Category Archives: Goal setting – goal attaining

Limits vs. creativity: does it have to be a duel?

Limits

I joined in the On Being a Writer online discussion for the last six weeks and gained a lot from it. [The series, hosted by Kate Motaung, was based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts]

One of the topics that left me thinking was that of ‘Limit’.

Before the issue was raised via this series, I was acting like a spoilt child, asking ‘Why does this have to be my life?”…”Why me?”…

I was seeing, feeling, assimilating the limits that are imposed on me as being debilitating, spirit-crushing, life-sapping.

Then I pondered the prompt, read the responses of the other lovely ladies who joined in and had a major lightbulb moment…

Limits are actually useful for our creativity if we come at them from the right frame of mind.

Now, instead of thinking ‘Oh woe is me, I only have one hour to write”, with this shift in perspective, I’m all “Yay! I have one hour to write! What can I get done in this one hour?”.

I’ve come to relish the challenge and to see exactly how productive I can be in this hour.

The part of me that needs a challenge and some degree of external motivation is excited by this new frame of mind.

I’ve come to my writing hour afresh, with new eyes and more vigour and am loving seeing what I can produce/do in my whole hour.

This fresh perspective on the external limits on my time have kick-started my creativity.

These limits have made me more determined and, because of this new-found determination, they’ve made me more creative. 

I’m working with what I have, starting from where I am, instead of kicking myself that nothing is ideal.

It’s been a major wake-up call not only for my creativity but also in other areas of my life. When abundance doesn’t flow, it’s easy to get down, discouraged. But, instead of letting ourselves get discouraged, why don’t we turn it on it’s head?

Think you’re not enough? You don’t have enough?

Start to name the things you do have that you should be thankful for. Start to think how you can maximise the money/time you do have available.

Thinking in ‘haves’ and not ‘have nots’, thinking of limits as challenges, it’ll open up a whole new world of possibility.

What’s the worse thing about limits?

We think they block our realm of possibility. This certainly is the case sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t actively seek – and make the best of – the possibilities that are available to us.

This possibility-based thinking will – through unleashing our innate creativity – lead us out of the walls we build for ourselves.

And the best thing?

Once we’ve tasted what we can do when we’re limited, we won’t seek happiness, contentment elsewhere, we’ll find that we’re happy where we are with what we have, doing what we can do.

We’ll be expressing ourselves – our rich, inner, selves – despite the limits (whether this be time or disbelief in ourselves or or or…). And this full deliverance of our self expression will make us happy (may even, in the process, remove some of the limits we place on ourselves).

We’re not going to produce our best work unless we put the practice in and what better practice than creating within the boundaries imposed by the limits we face?

Can the limits we face push us to eventually become limitless….push us towards realising our best work? Can pushing up against our limits help us to develop – and flex – our creative muscles?

Would really love to hear what you think!

Helen xxx

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Anatomy of a bag

My bag. Often Tardis-like in its capabilities, today thankfully not so full.

I often wonder what people would glean from my life/character if my bag were rummaged ‘Through the Keyhole’ style.

What story would it tell today?

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That I like nice things (Burberry purse) and that I can’t part with old things (the nearly 20 year old scuffed and battered Burberry purse)? That I like a bargain (it was found in Bicester Village for 80% off; a bargain, even then, at £30!)?

That I have a pen/notebook fetish? That I scribble a lot (6 pens? A pack of sticky notes?! A folded scrap of paper with notes all over it)? That I’m a thinker? A writer?

That I have – and adore – my two children….who draw a lot, anywhere and everywhere (a Super Super Hero and a zoo, if you were wondering!)? That our home is full to the brims with creativity?

That I like to try to be glamorous (gold nail polish – I actually have no idea what that’s doing in there!)?

That I have a daughter who loves pink??!! That she recently hurt her eye and so has to wear sunglasses when she’s out and about?

That my boy’s 9 and loves pranks (the chewing gum that gives you an electric shock is most certainly not mine)?

There are many, many stories in there.

And as I look on these things and hear those stories, I realise…

The narratives we create for ourselves are the narratives our world/the world hears.

Note to self: being brave enough to say “I’m a writer” gives the dream a name and makes it that much more attainable because it makes you accountable.

What stories do you/your things tell and is that narrative in concert with your goals/dreams?

