Tag Archives: creativity

EXPRESS YOURSELF!!! Do You Let Your Inner Artist Out?

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou

Hello friend,

I am an artist. I am an artist!

Gosh, that is really hard to say!!! It makes me feel as though I am boasting! And perhaps, if I am deep-down honest, it makes me feel insecure as to whether I am telling the truth, whether I am good enough to measure up to the term. Artist. Artiste! But I am working hard to say it with conviction. “I am an artist.” I am.

I have a much easier time saying–to myself and to you–that I am a writer. I have the ink stains to prove that claim. Clearly, I write to you on a regular basis. I wrote a book. I qualify as a writer. Before I started Journal of You, I was already writing in my journal every day for 17 years. During those years, however, I didn’t necessarily consider myself a “writer” because I wasn’t sharing my words with the world. I wrote every day because it made me feel good to write. It connected me to myself. And to my higher Self. Writing liberated me at the same time that it taught me who I was. It brought me out while bringing me in. It was both a form of expression and discovery.

Stop there. Back that up a few sentences.

Even as I was just typing that explanation of why my early writing was not “writing” or “art,” the words coming out of my fingers were telling me that that was exactly the kind of artistic outlet–call it Art or Creativity or Imagination or Soul Connection or Self-Expression or Divine Inspiration or whatever you want–that I needed then and that I think we all need throughout our lives, whether or not we ever intend to share our “art” with the world and call ourselves artists.

Sometimes I think it is the terms themselves that hold us back from exploring these outlets that allow us to feel alive and uplifted and whole. Call something an “Art class” or a “creativity exercise” or a chance for “self-expression” or “imagination,” and most of us shut down entirely. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” we say. Or, “I’ve never been artistic.”

So, we don’t take up our buddy on that offer to teach us the guitar. We don’t join our friends who are going to take a one-night painting class together. We don’t go out dancing. We don’t sing karaoke (or even in the shower). We don’t draw pictures, even though we used to love that when we were young. We even ignore those new “adult” coloring books. We don’t pick up the pen to write that poem or short story that seems to be rattling around in our brains looking for an outlet. Heck, we don’t even write that first journal entry, so certain are we that we “have nothing to say” (I hear that one all the time, believe me!).

Why do we squash that? I think a lot of it is FEAR and SHAME. We think that if we try something “artistic,” that we will inevitably be found out and then judged on our performance. Judged harshly. We think people are going to be whispering, “How dare she think she is good enough to perform in public? She’s not a REAL…..(insert whatever you like: dancer, singer, actress, painter, musician, writer).”

Beyond just the criticism of our (lack of) talent, I think there is also that self-consciousness and insecurity around being thought of as childish for doing something as whimsical, imaginative, and brave as art is, even if just done in private.

Somehow, as we leave childhood and enter that ultra-self-conscious stage called adolescence, we tend to cut out anything that is not “cool” or “grown-up,” and we certainly stop doing anything we are “bad” at. The potential judgment of our peers stifles so much that made life fun and engaging and meaningful and inspiring. We mute ourselves. Our clothing choices become less personalized. We stop singing out loud. We don’t draw or paint or color. We don’t make music. Performances stop. Even personal writing ends. That fear of sticking out or, worse yet, being “bad” at something, snuffs out so much of our beautiful light. It is tragic.

The real tragedy, though, is that by the time we are ready to slip the chains of adolescence and emerge as independent, mature adults, this muted existence that we have exiled our true, glorious Self to has become habit. It is your new normal. And not just yours, but everyone else around you, too. Whimsy, inspiration, and connection to our artistic souls seem lost on the adult crowd. It is why I see, at the local sledding hill, the kids howling gleefully as they fly down the slope, gulping fresh air and exhilaration and Life, while their parents stand at the top of the hill and make small-talk. Or why those same parents–and I am guilty of this one, too–spend their money and time on getting their kids to music lessons to learn the piano or violin or whatever (because it is vitally important to raise well-rounded kids), but wouldn’t dream of signing themselves up for lessons.

By adulthood, we have so internalized that fear of being criticized and that need to fit in and be “adults” instead of being “childish,” that it is simply–and unconsciously–expected that we don’t have creative outlets in our lives. So, rather than write or sing or dance just because it makes our soul feel good or lightens our load, we skip it altogether and continue carrying that baggage. We don’t even realize how much of what makes us vibrant and interesting and alive and free is simply hiding under there, lying dormant. Unimaginative and muted are the adult normal.

