Infinite Options, Finite Self

Have you ever heard that phrase, “drowning, not waving”? It can feel that way when you’ve bitten off lots of projects, but you’re struggling to complete any of them. Suddenly, you can feel like you’re under water, barely coping with the self-imposed workload. That alone can begin to erode your confidence and optimism. You lose motivation because of the enormity of the tasks you’ve set yourself.Right now, I have projects galore. It’s honestly insane. The sheer volume of tasks waiting for me to do them can start to feel oppressive. No matter what you get done, you feel guilty for not doing something else that needs doing. It’s a problem all of my own making. Like the hapless coyote chasing the seemingly turbo-charged roadrunner, the suffering can stop in an instant, simply by giving up.This situation has lead me to a realisation. I used to think that the number of things I could take on was limited by the time and money I had to devote to them. To a first approximation, this has indeed been true for much of my life. I was working very hard just to get by, so any other creative pursuits were a luxury, constrained by how much spare time I had left over and the extent of my disposable income, which has been extremely limited at times. As I get older, I’ve come to realise that there are many other limits, most of which I was able to completely ignore before, because time and money constraints predominated. These days, I encounter the limits of my courage, confidence, mindset for growth and learning, my available brain power, how long I can stay focused, the speed at which I can learn and the temptations of doing other easier things instead. Also, I increasingly bump into my body’s finite energy, which is a function of my health.Everybody ages and working hard for decades takes its toll on your general health. You’re not as energetic and abusable as you were in your twenties and thirties. Now, I find I have to ration my energy carefully. The decades of neglecting my well being, in order to pull all-nighters, work stressful sixty hour weeks or fly all over the planet, for the good of the company I depended on to get by, means that I don’t have the resilience and reserves of energy I once had. They’ve been depleted.The money and tools or materials you need to attempt the things you want to do is a difficult, but sometimes solvable problem. So is finding the time. Through unfortunate circumstances, I found myself with both the time and money to try to do some new things, this year. Although painful, it actually presented me with the rare opportunity to invest in myself and my family, so that we could attempt some personal moonshots. I’m grateful for that. It’s not an opportunity that comes often, in a lifetime.The sudden appearance of such an opportunity tempts you to try to play catch up, so you launch twenty or thirty pent up projects you’ve always wanted to do, at the same time, simply because the opportunity to do so comes so rarely and you feel compelled to seize it, when it does. Who’s to say that’s wrong? I feel if you can do something that pushes you to grow personally, then you should. It’s your duty. The only down side is you don’t know where any of it will lead, if anywhere at all. All you know is that you’re engaged in personal development and growth.It’s all on you.That’s a heavy realisation. If you don’t reach your goals, it’s because you weren’t tenacious or persistent enough, not focused enough, not resilient enough, not brave enough, not optimistic enough, not fast enough or bright enough, not healthy enough, not confident enough, not as good as you needed to be, fast enough. Your failure, a prerequisite for your learning, will be all your own.The constant fear is that the opportunity will evaporate as quickly as it appeared, before you achieve any traction. Not body wants to blow a golden opportunity.For all my life, I’ve felt ready, willing and able to attempt ambitious projects, but was usually without the means to start them. What happens when you find you have the means, but maybe aren’t as ready, or willing, or able as you thought you were and need to be? All you can do is address whichever ones you’re not. You can make yourself ready to climb your personal mountain by developing disciplined work habits. Just show up regularly and move forward by intentional, small steps. Heck, that’s hard enough. You can increase your ability to work hard on your dreams by addressing your health. There are bound to be things you can do to arrest the decline resulting from aging and neglect. Time spent restoring your mind and body is time well spent. If you find you’re lacking the will, then any time you spend working out your “Why” – the motivation for wanting to do these new things in the first place – can yield moments of clarity.In short, the first project you need to get done is to work on yourself. Address your own fears, doubts, fatigue and physical state. Failure to do so will continually tax your many other projects. Usually, you’ll have to work on yourself while you’re working on your other projects. Be aware that this is what’s slowing you down, though.Another new realisation that comes from having the opportunity to try and learn new things is that getting good at what you’re learning takes much longer than you think. This is why good work habits are so important. You just have to put in the work and accept that your initial efforts are going to disappoint you, perhaps for years and years, before things start to gel. There just isn’t any way around this. You’re going to suffer with how badly you suck at what you want to do well for quite a while, multiplied by the number of new things you’re attempting to learn. The pain and struggle is real and praise or appreciation for your efforts is in the far future, if it ever comes at all. Some artists die long before the public comes to appreciate their work.I’ll end this post with a quote from self-described rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone:“If you don’t depend on running the rat race for some corporate boss in order for your family to have health insurance, you’re suddenly free to innovate, create, and become an economically powerful entrepreneur yourself.” It’s not that done a deal, though. Entrepreneurial work is hard. Innovation and creation are even harder. Being free to try is only clearing the first obstacle. Getting it done will mean facing your personal limitations like never before. Once you have the means and opportunity to recreate and upgrade yourself, then and only then the real struggle begins.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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