Feeding the Starving Artist

Unleash your creativity, one small bite at a time

Issue #12 Perfectionism June 26, 2007

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Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. ~ Robert Schuller

GIVE ME SOME AIR

Are you paralyzed by perfectionism, want to do something or be someone, but simply can’t for fear you may not do it well?

Perfectionism can kill creativity. Like fireflies in a well-sealed jar, slowly you suffocate. Drowning in thoughts of how things should be or must be, you eventually decide, “I can’t possibly do it.” You’re defeated before you even begin.

But…what if you give yourself permission to do it badly. Do it horribly. Very few things in life are irreversible. If you mess up the canvas, buy a new one; write the wrong word, press delete; perform below the crazy standard you set for yourself, just do better next time.

No one creates instant perfection (as far as I know). They’re called first drafts, slop throughs, studies and trial runs for a reason. The art of perfecting is one of shaping and improving over time. A critical eye at the outset can squash a creative impulse, but that same critical eye applied later may turn an imperfect idea into a brilliant work of art.

Try poking an airhole in your creative jar. Jump in and do whatever it is you’ve been dying to do. You don’t need any special time, place or fanfare. Just begin.

If that critical voice pipes up, tell it everything’s okay. You’re just going to do something, badly.

RECIPE FOR PERFECTIONISM

Set aside 15 minutes today to do something you’ve been wanting to do…just 15 minutes to write, run, draw, dance, paint, knit, play, sing or rehearse. Just 15 minutes, with no expectations, no deadlines and no criticizing.

I give you an A+ no matter what the results.

 

Issue #21-Checking-In August 30, 2007

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“Learn to pause …
or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.”
~Doug King

THE ICE CREAM FIX

How are you feeling right now?

I encourage you to pause until you can really answer this question. Are you tired, anxious, grateful, hungry, irritated, relaxed, at peace?

Now ask yourself, “What do I need?” Maybe you need a break, or a sense of connection, or comfort.

How often do you go through a day without ever checking-in? You may check-in with your family, with your friends, with your boss, but how often do you check-in with yourself?

Your feelings are like a baby’s cry, telling you what you need at any given moment. Just as a mother nurtures her child and attunes to her baby’s needs, you must nurture yourself, understanding what you really need.

Confusing messages early in life can make this a challenge. If you’ve associated certain responses with anger, joy, stress or sadness, it may be difficult to identify your real need, to remember that ice cream does not, in fact, soothe a broken heart.

Check-in with yourself throughout the day and identify the needs associated with your feelings. Remember wanting is different than needing. You may want to flip on the television or open that bottle of wine, but ask yourself, “What do I really need?”

RECIPE FOR CHECKING-IN

List the feelings that you commonly experience such as anger, sadness, fear, guilt, gratitude, happiness and pride. Write down the ways you express those feelings in action.

“When I’m sad I-”

Notice if the choices you make attend to the feelings. If a mother feeds her baby when the child needs changing, the baby’s unhappy feelings will remain and the need will not be met.

Rewrite the sentence with a supportive choice.

“When I’m sad I need-”

Consciously check-in with yourself several times a day. Be sure to both identify and attend to your feelings

 

Issue #20-Differentiation August 24, 2007

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“The finest thing in the world is knowing how to belong to oneself.”

~Michel de Montaigne

WHAT WILL THEY THINK?

You are a separate individual, whole and unique.

But how often do you look to others for acceptance, approval, love and support?

Differentiation is the ability to see yourself as a separate individual and to connect thoughtfully with your wants and needs, without becoming overwhelmed by emotion.

Although developmentally appropriate for teenagers to make choices based on their desire to belong, the maturation process leads you away from this need toward being able to fully accept yourself.

Instead of asking, “Will they like me, find me attractive, think I’m funny, want to spend time with me?” you begin to ask, “Do I like me, think I’m attractive, believe I’m hilarious and enjoy my own company?”

When you become emotionally reactive or shut down as a result of what others say or do, this indicates a need to continue the process of fully connecting with and accepting yourself.

Learn to stand comfortably in your skin, evaluating yourself based on your own wants, needs, values and beliefs.

Know yourself, love yourself.

