Outcomes. They're super-important, sure. But what happens when being fixed on them negatively affects the quality of the work it takes to achieve them?
In my Yoga class, one of the most challenging poses is the seated forward bend. Excepting the flexible few, the rest of us puff and strain to get our heads to our knees only to end up with torn ligaments and ugly, rounded backs.
To avoiding an imitation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame we need to keep our backs straight and long. This way even those of us with short hamstrings can look graceful even though we are way off from achieving mastery of the pose.
Why then, do so many of us still opt for a passable impression of Charles Laughton in the 1939 classic?
The answer lies in our obsession with the outcome. The need to reach our knees with our head.
To let go of the head-to-knees goal, we first have to recognise forward-bending as a process of becoming; to understand that no amount of tugging will get our heads to our knees today.
We need to practice regularly with no guarantee that we will ever get our heads to our knees; to recognise that this is NOT the goal.
The goal is to lengthen in the pose; to be with the pose and see what needs to be let go in order to further the stretch.
The stretch is the goal.
Say goodbye to your creative hunchback
So what’s forward bending got to do with our creative practice? A lot, it turns out!
Like getting stuck in hunchback mode, when we get blocked with our work it's often because we are trapped in an idea of how we think it should turn out.
"...the root of fear is holding onto how we want things to be..."
Our fixation on a particular outcome makes us afraid of any other.
It’s this kind of fear that makes me reach for a pencil rather than a brush. I can be as bold or as subtle as I want with a pencil. I have been drawing all my life. When I pick up a pencil I am confident about what I can make it do.
Not so with paint. Paint surprises me, gets away from me, and challenges me.
Painting instills fear in me precisely because I can't control the way it comes out.
What happens when we allow delight to replace disappointment?
But if I can turn this fear on it's head, I become emboldened instead of disgruntled. Instead of disappointing me - if I allow it - painting has the capacity to surprise and delight me.
The only way we get away from this fear of disappointment is to accept from the get-go that if a project is worth doing, it will contain it's share of difficulties. And that experiencing difficulties is not evidence of failing but evidence of stretching.
Experiencing difficulties is not evidence of failing but evidence of stretching. (Click to Tweet!)
So, as in the forward bend, in order to stretch in our creative work we need to:
What might you let go of, in order to stretch?
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