Every morning I pull myself out of bed, make my Bulletproof coffee, wake up my Mac and glance lovingly at my inbox — dancing with shiny news feeds from efficiency experts, productivity gurus, life coaches, big thinkers…Fast Company, Wired, Science Daily, and don’t forget TED! They beg to penetrate my sleepy brain. And why shouldn’t they? I glean something amazing from almost everything I read; always applicable to one of the myriad projects I’m knee deep in, or to my own life challenges. I would be crazy not to take advantage of this vast web of ideas and inspiration, offering up the tools and materials to better my brain, my soul — so I can be the most fully realized versions of myself. If I open myself up to the sprawl, the ad supported hive mind at my fingertips, I can attain the lofty goals I have set for myself, right? God forbid I miss that one important article that could make all the difference. And besides… it just feels so GOOD. The inspiration. Awe and wonder! So fulfilling…
But like any good meal, there comes a point when you’re satiated. You’ve experienced a myriad flavors and textures, so delicious… but you’re full. Then dessert is offered. And your brain is screaming for it — just one more bite. It will add even greater enjoyment to your evening! So you eat it all, even though you’re full. What happens? You hit a wall. Lethargic. The food coma hits. The awe and wonder of it all actually becomes shock and awe. You’re immobilized.
I’m here to suggest that our Culture of Inspiration can do as much harm as good. When you over indulge in other people’s highest thoughts, there can be too much to process, to actually put in play. You become addicted to the spark, the euphoria of brilliance that is now available 24/7. And more importantly, you second guess the action you want to take just by the fact that there might be a new, better, ‘idea’ out there. Maybe that one will finally activate your path to success. But you never fully act on anything, afraid to finish anything because there is always something out there to inspire you to make it better.
It’s an addiction.
And I am done with it.
Tara Sophia Mohr, in her Playing Big program, talks about ‘stepping away from the whiteboard’. It’s her metaphor for stopping the cycle of research and over preparation that women tend to get stuck in. I’ve written about this ‘you are ready’ idea before. This whiteboard image especially resonates with me as I am constantly consuming research for my scripts as they are science heavy; new applicable research seems to be published daily (and important to my Scirens feed!) But I didn’t realize that the idea of stepping away applied to my life as well — my development as a person and a creative — that my constant consumption of self help articles was ultimately holding me back… as if I couldn’t move forward because I was just trying to catch everything that I had encouraged to be thrown at me.
My turning point came when I stumbled upon the video of SELMA director Ava duVernay giving a keynote address at Film Independent. She spoke about her years of struggles as a filmmaker where she wore her hunger and desperation like a smelly coat. She once focused on everything that she didn’t have in her quest to become a filmmaker -‘a break’ ‘a mentor’ ‘a rich uncle’. She embodied what she coined the ‘cards and coffee’ culture of Hollywood — where everyone is trying to set a coffee with a hopeful mentor to try to pick their brains, looking for the next connection to be able to make their project happen (sound familiar?).
It was only when she stopped focusing on the things she didn’t have and instead focused on the things that she did, and made use of them, that her life changed. She stopped being desperate and started ‘doing’. And the things she thought she needed materialized soon after because she was on a moving train — people want to be on something that is active.
Yes Yes Yes I thought. We focus on the things we don’t have because we feel inadequate — because we feel we need more — more experience, more connections, more INSPIRATION to succeed. Because we’re afraid to trust who we are and what we already have.
The ‘C’ word popped into my head. No, not that. CONFIDENCE. There is a lot of talk of late about women and their lack of it in the blogosphere. Research being discussed points to a trend of women undervaluing themselves in the work place, for example only applying for a job if they feel they are 100% qualified as opposed to men who clock in at a ballsy 60%. If you do a quick search you will see a plethora of posts headlining that women just need MORE confidence in their lives. But Tara Sophia Mohr has written a wonderful new post on LinkdIn that begs to differ. She argues that everyone, even the most successful business people and artists have potentially crippling self doubt. But that they took action anyway. What if what we really need to do is recognize our self doubt (inner critic) and the fear of failure that it speaks to? Once we address it, we can understand the root of it and move forward. You can’t just muster confidence, it arrives after taking action, making the leap, even if you are faking it. But you know what you can muster? COURAGE.
Courage is so powerful because it is rooted in true passion and desire. It evokes storytelling. Heroes have courage.
What can you be courageous about? That, like Ava spoke to, the faith to acknowledge that you already have what you need.
Shawn Achor, in his wonderful TED talk, speaks to how we often think happiness is achieved when we reach success. But as we are constantly redefining what success is to us after every achievement (because it just doesn’t seem to give you the grand happiness that you thought it would so there must be a next level). So it makes happiness impossible to obtain as it is always out of our reach. What if we start with happiness, he suggests.
Think about it. We go on Pinterest and our stream is filled with beautiful, coveted images from other people that we are encouraged to ‘pin’. It doesn’t encourage us to look at the pictures that we already have. It champions acquisition, rather than investment. Digging deep into yourself to use what you have takes more work and courage than waiting for a new batch of inspiration to be poured over you, hoping some of it will stick and give you the desired glow. But we all know that comes from within.
At this point you may be wanting to tell me that I’m a hypocrite. Here I am telling you to stop digesting all this inspiration while I am referencing the very content I vilify! Yes, I know, I know. The cruel irony of it all. I’m not saying that we should shun all the digital inspiration at our fingertips. It’s not about not being inspired. Its about not searching for it outside of yourself. You can have enough of it self-generated. We need to substitute the need for more with the empowerment of the have.
So how do we do this? How do we focus on what we have and take action from there? Umm. I know Fast Company could write an amazing list to that, like:
-Declutter your home and office.
-List out the contacts and resources you already have.
-Pick your top 3 projects to focus on.
-Add all your ‘inspiration articles’ to a folder and only reading them in a three hour window one day a week.
-Get up an hour earlier each day.
-Do a Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map to articulate your authentic life goals.
They’re all well and good (especially meditating) — I’ve spent the last two weeks doing them all — engulfed in a massive declutter, self analysis mode. But as LaPorte says, “too much analysis leads to paralysis”. And at the end of the day, I’ve accomplished little beyond a rather paired down closet and office, a new cat, and having this post form in my head. Which, if in one sentence can be summed up in this:
Just do it.
Seriously. Life is short. Be brave. Have the nerve, have the courage. The confidence will come. Decide that what you are wanting to do is just so much more important than everything else, including the TED talk, the blog, the podcast, the ‘cards and coffee’ meetings that pull at your psyche. You don’t have to shun your inspirations, just don’t be seduced by them. They will still be there when you’re done. They’re the icing, not the cake.
Ok I’m done with the food metaphors.
Listen, it’s so incredibly hard to come to terms with this — the idea that we’re already enough and that our creations will never be 100% or perfect. But perfection is an illusion. It’s a man made idea. It’s subjective. So just take action. You are have all you need right here right now. You are your own inspiration, because there is no one else in the entire universe like you.
But don’t take my word for it.
It’s time you listened to your own.
I’m calling 2015 ‘The Year of Making’ — wanna join me?
Thanks for reading.
Originally published at operationbabe.tumblr.com on Jan 30th, 2015