But dormant means it’s still alive in there, right? Hibernating. Waiting for the right conditions to emerge and flourish. Waiting for its moment to shine.

Well, why can’t NOW be that moment for you? Seriously.

I am asking myself that. Why not now? At this very moment, I am doing some of what makes me feel creative, connected, and inspired. Writing this letter to you definitely has my adrenaline going and is tapping into something my “normal” self doesn’t access. I so appreciate that sensation.

But what else can I do? Music. Last year, I started teaching myself to play the guitar. Fifteen minutes here and there and I was getting just a tiny bit of a feel for it. I loved it, though, as I always knew I would, all those years I spent dreaming about playing by a campfire. But I got busy on a writing project and let it slip. I miss it and realize now that I must get back to it without delay. My other two long-term musical goals are to learn the piano and the harmonica, probably in that order. I have them in my house, too, so it is just up to me to make the time. The mere idea of it excites me, though, even as I am certainly the first one to claim, “I don’t have a musical bone in my body.” I don’t care. I love it! And it gives me all of those amazing and surely Divine tingles that I have been talking about. Even just singing–as I do often with my horrible but passionate voice–makes my soul fly. And someday, when I am done paying for all of my kids’ lessons, I am going to pay someone to help me to learn all of these beautiful things. And I won’t feel guilty about it!

I can totally see myself as being the king of Adult Education classes when my kids leave the house. I would truly enjoy learning to paint, draw, take photographs, write poetry and fiction, and whatever else they are willing to teach me. I could see myself trying out for a community theatre performance someday, too. And I am certain that I will keep writing: journals, blog posts, books, whatever. I want to make art until my last breath.

For now, I just want to make sure I am scratching that creative itch as often as possible. The writing is a huge part of it, but I realize I need more. I am here and now committing to a return to the guitar practice. I think I will borrow some of my kids’ art supplies, too, and just see what comes out of me. Even adding a few minutes of meditation every day–which is not specifically artistic or creative–can help me touch that realm of connection and inspiration where art resides. I am happy there. I am committed to putting myself in a position to touch that magnificent realm more often.

How about you? Do you have creative and artistic outlets in your life? Open up your journal and consider the moments when your soul finds its way to that place that ordinary existence doesn’t make room for. Where in your life are you allowed to let your imagination and creativity free? Do you have creative hobbies? What are they? Is there some aspect of creativity in your job? What else? Do you sing in the car? Do you ever pick up a musical instrument? Do you draw or paint? How about those “adult” coloring books? Do you write poems or short stories? Are you just reading my letters, or will you write a journal entry, too? Do you have any apps on your phone or tablet that you use to create, such as Garage Band? Do you get creative with your camera? Do you have the audacity to call yourself an artist? Could anything get you to that point? If there is nothing like these outlets in your life, what do you do that lights up your soul? How long has it been since you truly felt the light of imagination and expression inside you? What do you sense that you are missing out on by going without, if anything? Are there substitutes for that deep connection and release that art provides; perhaps things like yoga, meditation, religious ceremonies, or walking in Nature? What works for you? Why do we stop doing whimsical, creative things? Is it out of fear that we are acting “childish” by trying something like an art? Is it out of fear of being judged harshly for our lack of talent or skill? Do we think art would seem too decadent or self-indulgent, even a waste of time? Are creative people more interesting to you? Do you think they are actually more courageous than the rest of us, or are they just genetically predisposed to trying difficult things and putting themselves out there? Does the answer to that question matter to you? Do you think trying to stretch your artistic or imaginative skills could help you to grow in self-confidence or courage? Do you think it could help you become more empathetic? More open-minded? More playful and free? How else could creative pursuits improve your life? Could they improve the lives of the people around you, too? In what ways? What is one creative endeavor that you would like to add to your life? How soon can you do that? Will you? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you feed the artist inside you?

Liberate yourself,

William

P.S. If this letter resonated with you, I invite you to share it with your people. We could all use a little soul stirring.

P.P.S. If this type of questioning appeals to your sensibilities, I hope you will check out my book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at your favorite online retailers.

Is Self-Care Selfish? How Do You Show Yourself Some Love?

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” –Eleanor Brownn

Hello friend,

This week, for the first time in years, I took a yoga class. It stirred something in me, reminding me of something important that I once let slip from my grasp.

