The Feeling Compass

It all happens in a moment. You are feeling generally pretty upbeat. Sure, it has been a challenge, lately. But you are happy, right? You have a deep sense of joy at doing your right work. And a delicious feeling of freedom.

Then, I don't know…the check is late, you get a bad review, no one says good things about your blog, your client work is ok, but honestly not really inspired — you worked a little too hard at it, maybe payed too much attention to what you were doing instead of just being present. The cat coughs up a hairball, which you discover in the dark, with your bare feet. Oh, and then there are those "things" you said you would do. Not critical things, but agreements, just the same. And to be honest, you've failed to meet these agreements before, with the same group. You really can't do it again. And there's a check you can't remember writing that bottoms out the checking account. Again. And then, that client you were excited to be working with…who you really connected with, decides now is just not the right time. And even though it's nothing personal, just a timing thing, and you deeply support your client's choice, still you find your (ego) self bleeding from a thousand tender cuts. And just for a moment you think "I give up. it's too hard. I can't do it."

And here's the hardest thing: to just be with that feeling. Not to name it. Not to explain it, try to change it, try to understand it. Not to figure it out. Not to use it to spark a new goal or self improvement campaign. Not to deny it. Not to drown it in Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream. Not to play the "I shoulda" game…not to tell any story at all about it.

Just hang out with it. Just be with it. Maybe bring a little compassion to it. A loving witness. "Hello, there you are. Here I am."

Like a jostled compass that swings wildly before pointing again (always) to true north, allow the needle to settle.            

Why Games Work When Goals Don’t

I'm lucky. I did not play any organized team sports growing up. And I didn't participate in any competitions like spelling bees, dance recitals, or science fairs. And I never quite got the hang of playing the clarinet in 6th grade band. So for me, the idea of playing a game calls to mind a casual neighborhood round of soccer-baseball (a.k.a kickball), or attempting to jump rope for as long as possible without missing, while simultaneously reciting some weird story about a girl with a name that begins with A, then B, etc. and adding fancy steps until I tripped on my sneaker laces. Pretty low risk. No Olympic dreams. No athletic scholarships. And no, sports wise, I really never "could a been a contender." My history leaves me blessed with a rather childlike concept of play. I think playing a game is…well, fun. Your mileage may vary.

With this blessed perspective, here are some reasons why I think games work when goals don't:

  • Playing a game lightens the performance burden. We are "just playing" after all. No one expects to be perfect. We are energized to keep trying new things.
  • Playing begins with, and perpetuates a love of the game.
  • Playing fully engages all of our senses, and thereby unlocks abundant creative resources.
  • We more naturally identify simple, measurable steps. We can make those steps as easy or as challenging as we wish. I'm a big fan of easy — not because I'm afraid of hard work. I'm a fan of easy because an easy task gets me into the game, then my natural curiosity and desire take over.
  • If it isn't working, we can make-up new rules or call a do-over.
  • It's fun to keep score. Is there anyone who doesn't love amassing shiny gold stars? (Please, it's not just me, is it?).
  • A game naturally creates an environment that is designed for success. When we play a game, we think about things like equipment, and practice, and coaches, and fans. We learn or create rules that help us win. We begin to hone in on the actions that really make the difference (Just connect with the ball, don't try to knock it out of the park every time). Pick any game metaphor you like, and you have an instant framework for moving forward on something you want to be doing.

And, hello, we are playing here. It is supposed to be messy and chaotic, and loud, and punctuated by belly laughs. A lot like life.

I Don’t Want To And You Can’t Make Me!

angry girlMy inner 5 year old is pitching a fit. You see, we made a writing playdate with a treasured colleague, because we want to write. A lot. Regularly. Because we’ve got a lot to say. And we think, with some humility, that maybe some of it will be valuable for others (maybe even you) to read. And we truly hate to deprive you of anything. ‘Cuz we really like you.

And now, my ornery inner kid is working up to a temper tantrum because, while she loves to do many, many things, she hates to “have to” do anything. (She is completely done with being a “good girl”). And it seems that once something gets on the calendar and begins to approximate a “practice” or (gasp) a “discipline,” (No, not that! Anything but that!) she wants no part of it. Even if it is something she loves more than a freshly opened box of Crayolatm crayons. (Exasperated sigh).

So today I give in to the truth that “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” and meet it with curiosity rather than force or denial.

Let’s stay in the energy of “you can’t make me” and let’s see what happens. And if at any point pen touches paper in this exploration, or fingers dance across keyboards, bonus!

I don’t want to…? What, exactly? Here’s a quick top-of-head list:
I don’t want to:
…be forced to do anything
…get to the end of the day and feel like I haven’t experienced an accomplishment
…eat beets
…get started then have to end before I’m finished
…be too serious

OK. (excuse me while I talk back to myself — hope it doesn’t get too confusing).  I hereby declare that you do not want and will not be made to:

  • do anything by force
  • have an empty day with no accomplishment
  • eat beets of any shape, form, or preparation
  • stop before you are ready
  • or be a too-serious sour puss.

(And I really mean it!)

You know, “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” is such a classic expression of the dynamic tension of freedom vs. structure. And oppositions, being what they are, always hold within them an equally powerful flipside. If “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” is true, then so too is “I want to, and you can’t stop me.” Hmmm…now that’s interesting.

Let’s tickle the “I wants.”
I want…
…to feel a sense of freedom and fun
…to feel the sunshine on my face
…to pet the cat who has parked himself in front of the computer screen
…to jump up and down and shout “Ta Da!”
…to post a fun article today

Resistance disappears when there is nothing to push against. How curious.

Ta Da!!

Weeds! Weeds! Weeds!

My garden has become just a bit overrun with weeds. What’s that got to do with bringing your creative work to the world? Quite a lot, it seems.

Inspiration is everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Yes, even in the clumps of what I lovingly call "the devil weed" which has roots that go clear through to China, and a stem that breaks just easily enough to guarantee that said roots remain in the ground, where they can, and most surely will, sprout again; only next time, even thicker and in more places.

So what can this tracheophyte teach us? Here’s just a bit of a weed’s wisdom to apply to the creative process:

  1. You can create a lot when your your roots are deep.
  2. When you need to, you can easily let go of something on the surface, secure in the knowledge that what really drives you, what is really at your core is deep, unchanging, Source.
  3. Sometimes what others see as your most annoying trait is in fact your greatest strength. It is what makes you, You.

You know…it’s got me thinking. These plants just might be food for the creative spirit. I wonder, what else can we learn from the lowly weed?