook of choice is a gridded paper, soft cover 5×7 Moleskine. I have tons of them going back years…I am never without one.

Synergistic Enterprises

As our workspace is being redefined these days it’s very common for many of us to have more than one title—a network of enterprises. More and more we’re having to stretch and expand ourselves to cover more territory professionally; those of us in mid-life who are re-inventing as well as millenials who are cycling through several jobs early on. I see this as a gift–an opportunity to play in a much bigger sandbox. When people ask me what I do, simply responding ‘I’m a photographer’ doesn’t begin to cover it, especially because it doesn’t speak to the distance I’ve traveled and experience I’ve gained since first calling myself that in my twenties. The fact is I have two seemingly completely separate businesses now—photographer/visual asset developer/creative director on the one hand and blogger, coach/consultant/change agent on the other. And yet they feed into and off of one another more seamlessly with each passing day. I’ve stopped trying to make it an either/or proposition. Each path benefits from the nourishing perspective of the other, and both represent my passions, skill sets and life experience. This new paradigm we’re living in, though not without its challenges, does allow for a more holistic approach to our professional lives—no longer either or, rather— both and all. I don’t think I could have gotten away with it ten years ago.

Although a little overwhelming and uncertain at times—with flexibility replacing security and a paycheck—this new model in the workplace is also a gift, an opportunity to grow and engage with people and ideas in multiple ways. It makes room for a fuller expression of our life experience, our creativity—our humanity.

Creativity = Vulnerability

Creating can be scary. Creating involves risk. A true creative act produces something which never existed before. Whether it be a new relationship, a painting, a poem, a freshly baked cake, the launch of a new business or simply a new direction in our lives there is a tremendous amount of vulnerability involved in putting ourselves out into the world in new ways, with no guarantee of acceptance or approval. It is in fact within this uncertainty that the real magic happens. To lean into this calls for a certain sort of wholeheartedness, and a sense that we are enough, regardless of the outcome. If, as I believe we are all artists in the creation of our lives each day, and ART is all just perfectly imperfect….then we must cut ourselves a lot more slack and be willing to fail, miserably if need be. This involves exposure and taking emotional risks. This is the only way to be truly alive. The opposite, staying safely (we think) within our comfort zones, is stagnation and decline.

Brene Brown states: “Vulnerability is the root of all emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” If you’re one of the few who haven’t seen her viral TED talks, I highly recommend both of them. She really gets to the heart of the matter.


Mind ‘Pops’

You know the experience—when you’re in the shower, perhaps driving, walking, or emerging from sleep in the morning—a great idea pops into your head, or an answer to some problem you’ve been struggling with. This new insight, this Eureka moment, comes seemingly out of nowhere, without effort—it feels like a gift: some sort of grace given to us. Some would therefore discount the validity of the insight. We all have them, all the time, and if you really start paying attention, you will see a pattern; a relationship between  what you are doing when these moments of illumination occur. These ‘pops’ will generally be the best ideas and insights we have about the issues in our lives. Once you really tune in to the framework outlined a couple posts ago you can actually conjure these little helpers. Illustration courtesy of Clive Jacobson.

Tip #1 Avoid the Starting ‘Block’

This, the first in a series of weekly tips in the service of expanding our creative and productive selves.

There’s something about sitting down to a blank page, stepping up to a blank canvas or starting any new project that can be overwhelming….commonly known as the creative block. As a freelancer without a structured work life this can apply to any work we’re doing. We all know the feeling—the fear, resistance and paralysis behind procrastination. One of the best pieces of advice I ever was given was to consciously leave work ‘unfinished’ for the next day—it makes it much easier to start and find your way back in to the flow, picking up where you left off. This seems counter-intuitive in some ways; going against the grain of the discipline of seeing a thing through to completion, yet it sets you up for a stronger start to the next day, avoiding the ‘blank page’ syndrome. If in fact the practice is about showing up each day, and it certainly is, then let each day dovetail off the previous. The new start comes much more readily when already in the flow of the work. Try it to see if it makes a difference….and keep me posted.

Creativity Matters

This is a post which appeared a couple years ago in another version of this blog. I’m bringing it back because it best communicates why I started this blog, and what the real focus here is. Shift and change are the results, no matter what.

