What if you didn’t need a reason?

Happy Fall!

Last week, I was talking with the wonderful business coach Kristin Stevens, and I kept telling her about various things I wanted to do, and prefacing them with, “For some reason.”

“For some reason, I want to move into a smaller apartment.”

“For some reason, I want to streamline and simplify my life.”

Now, some coaches would have gone right to “Okay. Why? Let’s get clear on the reason.”

I would have gone there, if I were coaching someone. And it can be a good way to go.

But Kristin said, “You keep saying, ‘For some reason.’ What if you didn’t need a reason?

This stopped me. Because, in this case, I already feel clear. I already know that something in me wants to do these things — but my rational mind tells me I don’t have a good enough reason to do them.

For years, I lived in small apartments and had a great need for more space. In 2005, I moved and got the space I wanted. For the past eight years, I’ve lived in a beautiful space where I have plenty of room.

But now it feels oddly too big, like I’m a kid clomping around in my dad’s work shoes. And I realize I’ve filled it up with things I no longer necessarily want or need.

When I moved here, I had this idea of a life I thought I wanted. But now I realize that maybe that life was about who I wanted to be back then, and not who I actually am today.

My rational mind says, “But why would you want to go back to living in a small space? Isn’t that going backwards?”

Is it? I’m not sure it’s a good question, in this case, because questioning my desire is only keeping me in wheel-spinning mode. A good question sparks curiosity and creates spaciousness and movement.

That’s how I know Kristin’s question — what if you didn’t need a reason? — is a good one for me here.

If I didn’t need a reason, I’d start making plans to move. If I didn’t need a reason, I’d free up my energy to focus on things that are more important to me at this point in my life than having a larger living space and the maintenance that goes along with it.

It’s telling that a while ago on Pinterest I created a board called Cozy Spaces. Something in me longs for cozy right now. Why?

Do I really need to know? What if, in fact, I can’t know the answer to that question until I move toward what I’m longing for?

The nudges I get from my intuition feel simple and straightforward. “Do this.” Or, “Don’t do that.” Or, “Wear something blue today.” “Call about that class.”

Intuition doesn’t explain itself. It lives in the world of trust, not the world of guarantees. And often, when I’m clear but I’m still not taking action on that clarity, it’s because I want a guarantee. I want a guarantee that the direction my intuition is pointing me in will be pain-free, that if I go there, “everything will work out.”

Experience tells me there is no such guarantee. Sometimes, I think I am waiting for clarity but it has already arrived. The truth is, I’m not waiting for clarity — I’m waiting for that guarantee.

“Why?” is a good question if it creates more clarity. But if I’m already clear, I don’t need to ask why. I need to act on what I know.

What do you think? Do you ever second-guess the next step that comes to you from your intuition? I’d love to hear how this works for you, in the comments.

Image ©Jill Winski 2013

The power of tiny new things

bluejay

I was talking with one of my clients the other day about how when we’re getting ready to let go of an old, painful pattern, it usually seems to get worse. It seems worse because (yay!) we notice it more. We’re really, really aware of how terribly incongruent this pattern is with the new-us-we-are-becoming. So of course it feels more painful than it ever has before.

When a pattern is really painful, I know my tendency can be to get really hard on myself about it. “How could you create this mess?” “How can you be here, again?” “Are you never going to learn from your stuff?”

These kinds of thoughts are like a smokescreen, or code, for: big internal changes are happening, and they scare me, so I need to slow down the process by being really hard on myself. Then I have something to struggle with and rail against, so I can ensure that the change is as slow as a part of me needs it to be.

The part of me who is deep and wise knows that I don’t need to do this; I don’t need to make the process harder than it is. Actually, when a pattern is playing itself out and it’s really, really painful, this is the time to step back and be the observer. I don’t have to do anything; I don’t have to fight with the pattern or try to get rid of it.

By the time I’m noticing how acutely painful it is, it’s already on its way out.