The other day I was talking with my neighbor about the types of therapy he is doing for his ailing back. He mentioned physical therapy, electronic stimulation, lifting weights, and acupuncture. Then he said, “But what has helped the most is yoga. It is healing my back, but mostly I feel it healing my SOUL.” He glowed as he talked about how this nightly, 30-minute video routine makes him feel inside. I thought to myself, “This guy has learned a secret he must never forget!” I told him how I have always been a huge proponent of yoga. I realized as I was saying it, though, that my endorsement felt a little hollow.

I first tried a yoga class about 20 years ago and fell instantly in love. It felt so good to me on so many levels. My body felt healthier than ever. My mind was calm and clear. And there was something more, something spiritual. My soul felt good. Yoga made me feel like I was caring for myself, doing something that made my life better and allowed me to show up better for the world around me. I told myself I was in it for life. There was no way I would stop.

I stopped.

I can’t even explain why. I just got out of the habit. That sounds really lame to me now, knowing that I never stopped working out over all these years. I also never stopped telling people how wonderful and important yoga is. I was like the paid endorser who doesn’t really use the product.

I guess I just didn’t make it a priority. Not a high enough one, anyway. I never seemed to make the time to add it to my schedule or trade it for one of the other things I was doing. Oh, I brought it back a few different times over the years for short stints—and I loved it each time—but it never stuck. I suppose that, subconsciously anyway, I considered it an overindulgence, like I just couldn’t give myself that much of a treat. I was not worthy of the extra hour just for personal growth or soul therapy.

It is not as though yoga is alone in this neglect. I have long been aware of the wondrous effect that reading books has on my soul, and yet I almost never allow myself dedicated reading time (I let myself do it when I am falling asleep at night or on an exercise machine). Music is the same way. Meditation, too, I have always sworn by yet rarely followed my own advice, even for just ten minutes per day. I have no excuse.

I have always tried to be so conscious of my time and not wasting it, and yet somehow in my haste to be productive, I seem to have regularly forgotten to feed my soul its fill. I haven’t taken the best care of what matters most.

Oh sure, I have done quite well on some fronts. I have kept up a fitness routine, and that has been at least as good for my peace of mind as it has for my body. And of course, my daily journaling practice has stood strong for 20 years. That is a huge pillar of my self-care. It is clarity and sanity disguised as a blank book. I also make a point of spending a ton of time with my kids. They put wind in my sails.

And that’s about it for consistent self-care for me. In other areas that feel important to me, I either make an occasional attempt or fail completely.

One of the areas that I recognize now more than ever is getting outdoors and spending some time in Nature. This never fails to help me to reconnect to myself and to the Divine. Whether it is a walk through the forest or a quiet contemplation by a lake or stream, this is my nearest approximation of a church. It makes me feel whole again. And I just don’t do it enough. I am better about it in the Summer, even if it is something as simple as laying in my hammock and listening to the birds sing and the leaves rustle. I know I do best, though, when I get out away from the paved roads and buildings, and that is something I just don’t make the time for very often.

Something that I have improved on a bit in this last year is sleeping. Starting from the time my daughter was born almost nine years ago, I have really struggled in this department. I had an excuse for a few years when the kids were little, but I became too accustomed to being raggedy. As soon as they started sleeping better, I started using that extra time for personal growth things that I had put off, like taking classes and starting these letters to you. I was running myself into the ground trying to get it all done, going on the fumes of a mere four or five hours of sleep per night, every night. As I said, just in the last year I have made a more concerted effort to bring that number up closer to seven hours. I don’t always succeed, but I feel better when I do.

Nutrition is another one that I am just getting started with. After a lifetime of pretending I could eat mostly whatever I want and still feel good, I have lately started to pay closer attention to the ways different foods affect my energy and my comfort. I am beginning to cut things out of my diet. There is a long way to go, but it feels like the right direction for my long-term health and happiness.

The one thing that I haven’t tried but that consistently tugs at my thoughts is the inclusion of more art and creation in my life. Writing these letters to you is about as close as I get to that, and Writing Day is the most fulfilling day of my week. But I want more, and I want variety. Specifically, I feel music calling out to me. I mentioned earlier that even dedicated time for listening to music lifts me up, but what my soul is itching for is to learn how to play it. I own a guitar and a beginner book, but I have never given myself permission to take that time. The same goes with the piano. Even when I touch the keys briefly as I am cleaning the house, my spirit does a little dance. I know the signs are telling me to play.

These musical longings speak again to this issue I seem to have about indulgences. Somehow, somewhere along the way I seem to have confused self-care with selfishness. I allow myself time to write in my journal, and that feels like all I deserve. I give myself permission to exercise daily, but only if it is while the rest of my family is still sleeping. I offer all of my energies to my kids—which I love doing for me—because I can claim it as good for them. I can justify adjustments to my nutrition because it is not taking up any more time or directly affecting anyone else. If I let myself go to bed earlier, I have to write less.

