Trust your process. Yours.

I was thinking this morning about my process, of creating, of living, and about how often we hear “Trust the process.” And I think this is important. We can trust that creating is a process, and that things might not look like we thought they’d look, or work the way we thought they’d work, and that’s okay.

But I think it’s not so much about trusting the process as it is about trusting your process. You trusting yours, and me trusting mine.

Because yours, I can guarantee, does not look like mine.

You might be able to borrow something from mine, if it feels right to you. And I might think something you do sounds terrific, and might be able to add that to my process, too. And there might be something that works great for me that doesn’t work for you, at all.

I remember a while ago when a friend quit her job of many years, and she had the next job lined up so she could start it the very next day. Without even a day in between.

“You’re not taking even a couple of days off?” I said incredulously. “No,” she said. “That would make me too nervous. I don’t want any time to sit around thinking about starting the new job. I just want to start it.”

That is her process. It isn’t mine. I want time in between my biggest endeavors, so I can let go of one a bit before jumping into the other. This works great for me. I show up for the next thing rested, with fresh eyes. This is my process, now. It may not always be. But adopting my friend’s process would make me feel crazy, and mine, for her, would feel like she was forcing herself to slow down when she wanted to move right along. For her, her process creates sanity. That’s why it is hers.

We can learn a ton from others whose process rings true for us when they talk about it. Anne Lamott, Geneen Roth, Natalie Goldberg, Tori Amos — I’ve learned so much from reading and hearing these women, and many other creators, discuss their process over the past fifteen or twenty years. Because their way of processing sparks my own.

But my process is still mine. It’s not like anyone else’s. I can learn what works for someone else, and 100% of the time I’ll find out that it doesn’t work exactly that way for me.

Sometimes I hear myself complaining, “Why isn’t this working for me the way it does for her?”

But there’s a better way to phrase this. “I wonder how this could work better for me.”

This is good. This means that when I feel like I’m in new territory, and I get a suggestion from someone else and it doesn’t work for me, nothing is wrong. I’m just discovering more about my own process. Which, really, is just about the most exciting thing I can think of.

Are you struggling in your process? You don’t have to. I have openings for new clients in April. Find out more here.

The Message of Hesitation

What’s happening when we’re not sure, when we actually find ourselves stopping on the way to something we thought we wanted?

I asked myself this question today when I found myself feeling agitated and hesitant in the face of an opportunity that presented itself. And, to complicate things further, that age-old question I tend to torture myself with reared its head: Am I just procrastinating?

As I’ve written about previously, when we are truly procrastinating, there is a simplicity to what is going on. We know we want, or need, to do something (say, the laundry), but we’re enjoying sitting on the couch. Or, maybe I know I want to work on that chapter of my novel but I’m not sure where to go next. So I find I’m not getting over to the desk.

Today was different, though. An opportunity showed up and a part of me said, “Maybe I should jump on that.” But I couldn’t seem to do it. My body actually seemed to move away when I tried to move myself toward the opportunity. And then it didn’t move at all. I stalled.

The first tip-off was my use of the word should. Should is often (though not always) an indicator that some part of me is afraid. Yes, believe it or not, should frequently equals this: I’m afraid I’m going to miss out. I’m afraid someone (maybe me) is going to think poorly of me if I don’t. I’m afraid this might be my last chance to do X.

When I hear myself using the word should, it’s very likely my inner lizard is freaking out. “Should” is one of those words that almost always requires some investigation.

The next tip-off was my use of the word “jump”. Now, jumping can feel fun and exciting, but in this case, I noticed it was frought with a kind of urgency, a tangle of knots in my stomach that felt heavy as bowling balls. Some of my worst decisions have come from that urgent place. I highly recommend not making decisions (especially big ones) from a place of urgency or panic. If you’ve ever been in a true emergency situation, you probably noticed in retrospect that you simply acted. You grabbed your child or your cat or your goldfish and you left the house where you smelled smoke and called 911. You felt a pain in your stomach and you knew something wasn’t right and you got yourself to the ER.

Urgency and panic come up when we feel like we should be acting, but we’re not clear enough about what we want to know which action to take. And our minds start spinning out stories of future deprivation, poverty, hopelessness, madness, isolation.

