Do what you’ve always done. That’s my trusty bit of advice to people unsure of their creative path in life. But I’ve realised there’s an appendage to that. Do what you’ve always done, but…
Forget what you were always told.
If you grew up being told you were great at maths, forget it. Loads of people are better than you. People said you were pretty? Get over it. Time fades all flowers. Always told you weren’t a natural athlete? Screw that – what percentage of people are? All information others hold on you is partial, biased or immediately goes out of date.
No one knows who you can be.
Regular readers will know I spend too much time on YouTube, and I recently watched this talk by Trinny Woodall. Trinny is a famous TV stylist in the UK, best remembered for a hit TV show about 15 years ago. She’s everywhere at the moment, because she’s launched a new make-up range and is generally working very hard.
Have a look at the first couple of minutes of this:
Trinny’s an alcoholic and a cocaine addict (obviously clean at the moment). She was sent to boarding school at six and a half years old, and there were other addicts in the family. So, when she first received treatment, she says she tried to work out how it had happened. She kept asking ‘why’ – what’s caused this? Where did it come from? And her therapists told her:
Don’t be concerned with ‘why’. It doesn’t matter where it came from. Just focus on living a healthy life.
Of course, when confusing or chaotic things are happening, we want to know why; it’s natural. But do we always need to know why? If the question is simply ‘How can I feel better and do better today?’ beware of follow-on questions. ‘Who was I five years ago?’ won’t help you with the immediate problem in hand, even less: ‘Who did people say I was, 20 years ago?’
Don’t get me wrong, asking those questions in conjunction with the latest version of yourself might help with other problems, such as ‘Should I really take that relative’s opinion seriously?’ and ‘How can I prove my teacher they were wrong about me?’ but in terms of making substantial, positive change — stop looking backwards and stop looking to others.
Forget what they said about you
You don’t need to give your traits, negative or positive, real or imagined, much of your energy. Yes, in the case of the addiction example, it may be there forever – but that’s a dark passenger, it’s not you. Everything can pass, you can be someone else tomorrow.
No one’s an expert on you, in fact the question doesn’t even make sense to ask. You are not a finished specimen, you’re changing with every passing moment.
Stop wasting time dwelling on how you got here, and just focus on how great you can be today.
Write down four things that you were told about yourself when you were growing up – two good, two bad. Next to each, write down a compelling reason they aren’t quite accurate anymore. Then cross the whole thing out and go for a walk.