Creativity

How To Be Good at Everything

When I meet new people, I usually get asked one (or more) of the following:

  1. How do I pronounce/spell your name?
  2. What caste are you?
  3. How is what you do different than a therapist?

The first two questions annoy me, while the third gives me an opportunity to talk about my 2nd favorite topic (the first being my dog, Ollie, of course!)

So here it goes: One of the (many) differences between “traditional” therapists and the work I do is that I come from a strengths-based perspective. That means that sessions are less about you bitching about what’s not working, why life sucks, and why everyone else is to blame. Partly because that’s a downer and I don’t want to hear it, but more than that, it’s because that isn’t going to fix shit.

Not surprisingly, in a strengths-based approach we discuss…wait for it…your strengths!

Ok, that wasn’t much of a surprise.

What is a surprise though is how difficult this conversation is for most people.

Here’s how it typically goes:

Amita: What are the things in your life that don’t require motivation or “self-discipline?” What do you do without wanting to procrastinate, set alarms, or have any deadlines around?

Client: I guess I work out without anyone reminding me to. But that’s different, it doesn’t really count.

Amita: Why doesn’t it count?

Client: That isn’t “productive” I just do it because it feels good and I like being hot.

Amita: Well a lot of things feel good. Like warm baths, new socks, or mind-blowing sex. But those things don’t really require the motivation that you innately have to work out. So, what makes this different?

Client: It’s important to me. But so is my writing career. (Dramatic Sigh)

Amita: So how does working out look different in your life than actions you’re taking in your career? Since exercise is something you value, you’re willing to invest time and energy into it. So what does that process actually look like?

Client: Well, I know when I get home from work that I will go to the gym with my friend. And I’m motivated because I see results so I keep doing it. But who cares if that’s going well? My career is way more important and I’m not getting anywhere there!

Amita: Well, let’s look at your process. Your recipe for success at the gym is 1) Scheduling it in as a predictable part of your routine 2)Accountability 3)A social component 4)Fast results that motivate you to continue. Does that sound right?

Client: Yes.

Amita: Let’s make your work routine mirror that.

The conversation continued with only a small amount of teeth-pulling to include that he would:

  1. Add in 20 minutes of writing time each day to write anything (even if all he wrote was that he was pissed at me for making him do it)
  2. Check in once per week with his action partner on any new steps or new content he created. (His friend doing the same, of course)
  3. Meet weekly with a friend in a similar field to write and bounce ideas off each other.
  4. Start submitting his articles to websites to see new results that would encourage momentum.

I should note that my clients aren’t as whiny as that conversation came off.  They are inspiring, incredible, and only rarely irritating.

Here’s how you can translate a strengths-based perspective into your life:

When you’re at your best, what are the processes that make you successful? In those moments when you’re motivated and getting things done:

  • What are you doing differently?
  • What are you focusing on?
  • What action are you taking?

Ultimately, what’s your recipe for success?

Decode it. Translate it. Do it. 

What are you kicking-ass at? Need help translating it over? Leave a comment below!

How to Stop Avoiding Yourself

For the past few weeks I’ve been putting my energy out, when it should have gone in.  You know what I mean: Instead of tea, I chose Twitter.  Instead of tuning into my feelings, I tuned into Real Housewives.  I am not alone in my tendency to avoid myself but I may be alone in my tendency to talk to myself about avoiding myself.  It goes something like this:

 “Amita, WTF?”

“I know.”

“Seriously, what happened to your quiet nights and creative mornings?”

“I used them to eat frosting and masturbate.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Which one?”

“Both.”

“Yes, I did, briefly.  But then I felt a little empty and sad.”

“Well, you look a little haggard.”

“That wasn’t very nice.”

“Tough love.”

“Touché.”

Sometimes my inner guide is a snarky bitch. But she’s pretty freakin’ legit, so I listen.

I tend to avoid. I avoid doctors, bills, and authority figures. But more than anything, I avoid my true feelings. So it comes as no surprise that the anxiety and fear of feeling whatever I’d feel was enough to have me overschedule myself under the guise of “being a good friend,” “needing to exercise” or “being more productive.” And if you read my last post, you know that most of us can be “productive” while avoiding what we truly need to do, whether the real work is taking action, having a difficult conversation, or being still.

