Gratitude for the Naysayers

I never in a million years thought I’d write this. Because I’ve spent most of my time warding off the side effects of a killjoy, I didn’t have any energy to see their purpose in my life. Until now.

Recently, I was speaking to a particularly potent party pooper (say that 5 times!) and this person shocked me for two reasons. For one, I realized that most of the time people who wag their finger at your creative endeavors, your ambitious ideas or your nontraditional way of living, often point their finger back at themselves. You can’t be critical of other people without being self-critical. Those who are accepting of themselves similarly are much more accepting of others.

Secondly, all the naysayers, the mean teacher, the pessimistic co-worker, the unsupportive friend, have had significant roles in my success. They’ve given me motivation to step outside my comfort zone. If only to prove to them that I could do exactly what they believe I couldn’t.

Who knew that someone disbelieving in you could have the same power as the constant supporter?

For that reason, I really can’t discredit their impact. Their doubt, negativity and failure warnings have actually helped me to work THAT much harder. I couldn’t rest on my laurels to get me a job or believe that my talent/experience were adequate to pull me through. These guys reminded me that I didn’t have any or that if I did, it was far from being good enough.

While you’ll never want to seek them out when feeling down, you CAN use their grumblings to shoot you higher if you’ve let yourself get too comfortable lately.

Basically, you have two choices. You can play victim allowing anything nasty anyone has ever said to you as an excuse to stop pursuing your dreams or you can use it as fuel to succeed. Something tells me that if you follow the latter, you’ll not only surprise yourself, you might even inspire that disbeliever (who I think secretly wants to be a dream seeker like you!).

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Why You Should Never Give Up

{Random abstract watercolor painting I drew up with watercolor pencils and a paintbrush.}

We often hold back from our true potential out of fear. There is a small, but demanding voice that screeches at us and says, “No one cares about what you do. You’ll never be good enough. ” Like a mosquito, it buzzes in our ears, annoying even the most confident and successful amongst us.

It’s not that some people are just more talented, hard working or lucky. It is true that there are people who fall into those categories. But that’s not what got them where they are.

What gave them the ability to surpass the doubts and hurdles that overcome all of us is the belief they will eventually get there.

Even if their prose is so bad that it causes loved ones to swallow criticism in fear of hurting their feelings.

Even if their hours of work is not only monotonous, but heartbreakingly unproductive.

Even if you are not where you want to be.

Even if all signs seem to point to failure.

If you still are passionate about what you do, do not give up!

I realized after five years of writing professionally that there is a natural ebb and flow that comes with the territory. There will be moments when my ego believes, “This is it! I finally made it.” As if a single project could validate my existence. And there are equally moments when the jobs start to dry up that I begin to question my purpose.

None of that is important. These are mere external circumstances required to change as we do. If anything, they are there as lessons-inevitable opportunities to practice patience, faith and the type of unrelenting persistence required to accomplish big feats like finishing a marathon or that story you have tucked away in a drawer.

It took me a long time to realize that it’s not about proving myself. It took me years to realize that there’s no magic fairy dust that graces the head’s of only certain individuals. The way you make luck for yourself in life is to keep trying.

This means that I will pick myself up after every inevitable fall. It means that just because my rough draft sucks doesn’t mean it won’t sing after a dozen or more revisions.

What it means it that I don’t equate my bad days with the good of my soul.

It takes courage to meet our fears. But it’s the only way we’ll get there. And dear friends, we will get there, as long as we keep on going.

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Watch Out for Those Dream Killers!

{flickr photo Andrew Magill}

I had a disturbing dream the other night. A loud, abrasive woman (who resembled me on PMS) said, “You need to watch out and guard your inspiration and your passion!” or something to that effect.

That poor, harried lady who scared the hell out of me was trying her hardest to warn me of what scares me the most-dream killers. While they exist everywhere, they are particularly rampant and concentrated in certain areas (especially if you grew up with them).

In fact, I have grown up with a lot of them. And because of it, I’ve attracted and invited a few into my life. While it’s never pleasant to hear how I “haven’t really made it yet” or why any writing job I get will never be as grand as my third uncle from a second marriage’s impressive career, I do have to say this:

If life was a school, they’d be my biggest teachers.

How to Outsmart Smarty Pants People

The only way to negate negative people is to:

  1. Minimize your time with them. {I talk a little more about that and about the people you should avoid if you’re in a particularly bad mood on my Beliefnet blog here.}
  2. Pretend you’ve got headphones on and you can’t read lips.
  3. Suck it all in, run far away from them and then scream, exercise and vent in journal or to a supportive friend.
  4. Smile and say, “Thanks for sharing” and try not to do it with sarcasm.

The one thing you should NOT do is to reply with anger, in the heat of the moment and say things you’ll regret.