That thing about wasting time and being inefficient—combined with these feelings of unworthiness and guilt about selfishness—is exactly why I don’t allow myself the other self-care activities that I know would do so much for me. Meditation. Nature walks. Learning the guitar and piano. Reading books. Listening to music. These are all things that require time that I seem to feel I don’t deserve. As though care for my soul is not reason enough. This realization saddens me. I want to think I am worth more than that to myself.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself granting special permission to go to yoga class this week. You see, I think a big reason yoga left my schedule is that it usually doesn’t feel like as much of a pure workout as lifting weights or running or something like that does, so I had a hard time justifying yoga instead of one of those (my efficiency hang-up at its most glaring). So it was a big deal for me when I substituted a cardiovascular workout for the yoga class (even though I did have to get up even earlier to make it). I consciously prioritized the benefits to my mind and spirit.

Whoa! It seems really strange even to type that thought! I just don’t do that very often, apparently.

And though I felt guilty for missing the cardio workout, oh my, how good that yoga class felt! It was a genuine treat. I was working at it, but it still felt like a pampering for my soul. I can still feel the effects on my mood even days later. What a discovery! This is what self-care feels like! I think I could get used to this. Well, you know, after a few visits to the shrink, maybe!

How about you? What does self-care look like to you? Walk yourself through your weekly slate of activities. Which items on your itinerary are aimed at getting yourself feeling connected, engaged, and at your best? Which ones are, like my journaling, your most ingrained habits, things that are a normal part of your life? How long have you been practicing those things? Could you imagine letting go of those habits? Which of your self-care practices is most important to you? Why? What practices have you tried and liked at some point but never made a part of your routine? Do you envision yourself returning to them? What will it take? Which ones have you had high expectations for but turned out to be just not your thing? Do you have any, like my guitar learning, that you haven’t tried but that your soul seems to be calling out for you to try? Why have you ignored that call to this point? What will get you to begin? Are your self-care activities more often done alone (e.g. meditating or reading) or with others (e.g. coffee with a friend or a yoga class)? Do you allot a certain amount of time each day that you proclaim as “Me Time” and really own it, or are you generally unaware of when you are taking care of yourself? Are you worthy of that dedicated time just for you? Are you only good at justifying it in the flow of your everyday life (e.g. nutrition), or are you good at claiming bigger chunks of time (e.g. a spa day or girls’ weekend), too? Is self-care intertwined with self-worth, i.e. the more we value ourselves, the more we care for ourselves? If so, what does your level of self-care say about how much you value yourself? How can you move that needle more in the right direction? How does it feel to be renewed from within? What best helps you get there? Leave me a reply and let me know: What does self-care look like to you?

You are totally worth it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please pass it on. We are ALL worth it!

20 Toys For Kids That Adults Should Be Playing With

DSC_0880 2“If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.” –Katharine Hepburn

Hello friend,

Yesterday, after prying my kids away from the television and wrestling with them for a while, I announced that it was “quiet play time”, which means that Daddy wants some time with his books in the midst of the madness. While my son went for his cars and dinosaurs, my daughter grabbed the old-school Etch-A-Sketch and sat down beside me. Every minute or two, she had a new, red-framed design created by those two magic knobs. She nudged me every time and said, “See, Daddy!” Pretty soon her brother wanted a turn with the knobs, and he skillfully whipped up a four-year-old’s rendition of a dragon, school bus, or Ironman every 20 seconds or so. Back and forth they went, demanding their turns more and more impatiently. I was captivated by their creativity and their simple joy in playing, and pretty soon I wanted a turn on the Etch-A-Sketch, too. I haven’t played on one since I was a kid, and as fun as it looked to me thirty-some years later, I couldn’t help but wonder why I stopped.

What is it that happens to us as adults that we stop thinking it is acceptable to play and create? I suppose it starts around middle school, when it becomes devastatingly uncool to try things that you might not be good at. As we pass through adolescence and young adulthood, it seems we are trying so hard to be cool and smooth that we hardly dare to be silly. Then we have kids and are supposed to feel bad if we take a turn on the pogo stick or the Etch-A-Sketch. I watch parents at the sledding hill all the time, standing at the top of the hill for an hour as their kids gleefully take ride after ride. As the guy who seeks out any chance to do “childish” things and is definitely flying down that sledding hill as joyfully as any kid out there, I cannot understand these standing people called “grown-ups”.

