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Issue 18

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In this issue ~~

* Taking It Slow

* Celebrating Your Successes

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Taking It Slow

Living in today's fast-paced world – especially if you live in a big city – it's hard to slow down. There's so much to do, so much to achieve, so many things pulling at you. The media is constantly telling you to reach for more-better-faster. Or your own inner drive may be pushing you to make a difference, and there doesn't seem to be enough time to do that and still take care of everything else in your life. It seems you can never do enough, fast enough.

Some high-energy people thrive on this pace, but many of us don't. We find ourselves getting tired and sick trying to keep up. We may achieve a lot, but the process becomes painful, and we begin to feel trapped in our lives.

Happily, there's a new trend toward simplification and paring down your to-do list. Time management plans can certainly help us pack more into our days, but that isn't always the solution. Sometimes we simply need to do less. It may be hard to give up things we enjoy, along with things we feel we should do, but better to do a few things well and enjoy them than do many things in a rushed and haphazard way.

Giving up the fast pace may not be easy, especially if you've been driving yourself for a long time. Try some of the following, and remember to stick with them. Change doesn't happen overnight.

~ Become more efficient. Get the unpleasant tasks done on a regular basis, rather than resisting and avoiding them so they pile up. Set up systems for repetitive tasks. For instance, take the time to get your finances on the computer once and for all, so that you can spend less time on it in the future. Reorganize your work space so you have easy access to the tools you need. Have a family meeting and brainstorm ideas for streamlining chores. Then have each person choose which tasks they'll be responsible for. Have weekly meetings to make sure your plans are working and to make improvements.

~ Honor your own needs. Go at your own pace. Aim for your personal best rather than competing with others. If being in the fast lane makes you anxious and stressed, create a strategy for moving over, at least to the center lane, if not the slow lane. It's not about how much and how fast you achieve, but how much you learn and how much you savor the accomplishment. There are lots of successful people who never experience their success, because it's never enough, and they're always on to the next conquest without taking time to enjoy this one. Celebrate your successes, and let them be enough. Then go on to the next challenge out of choice, not because you're driven to.

~ Prioritize. Get in touch with your values, then give priority to what will bring the most value to your life, rather than answering phone calls, dealing with junk mail and e-mail, or whatever other distraction comes up. Set aside time for what matters, and don't let the interruptions become more important. Eliminate activities that are old and familiar, but no longer serve you.

~ Let it be okay to be less of an achiever. Take a long, hard look at all you have in your life and all you want, and decide what *really* matters. Eliminate the things that don't, and move to the back burner those that you're not prepared to handle right now. Then prioritize what's left and see how much time you can realistically devote to each. Be sure to include time for unexpected snags and interruptions. Pare down the list again if necessary. Many creative types have a zillion interests, and it's easy to overwhelm ourselves trying to fit them all in.

~ Take small steps. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you'll get where you want to go, at a pace that serves you. There's no value in reaching your goal if you're too burned out to enjoy it.

~ Learn to say no. Decide where you want to spend your precious time and resources, and courteously turn down offers that don't meet your criteria. Yes, you may lose some friendships, but they will likely be ones that you aren't enjoying much anyway. Set your own pace and direction in your career, not what anyone else expects of you. Go for quality, not quantity.

~ Be sure to set aside time to take care of yourself. Service is honorable, but if you're burned out, you won't have much to give to anyone else. Make sure your life is balanced. Include time for play, self-care, friends -- whatever rejuvenates you, whether that be a creative pursuit, a sport, meditation, playing with a pet or a walk in nature.

~ If you want to bring new opportunities into your life, make space for them by eliminating. If you try to pour more water into a full container, it won't make it in. Let go of activities that no longer serve you, or that you choose to release to make room for more beneficial ones. Use the newly-found time to relax and enjoy rather than creating busy work to fill it. If you're devoting time, energy and intention toward preparing for and creating new opportunities, it will fill soon enough.

~ Remember, you don't have to live up to anyone else's standards. There will always be people who achieve less or more than you. Set goals that feel good to you, that you enjoy working at, and stick with them. Many self-help technologies encourage you to set higher and higher goals and achieve more. If that doesn't feel good to you, don't do it. The new slogan is "do less, achieve more." You can do that by picking and choosing your goals -- ones that are joyful and realistic for you -- and staying focused on them, rather than spreading yourself too thin.

~ Begin and end the day quietly, with meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, writing in your gratitude journal, listening to soft music, spending a few moments with loved ones, or just doing nothing. Eastern spirituality speaks of the power of silence. When you come from a place of being calm, clear and centered, you'll be more focused and productive, accomplishing more in less time. It's hard to be creative when your mind is racing in a thousand directions.