RECIPE FOR DIFFERENTIATION

When it comes to being evaluated by others, are you concerned about your appearance, intelligence, social or financial status? What are the recurrent themes in your life?

Write a list of specific questions and concerns you may have such as, “Will they think I’m stupid?”

Turn each sentence into an “I” statement such as, “Do I think I’m stupid?”

Explore both the origin of your beliefs and how you might alter those that do not serve you.

 

Issue #16 -Planning August 21, 2007

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“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt

HOW TO EAT AN ELEPHANT

Somewhere between a clear vision of your future and the actual attainment of your goals is a large empty space waiting to be filled.  But what goes in that space?  How do you get from where you are now to where you want to be?

As a psychotherapist, I create treatment plans for my clients that define the presenting problem, the goals of therapy and, most importantly, how those goals will be met.  These interventions are the specific tasks the client and I will focus on.  Goals matter very little without a specific plan to achieve them.

Of course, the same is true outside of therapy. Knowing you want more success or happiness, wishing you could lose weight, or dreaming of a better relationship may go a long way toward creating your vision, but it it doesn’t specify how you’ll do it.

You need a plan.

Your plan is your recipe. Creating that plan takes effort, support, research, education and revision. Borrow what’s worked for others, find a mentor, ask for help.

Build your plan like you’d eat an elephant.  One bite at a time.

RECIPE FOR PLANNING

Using color, image and curvilinear lines, Mind Mapping is a technique developed by Tony Buzan. A visual map that expands upon a central idea, the Mind Mapping technique has been found to accurately reflect the mental processes of the mind, making it highly beneficial for learning, brainstorming, studying or creating.

Watch Tony Buzan explain Mind Mapping.

Choose a goal; place it in the center of your Mind Map.  Allow your plan to flow from the center, with more and more specificity.  Be sure to identify “hows” not “whats”. Focus on things you can actually do.

 

Control

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“Each player must accept the cards that life deals him or her. But once in hand one must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”

~ Voltaire

LUCK OF THE DRAW

Is success a result of luck, hard work or both?

The correct answer may be less important than the implication of what you believe.

Psychology identifies two types of people: internals and externals.  Internals believe that their actions lead to specific outcomes.  “If I work hard, I will be successful.”  Whereas, externals attribute outcomes to outside factors.  “Not everyone can be successful, some people are just lucky.”  This psychological concept, known as internal or external locus of control, impacts a person’s self-esteem, happiness and risk for depression.

So who’s happier?

When faced with challenging situations, internals believe they have the power to create change and will utilize their inner resources to do so.  Externals, on the other hand, may feel powerless in similar situations, believing that people, events and forces outside themselves are the cause of their suffering.

What if you were to take full responsibility for everything in your life, your work, your relationships, your health, yourself?  With no excuses and no one to blame-what might you do differently?

RECIPE FOR CONTROL

Developing an internal locus of control may aid “externals” in feeling more empowered.  Take this simple online test to determine where on the spectrum you fall.  Try to answer what you actually feel/believe, not what you think you should feel/believe.

Locus of Control Test

Developing an internal locus isn’t about controlling others-its about being responsible for your choices and the consequences of your actions.

 

WORRY

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“It only seems as if you are doing something when you’re worrying.”

~Lucy Maud Montgomery

WORRIED?

How much of your life is consumed by worry?  That gnawing, aching, lung-crushing, mind-numbing belief that things might, will or have gone wrong.

Most worry is completely unfounded.  Much of what you’ve dreaded has probably never come true.  And the bad things that have happened, likely came as a complete surprise.

Fortunately, worry is not a feeling outside your control.  It may simply be a bad habit, like biting your nails, smoking, or leaving the toilet seat up.  The anxious feelings are a result of habitual, problematic thinking.

The good news is, you control your thoughts.

Have you convinced yourself that by worrying you are caring, that you are warding off disappointment or disaster, that you have more control, or that you are actually doing something productive?  If your worrying cannot be alleviated by engaging in some specific action, or if you cannot take action in the near future- it’s probably a waste of your time and your precious energy.

Ask yourself, “Am I willing to stop worrying?”  And then, like any other bad habit, take control and break it.

