I know love is a strong word, but I seriously enjoy Netflix.
Except, sometimes I really hate it. Sometimes I spend way too long watching my favorite shows and I don’t get anything done that day. I feel unaccomplished.
Those are the times that I indulge too much, but sometimes I spend all my time working and even though I feel accomplished, it still leaves me unhappy.
No matter how much you enjoy something or how much closer it gets you to your goals, too much of it can turn that pleasure into gluttony and guilt, or boredom and frustration.
You can even get tired of pizza. That’s right, I said it.
So, I have developed methods to ensure that I am balancing accomplishment and indulgence without leaning too far in one direction.
A balanced life is a happy life.
Balance Is All In The Measurements
To be happy, accomplished, and still indulge a little to avoid burning out, you have to have balance.
But to have balance, you first have to measure the objects on your scale.
What do you spend your time doing throughout the week?
For one week, I want you to keep a journal and write down what you are doing, and how much time you spend doing it.
Write down how much time you spend with friends, with family, reading, watching television, working, even sleeping. Everything.
Tweaking The Formula
Once you have recordings of roughly how much time you spend on different activities throughout the week I want you to think about where you dedicated too much time, and where you didn’t dedicate enough.
Remember, the goal isn’t to become an efficiency machine that works all day or an instant gratification addict that doesn’t accomplish anything.
The goal is a healthy balance.
On your list put a minus (-) next to anything you want to spend less time on, and a plus (+) next to anything you want to spend more time on. If you think you have a good amount of time allocated you can put a equal (=) next to the item.
Take into consideration how happy something makes you and how valuable it is to your goals.
There will be items on this list that you enjoy and also help towards your goals, mark these with an asterisk (*) as you will want to dedicate a decent amount of time to these.
Testing The New Balance
Now you know what things you spend your time on, and how you’d like to tweak them.
Test out your new formula for one week.
Rinse and repeat these three steps as often as necessary to keep your life balanced between accomplishment and enjoyment.
I’ve been going to the gym for about three years now. Wait, that’s a half truth
The first two years down my muscle building journey I was inconsistent. I would work out with a strict regimen for three months, then I would fall off track and miss weeks at a time. I repeated that cycle over and over again without seeing the results I really wanted to.
Now that I have been going to the gym consistently for just over a year I have seen results that I never imagined possible. I still have a long way to go, but now I see constant improvement. I can lift more, run more, and my body looks completely different.
Last year I decided that I wanted to become a never ending fountain of ideas. I wanted to have a hundred ideas to overcome any obstacle that came my way.
Heck, I wanted to be able to spout off ideas to solve the problems of everyone around me. And I had learned my lesson from the gym. Consistently exercise a skill, and it grows.
So I created my idea exercise regimen and I’ll share it with you now.
Write at least 10 ideas every day.
They don’t have to be good!
I say that first because every time I mention this to someone they always say “How on god’s green earth could you come up with ten ideas in a day?”
When I tell them that it usually takes me about 12-15 minutes they look at me like I’m some sort of super human.
But then I tell them some of the ideas I’ve come up with and their face changes.
Don’t worry if your ideas are bad. In the first six months of going to the gym you are going to be weak compared to everyone around you. Your muscles haven’t developed yet. It’s the same with your idea muscle.
The point is to consciously make your brain struggle every single day. If you want to become a never ending source of ideas, especially good ideas, it’s going to take time.
One of my ideas recently was a themed restaurant where the waitresses/waiters get paid really well, and they decide how much they tip the customers.
Is the idea interesting? Sure.
Is it good? Nope.
Always be on the search for problems.
This is something that you need to train yourself to be vigilant in. Every time you hear someone complain about something, think of ways to fix it. Even if they’re bad ideas; even if you’ll never follow through.
You need to be able to apply your idea skills to real world situations and just like anything else, that takes practice.
If you hear someone complain— or notice something that doesn’t seem to work correctly—just write it down and make it the subject of your next 10 ideas.
After enough practice with this, ensuring that you do your 10 ideas every day, you will be well on your way to become a fountain of ideas.
Combine your ideas.
This is a crucial skill to learn if you ever want to create something new.
Combining to totally different ideas, or objects, will provide weird and sometimes very amazing results. I learned this concept from a book called ‘Creative Thinkering.’
A lot of history’s greatest ideas have happened this way, whether the person has realized it or not.
The natural way this happens is you think about something for a long time, then when you stop focusing on it and you mind wanders to something else, that other focus causes a eureka moment.
A man named Christopher Sholes was watching a piano recital when he noted that each key of the piano produces one specific note. He thought, why not create machine that writes in the same manner, with each key creating a specific letter.
Through the combination of playing a piano and writing, the first type writer was born.
I believe that you can improve any skill with practice, and you ability to create quality ideas on a whim is no exception.