Mixed in with the pain of “this so doesn’t work for me anymore” is, believe it or not, some grief — sometimes a lot of grief. A coping mechanism that, on some level, has been useful for (often) many years is being let go. There’s sadness in that. That coping mechanism has become part of my identity, so, truly, I am letting go of something that feels like me (even if it isn’t).

In these periods of watching old patterns rev themselves up to high speed until they burn up and work themselves out of my system, it can be so gratifying to notice tiny new good-feeling things that enter my life. As the old stuff is leaving, I like to set an intention to notice what feels new and good and light.

The new and the good and the light are so often commonplace AND unexpected. Like this morning when I was getting dressed, I saw this sweater in the bottom of my drawer that I’d bought a long time ago but never really worn. I put it on and smelled the sharp, fresh scent of new wool and it felt so snuggly and cocoon-like.

And then when I was reaching into my drawer for my earrings, I noticed this blue jay pin I love but haven’t ever worn much, either, and I put it on the sweater. And it looked like it was made for that sweater, like, how could I not have put these two things together before?

A tiny thing, yes, putting a pin on a sweater. But tiny bits of newness can be powerful. Because I’ve never put this sweater and this blue jay together before, they are already creating a tiny new alchemy that is about now, not then. Good to notice as the old stuff comes up to be kissed goodbye and released.

Try this: Experiment with tiny change. Move two tiny things in your house to new places, or put two things next to each other that have never shared the same space before. Notice what this tiny change sets into motion for you.

Coaching in the New Year: I have limited open slots for new coaching clients. If change is on the horizon for you, or you’re already knee-deep in it and need some support, check out my one-on-one coaching. Consultations are always free!

Being Patient with Impatience

Two Saturdays ago, I had one of my marathon journaling sessions where I seemed to be taking dictation from the universe, and I made a long list of things I want to do to move forward with my coaching practice, my writing, and my life in general. All the things on this list felt exciting, organic, juicy. Enthusiasm flooded through me. Clarity! Momentum! I couldn’t wait to get started. I was sure that in, say, a week, all these things would be effortlessly accomplished and I’d be “on my way” — whatever it is that means.

Fast-forward nine days, to this past Monday evening. I’d spent the most of the day, and the night before, in frustration, confused, vaguely panicked, complaining to my boyfriend that I just couldn’t get anything done and I didn’t know why. This shouldn’t be so hard, I kept hearing myself say. I’m so behind schedule, I kept hearing myself say. Somehow my exuberance, enthusiasm and excitement had become — what? I couldn’t pinpoint it at first, and then I realized what it was: Impatience. Of the extreme variety.

There’s a line from the movie “Postcards from the Edge” — I’m paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this: “In the movies, you have a big realization and your life changes. In life, you have a big realization and six months later your life changes.”

Sigh. Yes, it’s true — things generally do not happen as quickly as I think I would like them to happen. And often, I get clear on a vision of what I want, and then realize — thud! — that there’s a lot of letting go and restructuring that has to happen before that vision can actually become reality. And sometimes, in the process of moving toward that vision, I change, or I understand myself better, and I realize that what I thought I wanted is no longer what I do want.

Sometimes it really will be six months before the change I want is ready to be born. Sometimes it will be a year. Sometimes (as in this case — I think!), it just means I have to do what I want to do over the course of a month instead of a week.

What’s clear is that that graspy, impatient, want-it-yesterday voice inside me is not the voice of my inner wisdom — though it certainly seems like the truth when I’m in the grip of it. But I can tell it is not the truth by the behavior and results it creates — haste, confusion, spinning in circles, accidentally deleting almost-finished blog posts, stubbing my toe on the chair leg.

Impatience is one of the most common themes with my coaching clients. And I’m right there with them. We want to hurry the process so we can get to the reward, forgetting that the only tangible reward is right here, in the process.

The voice of impatience ruins the process.

I picked up SARK’s wonderful book “Make Your Creative Dreams Real” last night for a little bit of guidance. I knew I needed to get grounded. Can you believe the book actually opened to a section titled “Impatience”? I didn’t even remember ever reading this section of the book before, but there it was.

She writes: “Being patient with our creative dreams, our lives, and ourselves can only shelter and nourish us. I am learning ways to be patient with myself and my creative dreams.”