The thing about us creative types is that we’re extra sensitive people. And the funny thing about that is we often grow up in communities and families that are less than sensitive to our feelings.

—>If I’ve learned anything it’s that the worst thing you can do is attack someone who you feel is attacking you. It might feel tempting to point out your friend’s hypocritical criticism especially when he/she has yet to take a risk and follow their own dreams. Or to laugh at a relative who makes a nasty comment about your creative endeavors when they haven’t done anything creative or risky themselves. But that’s the point.

When it comes down to it:

The best thing you can do is to put on an invisible shield and let those words bounce right off of you. Realize that no matter how much it stings, most of what they say has nothing to do with you.<—

Remember you don’t have anything to prove to anyone.  You are on your own path and they are on theirs. Remember that as long as you’re continuing to follow your dreams, you are not the loser, coward, failure they say you are. In fact, you are a survivor, someone who simply deserves everything you ever wanted in life because you are here and made it this far.

*I took a much needed Creative Friday break. The last one really wore me out, which you can read about here and here. I hope to be back to my regular schedule next week. Have you been busy crafting while I’ve been away on vacation? Tell me please! I need the motivation.

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Find the Clues to Your Future in the Crumbs of Your Past

via pinmarklet on Pinterest. the original's from joannapallaris.com.

 

An old friend recently contacted me. {If you’re reading dear friend, thanks for connecting.} He asked me if I remembered telling him 7 years ago that he needed to be more present, more mindful of this moment.

I laughed when I heard that. That sounded so “me-in-my-twenties.” I was so sure of myself then. But at the time my self-concept rested thinly on what I thought I knew about life-all twenty-something years of it. What I know now is that I don’t know anything for sure and knew even less then.

But it was also pertinent for another reason. He reminded me that I’ve always been kind of self-help-ish and new-agey. My favorite section of a bookstore was the self-help psychology section. I used to unashamedly sit my bottom down on the worn carpet peering into books on self-growth. I hardly cared if anyone saw me reading them. My passion was improving myself. And I was on a mission.

I used to keep a journal filled entirely with quotes from books I read. In fits of inspiration, I would read my thoughts, poems, and inspiring quotes to my co-worker. Stuck in a two-person office including me, he was forced to be my sole audience.

 

I Was a Wild Child

But then I went even further back in my memory. I thought about being my rebellious 10 year old self. I was a little wild child with a knack for coming up with “brilliant” stories that I made up on impulse, annoying friends and family with them.

When the school bell rang, I would run through the grass until my legs were covered with welts from the brush rubbing against my skin. I would lay down flat then and stare up at the sky. Those were the moments I released my imagination and let it free.

I was such a creator as a child. I made Christmas ornaments out of felt, created my first children’s story hand-drawn pictures and all, got my poem published in our news bulletin and won an award for my science project. I was an average student, but when it came to anything that involved creativity, my heart soared. It was a glorious feeling!

The funny thing is I never once thought about any of these memories when I was stressed out in my 20s trying to figure out my dreams.

 

I Used My Left-Brain to Decide My Life and Failed

I spent hour after hour researching jobs. I took an extra year getting my BA because I changed my major several times (Business, Environmental Studies) before I settled on an English major with a Ethnic Studies minor. Even at that age I was conflicted between wanting to follow my dreams and feeling the pressure to make money.

 

Life Lessons

These experiences taught me a few things about figuring out what you’re meant to do in life. I learned that if I had just spent more time analyzing my past, I would have had the clues I needed to find my future.

What I needed to do was work on the psychological factors that were preventing me from seeing them. This meant dealing with my fear of rejection as being a creative person, altering my belief that I couldn’t write for a living and facing all the negative baggage that I had accumulated about who I was and what I could do. It was a long way from that little girl who used to watch billowing clouds float in the limitless sky. But had I known she had the secret key to unlocking my dreams, I would have gone to her sooner.

Lost about your own purpose in life?

Follow the crumbs of your past. Think about what you spent all your time doing, what your strengths were, what activities you got most lost in. When you go in search of your childhood passion, you find your future.

 

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Signs You’re Not Living Your Purpose

I know someone who’s been doing the same job for almost 20 years, but recently told me he’s never felt like he was on the right track.

Hopefully, that’s not you.

Hopefully, you don’t have to spend two decades walking in one direction before you stop to realize that you have been on the wrong one.

Here are a few signs taken from the Callings talk I went to a few weeks ago. {Yep, I’m still reaping benefit from that event.}

Signs You’re On the Wrong Path

1. You spend much of your days thinking, planning and studying about your dreams.

That sounds like a good thing right? All that preparation means you’re going somewhere.

