Going after our dreams: Forget perfect

When we have a long held dream it can be tempting to aim super high. We can visualise the BEST concert, the MOST AWESOME workshop, the BEST SELLING BOOK. This vision can be enticing, exhilarating, and frankly terrifying.

It can paralyse us with fear because we can imagine all the things that might go wrong along the way, and the pain we might feel when that moment comes if it’s NOT that raging success we dream of.

Instead try ‘beginner’ level.

Imagine your first one being full of mistakes and maybe not quite as bright and shiny as you would like AND THAT BEING OK.

Imagine the ONLY objective is to actually give it a go, and celebrate your learning and courage along the way.

If this still feels terrifying, try writing a long list of all the wonderful things you might get out of doing even a small and slightly shabby concert, or running a averagely attended workshop where you forget a few things and do an OK job, or writing a book that barely sells at all.

ALL the things you will learn
ALL the connections you might still make
ALL the experience you will gather up
ALL the personal growth and insights you might have
ALL the old fears you might step away from
ALL the old self beliefs you might gently challenge
ALL the new ideas and inspiration you might get

Feel worth it now?

Even a beginner level effort teaches us so much. In fact we often can’t get to excellence without doing ‘kind of average’ first (many times over).

Do average.
Do beginner.
Do practice.
Do ‘this is just a pilot’.

Perfect is not the only option.
Perfect is not the only reason something is worth doing.
Perfect is not our obligation.
Perfect is not your responsibility.
Perfect is a changeable, subjective flip flopping notion that exists just to tie you in knots.

What is your responsibility is to bring those great ideas into the world, and express yourself, to give it a go.

Love letter to a New Year

 

Dear New Year,

 

May you be fresh and fun.

 

May you have ups and downs, sunny days and storms.

 

May we walk together with mutual respect.

 

May you surprise us all.

 

May you remind us of our shared humanity and of our care for each other.

 

May you take us places we weren’t expecting and couldn’t have imagined.

 

May there be laughter, tears, hands held and hugs.

 

May there be plenty of space within you for sitting under trees and having bare feet on earth, bare legs in cool water.

 

May you shift and change us in ways we weren’t expecting and might not have been brave enough to do alone.

 

May you challenge us so that we find our core values over and over again and so that we finish you feeling brave and resolute and strong.

 

May you cradle us when we feel tired and gentle and soft so that we finish you feeling loved and held and safe.

 

Dear year, may you offer us many moments of curiosity, joy, reflection, peace, adventure and hope.

And may I remember that whatever you are, however you unfold, I have choices in how I respond, that my inner world is a space I can shape through learning, healing and mindfulness.

Thankyou for sharing your wonderful self with me new year.

 


 

Letter writing is a format we can use to process and capture our hopes and wishes for the year. Why not give it a go yourself? 

And once you’ve reconnected with what matters most to you this year, see if you would like some company, support and input while you take practical steps towards your dreams. I have openings for 2 new coaching clients to work with me this half of the year. See my Coaching page for package details and get in touch. 

Living in the comfort zone

Sometimes feeling stuck can just be that we have grown into our adventure zone and turned it into out comfort zone.

What felt new and exciting and a bit of a push when we first started now feels familiar and old hat.

Feels automatic.

We know that a degree of challenge or creativity is needed to keep us vibrant and interested in our days, so when our work, or daily tasks, are no longer giving us the chance to learn and stretch ourselves, a kind of malaise can set in.

“But why?” we might think. “This was interesting last year, why isn’t it interesting now?”

 

Maybe we need more learning.

Maybe we need to step up into the next challenge.

Maybe we need a project just for fun.

Maybe we need more collaboration.

 

Maybe we need a puzzle to figure out.

Maybe we need to connect with what satisfies us most.

Maybe we need some risk as well as some certainly.

Maybe we need a creative project that fills us with joy.

 

Maybe we need to drench ourselves with acts of self care and love.

Maybe we need to commit to a slightly scary goal and work towards it.

Maybe we need to name the next dream that seems so audacious we can barely believe it’s slipped out from our lips.

I got to my dream, now what?

Sometimes we engage with a dream so deeply, that it guides us for months or even years. We make a change, we commit to some healing, or we set off on an adventure.

And then. Then we get there.

Maybe course is over now, or the draft is written or the trip is finished. Maybe the house is bought or the business launched or the big move made.