Most of us are pretty familiar with impatience. Our culture teaches us impatience and instant gratification. Be counter-culture. Nurture patience in yourself, even though it may feel unnatural and unfamiliar.

There’s an upside to impatience, too, though. It means you’re opening up to bigger stuff. It means you’re getting ready for newness. Sometimes, it means you’re no longer willing for things to be as they have been because you’ve outgrown them.

And that is all good! But if it’s not moving as quickly as you’d like it to, see if you can hold that impatience in patience’s wider lens. See if you can take a more expansive view — what Martha Beck calls “eagle vision” — and allow yourself to feel that deep knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now, doing exactly what you are supposed to do in this moment.

Image is AUTUMN STAIRCASE © Lbwhaples | Dreamstime.com

Being in the In-Between + Happy Fall

It occurred to me a while back that part of the reason I love fall (besides the excuse to start wearing my beloved sweaters again) is because fall is about “the great in-between.” To me, it always feels like a passageway, like a crisp tunnel of flaming reds and yellows in which things I no longer need start to fall away, and I begin to get a sense of what will flow in to replace them.

I’ve always been fascinated — and, until recently, tormented by — those in-between, liminal periods in life.

For most of my life, I hated the uncertainty that comes with being “in-between” so much that I rushed to get out of it as quickly as I could — only to end up right back in it. As in, I wanted to get out of the discomfort of “not knowing,” so I took action just to get away from my discomfort, and ended up creating more discomfort. (When we take action based on a desire to avoid something, we actually create more of what we’re hoping to avoid. It’s pretty annoying how that works.)

These days, I’m learning to truly be in the in-between.

And fall is a great reminder of how beautiful the in-between can be, if I open to it, breathe into it. There’s a sacred hush to fall, if I give myself a chance to feel it. The old is dying off, and the “what’s to come” isn’t here yet. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing but uncertainty, but during transitional periods we feel this more acutely. In fact, after fall there will be a winter in which much goes underground. In our personal winters, things are being worked out in us, things we may not be able to see or articulate. And it can feel terrifying, if we look at the unknown as anything but our friend.

I’ve come to feel that this dying-off, if you want to call it that, can be exciting, even exhilarating. And maybe that’s why I see fall as all about beginnings as well.

What are you open to letting go of as the fall season begins? What are you willing to let fall away? What might you be open to beginning?

Announcements:

I have two openings for new coaching clients starting in October. I help sensitive creators who struggle with overwhelm make their creativity a priority  — you can find out more here!

The last day to register for our next session of Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle is this Thursday, Sept. 27. I’ve written quite a bit here about the huge benefits I’ve experienced in being a participant in this group, and I’m also Jenna’s co-coach. If you need to create a regular writing habit, or would like some group support as you write, be sure to check it out!

Image is WET LEAF© Jay O’brien | Dreamstime.com

Don’t let perfectionism keep you from getting started (or from finishing)

This is the first in a series of several articles I’ll be publishing on perfectionism and how it keeps us from doing what we most want to do, or from enjoying it when we do accomplish it!

I finished a first draft of my novel yesterday. I had to declare myself finished. This draft had been sitting for more than three years when I returned to it early this year.

I had a hard time starting the novel way back when because I wasn’t sure I had the “just right” story, and I wasn’t sure I had the “just right” point of view (I even wrote 200 pages of it in third person and then rewrote it all in first, which, if you write fiction, you know is a lot harder than just changing “she” to “I”). I kept rehashing and rewriting these 200 pages, polishing scenes, cutting scenes and creating new ones, changing the order. At one point I went back to third person and wrote from multiple points of view. Then I went back to first.

At some point, I realized I needed to make some choices, stick with them, and continue — even if the draft wasn’t exactly the way I envisioned it.

So I did. And as I finally neared the end of my draft this week, everything felt bittersweet. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the writing of it (generating the writing is my favorite part; I like editing and rewriting much less). But mostly, I wanted to feel I had the best possible ending. I wanted to feel like, wow! This ending rocks. (That was how I felt when I finished the first draft of my other novel, a few months ago, which you can read about here.) I’d venture to say we all want that from our endings, and our readers, of course, want that too.

