Christmas is over, 2018 is under way, and we're now facing the stress of all those new year's resolutions. While we want to prove to ourselves that we can keep these promises, at the same time, we're trying to find all the reasons in our arsenal to justify putting them off a while longer. This is normal. If you're looking to find a little more motivation, you might find some of the tips in this blog post helpful. It lays out a valuable lesson I learnt from my mentor last year that helped me to take control of my life, massively increase my creative output, and generally make me a happier person.
Finding happiness in creativity
I was having a haircut the other day and got chatting with the hairdresser, his name is Reece, about his creative passion. He explained to me how he spends his spare time creating animations, hand-drawn Anime with characters and storylines. He described the time consuming process, and you could really tell he had a deep interest and passion for it. I fully related to him as I felt that we shared common ground. I realised that what Reece gets out of animation is the same as what I get out of music. It gives him a deeper sense of purpose, an identity, a medium through which to express himself and tell a story, and a long-term project to work towards.
Others might derive a similar sense of meaning and purpose from baking, painting, acting, or writing. Whatever the activity, for anyone striving to make their passion a higher priority in their life, perhaps the greatest challenge we face is simply finding the time to work on it consistently, and make enough progress to take it to the next level.
WHY DO WE STRUGGLE TO FIND THE TIME?
There are many reasons for not finding enough time. We might justify our lack of progress by blaming others - our busy social lives, family commitments, or jobs. Others might sub-consciously avoid putting in the effort due to deeper insecurities, or a lack of positive reinforcement from peers. Others might simply be self-destructive or self-sabotaging, and seek out random opportunities to distract themselves from their goals. None of us are immune. We can all fall prey to these psychological traps that cause us to neglect our art. My most recent excuse was to blame my time-consuming office job.
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WORK-LIFE BALANCE. IT’S ALL A MATTER OF CHOICE”
It was January 2017 and my work commitments had been piling up steadily over the past few months. I was exhausted, unmotivated, unhappy. I had fallen into victim mode, blaming my unhealthy work-life balance on my company, my boss, my colleagues. I began looking for a way out, applying for other roles, thinking that I would have it better elsewhere.
It was around this time that a couple of mentors stepped into my life, Bobby Bakshi and Kent Frazier. Bobby and Kent were involved in an initiative to develop leadership skills within the company. The program required a commitment to spend time in deep self-reflection and group discussion. It was challenging, but also eye opening. A few weeks into the program, and as my friendships with Bobby and Kent grew, I began to open up about the key issue I was experiencing. It was Bobby that ultimately suggested I undertake what we called ‘The Experiment’.
My discussions with Bobby helped me to realise that I had inadvertently adopted a ‘victim’ role, and had cast my company firmly in the role of the ‘villain’. However, he also helped me to see that it was within my power to take control of the situation, revisit my priorities, and make some practical steps to fix it. “There is no such thing as work-life balance” he said, “it is all a matter of choice". The solution Bobby proposed was so simple, yet the results were powerful and enduring.
Bobby patiently listened to my woes and clearly understood my frustrations. He could see a young man, beaten down, stuck in a rut, in need of making a change. He challenged me to conduct a simple experiment. My task was to take stock of my routine, and see where I can make more time for my passion. For two weeks, I was to make a small change to my schedule to free up enough time for two additional writing sessions in my studio. We agreed that I’d test out the new routine and report back to him at the end of the two weeks.
As a morning person, I thought I might be able to wake up 1.5 hours earlier than usual, and use that time to spend on music before going to work. I decided to begin with 2 days at first, creating 3 extra hours of creative time each week. It worked great. By the third week I had extended it to 3 days a week, and six months later I pretty much have kept to this same routine, without much regression.
That was it. That was all the encouragement that I needed, but the results have been profound. Taking control of my situation made me feel good. I became more confident and positive. I was producing more music AND became a better person to be around. People noticed the shift in my mood. The benefits also extended into my job. I was no longer resentful of my company, my performance improved, and I was having more fun in the process.
While this approach is so simple, I think there are a couple of important underlying principles that help to explain its success:
1. The Power of Empowerment
Forget about passively finding a little time here and there for your craft. The Experiment forces you to think outside the box and pro-actively carve out more time for your passion. You do not have to be a passive victim, you have the power to take control of your situation. Realising this, and living it, offers rewards far beyond your expectations.
2. The Scientific Method
Framing this exercise as an ‘experiment’ causes you to see the situation through the eyes of a scientist, or an inventor, like Edison, Dyson, or Elon Musk. Inventing a new product involves a process of experimentation, testing certain principles or processes, measuring the change, making adjustments, then going through the process again and again, refining it until a satisfactory result is achieved. Similarly, for those who employ The Experiment, if you find that waking up earlier in the morning just isn’t working, then think of what else can you test. Could you replace one gym session a week? Quit watching Game of Thrones and use that time instead? Like a scientist, you can test and retest until you find something that works.
If you’ve managed to read this far into the post, then well done. Treat yourself to a croissant filled with cheese, or a pint of amber ale, while I propose a challenge for you…
Find a moment to reflect and take stock of your situation, and ask yourself ‘Could I be doing more?’ Do you want to spend more time improving your mixing skills? Do you want to spend more time on that sitcom you always dreamed of writing? Could you do more to get your business idea off the ground?
If you know that you want to do more, then try The Experiment. Make a plan to change your routine for two weeks…. monitor the results, adapt, refine, then try again for another two weeks, and continue. Empower yourself. Escape your assumptions. Escape your psychology. Escape your routine.
Let us know how you get on. We would love to hear more about your own stories and struggles.