I think we—all of us, at every age—need to find reasons to be playful, creative, and silly. We need to be “childlike”. The other day I was brainstorming with some classmates about different ways to “plerk,” that is, to play at work. It can be tough, as most of our workplaces don’t encourage joy and creative expression, much less play. Let’s face it, some days it can take a creative mind just to find the good parts of our jobs. So, if we aren’t getting that outlet at work, and we are either too tired, too guilty, or too cool to get on that sled with the kids, we are just not hitting our quota for creativity and play. We are getting old before our time.

I have written to you before about keeping playful activities in your life (see “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”). But what hit me yesterday, as I was itching for a turn with that Etch-A-Sketch, is that we adults need more than just to hang around kids more often (it does help, though, trust me). After all, we don’t all have that option. What we need most of all are the tools of fun that kids have at their disposal. WE NEED TOYS!!! And I don’t mean iPads, RVs, and speedboats, though those are fun, too. I am talking about simple, inexpensive toys that draw out our creativity and our joy. Sure, they are marketed to kids, but I am telling you, any adult would be well-served to include these delights in his or her life.

So, when you head out shopping next time, I recommend adding a few things to your list:

  1. Play-Doh—Seriously, how much creative fun did you have with Play-Doh as a kid? It is still here, as simple and fabulous as ever.
  2. Magna-Doodle—What a stress reliever it is to doodle! And then, the pure joy of sliding that magic bar across the bottom to erase the entire board, ready for another magnetic masterpiece. Genius!
  3. Etch-A-Sketch—Need I say more?
  4. Harmonica—Endless enjoyment, the challenge of learning something new, and it is smaller than your smartphone. I love harmonicas!
  5. Rip-Stik—I got one of these things a couple of years ago, and my neighbors thought I was crazy as I tried to learn it, like “What is the old man doing on that thing?” But let me tell you, it is so fun! And I felt pretty cool when the 10-year-old down the street came over this Fall and asked me to teach her how to ride. I am a big fan of any riding toy, so consider the Rip-Stik the representative of scooters, sleds, in-line skates, and bikes. I have all of these things, but my dream is an adult-size Big Wheel. If I ever get to Heaven, I trust that one will be waiting for me at the pearly gates.
  6. Frisbee—There are few simple pleasures in my world better than a game of Catch, whether that is with a Frisbee, a baseball, or a football. It is deeply nostalgic and a wonderful way to connect with someone.
  7. Finger paints—It is good for the soul to dip your fingers into that paint and just let yourself go. The dollar-store paints with the brush are fun, too, but, with perfection not an option, finger paints take the pressure off immediately.
  8. Pogo Stick—It’s exercise, it’s nostalgia, it’s great fun. For more bouncing fun, grab a Hopper (picture an exercise ball with a squishy handle—it’s hilarious). If you don’t like bouncing, go with a Hula Hoop.
  9. Hot Wheels cars and race track—I got one for my son last Christmas, and as soon as we set up the track with the loops and jumps, the adults started wandering over for a try. It is a wonderful escape of the imagination and delivers a bonus adrenaline rush.
  10. Sidewalk chalk—Release your inner artist and cover the most boring part of your yard—the driveway—with color. Or, just make a hopscotch board and start hopping.
  11. Window Crayons—I just learned of these delightful things this year, and now my children have filled each pane of my large picture window in the living room. Creative and fun, and you can change your home décor as often as you like.
  12. Coloring books—As silly as this one sounds, there is something highly therapeutic about coloring in a simple design with some old-fashioned Crayolas. No pressure to create something fabulous, as the drawing is done for you. Just pick some colors and go. It’s like a meditation.
  13. Twister—Sure, it is tougher for adults than kids, but that only makes it more funny for participants and audience alike. Adult beverages recommended (sold separately).
  14. Basketball hoop—Even though I love a driveway game on a regulation hoop, I am talking about indoor hoops here. I actually have two standing hoops in my house about five or six feet each (for the kids, of course!). Old-school Nerf hoops that hang on doors are priceless, too. H-O-R-S-E, anyone?
  15. Rubik’s Cube—Classic.
  16. Inflatable punching toy—Remember these guys with the sand-filled bottom, who pop back up after you hit them? We need stress relievers more than kids do, right?
  17. Remote-controlled cars—Just fun.
  18. Squirt guns—My only warning: know your audience. Otherwise, fire away!
  19. Balloons—A few minutes of Keep-It-Up makes any heart lighter. Beach balls work, too.
  20. Slip-n-Slide—Plastic bliss. It may break in less than an hour, but do not deny yourself this delight at least once before you die.