Most things that are interesting, important, human are the result of Creativity on some level. When we are involved in it it makes us feel good, it keeps us young and ideally there is an outcome that enhances the quality of our existence….whether a freshly baked cake or the Mona Lisa. There are a lot misconceptions of what Creativity is. One is that some people are and some people are not Creative. This is a myth. We are all Creative. To my mind Creativity is as much, if not more, a necessary human attribute than intelligence, especially these days. It’s a survival skill. It means having imagination, being resourceful, self-directed. It means being open, looking at things in new ways, taking chances, and taking advantage of the unexpected—being able to tolerate uncertainty and chaos.  And most importantly it is a pathway to the mysterious, miraculous, unpredictable, undefinable, uncontrollable—things we live for like bliss, love, beauty, joy, inspiration, dreams, vision, awe, wonder, significance and transformation. What if we could learn how to have more of these things in our lives? What if there was a course in Creativity? What would the syllabus look like?

—I’ve since come up with some answers to those questions…so please stay tuned!

The Wisdom of Subtraction

I don’t know about many of you, but lately I feel like a slave to my to-do list… I’m getting nowhere even though I’m doing so much….. particularly this past year because I’ve been trying to do way too many ‘big’ things at once.  I came across an article the other day, The Art of Adding by Taking Away written by Matthew May. It speaks to the value of looking at what not to do, of having the discipline to discard what does not fit or serve our purpose.  “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day”   from the 2500 year old teachings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Wow.

I’ve often applied this ‘less is more’ concept in my photography, embracing the Zen aesthetics of  minimalism and empty space in the visual sense. In conversation as well there is richness in silence—it is in the ‘gaps’ where insights occur. How might you apply these principles in your own life?

Busyness does not equal productivity or growth. It often gets in the way in fact, creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. How about creating a not-to-do list to accompany your to-do list? Try it. Think about what you really want to be accomplishing and conserve your resources. It’s about removing just the right things in the right way; this shift in perspective will allow the universe to step in…I call it Grace. Good things are bound to follow.


A Call to…’Art’

My very wise, hip and creative 25 year old daughter refers to Seth Godin as the ‘prophet’ for the new age. I have to agree. I’ve been so inspired by his blog and books, Linchpin and Tribes among them, for years. Though his roots are in the world of marketing and business, Seth’s most recent book, The Icarus Deception, is a bold call to arms for all of us to ‘make art’. Art, as he refers to it, is not something we hang on a wall. He defines an artist as “someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. Art is what we do when we’re truly alive. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and soul.” He says art is not a gene or a specific talent, it’s an attitude, available to anyone who has a vision others don’t and the guts to do something about it.

At his hugely entertaining launch of the Icarus Project and V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone at the FIT auditorium on Wednesday he talked about the difference between making a living and making a life. At the outset of his call for all of us to wake up to this new reality we’re living in, he highlighted the importance of SEEING—the need to see things as they really are, to forget the name of the thing you’re seeing, and see the world differently. Being busy is not what matters now.  Being human, vulnerable, taking a leap, and stepping forward despite our fears is what will carry the day.

As Karma would have it, I was the lucky holder of a purple ace, which won the humongous door prize pictured here, a massive compilation of his writings. Thank you Seth.

A Better Resolution

I’ve never been a fan of the New Year’s resolution; they’re just never any fun. Apart from the time-worn idea, there’s nothing about the beginning of a new year that makes change any easier, yet we all make these big proclamations without much of a plan in place.  Too often it simply sets us up to fail.

Willpower alone is a myth, so we stumble, we beat ourselves up, we believe ourselves to be pathetic losers and more often than not engage in more of the exact behavior we’re trying to change by way of comforting ourselves in the face of our perceived failure. We’ve all been there.

I prefer to mark the start of a new year by taking stock—reflecting on what I accomplished in the past year, acknowledging what was gained—what worked and what didn’t and why—and focusing on what I want to create in the coming year. Doing this kind of inventory allows much more self acceptance and encourages focusing on your successes, which puts you in a far more empowered frame of mind to create the life you want. The key is setting yourself up for success—make the change process fun, enlivening and comfortable enough so you can connect with the feeling of achieving your goals. There is a process involved.

There was a great tidbit floating around the blogosphere yesterday; I think it does a better job of capturing it:

Today is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.



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