After 2020, between Covid, a broken foot, and my husband losing all three of his remaining grandparents, I had been emotionally stuck in a rut and really struggled with depression. This created a hesitance to do anything productive, including my art. I got behind on several projects and wasn’t making any progress on other things- art projects and household projects. In 2021, I made a very conscious decision to change that, and began listening to books and podcasts that would hopefully help me manage my projects and time better. Each one offered a step in the right direction, but little did I know that putting some of these ideas together would change my outlook on life. I eventually realized that I now held the keys to unlock my own potential. The following blog post is my biggest takeaway from 2021.
After deciding I was going to get my “act together” in early 2021, sometime in the spring I listened (I’m an audiobook junkie) to “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. This book discusses the impact habits have on our lives and how they are created, good or bad. It also outlines several elements that help assist in desirable habit development. One of those elements is the idea of designing your environment to set yourself up for success. This had occurred to me some, like laying clothes out to wear the night before, but I had never reaped its full benefits. However, when I began to implement it, I quickly saw those benefits and their ripple effect on nearly every area of my life.
This idea encourages the reader to make completing the desirable task physically easy. Clearly labeled bins, designated areas for items, and making sure items are conveniently located for the task they are used for. This sounds pretty obvious and on its own was not really anything earth shattering. However, I have found that sometimes we overlook areas that could really use improvement because what we have set up currently seems to work. Or so we think.
My main studio space after an inexpensive facelift and reorganization. It’s much easier and enjoyable to come to work now.
A couple of years ago I listened to a book called the “War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. In it, the author talks about an idea he calls ‘resistance’. Resistance is the hesitation we have to completing a task or anything that we desire to do. The book specifically speaks of the things that cause resistance in creating art, but there are all sorts of other areas we experience resistance. At some point in 2021 I also heard a podcast that talked about looking at our pain points or struggles not just as areas we have failed and to lay around wallowing in self-pity over them but viewing them as an indicator of areas that need improvement. I somehow ended up coupling these two ideas together, and it made a very powerful team. Anything that creates resistance in us a pain point that can be looked upon not as something that is holding us back, but something that can be improved upon.
Think about it like this- imagine you are driving down the road, and the road is littered with small potholes. It’s a little rough and annoying, but the road is still passable. If this is a route you only take occasionally, you deal with them for the time being so you can get to your destination. But if this is your daily commute and you have to drive it twice a day, those potholes are going to get really annoying really fast. Before long you are going to dread (resist) your drive.
Let me be clear, these are not roadblocks. Roadblocks while large and frustrating, are relatively straightforward to navigate, as you already know that you are going to have to figure out a different route. You may be delayed a little, but you will more than likely still arrive at your destination. However, there is no avoiding the potholes, and they make us dread the journey. They wear on our nerves and our vehicles, until we have a breakdown and major repairs need to be made.
But instead of dreading our drive and complaining about the potholes, what would happen if one at a time, we repaired them? Even if you only fill one a week, the route will get smoother and smoother until you can travel it quickly. It doesn’t wear on your nerves or your vehicle. And you find you have more time and energy for other things, bigger and better things. And because the potholes are not slowing you down, instead of dreading the drive, you now actually look forward to it.
This is what James Clear meant about creating a physical environment that sets you up for success.
But how do we begin to fill those potholes in life? Those little annoying things that get under our skin and keep us from wanting to move forward with getting to our destination? The first step is to identify them using our resistance to them as a guide. Anything that makes you cringe and want to procrastinate a task is a pothole. The resistance you feel toward that task is the indicator. It can be as simple as dealing with the day’s mail, or as big as undertaking a large renovation or business project.
For example, I highly dislike hanging clothes in my closet. I know, it takes less than 5 min most of the time. However, I’ve always disliked this task and I didn’t really know why. When I employed some thought about why I resist this miniscule job, I realized two things- I don’t like fighting all the clothes in my closet and finding an appropriate style hanger for the item that needs hung seems like an impossible task. While I can’t do a whole lot about all the stuff in my closet (it’s a shared closet with my husband) I probably could use to get rid of a few things. But I didn’t have time or energy for a closet purge. Maybe another day. But what about finding a hanger? Instead of leaving the hanger where it was, I could put it in a designated location in the closet so I can quickly find the right type of hanger when it’s time to hang clothes up. Simple, quick, easy, and free. My kind of solution. While I may have not fixed all the potholes in the road, I fixed one, and that makes getting the task done just a little easier. And who knows, I may be a little more motivated to purge my closet when it’s easier to put things away.
Some of you are probably rolling your eyes because this seems like common sense. But to some of us who were not necessarily taught how to be efficient and organized, this simple mind set shift can be earth shattering. And one little step in the right direction gets the ball rolling. Fixing one pothole makes the trip that much smoother and gives you the chance to fix the next one. The road gets a little smoother, you pick up some speed and then you fix another one. And it keeps growing. As you go, you get better and better at identifying things that cause resistance and become better and better at fixing them. The trip then actually becomes enjoyable.
So, if you are like me and are looking for simple ways to improve your quality of life, I encourage you to examine the areas that cause you resistance closely. What do you resist doing? Why? Is it because of poor tool placement or organization? A skill that you lack? Maybe you have simply not taken the time to think through what the next steps are on a large project? Then figure out how to remedy that situation. Reorganize your workspace. Buy an organizational device if you need to. Take a class to learn the skill. Or cheaper yet, see if you can learn how to do it online. YouTube is like free mini skill share classes. Take 10-15 minutes and break that large project out into the steps needed to bring it to fruition, then take action on the next step.
There is no doubt about it that life will throw you roadblocks, and unfortunately sometimes we can’t do anything about them. But don’t put off your journey because of potholes. Go fill them and enjoy the trip!