But this was a first draft, and at some point, I realized I needed to call it enough. As Anne Lamott tells us, it’s totally okay for first drafts to be shitty. My friend and mentor Jenna Avery said, “How about calling it enough for now?”

Yep. “Enough for now” felt exactly right.

Those of us who tend to be perfectionists can forget the concepts of “enough” and “for now.” We want it to be right, we want it to be brilliant, we want it to be perfect. Only the thing is, in wanting that so badly, we often don’t actually do our work, don’t get it to those who can benefit from it and appreciate it, because we don’t get started, or we don’t ever allow ourselves to finish.

A first draft is just that. It’s something rough, something messy, something that takes chances and probably contains lots of mistakes.

That is good. What if we could apply a “first draft” mentality not only to our first drafts of our writing, but to our lives? I know I love the things I love in part because they are messy, and rough around the edges, and imperfect. Not because they’re polished to a high shine, but because they move me, in all their imperfection.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with starting and finishing. What helps you begin something you’re afraid of, and what helps you say I’m done, for now?

Also: Today, May 10, is the last day to register for Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. It’s through my participation in this group that I’ve now completed drafts of two novels. (I’m also one of the coaches.) If you can’t seem to get started on something you’d love to create, or you’ve gotten stuck, check it out here!

And: I have a couple of spots open for new one-on-one coaching clients. Find out more here.

Making Friends with Discomfort (even when you don’t want to)

My mother once told me that she sometimes skips to the ends of the books she reads because she can’t stand waiting to know what happens.

“Mom!” I said. “That ruins the whole experience of reading it!”

“No it doesn’t,” she said. “It allows me to calm down enough to really enjoy the book. I don’t have to be anxious. I know what’s going to happen.”

Although I don’t share my mom’s inclination to skip to the ending of the book I’m reading (in fact, if it’s really good, I don’t even want to skip to the next paragraph, because I know it’s going to be delicious), I get where my mom is coming from. Probably too well. I’m the girl who’s always wanted to skip to the end of her own life so I can know what happens. So I don’t have to make any choices (because what if I make the wrong one, and that creates another wrong one, and so on, and pretty soon my entire life is derailed?). So I don’t have to be in process.

But let’s face it: When are we not in process? Our lives are one giant process, and each day of our lives is made up of tiny processes. And the thing about process is, it’s a big question mark. We talk a lot about results and outcomes, but as soon as we reach one, it’s already in the process of changing. Our lives simply don’t stay the same for very long, because, if we are committed to our own growth, we don’t stay the same. And even if avoid change like the plague (and some of us do!), somehow it happens to us anyway.

But this process stuff can be really, really uncomfortable. And because it’s uncomfortable, and we read discomfort as pain, we try to do anything to get out of the discomfort.

For me, that has sometimes looked like:

* leaving a relationship before I really understood what was going on because I felt so uncomfortable, and then recreating the same relationship elsewhere;

* leaving a job before I really understood why I didn’t like it and then recreating that same job situation elsewhere;

* impulsively getting into a relationship or taking a job I didn’t even want in an attempt to outrun my discomfort;

* eating when I wasn’t hungry;

* buying things I didn’t truly want or need.

You get the idea. Here’s the thing: We can’t outrun our discomfort. In fact, if we’re in a big hurry to do something, or to get away from something, it’s a pretty sure sign that we are attempting to outrun some kind of negative emotion.

Changing the situation is not going to get rid of our discomfort. We can’t outrun ourselves. I can move to Australia or outer space to try to get away from my discomfort, and once the dust has settled, I’ll still be me.

So what’s the answer? Acknowledge that if we are going to live fully, connected to our emotions and committed to creating the lives we want, we are going to be in discomfort regularly.

Being in discomfort does not mean something is wrong.

If we’re in discomfort, we can:

* Stop (for the moment). Feel the discomfort in our bodies. It’s nothing more than a sensation. What does it feel like?

