You’ve taken the steps to doing something you love and set some big goals in your life. You have stepped out of your comfort zone and challenged yourself by taking a sculpting or drawing class, registering a business name; you have been getting up early and working on your autobiographical novel or swimming at the beach every morning...maybe you have even joined one of our Edgewalkers Creativity & Walking Retreats. Great!
You have moved out of dreaming, planning, maybe procrastinating...and into action!
Enthusiasm is rampant at the start; the possibilities of living more creatively, more connected to your body & nature and with more energy and self-expression are exciting and motivating. However, if you are anything like me, staying in the zone can be a challenge.
Here are 5 things that I know help me sustain my enthusiasm when it slackens, maintain my focus when it diverts and keep me loving the life I create daily when I doubt my choices.
1. Make it a habit
“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.” Twyla Tharp
I know that sounds counter-intuitive because we grow up with the notion that creativity is something that is inspired by a muse or suddenly happens to specially gifted and talented people. Or as Tharp puts it 'we think creativity is a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition.' But anything that we want to become good at requires practice. Even the most talented of athletes or musicians will invest tens of thousands of hours on repetitive tasks just to make them second nature.
For the last two months I have been rekindling a yoga practice. Why? It's good for me: my moods are better, my body feels alive, my head is clearer and kinder and softer; quieter, less neurotic. And, in relation to my business and the life I am living and creating, it gives me the focus & strength to hold a large space for it all to manifest and take place in.
So here's how I am creating the habit: I just SHOW UP. Every day. Don't worry about whether you write a lot, walk enough kilometres, paint with the right colours or hit the right notes; don't worry about whether you've got the right workspace or studio or business model; just show up; because once you show up, as YogaLab owner & teacher Shawn Taylor, reminds us every day, the hardest part is over.
Show up enough times so the blank page will no longer be terrifying; enough times so that your fingers don't hurt across the guitar strings; enough times so that you generate enough income to call yourself a business, show up until, as my performance specialist friend Julie Meek calls it, the habit is 'non-negotiable'.
I have other habits that serve me well. I write every day. I walk every day. And now, at least five times a week, I show up on the mat.
2. Achieve one small goal at a time...with gratitude
I tramp a perpetual journey - Walt Whitman
I have a big vision for Edgewalkers. I want Edgewalkers to grow into a successful, international company that plays a role in bringing people closer to nature and to their most creative, self-expressive & adventurous selves. In addition, I want to continue to conduct community & organisational development through theatre-based, transformative & creative approaches to tackle difficult issues all over Australia and the world. And, I want to continue creating both academic and popular content about it all. And...(breath) I want go on a long hiking adventure every year.
Right now, I could basically be working all day & night to do everything I want to do! There is always content to write, improvements to make on the website, on our marketing; there is always social media to post, networks to build, clients to contact, writing to edit, new tracks to walk, packages to sell. It is endless. For me acknowledging each small goal at a time reminds me that although there is a long 'to do list' I am on track and present.
Acknowledge your small wins with marked actions and small celebrations. When you make that difficult phone call; when you run all the way up the hill without a break; when you pay one more instalment of your epic holiday...or when you simply turn up daily. Record it somewhere. Reflect on it. Rejoice deep inside and...be grateful.
Thank yourself and everything that has conspired to come together as a result of your intention and each little action you have taken to get to where you are. I like to burn candles as gestures of gratitude and accomplishment. If that is too hippy for you, then do something more transactional and buy yourself movie tickets, or get your hair done, or have some chocolate.
I also use a whiteboard (I'm a hippy with attitude) where I jot weekly goals (usually I just change the dates and some of items on the list remain the same) and as I move through them I cross them off with different coloured pens! At the end of the week I have a colourful testament to me being absolutely on track to my bigger vision.
Despite all of this, I still have to remind myself daily to listen to my own advice because like everyone else, I can so easily get bogged down in fear, impatience & stress...I find this as difficult as you do.
3. Embrace differences
"A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms' Zen Shin
Don’t compare yourself to others. ‘Yeah, yeah’ I can hear your cynic saying, you’ve heard that before; well hear it again! You are unique. We all are. Comparing ourselves to others is a sure way to lose motivation. There are going to be people who have already run a marathon, published a book (or two), won photography prizes, established successful businesses or climbed Mt Kilimanjaro; there are people who swim faster, jump higher and will always look better than you in a bikini. Get over it! Shift your perception to where YOU are right now and how wonderful that is. Be inspired by what others are doing, rejoice in their achievements but remain focused on your own unique goals.
4. Surround yourself with support & inspiration
"you are a sea of light. open your eyes. see yourself' Nayyirah Waheed
Firstly, surround yourself with your own inspiration. Allocate a certain amount of time a day to read, watch, listen or do what you know inspires you. It does not have to be long or complicated.
I am a staunch Morning Pages advocate, even though I had always kept a journal beforehand, I have been doing Morning Pages since I first read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way in 1999. Three pages of unadulterated, stream-of-consciousness writing that allows my mind to empty out concerns & insecurities as well as motivate & show me a way through difficulties. They are like a meditation. As Cameron puts it:
"in Morning Pages ...we pull ourselves inward to the core of our true values, perceptions, and agendas...it is a form of meditation, a particularly potent and freeing form ...our worries, fantasies, anxieties, hopes, dreams, concerns and convictions all float freely across the page. The page becomes a screen for our consciousness. Our thoughts are like clouds crossing before the mountain of our observing eye."
The Morning Pages take me fifteen to thirty minutes and; every time, they slow me right down and help me start my day more connected to myself and why I am doing what I am doing.
Secondly, surround yourself with the inspiration of others. Be around people who leave you expanded and excited about life and what you are doing & what they are doing; people who leave you feeling lighter and brighter. You know who these people are; they are interested in what you say to them, they see the light and the value of what you are doing. Surround yourself with people who may not be coming along with you but encourage you on your unique adventure.
This also means staying far, far away from people who, for whatever reason, do not or cannot support or encourage you. Cameron calls them 'poisonous playmates'. Maybe it's because our new direction threatens them. Maybe it's because they do not have the imagination or the courage to step into their own self-expression and dreams. Whatever the reasons, we have to stay away from their doubts & criticism to protect our newly found creativity & direction.
5. Go for a walk!!
"Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them' Rebecca Solnit
I cannot stress how important walking regularly has been for me in generating ideas, problem solving, reflecting, analysing, and in effect, dealing head on with everything that life throws at me on this mysterious journey of life, love and creating.
I have learnt to simply & unceremoniously, put on my shoes, grab my keys and just step outside the front door when I'm spinning my wheels at my desk or when my thinking keeps sinking me deeper into a problem instead of out of it. I have learnt to block out a half day to to regularly go for a longer walk; to spend a few hours in a quiet nature track somewhere to get clarity and direction amongst trees and flowers.
For me staying motivated is a daily, long-term task that requires a concerted effort so that I can habitually make choices that support me every step of this journey and help me hold my vision & create it.
I hope you find something useful & encouraging in what I have shared and that it helps you stay on track!! If you want to stay connected to a group of like-minded people more informally join our Edgewalkers Facebook Group and support each other on this journey of creativity & self-expression.