Helen xxx

 [Written in response to the Day 15 prompt for Blog-tember]

Slow is my new busy

YellowHappyDesk

I’ve realised I’m sick and tired of racing, sick and tired of ‘busy’.

I’m sick of being present for all the things I’m supposed to be doing but being largely absent for myself.

Slow is my new busy.

This realisation has come upon me gradually over the last few months, as I’ve learnt, through meditation, to listen to ‘me’ and – I have to say – I’m feeling the benefits of this new ‘slower’ life.

I appreciate the little things even more now.

Like really appreciate themBecause I now make the time to appreciate the marvel they are.

I even appreciate mundane things. For they’re all part of my reality.

I remember a psychologist telling me, ‘Helen, you have to get to the stage where you’ll enjoy washing up’. Busy Helen was all like, “Yeah….right….” (that’s just never gonna happen). And guess what? Slowed-down Helen now relishes the washing up with gusto, enjoying the simple act of going through the motions (three times a day, seven days a week).

Busy me would have said, “Oh my goodness, 21 times I stand at the sink and wash pots, I could be doing so many other things with this twenty minutes (my mind racing, galloping, somehow trying to do my to-do list in my mind, over and over). Slowed-down Helen uses those twenty minutes (which it’s not possible to avoid, after all; the pots pretty much have to be washed) to think, in silence, to just be. To give thanks for the little, but really not so little, wonders of the day.

To rejoice in the good bits of the day and to let go of the not-so-good bits of the day (for there’s always several not-so-good bits).

I like slowed-down me and I’m liking slow. 

I’m getting so much more out of life by living slow.

Anything that causes me to take longer than expected to do something, I welcome. With open arms.

Huge queue in the bank? I spy an opportunity to do some quiet reflection. Traffic jam? It’ll give me some extra reading time. Someone hasn’t arrived for the appointment I had with them? I don’t fret. I don’t curse their rudeness. I roll with it. Take the time to imagine or dream or meditate.

It is, I’ve realised, something that my body/mind combo decided for me, as it’s something I desperately needed. Stress is bad for your body, bad for your mind. Just really bad all round. When your body starts telling you you’re stressed, you’ve got to listen. When your mind can’t switch off and you’re awake at 3am more nights than you’re asleep at 3am, you’ve got to listen because something’s not right somewhere. 

We only have one body, only have one life.

Is your busy worth the toll it takes on your body and mind?

No.

A resounding no.

So now, once I’d gone on the whole journey that led me to realising this, it suddenly became apparent that slow is, actually, the central axis of my new self-care regime.

I’m going slow because I love myself and want to give myself the best chance possible to a) stay around longer and b) enjoy everything the world has to offer whilst I’m still here and able to enjoy it.

Slow. It’s my new busy.

It’s the key to my new ‘me’.

Slow Helen.

I’m loving her.

Loving the new perspective on life I’m forging just by living slow. 

My guiding word for 2015

I’m sure you’ve all heard the idea? To choose a word and to let that word shape your year? I’ve been doing it for a few years (my previous words have included ‘Move’ and ‘Courage’). This year, as so many times in the past, my word screamed itself at me as I sat working one day and then refused to unclench its teeth until it had solidified itself as part of my life from that moment on.

What word? (I hear you ask?)

Best

Best efforts (in all things) =

Best Helen (in all ways) = Happy Mama = Best Mama

= Best life for my littles & for me

Best

I say screamed, but it actually probably started as a whispered question from that little voice that speaks volumes (when I’m quiet) – my intuition. She started asking me, “What would your best life look like?”, “How could you make 2015 better….no….how could you make 2015 the best year of your life?” (Yep, she became decidedly less ‘whispery’, and much more persistent, as time went on).

I began thinking in depth about these questions and went on quite a journey. Involving – amongst many other things – being strongly drawn towards opening the copy of The Alchemist I’d had on a shelf for at least fifteen years (thanks, Mum, for sending it…how on Earth you knew I needed to read it, I’ll never know, but hope to attain, and then retain, this level of mother-daughter telepathy with my daughter when she grows up!). You know when you know you should read a book but you’re just not ready for it yet? This was that book for me [Hats off to Paolo Coelho; I see, now, why he’s sold 150,000,000+ books!].

Anyway, I digress. I started to think about what my journey looks like (and, consequently, what our journey looks like) and I began to dream. Big dreams. The bigger the better. I wrote them all down.

