Friday, April 17, 2015

Maintaining Balance

Lately I've been so caught up in life's situations, that I've fallen out of balance. When I ask myself what I'm truly needing from life, it's balance.

Before I started this creative constraints project, my life centered around work. I felt like I got enough time to my self, but it didn't seem like there was a lot of room for creativity, (which is the reason why I started this project in the first place). But now, I'm finding it hard to do all of it. Work is getting busier, yet my external pursuits are gaining more and more momentum. While I would love to do all of it, something has to fall off.

Because I have the tendancy to overload my schedule, my health (both mental and physical) tend to dwindle first. I'd rather sit here and work on this blog post for my audience (because I want to maintain consistency and follow through), than go to the gym. But for someone who's health is the most important thing, I can't let that happen.

It doesn't mean I'm stopping this project altogether, though. The unexpected outpour of incredible feedback from each of you has provided me with enough fuel and momentum to continue with the twice a week painting, but I need to pull back on my writing.

I miss writing for the sake of writing, and I hope that within that, I'll feel inspired again to share some of those insights with my audience. But for now, I'm going to stick to posting just the paintings (along with their back-story), via the blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

This isn't easy, but I want you all to know how much fun it's been for me to share my creative insights with you. Your feedback has been incredibly powerful at fueling my own creativity and consistency, and I look forward to sharing my writing with you again very soon!

But for now, here's painting #15: Pebble Beach (4x4 inches, watercolor).

I created this painting as a birthday present for my dad, Keith. We visited this spot about a year ago (hence the Instagram post below). It was a really hard one to get the scale right (I'm not used to these small canvases), but I always love the challenge of a landscape.

It's such an exquisite location. It's no surprise that it's home to one of the best golf courses in the world. 

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Fear of Letting Go

I'm a dreamer. I like to dream big. I always have. But lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of time and energy required to make my dreams come true. It's so much easier to dream than it is to try and not achieve what we've always wanted.

To me, failure and falling are two separate things. When we choose to settle for mediocracy and familiarity, that's failure. Success requires letting go of that familiarity, and falling a few times in order to get there.

When we first learn how to ride a bike, we start out using training wheels. But they only serve us for a short period of time. There comes a point at which you must take them off. Sure, you can continue using training wheels for the rest of your life. It's easy and comfortable, but you're not going to be able to fully ride if you don't evolve to a regular bike.

Once we remove them, it's a known fact that we will fall over and skin up our knees. It's an inevitable part of learning. But once we've fallen a few times, we start to get the hang of it, and soon enough, we're riding farther, faster, and with more confidence than we ever thought possible. Oh, and we never need to go back to using those training wheels. They're long gone.

That's how I like to think of moving from mediocracy to success. We have to let go of what's no longer serving us in order to evolve.

We have to.

Letting go of what's safe and comfortable is actually more terrifying (and therefore debilitating) than the fear of not achieving what we've set out to achieve, or the fear of success (reaching our dreams).

I'll admit, my biggest fear is letting go. I even have an art print by Katie Daisy on my desk that says 'Let Go', because I have to constantly remind myself to do so.

Deep down, we know we have what it takes to be wildly successful. But the road that we must travel down in order to get there is dark and treacherous. The road of mediocracy that we're currently on is light and fluffy - like a hot stack of pancakes. While delicious, it may not be serving us anymore. We may not feel challenged or happy on this soft and cozy road, but it's familiar, so we have trouble letting it go.

In order to achieve the greatness that lurks within us, we have to make the conscious choice to journey down the road less traveled. Think about the last time you went on a hike. Did you ever venture off the beaten path to a place that was far more beautiful and captivating than anything you would have seen otherwise? That's how we have to approach chasing our dreams. Our dreams don't exist on the road to mediocracy. They're just beyond the bend, close enough that we can feel them, taste them, even hear them, but we won't be able to see them until we take the risk and blaze our own trail.