* Notice whatever emotion is coming up, and, if we are in a safe place, let it come up. Let it come up and out.

* Notice the thoughts we’re having. Our thoughts create our emotions. Our thoughts create our discomfort. Notice your stressful thoughts and work with them. Do The Work of Byron Katie, or talk to a friend or a coach or a therapist you trust who can point out to you what you may not be able to see yourself.

Being in discomfort does not mean we need to flee, look for jobs, relationships, or projects that don’t trigger discomfort (there won’t be any), or resort to the go-to belief that there must be something wrong with us. It just means we need to find a way of creating a relationship with our discomfort. Because it’s not optional — discomfort is going to be there from time to time, whether we like it or not, and especially if we choose to do things that challenge us.

Note: I’m reinventing my free Creativity Consultations, and I will not be offering them in this format again beyond the first week of May! So, if you’re struggling with a creative project or feeling stuck (or really, really uncomfortable!) now’s the time to grab one.

And: Stay tuned for my article series on Letting Go of Perfectionism — for People Who Really, Really Hate to Let Go.

Are You Stretching or Pushing Yourself? How to Tell the Difference.

I wrote recently about how perfectionism can be such a creativity killer. It may seem like perfectionistic striving helps us get things done, but its constricting energy actually puts a stranglehold on the flow of our creativity. Still, most of us learn from an early age that there’s value in pushing ourselves, in being hard on ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to someone who’s feeling scared and stuck, and at some point in the conversation they say, “I just really need you to give me a kick in the butt so I can get going.”

Sorry, but I’m never going to do that.

What I will do is suggest that you look at how it feels when you have the thought, “I really need a kick in the butt to get going.” How do you proceed from there? Does it feel enlivening? Does it instill confidence in yourself? And, even more importantly, does it create a feeling of trust in yourself?

When I attempt to proceed from that thought, I feel angry. My stomach tightens. My jaw clenches. I also feel some sadness, because I am attempting to motivate myself through force and fear. And I decided a long time ago that that’s not the way I want to live.

The “kick in the butt” method is an example of motivating ourselves by pushing ourselves. If someone pushes me in line at the grocery, I will probably refrain from pushing them back (or maybe I won’t!), but I really want to push back. And similarly, when I push myself, something in me pushes back. I may be feeling resistant to whatever it is I want to do, but pushing myself only creates more resistance. When I proceed from a mentality of pushing myself, I create an inner struggle.

So what’s the solution? For me, it’s changing my mentality from the concept of pushing to the concept of stretching. I’ve always loved the feeling of stretching myself — whether it was stretching my arms and legs in a ballet class as a child, or stretching myself to write that one more page in my journal last night that was just dying to come out, even though I was getting tired.

For me, stretching feels good. It may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar — as when we are beginning to use muscles we don’t usually use, whether we’re in ballet class or starting our first novel — but it’s a challenging sort of uncomfortable. It feels juicy, a bit scary, maybe more than a bit sometimes, but what stretching says is: I trust you to grow toward what is life-enhancing for you. I trust you to more fully become yourself.

What pushing says is: If I don’t push you, you’ll never do it.

I much prefer the message of stretching.

Also, stretching is a good antidote for resistance. If I focus on the feeling of excitement and challenge and discovery that comes with stretching myself, I feel less resistant to doing whatever it is I want (but am scared) to do.

I’d love to hear your experiences with stretching vs. pushing yourself. What have you discovered?

And don’t forget, I offer free Creativity Consultations. Check them out here!

Join Me for Muse Office Hours, tomorrow!

Feeling stuck, scared to begin, or flat-out immobilized around something you’re creating? Does it feel like you just can’t stop procrastinating? Do you need some support to get going again? I really know how you feel, and I want to help you get started. To that end, I am offering Muse Office Hours, tomorrow, Feb. 24, from noon to 2 p.m. Central Standard Time. (If you need help figuring out the time zone difference, click here).