In reality, you could be stalling. If you find yourself signing up for webinars, classes, booking consultants and experts to help you, you may be unconsciously keeping yourself busy so you don’t have time to take action and start pursuing your dreams. You may be waiting for the perfect moment to do A, B, or C. But there really is no perfect time.


2. You choose a path that’s parallel to the one you’re called towards.

You’re an editor, for example, who really wants to write for a living. Or you work in a bookstore instead of writing a book. You may be a seamstress who dreams of being a fashion designer. Or an art buyer rather than an artist. Think about what you do for a living. Could you be slightly off track? Are you in a job where you are watching those you want to be like succeed while safely standing out of the limelight?


3. You’re a workaholic.

People who spend all of their waking hours working or worried about work may be doing so because it feels safer than thinking about what they really want to do in life, but aren’t doing. Being a workaholic is a great distraction, a way to keep yourself busy that you don’t have time to pay attention to what really needs your attention.This could be your kids. This could be the book you’ve always wanted to write.

If any of these sounds like you, take heart.

There are a few things you can do:

  • Start easy. If you’re thinking of starting a business or trying out a new creative venture, start by surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people. Begin with easy customers, not tough ones. This means you shouldn’t ask your cynical uncle what he thinks about your plans to open up a new craft business or your pessimistic pal about your latest design idea. Find people who are optimistic and supportive. You will need them especially to have the courage to go through the long haul to get to your dreams.
  • Take small steps. Because the road to following your calling feels so scary, it’s important to take small steps so you don’t overwhelm yourself at the beginning. Just quitting that day job or calling potential clients can be enough to make you want to give up. So start small. Make weekly, monthly even daily goals for yourself that look like this: 1) create a list of potential clients to contact 2) buy file folders and a new notebook to keep track of all of your expenses and potential projects/ideas 3) set up a website 4) contact 1 customer/client.
  • Form a community to help you. No one becomes successful by doing things on their own. You can hire a designer to help you design your web page or find a mentor to give you advice and encouragement to follow your path. Ask your relative who is an entrepreneur how they got started. Or contact a Twitter or Facebook friend and ask if they can give you some tips.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom that helped you go from dreaming to living your dream career? Did this post resonate with you? Are you living a life parallel to your dreams? Share your thoughts below.

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The Truth About Fear

{flickr photo by: stuant63}

The Scary Truth About Fear

I have to confess something…

You may try to hide from it, avoid it and do nothing so that it wouldn’t find you. But no matter what you or don’t do…

Fear never goes away.

In fact, the more you really live your life, the more you reach out there into the unknown, the more you will feel the fear.

But here’s the honest to goodness truth.

As Ms. Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing!”

Facing Your Fears

Yesterday, I did something that to be honest scared me poopless. I created a group where one person asks a question and everyone responds with answers. I had the idea and was excited about it. But on more than one occasion, I broke out in a cold sweat wondering if anyone would come.

It felt like the lonely desert. I could almost hear the sound of tumbleweeds tumbling across the sand.

Thankfully this brave soul garnered the courage to ask an insightful question and a few others brought up reflective, thoughtful questions in response! (Thanks you guys!)

But it was scary!

To be honest, every day I hit return to release a Tweet or write an update on Facebook, I take a deep breath and cross my fingers. Every day that I interview someone for a story, or send out a query or a job application, I do a little mini prayer. I know it’s silly, but it’s how I deal with the fear.

Because I know that the more successful I become, the more fears I will have to overcome.

In fact, it’s a requirement.

Here’s another truth about fear.

Every successful person you admire and want to emulate has and is currently dealing with fear. They have just learned how to deal with the little ones so that they can attack the BIG ones.

How to Deal With Fear


  1. You remind yourself that failure isn’t the big F word. Failure is the little f word. It is your friend. Fail and get up fast and you will become successful. Learn from it. Ask it what it’s trying to tell you. Failure is never “The End” unless you quit. Failure is the beginning of the journey to success.

  2. Think about what your life would have been like if you hadn’t taken that big risk (quit your job, present a new scary idea to your group, follow your calling). Think about what your life will be like if you don’t do whatever it is that is scaring you right now.

  3. Be kind to yourself. If you are reading this, I can bet you are an overachiever. I imagine that you are a perfectionist, someone who strives to be great. And the one thing holding you back? Yourself. Why? Because negative thoughts, self-sabotage and self-criticisms are beating you up from the inside out. All that talk is adding to your fears. Calm the raging monkey by meditating, journal writing, talking with a positive supportive friend. Talk back to it by saying, “So what if I didn’t get that job?! I will get the next one.”

Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Sometimes fear is a sign that you are on the right path. So what are you waiting for?

P.S.Thank you Cathy Miller for reminding me that my original font was too light for human eyes! Will be using a darker one from now on. =)

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