Three Steps to Creatively Managing A Life Reset
Flowers have been a passion of mine from an early age. My mother has several stories of finding me breaking them apart to examine what’s inside while in preschool. Or, she would find me standing by the latest blooming flower quietly recording every little detail in my mind. So, it’s only natural for me to choose flowers to paint when I’m looking for subjects. Painting them feels as if I’m at home. But what becomes of a life lived only within the realm of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?
When we stay in what comes naturally to us, we’re like a turtle in a warm pond on a cold breezy day. We’ll float near the surface to soak up the rays of the sun and see what’s going on while keeping our bodies completely under water.
This happens frequently around this time of year at one of my favorite lakes. If you sit on its shore long enough, you will see the turtles poke their heads above water for a few seconds before going back under. There aren’t any logs sticking out of the water away from the reach of humans where they can sun themselves, so this is the next best thing.
But how many of us are content to merely float through the day staying in the comfortable water. Or, will we adapt and adjust to the changing conditions and brave a journey onto the banks or explore the nearest log?
Painting lotus flowers has been what I paint when I want to float through a painting sesson. They are so comfortable and familiar to me that they’ve become nearly all I paint. But I stopped myself one day to ask myself which turtle am I being? The turtle who insists on floating along only to double down on a view of myself that perhaps might be limiting who I am or what I could be? Or, do I want to be the turtle that reaches out of the water to learning, growing, and changing by daring to paint an iris flower, lily or even a bird?
If you’re an entrepreneur who’s invested a lot of time, money, and energy into a passion project or an artist who’s bread and butter is a familiar style and subject matter, then you know it’s tough to change course. If you have customers, collectors, or raving fans, then changing too radically or too quickly can cause them to become silent and go elsewhere. You’ve got bills to pay, loans and investors to pay back, or even just the street cred of following through on what you said you would do to think about.
Yet it’s in our DNA of most creative entrepreneurs and small business owners to push the envelope and explore the unknown. We can get bored with the routine, familiar, and unpredictable and long for that shiny object over there just out of reach but barely within sight. If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t be working twice as hard for ourselves as we ever did while working for anyone else. When it hits, I’ve noticed three steps for handing it.
Step 1: Sketch it out.
Go and grab your sketchbook, field notebook, or whatever place you do your dreaming and scheming in. If you don’t have a dedicated book to write in by hand, I highly recommend getting one as the act of writing by hand slows down your thinking shifting you into a different mode than what you’re used to. Plus, you’ll remember what you wrote better when you write it out by hand.
I choose a notebook where you can’t rip out the pages easily. This is freeing to me. The act of not being able to share it reinforces that it’s just for my eyes only. I have permission to dream endlessly and let my mind wander because of the mere fact that it’s just for me.
Step 2: Notice.
Eventually, if you dream and scheme in your book long enough, you’ll notice something interesting. This maybe something new and exciting that you never thought you were capable of doing. Or, it could be a solution to a problem you couldn’t solve by thinking however you were thinking before you started to sketch it out.
When this happens, I note in the margins what I did so I can recreate it. It maybe something as simple as using the same 2 colors, but in a different order and with a different amount of water, but it’s important to note so you can recreate it later.
When you’ve fully explored what you’ve noticed, you’re ready to share it with trusted friends and mentors. Don’t choose the ones who think everything you do is brilliant, but the ones that will quickly say “That is a really dumb idea and you’re better than that. What else have you got?” This is what I see the turtles doing as they float in the water. I envision them asking themselves “Is it still cold out there? Yep. OK. Back into the water.” or “Wow. It got really nice and warm. Time to stretch my little turtle legs for a bit on the bank of the lake.”
Step 3: Baby Steps and Rewards.
Once your trusted friends and mentors have validated that you haven’t reinvented the wheel and actually have something unique and novel, then it’s time to start slowly putting it out there. For me moving away from painting lotus flowers, this is where I move slowly into painting something that’s not a lotus flower for every 4 louts flowers that I paint. I’ll put it out for sale and get feedback from the public. After selling a few, I’ll paint 2 non-lotus flowers for every 3 lotus flowers that I paint.
This is how I get myself out of my comfort zones once I identify them and expand into other areas without completely disrupting my business or income stream. The slow and steady, step by step exploration into new and unknown areas doesn’t always have to be noticeable. In fact, most won’t notice it.
The key to implementing three steps is being aware of when it’s time to switch focus from the old offering to the new. By slowly increasing the offering of the new items, you will slowly start to see inventory piling up and demand ceasing for either the old offering.
When you do make the decision to abandon what you’ve always done for the new direction that’s calling to you, following these three steps will help you make a calculated leap with a smile on your face instead of taking a blind jump into the unknown with a look of terror and panic.