There you go: your twenty little tickets to Playland. Other than the remote-controlled cars, none of them require batteries, cords, screens, or downloads. Just check your ego and your skepticism at the door—those are useless adult inventions—and play. I am in!

How about you? Do you still have PLAY in your life? Open up your journal and think about how often you allow yourself to create and be silly. Is it often enough? What are your favorite escapes from the binds of adulthood? Do you feel “childish” when you do them? How self-conscious are you about that? Do you only do them alone or in the privacy of your own home, or are you willing to go public with your playing? How ashamed are you not just of playing, but of being silly? What are your most creative activities? Do you enjoy using your imagination? Do you own any “kid toys”? Do you lean more toward creative toys (Etch-A-Sketch, Play Doh, Finger Paints) or active toys (Pogo Stick, Frisbee, Slip-n-Slide)? What else belongs on my list? Leave me a reply and let me know: What toys keep you young?

Your soul is ageless, so act accordingly,

William

Why Are You Here?

DSC_0963“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

I watched the movie “Selma” yesterday. It was about the Civil Rights Movement and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quest for the fair and equal treatment of Black Americans, in this case as it pertained to voting rights. It has really stayed with me, this film, creeping into my consciousness as I move through my day. I was captivated by so many different aspects of the film and the history behind it. One angle that really grabbed me in a unique and powerful way, though, was Dr. King’s resolve and willingness to go back into the fray—being beaten and jailed and leading others into situations that ended in their deaths—over and over despite serious doubts and guilt over so much spilled blood. And then there was his family. He carried the dual burdens of being taken from his wife and kids for long periods of time and also, by virtue of his leading role in the movement and the explosive mix of ignorance and violence that defined the opposition to it, the knowledge that he and/or his wife and children could be murdered at any time. I could not help but keep asking myself, “With so many reasons to NOT keep working for the cause—really big, life-or-death reasons—what kept him going back in?” 

The answer I keep coming back to is that, deep down inside, he knew what his life purpose was. He knew that he was alive for a reason, and that to turn his back on that purpose would be to disrespect his Maker. He had a calling. A reason for being. A purpose.

I latched onto this aspect of “Selma” so strongly because I have been lately in the process of defining my own life purpose. I am going through the process as part of my Life Coach Training Program. It is no small task, either, let me tell you. Along the way, I have had to address what my needs are and what I value most in this world. I have tried a number of different exercises designed to help rank my values. I am not talking about chosen values—standards that I have adopted and held myself to—but rather about core values, which are things that I feel I was born with, things that have been with me all my life. The exercises—indeed, the entire process—have been very revealing.

Boiled down into one-word answers, these are some of my core values: spirituality, self-knowledge, teaching, purpose, growth, family, service, connectedness, health, and authenticity. These things get right to the heart of who I am and what makes me tick. They provide wonderful clues to my life purpose, but they are just the beginning when it comes to trying to define it succinctly.

The next phase of my homework was to make a long list of examples of times in my life when I knew was living “on purpose”. That is, times when I felt completely in the flow, energized, and as though things were effortless. I quickly jotted down more than twenty times in my life when I felt that way, ranging from when I was a teenager all the way up to the last year. My list included many times when I was writing, including writing my very first blog to you. I was on fire with passion for what I was doing, and the work and the cause filled my sails. It was effortless. I also noted many times when I was teaching, from private tennis lessons to Philosophy 101 classes. It included times when I have spoken publicly, including when I performed my sister’s wedding. That felt right to me. I also felt right and true in the simplest moments with my family, as well as hiking alone in the mountains or swimming in the ocean, feeling totally connected to the Divine.

I then took time to write a bit about each of these examples: what I was feeling and what about them struck such a deep chord in me. Next, I combed through all of my descriptions for recurring themes and words that resonated with me. It turned out to be not so different from the list of core values I had already made. Words that kept surfacing were: Connected (with the Divine, with others), Inspire, Dreams, Growing (personally and spiritually), Motivate, Teaching, Sharing (my love, traditions, my message), Challenging (myself and others, moving beyond the comfort zone), Family, Creativity, Self-Improvement, and Improve the World.