And then – what next?

We might have grown and tapped into deep reserves to get here – overcoming adversity, finding our courage, practicing perseverance. And in arriving we enjoy a rest, some peace.

But then, we get the itch. What is the next stage?

What does the next chapter look like?

Maybe we need some quiet space to hear the stirrings of our hearts.

Maybe from here we notice that we can see the view and ourselves a little more clearly than from where we started out.

We know that the culmination of the next dream wont be the end point either, just a new point, where the view is a little different, the tools in our toolkit a bit better honed, and our own character is a letter better known, worn and accepted.

 Have you ever felt yourself in a lull between dreams? What did it feel like? how did you make space for the new dream to emerge?

5 things (that might be) stopping you from success

“Don’t wait until to know who you are to get started, the way you figure it out is by making things”
– Austen Klein (who wrote Steal like an Artist)

I’ve been working with coaching clients for two years now helping people get moving towards their wishes.

I love how unique each person is: there are no two exact life stories or sets of passions of strengths. However with the smart, sensitive, creative and multipassionate people I work with (and if you’re reading this you probably fall into this camp too) there are some themes I notice in what blocks they face in taking practical steps towards their long held dream.

1. Your sense of time. As a creative person you might be used to bending and stretching time, falling into pockets of time, and squeezing outrageous abundance out of a short period when you are feeling inspired.

But here’s the thing: time (and your productivity) can’t be expected to deliver such bounty every second of every day.

There will be days when you are doing tasks that are less fun and just do take way longer than you wish they would. Start noticing how long tasks take – not how long you wish they would take. For example ‘updating your finance spreadsheet’ is something you pretend will take 15 minutes but actually takes 3 hours, or ‘making a brochure’ you wish would take half an hour but might actually need to be your main focus for a couple of days. You may not want this task to take so much time, but being realistic about how much time it needs will stop you overscheduling or over committing and will help you give yourself permission to take the time the task actually needs to get done.

If you are still learning the task, or don’t actually know all the steps that it needs feel free to double the time you give yourself to do it – you might need it. Leave the warp speed productivity estimates for the work you really love, and leave plodding time for plodding tasks. Solution: give yourself chunks of time to do things, especially the hard and boring stuff.

2. Fear of being criticised. You want to hit publish on that first blog post but WHO ARE YOU TO HAVE AN OPINION?

You are acutely aware that everyone, from your grannie to that mean girl who never liked you at school, to that awkward guy on the bus will be able to read it and pass judgement on you. They will hate it! They will think you are too mean/ critical/ soppy/ whiney/ happy/ angry/ average/ boring/ spiritual/ emotional/ low-brow/ high-brow/ entitled/ egotistical… They will think you are an amateur/ sell out/ hard nosed bitch/ ruthless bastard/ band-wagonist/ dilettante/ unprofessional…. And whatever else is on your ‘secret fears about myself’ list.

This is deep and painful stuff.

This fear feels like the fear of being rejected, shamed, ostracised. It is the fear of showing our authentic selves and having it not be accepted. It is the fear that we will lose face, reputation, career opportunities, friends or loved ones. This thread usually runs very deep to childhood or whatever situation we first experienced being criticised for who we were, often because others weren’t comfortable with that aspect of themselves or because they expressed their care through criticism or a strong focus on fear and safety, rather than encouragement and love. Going after our own dreams is one sure fire way to come face to face with this stuff.

But please don’t let the fear be the reason you stop.

Get help! What you need is a cheer squad, a tribe, a little safe corner, a mentor or a coach. Speaking these fears out loud to someone who you feel safe with, feeling the pain, shedding a few tears and then taking the tentative tiny baby steps just out of the comfort zone with a trusted other by your side is deep and powerful work. You are rewriting how you see the world – from scary and unsafe and unsupportive to warm, embracing and encouraging. No wonder this is hard to do alone. Solution: feel the feelings and then take safe, baby steps.

3. Your dream has had the enthusiasm dry up and just fear and doubt remains. The dream you had has been sitting on the shelf in the back of the cupboard for so long it no longer looks sparkly and fun but feels like a giant mess of guilt and self doubt. Imagine it cobwebby and covered in dust. It kind of radiates fear when you think of it, and you feel super guilty for leaving it there for so long.

You need to dust off the cobwebs and get a burst of enthusiasm for your dream!