If you follow these tips consistently, you will see results.
First you will be able to come up with ideas with ease, whether they are good or bad. Then you will start to come up with quality ideas, or novel ideas more and more often. Then you will start to come up with truly innovative ideas and you will naturally have the motivation to start executing them.
Just like my body has grown stronger from training at the gym, my creativity has improved drastically with this idea training.
Don’t wait for some amazing idea to hit you, start training your creativity and light your own light bulb.
I’ve never met most of my heroes, mentors, or anyone I look up to. I have only seen them on the other side of my computer screen or in the pages of their books.
Creative and ambitious people are hard to come by in real life. Without ever seeing this type of person face to face, it’s easy to understand why a lot of people don’t believe it’s possible to turn their ideas into reality. You think “I’ve never met anyone who has done it, so what are my chances?”
Well, I recently got the opportunity to meet someone who has shown me that we don’t just have to admire the stars, we can reach out and grab them.
Dori the Giant. A small girl with BIG ambition.
When she agreed to an interview I was ecstatic. This was someone who had been in newspapers, worked with major corporations, been featured in art exhibits, spear headed community projects, and done more freelance work than I could imagine. She had truly put time into her craft, pursued her passions and continually marched towards a life of fulfillment and meaning.
During this interview and subsequent conversations I learned what the reality of accomplishing your dreams can look like, the good, the bad, the ugly, and how to get through it all.
Here are the 8 things I learned from Dori the Giant.
1) Find ANY excuse to be creative.
This was a subject that she touched upon often throughout our conversation.
“I was going into a class called “Creative photography” and the teacher warned me that it was very technical and not creative even in the slightest, but I would find ways to be creative in my assignments.”
This theme is pervasive throughout Dori’s work. She turns the everyday, into the extraordinary.
People aren’t going to approach you randomly and give you reasons to be creative or try something new.
You have to take every excuse you can find and turn it into an avenue for creativity, whether it has a purpose or whether it’s just for fun. Even if it’s just for fun, you are going to be learning new things along the way that will improve your skills and increase your confidence.
2) Look at things from every angle.
One thing that I noticed is that she never tied her self down to one perspective on a subject. Every time we spoke about an idea or project, she always looked at it from high, low, left, right and everywhere in between.
This wasn’t just a way of approaching creativity though, it seemed to be her way of approaching life.
“…It has it’s pros and cons. That’s sort of like my motto and I often start off my conversations like that. I think my friends get mad because I say it so often, but it opens up the conversation to both perspectives so I like it.”
The ability to step back and look at something from all angles is one of the most resourceful traits someone can incorporate into their personality.
Forcing yourself to look at all sides can be the key to finding the silver lining in any bad situation. If you get fired, you won’t only think about the stresses of finding a new job and how embarrassed you are, you will also think about all the time you have now to pursue your dreams.
3) Surround yourself with creative and support people.
“For the past four years I’ve slowly been trying to collect a decent circle of creative friends, or friends who believe really strongly in my art. It makes all the difference. Gotta keep ’em close and pay it forward.”
They say you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If the people you surround yourself with don’t believe in you, how can you believe in yourself?
Surrounding yourself with other ambitious people will give you the boost you need when you run out of steam. You want friends that you can go to for advice, tips, and support.
There are plenty of studies that show the effects that people close to you can have on your habits and mentality. I remember reading one study showing that someone could gain healthy habits and lose weight just by being around other fit people. Never discount the effect that your environment has on you.
If all of your friends are negative, it can be hard to stay positive. If they are all lazy, you will have difficulty being motivated. When you meet someone who has qualities that you admire, try to engage more with that person and those qualities will cultivate in yourself.
This brings us to the next thing I learned from Dori.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or help others.
Asking for help from other people seems to be a part of Dori the Giant’s natural process when turning her more unbelievable ideas into a reality.
“Even if I have the time and money and motivation for a project, I often don’t know where to begin. I usually start with Google searches and move onto videos and eventually I start to e-mail people asking questions.”
But you can’t always just take, sometimes you have to give as well.
“Often, people don’t like to just give away their most valuable information, especially when it comes to a method of art that is bringing in money or making them distinctively different. I know I’m the same way – I wouldn’t give away my best secrets to just anyone! It’s always good to offer something in return, even if it’s just dinner!”
You’d be surprised how helpful people will be if you just ask. I convinced Dori to come out to this interview by offering her coffee. She was so nice that when we met up she wanted to buy me coffee. This spirit of give and take will help you to develop those oh-so important connections you will need if you plan on making your stake in this world.
But don’t focus all of your attention on making connections.
“Connections are everything, and even though everybody wants all these great connections, you should also focus on your own assets and turn YOURSELF into a connection that other people will want to have.”
5) Learn what makes you tick and use it to your advantage.
