I’ll be happier when I [fill in the blank].
The way you FEEL is your crystal ball predicting your future. Yikes.
If you are feeling great right now, I applaud you (I also want to know what vitamins you take). In a spirit of full transparency, I am currently white-knuckling my way through a mental tailspin this morning contrasting where I should have been by now and where I actually am. Each year before my birthday, my mind likes to wander towards what I wanted to accomplish and it unfortunately tends to put me in the emotional dumpster. Despite all the blessings, opportunities and love in my life, my mind says, “you aren’t doing well enough at anything.” Fun. The difference for me now is that I have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to deal with these thoughts and I hope it saves you time (and misery).
Life is hard enough as is - but I think creatives have some especially unique challenges. We are often juggling day jobs, side hustles, bemoaning our lack of artistic fulfillment on any given day, selling ourselves and/or product, facing rejection and acceptance (sometimes on the same day), and maintaining a semblance of a personal life. It starts to feel like juggling oranges or playing whack-a-mole; just when you think you’ve got it all under control, something else pops up. For me it has looked something like this:
Being artistically fulfilled, but not having health insurance.
Finding a day job that works with insurance, but not having enough time to do artistic projects.
Having a great relationship, but bemoaning I’m not home more.
… and on and on it goes.
I don’t think this feeling is limited to artists, but also extends to other types of freelancers, moms, people that have a lot on their plate, and people with bad cases of FOMO. Let’s face it. We are all juggling a ton of various obligations, roles and activities. Combine a hectic schedule with social media platforms that scream at us that other people are not only doing it better than us, they are doing it in better outfits and with shinier hair, and we have a recipe for feeling like we are always one step short of success.
Our brain is designed to see what isn’t working in our lives so that we can identify and fix problems imperative to our survival - so how do we maintain a “positive” attitude when our mind just wants to compare us to an ideal version of ourselves or, worse, others? We must practice deliberate thinking and take positive action on our own behalf.
The beautiful thing is that we can interrupt our thoughts OR actions. Either way works, and it entirely depends on what you prefer and what you struggle with the most. Because I’m in my head a lot (writing, making music, etc) sometimes I just need to literally shake it off with a workout. Other times, negative thoughts are so determined to take over that I have to do the mental equivalent of a “stop, drop and roll.”
One of my biggest tricks when I feel like my own mind is overrun with negativity is to ask, “where is this thought leading me?”
It’s helpful to put yourself 24 hours in the future and see what happens when you follow the paper trail of fearful, stressful thoughts. Einstein is famously quoted as saying, “you cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” The irony here is that staying in a fearful, stressed, strained state is a guaranteed way to stay stuck and confused. Past identifying what isn’t working initially, it just doesn’t make sense to stay in a toxic thought loop.
It's about cultivating a life that you love, not chasing moments.
Emotions are the byproduct of thoughts, actions, and (re)-actions. It’s easier to just say “I’m in a grouchy mood today, but when I go on vacation I’ll be happy”. Most of us know, deep down, that this isn’t entirely the truth. How many people have you seen you are angry/annoyed/sad/frustrated on vacation? Every day, at work, at play, at freaking Disney World, you are cultivating your habitual responses and your emotional landscape. Scientifically, we know this “landscape” or mental environment is determined largely by how we were raised, and doesn’t drastically change just because you run into a lot of money, find the perfect partner or win a trip to Aruba. It turns out, the only way to be more joyful is to practice joy from wherever you are. We have to practice “states of mind” and train those mental muscles just like we work out our physical muscles.
I challenge you to take action today! Practice getting home, lighting a candle and be joyful with your children and/or pets. Practice finding fun at work. Practice fulfillment - what would it feel like to feel fulfilled? What action could you take today that might lead you to feel this way?
In love and light,