Find someone safe to talk to about the dream. Give yourself space to feel any sadness or guilt or self criticism or any other feelings that have come and settled on it while it was on the shelf. Now let’s get it sparkling again! You need people who see it as absolutely possible, doable and just exactly the kind of thing someone like you might do. When you light your dream up with enthusiasm and sense of possibility again it is a pleasure to be around it and start taking action towards it. Solution: do what it takes to make your dream feel like a happy place again.

4. All or nothing thinking about research or prep has hijacked you. Does this one sound familiar? ‘I can’t possibly start my book because I haven’t finished all the research and I’ll have to research everything so actually I’ll never be ready to start’ or ‘I will never be able to start a business because I would need to do elleventy billion courses first and I don’t have time’.

Do you? Do you really need to do ALL the things?

Can you cheat? Can you just ask three people who know a lot about that thing and see what they say? Can you find one good article that reviews a bunch of stuff and just decide from that? Can you do three hours of research and then start? Sometimes we set up an imaginary perfect scenario as an excuse for why we can’t start – because no busy human has the time or energy to follow our imaginary regime we then have a great excuse to never start.

Imagine you HAD to start tomorrow. What is the bare minimum research or preparation or whatever it is that you could do today? If you reaallly had to? Do that! Then start. And do more along the way as you need it. You’ll have better questions to ask once you get some hands on experience and real life under your belt anyway, so your learning will be richer and more targeted. Solution: don’t believe your hype, you know enough already, just start.

5. Your old mask doesn’t have room for the new you. If you want to BE something but you don’t see yourself ever doing that thing it can be hard to make the shift to owning that part of yourself.

You want to write / sing/ paint/ design/ build / connect but you don’t see yourself as ‘the type of person who…’ (does that thing). Your old identity doesn’t have room in it for this new part of yourself and it resists the introduction of the new.

Try doing a bunch of things that will help you believe that you are the kind of person that does (your thing).

Painting? Go to classes, go to galleries, read books about painting, share your work, tell people you paint. Before long you will believe it. Running marathons? Get outside in your running gear, read fitness magazines, listen to podcasts about running, run around the block. Eventually you will own this thing ‘running’ and see yourself as some one who runs. You can be a beginner, be still learning, be a dabbler but you need to find a way to glue this thing to your sense of YOU. Doing the thing is easier when we don’t have internal resistance because it doesn’t align with our self image. Solution: do all the things you think a writer / painter/ rock climber / business person does, it will help you absorb the new identity with more ease.

These are some of the most common blocks I see stopping people from taking action towards their most heart felt dreams. What else? What do you notice stops you? And more importantly how do you overcome it?

I’d love to hear what resonates most with you from this blog. Comment below or send me an email!

What’s under the hood?

Have you ever seen a sexy career and thought ‘I want me a bit of that!’?

I have. Mine is cake decorating. Forget for a minute that we have diabetes in my family, I’m keen to shift a few kilos and don’t want to be surrounded by sugar every minute of my working day, and would probably spiral into existential angst if I wasn’t doing something my somewhat pompous ego tells me is Useful and Valuable. That aside, my absolute for-fun imaginary dream job is covering cup cakes with tiny roses and sparkles.

In my imaginary version of this job it’s a lot of laughing, rolling out icing, playing with colours and delighting small children and sweet octogenarians with birthday cakes.

But I imagine that under the hood, this job probably looks a bit different.

The light and the dark. It’s own fair share of challenges. Sore feet from lots of standing. Unstable income as a small start up. Sickly sweet smells that get old about one week in. Stressed clients organising events. Late deliveries of dry goods. I don’t know really, I’m just making this up. Which is kind of the point.

We don’t know what’s involved if we haven’t done it or maybe know someone else pretty well who’s done it.

So for my work as an art therapist, sometimes people see the crayons and smiles and happy workshops, and don’t see the admin, paperwork, report writing, the first year of hard slog with erratic income, the lugging of tables and chairs to set up yet another workshop venue, the worries for clients, the self reflection and soul-searching supervision and general support needed, the hours spent wrangling and untangling and sorting materials.

I’m not complaining, I’m doing what I’ve chosen to do and actually I find it immensely rewarding. I enjoy it, it’s fun at times, and satisfying at a deep level. And it’s hard work and long hours sometimes too.

So when you or I next say ‘I’d love to do what you do’, let’s both spare a thought for the gears and workings under the hood of the shiny new car.