~ Stick it out. If you've been going at a fast pace for years, you've probably been running on adrenaline, and when you start to slow down, you may find yourself feeling bored or restless. Stay with it, rather than falling back on old patterns to relieve the discomfort for the moment. Adrenaline can be addictive, but you can get beyond the need for it. Likewise, you may need to stick through feeling guilty that you're not doing enough. When things start flowing more easily and effortlessly in your life, the guilt will disappear soon enough.

Remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare. You can be busy and active and never get anywhere, or you can move slowly and methodically and arrive in due time. You'll have to tune out the voices calling for more-better-faster, but it's the inner voice of your authentic self that really matters anyway.

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Celebrating Your Successes

At times in our artistic careers (or any career, for that matter), we find ourselves dependent on the approval of others. In some cases, it may take years of work and practice before we're ever gratified with acknowledgment from other people, in the form of reviews, sales, jobs or promotions. That can leave us feeling defeated, deflated and discouraged.

If you sell your art or need to get a job in order to practice it, then certainly, you're dependent on other people's approval to make your living. But in a deeper sense, it's your own approval that really matters. The approval from others may never come -- or it may, but not the way you want it to -- but you can always give it to yourself.

By celebrating your own work, you can periodically produce for yourself a sense of accomplishment. Rather than waiting for that big commission or your big break, find opportunities to reward and celebrate your work yourself. You can create an air of success and celebration around yourself that will bring joy and give value to your work, and that ambience will attract others. Celebrate solo or include other people, but don't hesitate to initiate it yourself. It doesn't have to come from someone else to be worthwhile.

~ Celebrate the small successes as much as the big ones. Include celebration as part of your personal management strategy. Set short-term goals and reward yourself when you complete them, rather than waiting until you finish the entire project. If completing the first draft (or even the first page!) of your book or screenplay is a big deal for you, then celebrate. You don't have to wait till someone buys it.

~ Keep a success journal. Each night before bed, write down at least three successes you had that day, however small. Many people find that the inner, intangible successes are the ones that really matter. You can also review your journal when you're feeling discouraged to renew your spirits.

~ Take yourself out to dinner, alone or with friends. Toast your success.

~ Buy yourself something you've been wanting. You might put aside $5 or $10 each week that you work toward your goal, and once you achieve it, use that money to treat yourself to something special.

~ Invite appreciative friends over to see your work (or work-in-progress). Enjoy their enjoyment of it. Serve champagne.

~ Throw a party. Perform your work or let it be the centerpiece.

~Your celebration can also be a quiet "going within." For example, create a gratitude ritual. Whenever you reach a goal, give thanks for all the help you received, both human and divine. Also, give thanks in advance for achieving your next goal to set the stage for the next success. Your ritual may be as simple as a brief meditation or prayer, or as elaborate as setting up an altar, lighting candles, singing, dancing, tithing, whatever. Keeping a daily gratitude journal has also proven beneficial to many people.

~ The completion of a project often comes with a feeling of being let down, particularly if you've been working with a group, as in a performance, and your "family" of months or years is disbanding. So your celebration may also be a ritual of completion, letting go and moving on -- a transition to the next project or quiet phase.

Remember, you don't have to wait for your "big break" to have a celebration. Honor all the work you've done, the breakthroughs and growth you've had, and all that you've learned about yourself in the process. Create that feeling of success about yourself, and let it know where to come find you!

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Creative Tip

If you're feeling scattered and unproductive, stop, take some time to clear your mind and get centered, get clear on what you'd like to accomplish, and then go back to it. You'll find that things flow a lot more smoothly when you're calm and focused.

 

Wise Words

"There is only one success to be able to spend your life in your own way, and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it."

~ Christopher Morley

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."

~ David Frost

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Take Time for Your Life: A Personal Coach's Seven-Step Program for Creating the Life You Want . . . Cheryl Richardson

Doing Less and Having More: Five Easy Steps for Discovering What You Really Want - And Getting It . . . Marcia Wieder

Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life from the Inside Out . . . Richard Carlson

What's the Rush?: Stepping Out of the Race, Freeing Your Mind, Changing Your Life . . . James Ballard

Stop Screaming at the Microwave: How to Connect Your Disconnected Life . . . Mary Loverde

Create a Celebration: Ideas and Resources for Theme Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions . . . Ellen M. Pals

Rituals for Our Times: Celebrating, Healing, and Changing Our Lives and Our Relationships . . . Evan Imber-Black and Janine Roberts

Journey of Gratitude (Writing a Gratitude Journal) . . . Ann Lasater

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© 1999 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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