When I noticed today that I was feeling urgent about taking a certain action, but hesitated in the face of it, I knew my hesitation was good. It was a message: you’re not clear. What do you need? Do you need more information? Do you need to give yourself a day to think about things? Are you trying to deny or ignore your intuition?

I know that when I answer these questions and come to a place of relative peace, I will know what to do. And if this opportunity wasn’t the right one, I can be sure that more will present themselves. That’s the cool thing about opportunity: not only does it knock twice, it knocks every freaking day, if you’re open to it.

Defining Creativity

Yesterday I was chatting with my coaching buddy and awesome fellow coach Marte Gehlken and she mentioned how often she hears people say this: “I’m not creative.”

I hear this a lot too. Or, “I used to be creative, back when I did a lot of artwork.” Or, “I would be creative if I had more time.”

We need to expand what we typically define as creative. Marte said during our conversation, oh so wisely, “Creating your own reality is creative.” Yeah, it is! But we tend not to see creativity this way. We think it is something outside of us, something we “should” be doing, but (frequently) aren’t.

I remember the summer of 2008, which was a very low, “dark night of the soul” place for me. Now I realize it was what we coaches who went through Martha Beck Life Coach Training call a “liminal period”, or Square One. You’ve shifted out of a place that felt really good for quite a while, because it no longer fits. But you don’t know where you’re going yet, nothing new and solid has emerged in you to guide you on your way, and it kind of sucks.

So one day in 2008 I was feeling crappy and uncreative and I was on one of my very early morning walks and pretty soon, lo and behold, I got into The Zone. I became unattached to my thoughts and was just kind of watching them and my body moved me along and I felt my breath coming in and out. And I looked down and saw this little house sparrow hop into a puddle, in which he dipped the ends of his wings and the underside of his tiny body and then shook himself off.

I felt actively engaged in my observation of this sparrow. I could feel what it was like to be the sparrow, the warmth of the water that had been sitting out in the sun on my feathers, and what it must feel like to know you’re going to take off and — fly! — in a moment.

And a message bubbled up in my chest and translated itself this way: This is creativity! Actively observing this sparrow, I had the exact same sensation I do when I write, when I paint, when I do all the things we typically label “creative.”

Creativity is a way of being in the world. It’s a way of interacting with our surroundings. We’re soaking it up. We’re actively engaged. We’re feeling it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write, paint, act, dance, or do whatever it is we typically label “creative.” Absolutely you should, and you must, if it calls to you. But don’t say, “I’m not creative” just because you are not doing these things. Notice where you ARE creative — which, my friend,  can be everywhere — and then do whatever you’re inspired to do.

On that note, on my walk this morning I came upon some birdseed the neighbors one street over regularly scatter on a square of sidewalk. Except today, mixed in with the birdseed, were some large cheese curls. You know, the big fat puffy Cheetos. That, I thought, is creativity.


What’s the Essence of What You Want?

Lately, I’m feeling really excited about things. There’s a lot I want to do, a lot I want to create. The thing is, the more I’m in “doing mode,” the more I see that needs to be done. It’s kinda like when you tell yourself to look for all the red things in a room, you suddenly see a ton of red.

So on Tuesday, I was feeling frustrated because I hadn’t done a lot of what I’d planned to get done. I sat at my desk at the end of the day wondering where the day had gone. My cat jumped up into my lap, and I began breathe more slowly. I began to relax. (Ever noticed how cats tend to have that effect?)

I asked myself, why am I so upset that I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to accomplish today? The answer was, because I’m really excited about my writing, my coaching, and all my projects. And I want to get them out there, I want to share them with people.

I asked myself, why do you want to share them? The answer was, because I want to connect with my peeps. I want the feeling state of sharing myself with, and giving to, my right people. And I don’t feel like I did that today.

I asked myself, Really? What did you do today?

And then I started laughing. I’d spent the morning with one of my very favorite people, talking and laughing and feeling very connected. Then I’d spent the afternoon with another of my very favorite people, talking and laughing and feeling very connected. Then I’d rushed home for a coaching call with another of my very favorite people. We talked and laughed and I felt very connected. Then I got an email from another of my very favorite people who asked for some coaching.