With clarity regarding both my core values and the recurring themes of the most “on purpose” moments of my life, I was feeling ready to write my purpose statement. After some tinkering with language, this was my first draft:

The purpose of my life is to help people—myself included—to live their best, most authentic lives by teaching and inspiring them to know themselves better; to be grateful for all that they are and have; to challenge themselves to grow spiritually and experientially; and to honor and pursue their dreams.

I was kind of liking it, actually. It named the things I want to do with my life, and that hit me in a good spot. It rang true.

However, I felt the pressure to make it short and sweet, so I started chopping. To a writer, cutting out words is like killing your babies, so it was no picnic for me, I promise you. My condensed draft looked like this:

The purpose of my life is to teach and inspire people—including myself—to know themselves better, to connect to the Divine, and to follow their Bliss.

While I wasn’t so sure I liked it better than the long version, at least it was concise. I figured I would put them to the test with my teacher when I got to class tonight. I was feeling pretty confident.

As it turned out, the joke was on me. I got to class tonight, and he started explaining life purpose statements and the differences between purpose, mission, and vision. You see, mission statements talk about the ways we are going to fulfill our purpose. They are action statements. Purpose statements, on the other hand, identify our calling or reason for being. Curses!!! While I had thought I had two pretty solid versions of my purpose statement, what I really had were a long and a short mission statement. Back to the drawing board!

To get to my purpose rather than my mission, I need to focus on Who I Am more than what I am going to do to express who I am. At my core, who am I? Why was I born? Why am I here? What is in my soul’s code? With only a few minutes of reflection—and what will probably be the first of many drafts—I suppose I would answer this way:

I am a catalyst for self-knowledge and authenticity. 

Yeah, I suppose that about sums me up. I want people to know themselves deeply and to own themselves completely, including the honoring of their dreams and their own unique path in life. In a way, I think my purpose is to help everyone live their purpose. Or, is that my mission? Whatever! In any case, I think I am starting to understand why I am here. And that’s the whole point, right?

How about you? Why are you here? Open up your journal, and get ready for some deep diving. What are your core values? Can you name your top ten? If you had to get it down to three—and really, you don’t—what would they be? Are you living from those values now, or are you off-course? Think about the times in your life when you have felt most “on purpose”. Write them all down, and then elaborate. What were you doing? What are the common themes running through those experiences? Do those themes mesh with some or all of the core values you listed? Now, write out your Life Purpose Statement. Be as concise as possible; really try to boil it down to your essence. And don’t play small! Your purpose is magnificent, so name it and claim it. How difficult is it to crystallize your calling? Have you always known what it was, or is it only now becoming clear to you? I think writing a mission statement is really helpful, too. I accidentally wrote mine first, which gave me some good clues as to how to write my purpose statement, but I think it probably works best to know who you are first before stating the way you are going to fulfill that purpose. In any case, do the work. Dig. Ask yourself some tough questions. And take the “shoulds” out of it. What do you really value? Who are you really? Not who do you wish you were, or who do you think you should be to make others happy or proud. WHO ARE YOU? There is no greater question and no more important answer. Leave me a reply and let me know: Why are you here?

Your truth shall set you free,

William

On the Verge of the Purge

DSC_0160“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” –Albert Einstein

Hello friend,

There are many things in this life that I am really terrible at. Home improvement projects. Staying in touch with loved ones. Painting pictures. Keeping my opinion to myself. Stopping when I am full. There are many other things that I simply have no inclination to do and thus fail at. Opening the mail. Bill-paying (and everything else related to finances). Dusting.   Answering the phone. Listening to someone telling me what to do. Between the two, it is a wonder that I stay afloat as an adult member of society (thank goodness for a responsible spouse!).

But there is one thing that I am both awful at and have no inclination to do, and this thing is on the verge of crippling my spirit and any sort of creativity that I fancy myself capable of. What is it? Organization. I am the King of Clutter! Not just right now, but forever. I have defended my crown for years and years on end, and no one can threaten me in this ring. I am—literally and figuratively—a mess!

My mother has been calling me “Pack Rat” since I was a kid, because I seem to be utterly incapable of throwing anything away. Tennis magazine from 1989? “No way! There might be an article that I will want to read someday.” T-shirt from 1994? “Why would I? It still fits!” Post-It note with a lesson plan from 2002? “What if I run out of ideas? I might need that lesson again someday!” Awkward sunglasses from 1997? “Fashion goes in cycles. I need to be ready when this one comes back!” Broken bike from high school? “I’m going to fix it up. What? I AM!” Garbage bag—yes, I said garbage bag—full of unworn t-shirts from a promotional campaign at an old job? “They’re BRAND NEW! I’ll never need to buy a t-shirt again in my life!” On and on it goes. I could probably start my own branch of Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Or, perhaps more wisely, I could bring it all out to the street, light a match, and roast marshmallows for all the neighbors. A win-win!

