Do you struggle to focus? I do. I always love starting a new project. I love the exhilaration that comes from imagining how I will do it and how it will turn out, but inevitably my interest dwindles. The project loses its savor, it's allure. The same is true of school, work, and responsibility. I love the new, I love the dreaming part of any new endeavor. I get excited for an adventure but as with every worthy undertaking it comes time to move past the dreaming and planning. It comes time to get to work. For the first part of the work process I’m energized to complete my newly engaged in project but then my mind starts to wander and doubts enter. Questions start to pop up like, “Is this really worth my time?” and “I’m no good. I’ll never be able to do this.”
I eventually fall into a depressive state and whatever I’m working on gets shoved into the corner and begins collecting dust. And it’s not just the negative thoughts that put a hold on anything I’m working on, it’s also my inner need to constantly experience that wonder and awe of the new. That feeling is invigorating and, I fear, addicting. I think I’m addicted to coming up with new ideas. I’m a dreamer and I struggle to be a doer. I’ve tried to move from an idea person to a do it person but I struggle. It’s like sanding against the grain. It goes against my nature.
How much room is there, really, for dreamers? We idolize dreamers like Steve Jobs, those guys at Google, Elon Musk, actors, writers, directors, and so forth, but in the real-world ninety-nine percent of the population is made up of workers, the doers of great ideas. One or two people sit and imagine their wonderful new concepts and inventions. The rest act in support roles to help bring about those ideas. It’s a necessary balance. It makes sense that that’s how the world operates. The only problem is what to do with the dreamers that don’t find their place in the machine? One answer, I think, is acceptance. This is a hard idea to understand and takes time to become familiar with. It requires a delicate touch. Acceptance isn’t just about accepting life as it is and resigning yourself to it, but about learning who you are and what your role is. If you are not imbued with the supernatural talent to become a star athlete with a super supportive team that will be by your side as you rise to the top chances are you will never go pro, chances are that even if you do have those things you still will never go pro. Should that stop you from doing your best? No, not at all. But, it should help you understand what your expectations should be. Instead of expecting to go pro, expect to do your best in whatever it is you’re doing.
Acceptance is recognizing where your strengths and weaknesses lie and in taking the most effective course of action. It's important to recognize your role in this life. Accepting that you are who you are will help you become who you need to be.
It comes along in a great once in a while that the stars will align and support a person in their rise to the top. What about the rest of us? The answer comes in acceptance. Accept what comes. Don’t aspire to be the next great internet billionaire. Aspire to create something that is great and to get it in front of as many people as possible, even if it's only two. Whatever happens will leave you with a sense of peace that you did your best, whether you earn a great return or find satisfaction in providing a valuable service. If your basic needs are met you will be happy with how your life goes. Accepting what life gives you while striving to do your best in whatever you’re undertaking is going to bring you the most joy.
For many of us, acceptance is learning that our art is only meant to be a hobby. For years I have dreamed of being a professional artist and I’ve found myself unable to achieve that dream. The reasons are varied and many, but it comes down to who I am. I don’t fit in that role for a variety of reasons and I have come to understand that, and with that understanding I’m able to find more pleasure in life than ever before. Understanding and acceptance have helped me find more joy and satisfaction. As long as my basic needs are met I’m ok with being a part time artist. I actually think it brings more freedom and joy into my art. I do it on my terms rather than feeling the push of financial pressure. I’ve talked to a few full-time artists who wish they could expand their work but find themselves boxed in because of financial need. A certain freedom comes from being a hobbyist and I’m happy with that. The hard part is staying motivated to create. I, like many others, need an outside motivation to compliment my inner motivation. With the proper combination of the two comes the greatest results.
Another problem I face, and believe others face as well, is the ability to focus on one thing for longer than five minutes. We live in a world of immediacy. We want everything now and so it can be hard to take on a project that will take time, especially one that will take a lot of time. It becomes increasingly difficult to focus on an idea and see it through to the end. So, what do we do with those of us who can’t focus for long?
We implement a plan. With a basic understanding and acceptance of our place in life we can begin to understand the obstacles we face in achieving our reality based dreams, and look for ways to overcome them.
Some of the obstacles we face:
Mental & Emotional Hurdles
Someone to Partner with
In the next few posts I will go into more depth on each of these ideas. Until then work on practicing thoughtful acceptance.
Remember to understand where you are in life and look to the future by striving to do your best in whatever you choose, without placing expectations on the results. Fulfillment comes in the doing of a thing and letting the results be what they may. That is the hardest part. We want control in our lives but control is an illusion. Remember that the obstacles we face are not in the results. We have little control over those. Rather, the obstacles we face are in the doing of a thing.
A thought on results - As an artist it can be easy to get caught up in the the feedback and sell of your work. It can be easy to start producing in order to sell. When that happens, it can become a limitation in what you produce because you are trying to anticipate what will be liked and what will sell. That puts constraints on your work. Results thinking is great for business and may be right for artists aspiring to become professionals but take care when doing art with a results mindset. It may hamper you.
When we keep our focus on doing our best we can rise higher than we ever dreamed. The key is in learning to focus on the correct things.