At that very appropriate moment, my cat dug his claws into my thigh. You’ve already got it, silly, he said. You’re already very connected to your right peeps. And you forgot about me! You’re so worried about not being connected you forgot that your most favorite, er, person, is sitting right here in your lap! He looked up at me, as he so often does, as if I were the most astonishing, frustrating alien creature.

The more I’m able to get a little distance from myself, the more I’m able to be the observer of me, the more I see how much I fret about not having what I already have. This realization doesn’t mean that I’m not open to more good stuff, to more connection with my right people. It just means that it’s not “out there” somewhere, something I need to try to grasp. It’s in here. I already have the essence of it in my life, in spades.

What’s the essence of what you want? Is it possible you already have it in your life? Try noticing.

What Moves You? Part One

Lately I’ve been working with a couple of people who say they are stuck. I empathize, deeply. “Stuck” is one of my personal themes. I’m fascinated by this idea of “stuck.” In truth, I don’t think we are ever actually stuck. I think what happens is we stop moving, and we get scared. Because we have a lot of “shoulds” around the idea that we are supposed to look like we are in motion, all the time.

This reminds me of a boyfriend I had in my twenties. He liked to beat himself up for “procrastinating,” and he used to say to me, “Jill, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.” “I am not an object!” I would yell at him. “And neither are you!” (Could it be more obvious I was actually yelling at myself?)

The fact is, our lives — our creativity, our relationships, our work — have ebbs and flows. We like it when things are flowing, but when they stop flowing for a while, we label this “bad” and “wrong.” What if they never start flowing again? I think this is the point at which we begin to think we are stuck. But this is just a thought. Like any thought, it can be questioned.

Sometimes it helps to look at areas in our lives where we do not feel stuck. I’d be willing to bet that it’s impossible to feel “stuck” in every single area of our lives at once. Even if everything “big” feels like it’s in a state of endless stall, I bet you can find one thing that feels like it’s flowing. 2008 was a big year of “stuck” for me. I’d finished graduate school and for the first time I had a summer where I wasn’t working on my thesis or taking a class and it felt like everything had stopped. And to top it all off, I felt horribly uncreative. And I was supposed to be this writer.

Looking back, I realize Iwas burned out. I needed rest. But I fought against the feeling that things weren’t moving for a long time. I am not supposed to be feeling this way, I thought. Guess what fighting against it did? It made me feel more stuck, and it extended the process of feeling stuck. Even so, I was able to, at some point, finally look around and notice that there was an area of my life where I didn’t feel stuck. There was an area of my life where it felt like things were flowing: my friendships. I had good ones, and they were alive and vibrating. I can’t tell you how focusing on this aspect of my life, this aspect that felt like it was working, helped me move through the stuck.

So there are a couple of steps that emerge here:

1) When things aren’t moving, let them be still. Embrace the non-movement, the ebb. If you find yourself labeling this “stuck,” accept the feeling of stuck.

2) Look for an area where things are moving. Notice the flow in that area. Ask yourself if you are making things flow in that area.

The next step is noticing what creates movement for you. Is it true that you really must force yourself to move? For me, “Just do it” has never been a particularly helpful mantra. It adds pressure to my already-pressured and battered soul that has its reasons for wanting to be still. Try doing nothing for thirty minutes and you will see how difficult it really is to actually not do. So I question the idea that we must force ourselves into movement. What can be helpful, however, is to notice what inspires us to movement.

For me, movement starts with giving myself full permission to not move. To be exactly where I am and fully embrace that. This can require a lot of trust. In myself, in the process of life. In movement itself. Natalie Goldberg wrote in Wild Mind that in order to write some word, there must first be no word. It’s the same concept.

A small physical movement — one that feels manageable and doable — can really help. That might be a walk down the block. Or, if you are a walk-a-holic like me, that might mean an hour-long daydreamy walk. The key is that whatever the movement is, it must feel manageable and doable to you. It must inspire you to say “Yes!” If that means the movement is a cat-like arch of your back with your hands and feet planted on the floor, and that’s all, great. That is enough, for now.

In Part Two, we’ll delve more into movement — when to create it, and when to accept that maybe you do not want to move right now.

I’d love to hear what inspires you to movement. What steps do you take, and how do you treat yourself in a way that inspires movement?