RECIPE FOR WORRY

Cognitive Therapy (which looks at how our thoughts, affect our feelings and our behaviors) has proven to be highly effective in the treatment of anxiety. One Cognitive technique is called Thought Stopping.

1. When you experience anxiety or worry, identify your specific thought.

2. If there is an action you can take (e.g. I should really make this phone call), then either choose to do it or decide when you will do it.

3. If it is an unproductive worry (one you can do nothing about) say, either out loud or in your head, “STOP!”

4. Now, replace the negative, worrisome thought with a more supportive and productive thought.  Just like any habit, you must replace old behaviors with new behaviors.

This will take time.  There’s no Nicoderm or patch for this one-just good, old-fashioned effort.

 

Motivation

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“Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.”

~ Ben Franklin

WHAT’S MY MOTIVATION?

Once you decide what you really, really, really, really, really want in life, you may want to ask why.

“What’s my motivation?” the actor ponders.

Motivation isn’t something some of us have and others don’t. We’re all motivated by something specific-money, recognition, power, desire, comfort, self-improvement, independence, revenge.

When motivation is dependent on something outside of you (known in psychology as extrinsic motivation) you may find your willingness to persevere wane. Once the attention, approval or financial rewards stop or fail to increase, so might you. Whereas, when your desire to achieve something stems from an internal desire (known as intrinsic motivation) you’re more likely to persevere based on the personal satisfaction, fulfillment and pleasure you’re experiencing.

If you lack motivation, resist jumping on the “I’m just lazy” bandwagon. Ask yourself, “Do I really want this or am I doing it for something or someone else?” If you decide that you do, in fact, want to achieve a specific goal, get very clear about why. How will it change, improve, or affect your life?

Your motivation stems from your desire. If you truly want what you say you want and can figure out specific actions to take, ain’t nothing gonna stop you.

RECIPE FOR MOTIVATION

We avoid that which makes us feel bad and move toward that which is familiar or feels good.

Choose a goal you want to develop motivation for. Identify any negative thoughts associated with it. “It’s too hard”, “I’ll never be able to do it”, “People will judge me”.

Now, focus exclusively on the outcome. What are the personal rewards of achieving this goal? How will you feel physically, mentally and emotionally? Imagine yourself receiving the benefits of your accomplishment, finding a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.

Next, consciously create a daily habit that will lead you toward your goal. Then, “just do it”. Don’t exert a ton of energy thinking about doing it; consciously choose to do it.

Finally, practice daily…

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing-that’s why we recommend it every day.” ~Zig Ziglar

 

Vision July 20, 2007

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“Any road will take you there as long as you don’t know where you are going.” ~ Reginald Jones

RIDING THE WAVES

Like the captain of a ship, your vision determines your course. As you ride the waves, steering and maneuvering, every choice you make moves you closer to or further from your destination.

So, where are you headed?

Where will you be in six months, a year, five years? Do you know or are you waiting to see how life unfolds?

Listening to old scripts, or fueled by negative thinking and low self-esteem, many drift through life unaware of the choices they make, hoping, by luck or by fate, that everything will turn out okay.

By consciously creating a vision for your life, you challenge yourself to identify and pursue your greatest potential. You choose your destination, refusing to leave it to chance.

Begin by asking yourself, “Where do I intend to be a year from now?” Form a picture in your mind’s eye. See it, feel it, taste it, hear it.

Next, be willing to do what it takes to achieve it. This is where the work comes in, where many abandon ship. Employ your Will, your Persistence and your Resilience.

Finally, hold tight to your vision, stay on course and most importantly, enjoy the ride.

RECIPE FOR VISIONING

The following exercise was adapted from the VISIONING WORKBOOK, published by the United Church of Religious Science (2005).

Find a quiet and comfortable place to relax. Clear your mind and read each of the following questions one at a time. Allow whatever answers, words, images or thoughts that come. You may want to have a journal to write down your answers. Trust yourself, trust the process.

1. What is the highest vision for… (my life,
project, career, relationship)

2. What must I become to empower the vision?

3. What must I release?

4. What must I embrace?

5. Is there any other information that I need in this
moment?

Depending on your beliefs, you may ask these questions in the form of a prayer to a higher power or to the wisest part of yourself.