Archive for the ‘Life Skills’ Category

stories we tellI'm going to tell you something you might not agree with. It might not make sense to you. But I wholeheartedly believe that it's true.

The way we see ourselves, our identities, the situations we find ourselves in, and the emotions we experience, are all a result of the stories that we tell about ourselves and our lives.

In life coach Anna Kunnecke's Queen Sweep program, she starts off by telling two wildly different stories. One is full of tragedy and pain, and the other is full of magic and joy. Both tell the story of her life. They're both true - the events in each story really happened - but the two different interpretations of those events lead to completely different life journeys. Whichever one feels more true is the one that will determine how she interacts with the world. From what I can tell, I'm pretty sure she chose the joyful one.

"Any story you tell, any narrative you craft of your life, is somewhat arbitrary. The most negative interpretation of things is no more accurate than the most positive spin. We live in our own stories; psychology and neuroscience agree that as humans we live in a near-constant state of interpretation and meaning-making. We don’t control the things that happen to us, but the story we tell about it—whether we choose to become the victim or the hero—is up to us. And what we choose will determine the trajectory of whatever happens next." Anna Kunnecke


self-careAs I've written about before, one of the biggest obstacles to my creativity is dealing with heavy emotions like anxiety. As a result, I've probably spent more energy on figuring out how to feel better than I have on anything else. If you're a creative person, and especially if you're struggling to tap into your creativity, you probably find that your emotions can get in the way as well. A few weeks ago I wrote about what to do when creativity makes you feel bad. Today I'm sharing what I do when negativity and anxiety take hold.

I spent years feeling like I wasn't making any progress when it came to my moods. I would try something with some success and then forget about it, or I would keep trying things that just didn't work at all. Eventually I figured out a system - a way to keep track of what helps - that makes it clear what I need to do and not do. I started by thinking about how I wanted to feel, and every week I came up with strategies to try. Every day I wrote down 3 things that I did that made me feel good that day - not things that happened to me or that someone did for me, but things that I did - and at the end of the week I wrote down whether my strategies worked or not.

After about a year and a half of working on this, I have developed a few really solid strategies. I'm sharing them, not because I think they'll magically make you feel better, but to give you an idea of somewhere to start. As with anything, you need to experiment to figure out what works for you and then do that. (more…)

my truthsIf you're like me, you've already started to see your New Years resolutions slip away from you. Things aren't going quite the way you imagined they would and you're starting to wonder if you'll ever make it work.

I find that I need to remind myself of what I know to be true regularly to keep me on track. Thinking about these things reminds me of how far I've come and gives me confidence to push forward.

Here's a list of things I learned in 2014 that I've been trying to remember in 2015. Chin up! You got this!

  • When I'm feeling anxious I can reframe my physical feelings as excitement. It doesn't change my physiology, but it does change my perception of it, which then has the power to change my performance. Read this to learn about why this works.
  • All my suffering comes from the stories that I tell myself about what's going on, not from the events themselves. I've been doing this more and more to try and stop these stories from running my life.
  • The only thing I can count on changing is me.
  • I am stronger than I think I am - I bounce back.
  • Reminding myself that it's not all about me and focusing on others can help me break out of dark places.
  • There is a soft, loving, compassionate place inside me that I can access at any time. To connect with this place, I put my hand over my heart and breathe deep. I like to think of it as my 'inner smile'.
  • Sitting and thinking, worrying, or ruminating doesn't help anything. Getting up and getting moving does.
  • I can use my senses to bring me into the present moment. Paying attention to the feeling of my feet on the ground, my legs on a chair, or listening to the ambient sounds is a solid way to break my attachment to my thoughts and help me find balance again.
  • Just start. I've learned that I can't choose a wrong place to start. Everything I try leads to something else.
  • Start before you're ready. If I wait until everything is ideal, I will never start anything.
  • I can only do one thing at a time. When I am working on something, I need to give it my absolute, full attention.
  • Schedule the day. Then do what's on the schedule. This has been a huge game changer for me.
  • Encourage others whenever possible - but especially when I'm feeling stuck or down on myself.
  • In a loving relationship, where both parties are equally invested in making it work, when I put that person's needs before mine, my needs will be met.
  • When I feel stuck in my head is when I most need to communicate - to make sure those around me don't feel shut out.
  • Feeling good requires relentless commitment.
  • To truly love someone I need to stop trying to change who they are.
  • Take note of what happens every day that feels good, and what I did that made me feel good.
  • I have everything I need inside myself.
  • I will find the answers I need when I need them.
  • When feeling bad, think about what would feel really good right now? Sometimes even just letting myself imagine feeling good lifts my mood.
  • Smile at my reflection, instead of scowling about what I think is wrong with it.
  • Stand/sit up straight. It makes me feel more balanced and level.
  • Watch comedies. Laughter is never a waste of time.
  • Write things down. Check in with how I'm doing every day.
  • Clean my own space first.
  • Read books that teach or remind me how to feel good.

