How To Become The Artist (And The Person) You Know You Can Be

Shyness Will Fade, Yet Beauty Will Remain
image: dancoachcreative

Recently we spoke about the idea of a More or Less List. It’s not essential that you read that article before reading this one, but it might give you more insight.

The premise was simple.

To keep yourself focused and on track towards leading the life you want to lead, take the time periodically to write two simple lists.

One list of all the things you’d like more of in your life.

This might include walking, listening to music, making art, fresh vegetables and stimulating conversation.

The other list is of all the things you’d like less of in your life.

You might write down television, answering email, biscuits, and sitting down at a computer.

Rather than setting absolute goals, this is more about defining the journey you want to take in life, improving the quality and enjoyment of the travelling, not the destination you reach.

I wanted to extend this idea in a slightly different way, to look not just at the ways you choose to spend your time and attention, but also the artist, and the person, you want to be.

Have you heard of the Be Do Have theory?

Essentially it suggests that most of us spend our lives in a Have Do Be pattern.

We focus on all the things we think we need to Have (money, plush car, house, clothes, tv, etc) so then we can Do all the things we want, and finally we’ll Be the person we want to be (happy, fulfilled, at peace).

The problem is we end up spending most of our lives chasing the Have part and it becomes a never ending cycle.

We can always have more money, a better car, house, clothes, tv etc. As artists, we can always have more paints, more notebooks, new pens, the latest camera or lens or bag.

The chase and the quest become addictive and frantic, with never a pause for breath.

If we do reach the Do part, we typically try to do so much we don’t enjoy any of it, before racing on to the next activity we think we should be Doing to make us happy.

In artistic terms this might equate to having far too many projects on the go at once, and in so many different media, plus an ever growing stack of unused equipment and materials looming disapprovingly behind us. All this means that we never get anywhere with any of these projects, or enjoy a moment of them.

So of course we never get to the elusive Be stage.

We never become happy, fulfilled, and at peace. Which are ultimately the kind of feelings at the root of how most of us human beings want to be.

The alternative is to flip this around, to Be Do Have.

If we focus more on being the person we want to Be, the person we know we can be, and Do the things we want to do and that we enjoy and find stimulating, then the Have becomes so less significant and takes care of itself.

When we’re the person we want to Be, Doing what makes us happy and fulfilled, we find we already Have all we need.

So I wanted to look at how we can follow this technique, and focus on the artist, and the person, you want to be, by using the same basis as for our More or Less List from before.

Take a sheet of paper and write at the top – “I’d like to be more…” then underneath note down all the things you’d like to be more like.

You might write general things like “happy” and “fulfilled” but try to be more specific too. Think about other attributes you’d like to nurture, like being more confident, adventurous, supportive, compassionate and so on. Don’t use these examples if they don’t fit for you – this has to be your personal list.

Write all that comes. And then write some more.

Then move to the Less side. Again write at the top, this time – “I’d like to be less…” and complete the sentence below in as many ways you can think of.

You might say less anxious, less tired and less scattered. Again use the words that resonate most with you.

Now for our second reverse flip of the day, following the way we we flipped Have Do Be around to Be Do Have.

You have your two lists.

Starting with the More list, scan through, and first of all, notice if there are any words or phrases that are about taking or wanting, rather than being.

In other words, if you’ve written things like “more loved” or “more respected”, these are about what you want from other people, not about what and who you can be yourself.

If you have any of these, simply flip them around. To be more loved, instead write – “I’d like to be more loving”. To be more respected, instead write – “I’d like to be more respectful of others”.

Our third flip (you didn’t know this conversation would train you in the art of acrobatics too did you!) is to now combine the two lists.

What we want to end up with is one list of Mores, one set of positive words.

So take the Less list, and turn each into a positive.

If you wrote less anxious, less tired and less scattered, you can reframe this as more centred, more energised and more focused.

If any of the Less list inspires more than one rewrite, then add that too.

For example, less anxious could be turned around to become more centred, more calm, more composed, more confident, and so on. Write as many positives as you feel you need to, to fully encompass each Less phrase.

You might also find here that by rewriting the Less words in a positive way, you’re repeating some of the positives you already have on the More side. That’s great, as it’s simply emphasising how important these are to you.

How are you doing so far? 

Let’s recap.

We started by focusing on the artist and the person we want to be.

From this, we wrote two lists. A More list of the things we’d like to be more like. Then a Less list of all the things we’d like to be less like.

We scanned both lists to weed out any words about taking, where we were trying to influence how others behave towards us. And turned them around to focus on improving those qualities within ourselves.

Finally, we took the Less list and flipped each of them around to positive equivalents, and ended up with one single list of all the things you’d like to be More of.

How does your list look to you?

Are there any surprises there? What repetitions and patterns do you notice? Are there any qualities that are missing?

Do any of the words or phrases there not quite ring true for you? Anything you’ve written because you think it’s what you should be writing, rather than what is actually the best fit for you, the real you?

As with any of these kind of exercises, a great approach is to storm it in one sitting, then put it away somewhere safe for a few days while you think about it a little more.

The fact that you’ve started the process means your mind will naturally keep whirring away in the background and giving you new insights, and new things to add to your list.

When you come up with other Mores, add them to the list, making sure you flip any of those taking words around to be about things you can be yourself.

When you come up with more Lesses, turn them around to positives before you add them to the list.

After a few days you’ll have a pretty comprehensive list to describe the artist and the person you want to be.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find that nothing on your list is a radical departure from where, and who, you are right now.

It’s more a case of focusing on and enhancing on the qualities you already have, the ones you want to be more prominent.

Let us know what came up for you, and how this process helps you become more focused on who you want to be.

The next step is to use this list as a guiding compass for how you live your day to day life, in your art making and beyond.

We can talk more about that in due course.

You already know how to begin anyway…


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