Letting go requires trust. It requires faith. It requires staying aligned with what you truly desire in life. Just like riding a bike, as soon as you make the choice to evolve from training wheels, you're going to fall a few times and skin up your knees, but you'll never need to retreat back to where you once were. Your trail won't be easy to travel down, but the rewards of what's waiting for you at your destination far outweigh what you would have gotten had you played it safe.

So go ahead, take the jump.

Painting #14: Close Encounters (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram post, inspired by a sign I saw on the side of a telescope through which I was observing a solar eclipse. I found it pretty profound...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Taking One Step At a Time

Slowing down is no longer a part of our culture. We've become accustomed to doing things quickly and efficiently. While I'm not a proponent of wasting time, I'm starting to realize the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the step I'm taking right now.

There's so much I want to do. I want to spend time investing in my job and career. I want to get out of debt, get healthier, lose weight, spend more time painting and working on my blog. I want to spend time traveling, seeing friends, riding my horse, shooting photos, and more.

If I try to do all of those things at once (which usually happens), I'll burn out. Even if I'm doing things I love, if I'm not taking each step slowly and deliberately, I can run myself into the ground. Not good.

Lately, when I try focusing on achieving my goals, I feel like I can't gain any traction. As soon as I start working on getting myself healthy, I end up spending more money than I want to. If I shift my focus to getting out of debt, my health declines. Clearly something isn't working.

There's got to be a way to balance everything and still succeed in the end. I did learn, though, (from listening to Dave Ramsey for the past 3 years), that a person can't pay off debt and build wealth at the same time and gain much traction. One has to slow down and do one thing at a time. He's even laid out 7 'Baby Steps' to help his listeners and readers stay on track. This principle has helped me with staying on a budget and getting rid of my credit card debt (for the first time in my life). While I still have additional debt to pay down (and a ways to go), what if I applied this same principle to the other areas of my life?

Focusing on what I have to do right now, while embracing and enjoying it, is the only way I'm going to achieve my goals, whether they be heath, career, financial, creative, or spiritual.

When it comes to my creative goals, there's a lot of exciting things I want to accomplish. I want to create more art. I want to blog more. I want to start a video series. I want to open an online shop. But right now, I can't do all of those things. I have to start small. My first and foremost goal is to get through my 'Creative Constraint' project (serving up 100 paintings over the course of a year).

The truth is, when it comes to achieving a goal, I'll never be able to climb the mountain if I have too many other things distracting me from reaching my destination. It's survival. The only thing that matters is whether or not I make it out alive. In that moment, nothing else is important.

If I approach each goal one at a time head on, as if it's the most important thing in my life, there's no reason why I can't achieve it. But if I try to climb a mountain while distracted by all of the other 'shoulds' in my life, I'll never reach the pinnacle. Dave Ramsey always refers to the Momentum Theorem: "Focused intensity, over time, multiplied by God, equals unstoppable momentum".

It all comes down to priority. We have to ask ourselves what the most important thing in our lives is right now. Is it getting out of debt, or shedding the extra 20 pounds you've been carrying around for the past 15 years? Both are important, but what's more important to you right now? You can't work on both equally at the same time, because there's always going to be a give and take. If you choose one, let that be the priority first and foremost. Use the momentum theorem to knock it out, and move on to the next.

Once you've chosen the path you're going to walk down, you have to take it slow. Making changes in your life that are outside of your 'status quo' will never be easy to adjust to. But if that's all you're having to focus on, then you won't be as likely to be distracted by another path that presents itself to you.

Travel slowly enough to actually recognize and appreciate what it is you're going through at that moment. There will be a lot to take in, and at times you may get distracted, or feel like you're not gaining any traction, or that the path isn't leading you in the right direction. You must trust your intentions, and keep your focus on the goal. It's the only way to achieve what you truly desire.

Painting #13: A Snail's Journey (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo:

I noticed this little guy making its way across the pavement leading up to my building at work. I couldn't help but find wonder in how it clearly and deliberately took one step at a time; the evenness of its pattern bewildering to me. It was such a clear metaphor of how important it is to slow down and put one foot in front of the other. It may seem like it's taking forever to reach your destination, but if it's the one thing you're focusing on, you're bound to get there.