What are some truths that you've learned and need to remind yourself of?



positive pychology

A little boost of positivity in the form of a delicious chocolate

I recently took a class with Coursera (an amazing FREE resource, btw) on Positive Psychology and I loved it. Though I've long believed that positivity was the key to creative output and better relationships, I always love finding science to back up and explain my experiences.

In the course and in her book, Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson explains her theory of why humans have evolved with positive emotions, which she calls the 'Broaden and Build' theory. According to the theory, negative emotions prepare us for one specific action. Fear prepares us to run or to fight while anger prepares us to confront someone. Negative emotions narrow our fields of view to deal with the problem at hand, but positive emotions do the opposite. Positive emotions help us broaden our awareness and build resources for the future.

To me, this kind of open mindset is the key to creativity. When we're open to the world we take in more information, try out more ideas, and see more of what inspires us. Fredrickson explains that this is more than just a nice metaphor - it has been tested vigorously in numerous studies. (more…)

embrace imperfection

My contribution to the Unfinished Painting Challenge

“A certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Yesterday I came across Lisa Congdon's Doodling Manifesto. In it she talks about the importance of making a mark just for its own sake, and how every creative thing we do - no matter how messy or imperfect - is important. It gets us closer to who we are and to who we want to be. This struck me as a really important point. To be creative, we must learn to be imperfect. And not just imperfect: we must learn to make awful, terrible, ugly work just for the sake of making something. The more we make, the better we get.

I often find myself butting up against this idea. I get caught thinking that I only have time to make stuff that meets my high standards, that's good enough to sell. Often playing and messing around feels like a giant waste of time. (more…)

staying organized

One of my biggest goals last year was to increase my regular creative output. I knew that I was capable of getting more done and I went on a mission to figure out how. Along the way I discovered that my organizational system played a huge role in keeping me on track. Finding something that works has made a world of difference in my mood, my levels of anxiety, and how much I can get done each week.

I don't know about you, but I tend to obsess about this stuff, stressing over every detail until a system works smoothly. I'm learning to let go of perfection and trust the process and am being rewarded with new ideas and increased productivity. Some of you might find this post incredibly boring, but if you're like me and you like peering into other people's routines and systems, then I think you'll love it.

I'm still refining it, but here are some of the methods I use to get and keep the creativity ball rolling: (more…)

don't feel good enoughA couple of weeks ago I sold my artwork at a very hip, very popular craft show. Normally this is a very lucrative show for me and I was expecting to get close to selling out. Instead, I sold 4 items over the course of 2 and a half days. It was a little bit crushing.

Even when I am selling lots I always have a hard time at these shows since I tend to think that everyone else has better work than me, is further along than me, more professional than me, more outgoing than me, better at selling than me, more well-liked than me. This is something that I'm working very hard to change but it still gets me down, especially when I don't do very well and I can see that everyone around me is raking in the cash and getting rave reviews.

For a lot of people I think this fear of not measuring up is what stops them from pursuing their creative interests. It's easy to look at what other people are doing and think "what could I possibly add to that?" The problem is that when we let those thoughts get in our way, we not only deprive ourselves of the joys of creating and sharing our work (more…)

multi-passionateWhat does being multi-passionate mean? It means I've never been very good at doing one thing. When I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist, and a palaeontologist, AND an artist. In high school when I took career aptitude tests I was always disappointed with the results because I inevitably started thinking about all the interesting exciting careers that weren't contained in that one job title. I am usually reading at least three books at any given time - often on wildly different subjects.

In university I majored in drama and I started with the goal of becoming an actor. Then I took a class about set design and fell so deeply in love with it that I was convinced it was my ideal job. But when my counsellor suggested that I apply for the BFA in theatre design and focus on that exclusively, I was overcome with resistance. (more…)

self care manifestoThese last few weeks have been a bit tough. Nothing terrible has happened, but I've been going through some transitions (like moving in with my partner) that have made it hard for me to keep up with my usual routines. My self-confidence dropped due to a business set-back (I almost didn't get accepted into the craft fair that I count on for holiday income) and it's been hard to get back the momentum that I've been working so hard to build up. 

I came across an old blog post and it seemed like a very timely reminder that living this life - running my own business, committing to creativity, building relationships and community - requires the very best of me. And that the very best comes, not from sitting back and hoping that things turn out okay, but from consistently choosing, in every moment, what sort of reality I want to create. I wrote this a year and a half ago on my blog about dealing with anxiety and I wanted to publish it here as a sort of self-care manifesto. As a statement that I'm committed to living this life with intention and purpose. Every minute of it: 

Something I'm learning:

If you want to feel good, if you want to be happy, if you want to love yourself and the life you've created, if you want to feel confident, if you want to feel brave, if you want to feel joy... (more…)