So, what have you done with your life so far this year?
That kind of question is enough to send most of us into a state of panic and gloom as we make a five second summary of the million things we haven’t done and conclude that maybe we’ve actually been asleep for the entire year so far.
The reality of course is never quite so bleak or empty.
Let’s look at two elements to this way we attach how we feel about ourselves and how we value ourselves, to what we’ve achieved.
First, I’m very confident you’ve actually done a whole lot more than you think and give yourself credit for.
Think about all the creative acts you’ve engaged in this year.
Now if you start with a list of unrealistic expectations you’re just going to make yourself feel worse.
“Hmm, let me think, have I written three new novels? Nope. Have I painted twelve new pieces and had them featured in a national exhibition? Er, no. Have I recorded a new double album of the most beautiful songs ever crafted? Uh-uh. Have I made a feature length movie? Not even begun.”
This is a trap we all get drawn into. We only count something as a creative achievement if it’s something huge, something we feel will be universally recognised as “art” or creative.
But think about the hundreds of tiny acts of creativity you’re involved in every day.
All the stuff you make, the words you write, the ideas you have, the social occasions you create, the relationships you’re a part of.
This is just a sample. In the last week no doubt you’ve done nearly all of these things, but you’ve probably not considered them as creative, when they clearly are.
Second, think about this for a moment: There is nothing you HAVE to achieve this year.
Let that statement sink in. There wasn’t a contract signed when you were born to say you must create and achieve a certain amount each calendar year, or you’ll be exterminated or just vanish in a puff of smoke.
You will create this year, you already have, and will continue to do so. It’s impossible not to be creative.
All of this is a bonus. Everything you’ve created in your life thus far has been a bonus. It couldn’t have been created without you, you’ve been the core source of this creativity.
When you start to unburden yourself a little, when you let go of the need to endlessly achieve (what might well be unrealistic anyway), you actually free yourself to be more creative.
You shift your focus from destination to journey, from product to process.
Instead of being obsessed about how many words you’ve written for that new book, you allow yourself the time and dedication to make the words you do write as powerful, and honest, and as “you” as possible.
Surely a hundred wonderful words from the heart is better than a library full of unoriginal text just bashed out robot-like without care or thought or feeling?
Consider both of these points and how they might help you feel unburdened and free to be even more creative.
Remember, you’re already more creative than you think you are. And there’s nothing you have to achieve this week, this year, this lifetime.
Now throw off those shackles. Unburden yourself. Let go. Create!