What are Muse Office Hours? They’re a two-hour window of time in which you can call in and get fifteen minutes of free, focused coaching from me on any creative issue you’re experiencing. If you’re feeling stuck, scared, so excited you’re freaking out, or anything at all around something you’re creating, and you need some feedback or support, this is totally for you. And the “something” you’re creating can be anything from a novel to a business to a new way of life.

The “muse” in Muse Office Hours does not mean that I, Jill, am your muse — no way! You carry within yourself your own very specific muse, precious and utterly unique, and my purpose with Muse Office Hours is to help you awaken it. Or maybe you just need to get back in touch with it, cheer it up, or knit it a fancy scarf so it will feel warmer and more connected to you. I can help with all that, too.

I love talking to creators about their fears around creativity — and by the way, if you’re having these fears, you’re totally normal. We’ve all got ’em. It’s talking about them and getting support that allows us to get unstuck.

To take advantage of Muse Office Hours, call in to +1 708 689 9480 at any time during the two-hour window, up to fifteen minutes before the window ends — if you get my voice mail, it means I’m coaching someone else; leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I’m able! Muse Office Hours are first-come, first-served.

Thanks to my friend and fellow coach Melissa Wirt for dreaming up Muse Office Hours. 🙂

And stay tuned for my article on the difference between stretching and pushing ourselves, coming soon!

Image is FAIRY © Darrenw | Dreamstime.com

One free session up for grabs!

Last week, I offered four free thirty-minute coaching sessions in celebration of my certification as a Martha Beck Life Coach. One free session remains! You can bring any issue to the session (it can be related to creativity, or not) and we’ll do some exploring together and see if we can get you a little less stuck. You’d be amazed at the shifts that can occur in a short period of time. It’s all about asking ourselves the right questions.

To claim your free session, email me at jillwinskicoaching@gmail.com and put “free session” in the subject line.

Image is SUNFLOWER ON SKY © Marzanna Syncerz | Dreamstime.com

 

Let Your Wisdom Come Through

I’ve noticed that when I’m getting close to some kind of major insight — some piece of wisdom about myself or my life that I very much need in order to move forward — I usually become resistant to receiving it. That is, I have a hard time allowing myself to be in “receptive” mode, where I can access the insight, and I crank up my activities.

My latest way of distracting myself is by playing Galaga. If you were also a kid in the ’80s, you might remember this was an Atari arcade game that came out around 1981. I’ve been playing it on my TV, for old timesake, remembering how much fun it was to shoot rows of insect-like creatures who rain fire on me.

It’s fine, and joyful, to play Galaga when I’m not using it to distract myself from something else. But lately I’ve noticed I’ve been intending to write in my journal around 9 p.m. or so, when I suddenly think to myself, I’ll just play Galaga for a few minutes and then I’ll write.

Only I end up playing Galaga for two hours, and then I’m very sleepy and the journaling doesn’t get done.

And the reason my journal has been calling to me — in that subtle, quiet voice it has — is because it’s time for some wisdom to come through. And the way that often happens for me is through journaling.

But I’m not letting it come through. I’m distracting myself, and not just with Galaga. And I’ve been feeling distanced from myself, agitated, even kinda hostile and angry with myself.

If history is any indicator, there’s a very good chance that when I actually sit down with my journal for a good amount of time and let whatever wants to come up come up, come out, move through me, I will feel a hell of a lot better. What I’ve learned is that the bigger the insight that’s ready to come up, the more I avoid being open to receiving it.

Why? Because it isn’t necessarily easy to sit still, to write, to be, and get in touch with whatever it is. There’s usually some scary stuff hanging around the insight, protecting it, and I need to chip away at that — or, even better, be very gentle with the scary stuff and let it know it’s okay to unclench itself from my newborn insight and deliver the insight into my arms.

Eventually, I know I will step away from the Galaga game and be with whatever it is that wants me to know it. And I also know, if history is any indicator, that it is better if I can do this sooner rather than later. Though I am aware, too, with deep certainty, that the wisdom that wants to come through always arrives at the perfect moment: when I am ready for it.

Do you find yourself avoiding opening up to your insights, getting quiet enough to hear them? What allows you to listen? I’d love to hear how this process works for you.