Sure, some things I keep for genuine sentimental value, as I am nothing if not nostalgic. All of the cards my wife and kids ever made for me give me happy tingles every time I read through them. I still have—conveniently (for me) stored at my parents’ home—every one of the trophies that filled my room as a child. I know it seems silly, but each one holds a crystal clear image of a happy or poignant memory from my childhood. Heck, even that old, beat-up bike in my shed is so saturated with memories–solitary rides on prairie roads to get over a break-up, following my fearless brother down treacherous mountain single-tracks I had no business being on, and exploring the beach towns of Southern California—that I can’t stand to give it up. I am such a sap for this stuff.

But what is really weighing me down is not these mementos and special pieces of my history. No, the piles that surround me on all sides when I sit at my desk are just ordinary, don’t-have-a-spot-for-this-kind-of-stuff junk, such as papers, cords, cases, and media. It is investment and retirement statements, old magazines, work papers, more of those lesson plans, CDs, camera stuff, cords from the portable DVD player that gets used every few years, books that seem like they should be kept within arm’s length instead of three feet away in the bookshelf, the pile of papers I was going to shred a few years ago but didn’t quite get to it, and the nine backpacks I like to rotate to suit my mood for the day.   All of these things surround me when I sit down to work. It is more than “surround,” though. They envelope me. They suffocate me. They seep into my soul and sap my creativity. They drain my energy. And, for all of the reasons I just mentioned, they are really starting to ANNOY me. It is time for a declutter.

Say it isn’t so! It is so much a part of me to keep everything, so I hate to even think about a purge. But maybe, just maybe, it is more a part of me to be free and efficient and energized and creative. Wow, just writing that makes decluttering sound so much more healthy and appealing! To remove the things that drain my energy and thus free up my heart, mind, and creative spirit—this suddenly seems like a most worthwhile project!

But if it is so wonderful to be organized, how did I let myself get buried in these piles? Didn’t I notice it before? Hmmm…..do I just need to own it, or can I make some excuses? Maybe some of each. I fully admit that I am bad at filing. If I had a file cabinet full of very specific folders for any kind of financial statement or keepsake or magazine, I think I could begin to see my carpet. Containers for electronics and CD cases would work so well, but I don’t do that, either. I simply don’t have a system, and I should. On the excuse front, I think I just don’t have the time. I never feel like there is a spare moment—much less a few hours–to address the growing piles, so I just keep adding to them. If a “free” evening appeared out of nowhere—when I didn’t have homework to do or a blog post to write or something else pressing to read or write about—I would like to believe that I would jump on this once and for all.

But I don’t. I haven’t. Something always pushes the decluttering down my To-Do List for the day, something more pressing. I think, however, that I am finally coming to that point where all of this clutter is sapping enough of my energy and diminishing the quality of my other pursuits. I am finally noticing it, becoming more aware of it, both physically and emotionally. It is the dreaded “unhealthy work environment” that should never be an issue when it comes to a home office. What have I done to myself?

Whatever it is, it is time to undo it. It is time to make the time. I need to take the advice I give so freely to everyone else: “SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES!” Now that I am recognizing this suffocating feeling and its source, I am beginning to see a Decluttering Day as something that has earned a chunk of my precious time, something schedule-worthy. I am ready for the freedom that will come from being organized. I long for the extra energy and creativity that will come from reclaiming my personal space. I am due. I can feel that now. I am on the verge of the purge!

How about you? What are the energy drainers that you need to clean up or remove from your life? Open up your journal and examine your mental and physical spaces. If you had to pick one room in your home that you could tackle right now, which one would it be? Is your clutter more the kind that just needs to be organized—like filing papers–or do you need to get rid of some stuff? Would it be a blessing if someone lit a match to your worst room, or are you not that far gone yet? What kinds of things do you keep longer than the average person? What is it about these things? Are they still useful, or is it mostly sentimental? Do you have any people in your life that act as clutter, making you feel confined and draining your energy? Is it time to purge them, too? Do you ever feel guilty that you have so much stuff? I do, but I still can’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. Why is that? I need your help! What thought makes this process easier? What is your motivation? What will it take to get you to tackle your clutter? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you on the verge of the purge?

Start your life over today,

William