Sometimes it feels like there are too many things to change. You face obstacles without allies to support you. You are overwhelmed with choices of what to do and this is over-laid with a gnawing doubt that none of what you do really matters. It feels like you’re pushing back a tide, with nothing you can control or influence. You don’t feel you’re making a difference. Defeated you can snap and growl like a cornered wild animal or you can slide into a hopeless pit of despair and despondency. You can anesthetize you self with drink, drugs, material gain or whatever hedonistic consumption you want but all this does is further trap you. You fall into a cycle of passivity where the treadmill of paid work is needed to pay for the compensating treats that numb the angst and distract you from those buried ambitions to change the world. You await the white knight or miracle to get you on your way but nothing happens. There is though a different approach…
Start small, start with your own life. Take time to marvel at the incidental pleasures and moments in life. Enjoy a a joke, a story, a sky, your walk to the office. Enjoy the satisfaction of completing a task well, however inconsequential. Focus on the design of everyday things whether that’s you socks, pen or coffee cup. Take a moment to smell the coffee rather than thoughtlessly gulping it down. Take pleasure in the everyday rituals whether that’s making you’re breakfast porridge or riding the bus to work. Take note of what’s around you – the pattern of the bus seats, the view from the window.
Then start to changes things. Maybe the rubbish instant coffee you can hardly taste could be replaced by making fresh ground coffee or leaf tea? Where you have control make small sustainable changes that freshen things up that have got stale. Do things that slow you down and make you more mindful of the moment. Switch from cheap ballpoints to a writing with a fountain pen; change what you read replacing the daily shock-horror newspaper with a more in depth journal; tune into a different radio station; park you car in a different spot; walk a different route; go a to quite bar or cafe and eat something different that’s fresh and local.
The next step is to create. Pick one thing that you want to explore, to learn, and start. The aim is to become the best you can at one thing you care about, one thing that makes a difference, however small. What you pick is up to you. It could be coding, drawing, counseling, teaching, writing, cleaning, building, gardening, repairing, decorating, or caring. But how do you pick this one thing? Aren’t there books you could stack to create a pathway to the moon on this? Yes, but here are here are some guiding principles that will help you:
- Do not over analyze the problem. Let your subconscious mind do some of the work.
- Randomness rarely is. A chance thought, idea, observation, or conversation may have less of the accidental about it as our minds can often tune into things without conscious effort. These repeat observations tell us about what we’re interested in.
- What do you feel compelled to do? What is your own itch that you need to scratch that could also be of use for others?
- Do not dismiss small or seemingly inconsequential ideas. As long as it makes the world around you just a little bit better then it is worthwhile.
- It must be something active and not passive consumption. Getting better at Angry Birds isn’t a suitable goal. Anything that’s self-serving or hedonistic won’t be a positive change.
- Whatever you chose needs to be something that means you have to learn. Learning is where we grow. Pick something where you can see and measure your learning and progress towards mastery.
- A low cost and time threshold to start is essential. You’re starting small. So if you goal is, say, to create beautiful art don’t start with large scale oil canvases but with a pocket sketchbook you can get going with in a moment. Ideally, something that you can build into your daily routine is good. Overtime you will want to displace other less important things (TV, Angry Birds) as it becomes a bigger part of your life.
What small creative change are you making to your world?