I’m a keen observer of how people live:
How we focus — or are scattered.
How we take action — or fearfully avoid it, or procrastinate.
How we create — or eschew expressing ourselves, and/or live reactively.
How we care for ourselves — or put ourselves last, or run ourselves ragged.
How we live with optimism and an abundant mindset — or live with fear as a driver.
Ultimately, how we live can lead us to frustration and limitation, or it can lead us to expanding in our lives — to living big.
At my workshops and when coaching clients in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself recalling some wisdom that I’d heard from my coach, and again from my painting professor while I was on my sabbatical last fall. Its truth has been playing out in front of my eyes.
“How we do anything is how we do everything.”
It may sound odd at first, but consider this example. If you were asked to write a poem about yourself in 3 minutes, as I have asked workshop attendees to do to introduce themselves to one another, would you dive in with a feeling of “ok, here goes!”, or would you be excited to write it, or would you get nervous and worry that you could not do it, or would you fear it wouldn't be good enough? I have seen all of those responses at the start of the exercise — and I have also heard all of the poems and been knocked out by their expressive beauty and eloquence.
Here’s another example. In watching a group work on creating collages to express the ideas that emerged for each in several exercises, some women were especially adept at starting to select images and phrases that appealed to them, and they then moved into composing and gluing down the elements. This entailed clarity, focus and trust as they made decisions and followed through with the project. Others were overwhelmed at the options, pulled out piles of things they liked, then sorted and considered many possibilities before they composed and glued the elements into place. This approach entailed more struggle, and sometimes that kind of struggle diminishes outcomes. Happily, the resulting creations of our project were marvelous, no matter how the process unfolded. Yet the way different people approached the project was very revealing.
Just as a painter has to make endless decisions about the next color to mix, which brush to select to apply the paint, and what gesture or mark they will make on a canvas, we all face making countless decisions each day. Do we feel connected to our intuition and trust it? Are we in a state of flow? Or, is it hard to make each choice? Does it feel physically uncomfortable to be unsure? Do we second-guess ourselves and fret? Does the possibility of making a “mistake” paralyze us?
“How we do anything is how we do everyting.”
Can you reflect and recall the times that you have lived with flow, and when you have struggled?
Here are 3 ways to shift your mindset when you find yourself struggling:
Appreciate and compliment yourself (aka build self-love). It's impossible to overstate the importance of self-love. Shower yourself with praise — for your courage, for your efforts, for the results of what you attempt, even if they are not all you wish they were. Remember, great things happen when you take many small steps, so appreciate yourself for taking each step.
Talk back to your self-critic. That negative voice in your head is damaging. It sabotages you whenever possible. So, learn to recognize when it shows up, and what form it takes. Does it fill you with doubt? Urge you to procrastinate? Make you feel like an imposter? Make you afraid of failing? When you notice it, you can tell it to leave you alone for a while. (Sadly, it cannot be banished permanently, but it can be managed!) Instead of letting it interfere, tell it you are too busy to listen for the next hour— and then move ahead without that negativity.
Take action, even “imperfect action”! When you feel stuck, start by bolstering some healthy self-love, then tell your self-critic to step aside for a while. You’ll find that it’s easier to take action, whatever that action may be. You can make a decision, place a phone call, try something new — any kind of action will move you forward. And, consider taking “imperfect action” — give yourself permission to go for it (whatever “it” may be), knowing that even if it's not perfect, you can take your next best step after this one. Newton’s first law of physics is worth remembering: an object in motion stays in motion. Once you start to take action it's easier to keep going.
It's always worthwhile to reflect on how you operate in your life. Observe yourself and see what shifts for you over time.