When I asked Dori what she had done in the past to improve her situation, she had an answer that was just as creative and unique as she is.
“I got a lava lamp and it helped. Seriously. It helped with motivation. One thing I’ve found that motivates me are the little details of my environment and my comfort: mood lights, lamps, candles, scents, the right music, chocolate, and of course Facebook chat. Everybody is different so I suggest everyone experiments with their own inherent/stubborn psychological routines. Get to know yourself and be your own friend.”
When you are trying to find out what motivates you, gets you in the creative mood, or helps you overcome obstacles you should remember that everyone has different preferences towards rewards, inspirations, motivations, triggers, and routines.
A trick I use to figure out what will invigorate me and what will suck the energy out of me is my “Invigorate/Debilitate T-Chart.” I write down everything I do throughout the week and split it into these two categories. It helps me put into perspective exactly what I can add or cut from my life to increase motivation.
You can try my method or come up with one that works for you because, hey, we are all different!
6) It’s okay to have a down day as long as you don’t beat yourself up.
When I asked her “Have you ever had periods in your life where you lost the creative “Spark” or inspiration? How did you overcome them?” she gave me an answer that you might not expect.
“Oh yeah, many, many times! To be honest, I rarely ever “overcome” it in the sense of fighting it. I overcome it in the sense of simply accepting it and spending my slump days playing video games, going out, watching some movies/shows and trying NOT to stress about how unproductive I’m being. Eventually my brain resets and goes “Hey, I feel like myself again! Let’s do some art!” And you know what? Often I come back feeling even more motivated – which is another reason I don’t hesitate to just let myself have down days (and enjoy them!).”
If you are in a slump and you spend the whole day feeling guilty about it, you will end the night depressed and disappointed. That in turn can turn into a cycle, negativity begets more negativity.
So how do you break the cycle? Realize that off days are impossible to avoid completely, and use them as an opportunity to take your mind off of things! Maybe your brain is trying to give you a hint saying “You’ve been working to hard, I need a break!”
The next time you have an off day, enjoy yourself and let go of the guilt.
7) Don’t fear change, it’s a good thing.
“The only thing about me that doesn’t change is how much I always change.”
If I said to you that in fifteen years your life was going to be the exact same as it is right now, same friends, same job, same living space… would that make you happy?
I’m guessing that hypothetical situation would be depressing.
If that is the case, then why do so many people fear change? Staying the same is far more depressing than even the worst outcomes of change. We were made to grow and explore, so get out there and get rid of your fear of change.
8) Get off your butt and do it before someone else does.
If you have a passion, an idea, or a goal you had better get out there now and start working on it. One of the things that Dori left me with was the very true statement that if you don’t do it, and soon, someone else will.
“…maybe by the time I get the money someone else will have thought of it too and created it, and that’s just how it is. Original ideas need to be executed quickly – you don’t wanna look like a copycat.”
I know you have something that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time now but for some reason, (lack of money, lack of motivation, lack of confidence) you haven’t gone out there and done it. Well take this as your cue. It’s time.
You may not see people in your everyday life that inspire you, but I hope this has inspired you.
If you want to start down the path to creativity, fulfillment and ambition you have to do something, or anything; because well… her GIF says it all.
I still feel this way sometimes but I’ve learned how to push through it with one simple question that I ask myself every morning.
Do I want to be a consumer, or a producer?
Logically, if you feel an emptiness inside you, you are missing something that will make you feel complete again. I learned that this isn’t the case.
Instead of taking things in I started to pour everything out of myself. I poured out my heart, my emotions, my soul into my writing. It made me feel something that I hadn’t felt in a long time…
Downward spirals and never ending consumption will lead to guilt. It’s a cycle. You’re empty so you try to distract or satisfy yourself with movies, video games or food but it doesn’t change anything and the more you consume, the more guilty and empty you feel.
Pouring out what you have left in you into something, anything, can make you proud again. You have something to look forward to instead of just passing the time.
Think of anything you can put into the world today and start on it. Happiness is more about where you are going than where you are now.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to take things in.
You just have to find a balance. Someone who spends all day being creative and working is bound to burn out eventually. That can be just as bad.
I feel that most people are unbalanced right now. As a society we have lost a lot of creativity and self-esteem. We think that we don’t have anything of value to add to the world, but imagine if people tried to live up to their full potential.
Imagine if they stopped trying to fill the void with material possessions, or distract themselves from it with movies, games and Facebook.
Writing in this blog and creating deeper connections with the people around me has helped me so much. I feel like I have something to offer the world again and although I go into slumps sometimes, I can pull myself out much quicker.
Maybe the void is meant to push you forward. I don’t know if I will ever be completely happy, but if I was, would I continue to push on?
I’ll probably never have to find out because the void is a part of me, and for now, I’ll pour out my soul from it.