—–

More musings…

Which careers do you know that you think get portrayed as all fun that probably have a bit more going on than meets the eye?

How can we get to know what is really involved in different roles or professions when we are exploring a career change?

How can we shape our jobs to have more of what we love and less of what we don’t so that we are playing to our strengths most of the time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press pause and make version 1.0

When we are creative it can feel like we have never ‘arrived’ at the structure of the thing we want to work on. The big picture decisions keep shifting and changing – so how are we ever meant to knuckle down and make the thing when we haven’t landed on the design yet?

This happened to me recently when I was working on a complex report. I kept coming up with new ideas for how to structure the report, new content, the headings and lay out and structure of the document kept changing. I knew if I continued I would have a half done outline and nothing written, all my hours of thinking invisible in the previous versions of the structure I had worked on and discarded as my thinking had evolved. At one point I had to say to myself ‘just stick with this structure, even if it’s not the best, just stick with it and write a draft of every section’.

It can be painful to press pause on the creative process and knuckle down to start making within a defined structure. What helps me is to think of these stages as different types of work.

I think ‘hmm, ok I’m getting carried away with design right now, when what I need is content. I need to flip into making content, and later and can revise the big picture again’.

My creative brain needs to be acknowledged, and to know it’s not getting sidelined on the project, even if I am pressing pause on that kind of big picture thinking. I know that I can layer the approach so that sometimes I am assessing big picture, and sometimes I am working to that vision and filling in the details.

I think this can happen in our lives as well. We get paralysed or lost in the depths of dreaming up possibilities for our lives, but sometimes forget to press pause on the idea generating and actually fill in the details to bring one vision to life. And that’s shame, because bringing one vision to life doesn’t mean we can’t rearrange it later, can’t redesign, restructure. Only this time we have some juicy content to move around as well, and sometimes in the doing it helps highlight new things that we want to consider in the design or big picture.

So whether it’s writing a document or thinking about your next career or life move, remember to pair thinking with action. At some stage press pause and make version 1.0, you can always rearrange things later.

Need help getting started? Get in touch and book a free QandA to see whether coaching might be a good fit for you. 

Resistance training

As soon as I made the commitment I mysteriously no longer wanted to do it. At all.

Huh?

As soon as I made the public commitment to keep painting faces ready to exhibit them, I suddenly stopped wanting to do it.

True story.

I forgot all about them.

Whatever urge I had to work on them had just dissipated, morning dew evaporating under the fierce light of the sun.

This is one way resistance shows up.

As forgetfulness. As sudden disinterest. As sudden more urgent priorities eclipsing the goal or project.

We bury the tender dream deep under protective layers of slumber.

And then we feel safe again.

No vulnerable going out on a limb.

No putting ourself in front of critics.

No deliberately stepping closer to danger.

The long term, deep and diffuse pain of not acheiving our goals seems preferable to the short term anxiety inducing fearful pain of actually moving towards them.

So how to work over, under, alongside or around resistance?

Next week’s post has some ideas.

 

It’s a beautiful coat but it’s not my coat

Have you ever done that thing? At a party or at the end of a dinner out, you make the grab, and sling a dark coat over your arm. In all the saying of goodbye’s and finding of handbags, phone and maybe fishing out of keys it’s just one more task to do. Mwah mwah, you have cheeks to kiss and books to promise to lend, and last jokes to make or hugs to give.

But then as you step out into the cold of the street and the sensory overload fades you realise that your hand is registering something. That coat, that fabric, it’s unfamiliar. You look down and see an imposter. YOUR coat wasn’t dark blue felted wool, YOUR coat was a deep charcoal thick cotton trench coat, kind of soft, not as furry.

Now let’s be clear, the coat you’re holding is gorgeous. You hold it up in the light and see just how stylish it is, the weight of the cloth, the sparkle of the button, the ever so faint sweet waft of perfume rubbed into the collar. But it’s not your coat.

The fit of the shoulders won’t be the same, the lint in the pockets would be someone else’s creepy lint not your familiar bit of tissue and pen lid. You won’t have memories of when you first saw it, or when you wore it to special occasions. Make no mistake, this is not your coat.

Dreams are like this too. We can accidentally pick up the wrong dream, and find out later that we have been carrying around a dream that doesn’t quite fit.

And just like the coat, the right thing to do is to give it back and go get your own.