4. Everyone needs a dragon day. In the middle of my burned-out period of the challenge, I started sculpting little dragons out of clay, just for fun. I did this on Sundays, which is my permanent day off from painting (thirty-in-thirty challenge or not, I still wasn't planning to paint on Sunday). When I was talking to my sister about how I was feeling so uninspired about painting, but so excited about making cute little dragons, she started calling Sundays my “dragon day.” And I liked that idea so much that I now call Sundays my dragon day, whether I'm sculpting a little dragon or putting together a photo album or baking a new yummy treat. A dragon day is a day when you refill your creative well; it's a day to do anything creative that you want, just for fun, with no expectations that anything will come of it other than the joy you get from the act of creating.
This reminds me of the author Tim Wu's piece in which he observes that today's Instagrammable edited real-life era has pressured people into hobbies only where they can excel. Instead, he implores people to enjoy a hobby for the hobbies sake. The exploration of imperfect creativity produces a raw pleasure one can't find in meticulour planning.
Waiting for confirmation begets a wish washy answer. The solution is never what you want to hear.
Fence-sitters are the first ones to capitulate to the doubting disease. Debate decreases their likeliness of action. What if instead of a tip-toe in, we pursued our beliefs despite our ambivalence. As Eleanor Roosevelt once implored us, “Be confident, not certain.”
Standings at a crossroads, there's only one way forward that should rise above the middle. Onward is a stopgap to the the fragmented self. I leave you with this to mull over:
I know people who have been stuck in doubt their entire lifetime. Each of these unfortunate individuals – some of them my very own friends and family – came at some point to a crossroads. They came to this crossroads and found themselves rooted there, with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection. Alas, they never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally, they put a folding chair smack in the center of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there even was a crossroads – forgot that there was a choice.
Although you can download all the productivity apps in the world (and I have), no app will make you care about what you have to do like the Rule of 3. The rule is dead simple:
1. At the beginning of every day, mentally fast-forward to the end of the day, and ask yourself: When the day is over, what three things will I want to have accomplished? Write those three things down.
2. Do the same at the beginning of every week.
The three things you identify then become your focus for the day and the week ahead.
Theory versus the execution, the latter almost always presents the stumbling block. The start is what stops most people. The work-resistance was so overbearing for Hitler to become an artist it was easier for him to turn into an absolute maniac.
But work not need be a psychotic obsession. We must take it in stride, as always. Nor is work a proxy for procrastinating on life's most important matters.
Building up the readiness to act is a conscious habit. It doesn't happen overnight, but rather through an accumulation of small efforts that strengthens the initiative engine. It's a dripping process.
The alternative to a proactive and habitual work process is a reactionary pattern that may generate a paycheck but never leads to anything worthwhile. Choose something and act on it, for that is how we change the way things are.
“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life.”
“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote (Amazon).
Futuring is a tough business. We toggle between our present number of choices along with desires and goals that reinforce the prioritization of time.
Knowing that we can’t do it all, most people reach for what’s most immediately accessible and end up regretting about what could be. They stifle themselves in exchange for feeling ‘safe.'
For others, death compels action. Their gut instinct refuses to accept standing still and succumb to mediocrity. Yet, their expedition may incorrectly rest in jealousy, a fear of missing out, rather than chasing a purpose.
Faith in the unseen
Our vocation chooses us. We grade our impact by how much we cling to that sense of priority rather than chasing other people’s dreams.
In reality, there is nothing out there that will make us fulfilled forever. But the attempt to cultivate happiness by pursuing what's meaningful remains a noble attempt to maximize our time on Earth.
“Every sentence is a wispy net, capturing a few flecks of meaning. The sun shines without vocabulary. The salmon has no name for the urge that drives it upstream. The newborn groping for the nipple knows hunger long before it knows a single word. Even with an entire dictionary in one's head, one eventually comes to the end of words. Then what? Then drink deep like the baby, swim like the salmon, burn like any brief star.”
Everything we post online gets sucked into the web somewhere. The mere thought that our words, images, and videos are living on some server in Indiana or India is interesting yet frightening.
The cloud stores our content just as loosely as we own a Kindle book. While we get to enjoy the ease and ubiquity of the infinite digital file, it can also go defunct in a moment’s notice with the flip of the switch.
On the other hand, everything can start and end on paper. It’s more durable than bytes, having passed on ideas and notes for centuries. Paper is inexhaustible.
The evolution of data changes ledgers from one minute to the next. Notebooks can be stagnant things, and within them more permanently owned memories.
Salvador Dalí’s ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ (1937) is a nod to his relationship with Sigmund Freud, the originator of the Narcissism Theory. Dali told Freud that it was “the first painting obtained entirely through the integral application of the paranoid-critical method.” Meanwhile, Freud read more about archaeology than psychology with a keen interest in sculpture. The synthesis between art and psychoanalysis will forever be linked.
Get yourself a prescription to nature. It'll improve your mental and physical health. That's according to doctors in Scotland who are recommending that people in the Shetland Islands get outside.
The program outlines a recommended outside activity per month. For instance, in January you can create a windsock to grasp the full power of the wind. In March, one can “borrow a dog and take it for a walk.”
We belong in the wild, unmoored from the tyranny of our seats. When we disconnect and move outside, we connect with terra firma and reconnect with ourselves. Take your body and thoughts for a walk.
Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is Resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. For one thing, we show huevos. Our blood heats up. Courage begets more courage.