I then started to ‘reverse engineer’. What, for example, would I need to do by ‘x’ date if I want to achieve that dream by ‘y’ date? I ended up with a whole bunch of manageable ‘chunks’ of dreams, bite-sized nuggets leading to the whole roast chicken (strange metaphor for a vegetarian. Strange metaphor, period…it’s late. I’ve been writing this post for about 2 weeks, bear with me…it’s an energy block hanging round my neck now, I just need to get it out there!). Goals per day/week/month which, if worked through and attained, would lead to major changes/fulfilment of said big dreams.

OK. At this stage, I now had a whole bunch of dreams written down and a series of timelines/manageable chunks mapping out how to get there. “What’s stopping me?” my intuition began to whisper again (the little minx). My more practical self realised that if I were to achieve even a few of the little ‘nuggets’, I’d have to make some fairly radical changes in my life. I’d have to push through stuff I’ve been avoiding, face situations I don’t like, do things I haven’t been able to do.

Cue Pinterest (another little minx – a time-sapping minx) and this timely image (which popped out at me as I was browsing one night):

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Of course. I need to get out of my comfort zone. “Cool. I can do that”, I said, voice trembling slightly. I set to work. I’m a scientist by training (that’s kind of how my mind works, still, even though my soul’s telling me I SHOULD WRITE FICTION – yes, she does SHOUT this particular instruction!).

I decided I needed some measurables here, so I can see that all the effort’s having an effectthus building in accountability (it’s shown to be having an effect and I stop actioning the actionables, ceasing said effect, then I’d only have my lazy good-for-nothing self to blame!).

What could I do to challenge myself to work through my ‘comfort zone issues’?

“Wellness”, shouted my intuition. “Wellness dimensions”. There’s seven of them (physical – intellectual – occupational – social – emotional/mental – environmental – spiritual). I currently score pretty darn low on all of them (apologies for the Very Low Tech graphic!):

Wellness

Note that my score on ‘social’ is as high as it is because of all the wonderful people I’ve met through blogging (who nourish my spirit and mind so much), and all my wonderful friends from home who’ve kept me going through some dark, dark times. As a friend from home said to me recently, “Helen, going out to buy hamster food does not qualify as a meaningful social interaction”. After sheepishly admitting that, in fact, it does not, I realised many things have to change.

They say once you know the worst, you can only improve upon it. [And, really Helen? Really? Honestly? You’re alive (a veritable miracle!) and you’re scoring 1s and 2s on fairly major life axes? Really? Bells should have been ringing long ago!]…So that’s what I’m going to do. Improve on it. I’m going to measure my wellness every month as I pass through my ‘baby steps to big goals = best life’ plan. I’m fairly sure that if I do everything I’m supposed to do (actioning my daily actionables) my scores will improve.

So, in a nutshell. 2015 has to be better than the last (which will probably go down in history as anyone’s worst year ever). I’ve got some major life goals I’m brewing. I’ve broken them down in to stages, and these stages in to daily actionables. The plan is that these actionables become habits and habits become small changes and small changes become big changes until – voila! – we’re living our best life. Increasing my – our – overall wellness in all areas as a wonderful – more than welcome – side effect.

“Sounds like a plan, Batman” said Robin.

Cue gratuitous men in tights image…(sorry, ladies, Robin Hood’s much sexier in tights but I don’t think Robin Hood ever said ‘Sounds like a plan’ to Little John and I, for one, definitely don’t want to see Little John in tights…!)

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As I was going through this whole process, brewing this whole new approach (‘Get the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of In Five Easy Steps‘ – if I were ever to market this baby, LOL!), I read this somewhere, shortly after my word spoke to me, claiming its place in my life, my journey. It made me cry, it’s so perfect…

“The rest of my life will be the best of my life”

It’s up to me to make sure of it.

I am, after all, “…the master of my fate…the Captain of my soul”.

Ain’t no-one else guiding this ship, matey, it’s all down to me!

And I’m biting at the bit, anxious to “get a move on” (as my Grandad always said).

I deserve a life that feels like my own. 

My best life. 

[I’ll be posting more details on various aspects of the process in later posts: my planner, my vision board, the steps I’m taking to improve my wellness scores etc: hopefully it might be useful to some of my readers!]