The worst part is that running away from my feelings made me feel a lot less like myself which is pretty ironic since all I wanted was to feel like myself again. So, if you’d like to avoid a full on inner-guide intervention, I recommend the following:

  1. Set 3 non-negotiables. No matter how you’re feeling (good or bad) what are the 3 things that help you to connect to yourself? Meditation? A walk? A cup of tea? Most of us stop these behaviors when we’re feeling good and then act surprised when we inevitably feel like shit.  Why not skip the cycling and just maintain it? Think of it as part of your routine, like brushing your teeth. Yes, I’m assuming basic personal hygiene is a non-negotiable.
  2. Keep an eye on your energy. How do you actually feel when you’re doing the things you do? How do you feel afterward? Drained or energized? Turns out, I don’t like dating. It’s really tiring. If I had been focused on how it made me feel and not just the fun (and cheese plates), I might have scheduled more alone time and less boy time. If you’re exhausted by something, it’s time to consider whether you should really be doing it.
  3. Be uniquely you. After clearing out what doesn’t serve you, it’s time to add back in what does.  Do something that, on paper, adds nothing to your life. That doesn’t mean binge-watch Breaking Bad on Netflix.  It means read a book, spend time in nature, practice the guitar, or anything else that connects you to yourself and not your cell phone. Schedule it in like a date or a colonoscopy. It may sound strange to plan a date with yourself, but if you’ve been running from your inner-guide, your fear will come up with a million reasons why you should spend that time doing something else. Outsmart yourself and prioritize the real you. 

And, if all else fails, have an intervention with yourself. Stand up to your fear with love, compassion, and a sense of humor. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it. And then, grow a pair and give yourself what you truly need.  

How do you connect to yourself? Share your tips in the Comments section below!

Inject Happiness Through Creativity

What makes people happy?

Lots of people. Lots of answers. But there’s a common thread that’s rarely discussed: Creativity.

In a study of college students, “people who reported feeling happy and active were more likely to be doing something creative at the time,” state researchers at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

The good news is that whether you’re a late-night crafter or professional musician, the end-result was irrelevant. Creative people aren’t happier because they are producing something they get credit for. It’s the creative process that impacts overall happiness.

As the study states, “Engaging in creative pursuits allows people to explore their identities, form new relationships, cultivate competence, and reflect critically on the world. In turn, the new knowledge, self-insight, and relationships serve as sources of strength and resilience.”

So how do you use this to your advantage?

Inject Happiness Through Creativity:

  1. Find creativity in the mundane. Not everything in life is creative, but it can be! What are ways you can add a dash of flavor to your life? How about experimenting in the kitchen? Trying a new activity instead of the traditional workout? I remember when I would swim for exercise. My friend and I would try to create new strokes and name them. Some of my personal favorites include “Henrietta the Clucker” (a backstroke & chicken dance hybrid) and "One-eyed Jimbo" (I’m not even going to try to describe that, but it involved winking the entire time) That may seem ridiculous, and it is, but it got me excited to swim so it did the trick!
     
  2. Hone your skill. Often we tell ourselves, “I’m not performing/sharing what I create, so there’s no real need to do it right now.” Or if you’re stopping yourself from writing that song or short story for fear you’ll fall short of perfection, relax! No matter what you create, doing something creative contributes to your psychological growth. And, as an aside, you’re probably better than you think.
     
  3. Make it memorable. I get it. Sometimes practicing can be frustrating. I don't always love the sounds that come out when I sing. But what if you shifted your mentality? What if you stopped calling it “practicing” and made it an “experience?” Call it a mini-performance, a romantic endeavor, or simply a self-love experience. Add some joy, light a candle, whatever it takes to make it memorable and meaningful. Your happiness will increase as will your skill.

Try these 3 tips and watch your happiness, creative spirit, and skill sore!

What do you do to embrace your creative spirit? Share your story in the Comments section below!