At the beginning of each year, I make a plan.
The intention of this plan is to offer myself a macro-level target of how I want to feel, what I hope to accomplish, how I want to stretch myself, where I hope to travel, and then, after all that, how I plan to actually fund that ideal with the various business offerings and ideas I have.
The great thing about making this kind of plan is that it gives you something to aim for. Without something to aim for, the uncertainty and the infinite possibilities that laid out before us at all times become almost too much to bear (at least this is the case for a sensitive, worrisome soul like me.)
So yes, in January, Jason and I both made The Plan for the year, and I found that comforting. That is until about six weeks into 2017 when I looked around and began to notice that the foundation upon which this Plan had been built started to shift.
For one, Jason and I decided to get married (just a tiiiiiiny little curve ball I hadn't accounted for!) We also agreed to team up together on BuyOurFuture, something we had only tossed around as an idea before. More and more of those unforeseen things started to pop up and before I knew it, our circumstances had shifted. Our priorities had shifted. More travel had been booked. Motivation for certain projects had gained momentum while feelings about other projects had cooled. In other words, LIFE had happened to us (as it tends to do), and my big macro Plan was starting to seem pretty ill-suited to the circumstances I found myself in.
But this shouldn't surprise any of you, right? I'm sure many of you can relate now that we're almost halfway through 2017. This is how life works.of course We can't predict the future, so of course a plan we make in January needs to be adjusted come May to take into consideration new developments.
Now, normally I would agree whole-heartedly with this. In fact, any of you who've been getting these newsletters for months or years know that I'm no stranger to a good old-fashioned course-correction.
For some reason though, despite the ever-sharpening realization that this Plan of mine needed a major overhaul, this time around I stayed stubbornly on the same path. I found myself still desperately clinging to intentions that started to feel less and less aligned every day.
To offer up some specific context, here's what a big part of my plan for this year looked like — reinvesting time and energy into my hand-lettering work and resources. The Better Lettering Course is one of my best-selling products, I LOVE when people tell me it encourages them to express creativity they didn't know they had, and these days there's obviously no shortage of people hoping to practice their lettering skills.
Great! Or so I thought. The idea all along had been to focus my attention on updating the Better Lettering Course, creating my new iPad Lettering for Beginners course, and writing high quality content in the form of weekly tutorials to increase my sales, stabilizing Made Vibrant's monthly revenue a bit to balance out BuyOurFuture. From a business perspective, this plan is literally foolproof. I've already tested the revenue lift from adding content to a weekly lettering newsletter -- it consistently moves sales of the course.
So, still armed with my Plan, I buckled down to get the new course ready before we left for Italy, with the intention of spending May and June working on the content to attract new customers and lettering lovers who'd be interested in purchasing one or both courses.
The only problem? I'm no longer the same person who made the Plan five months ago. Heck, I'm not even sure I'm the same person I was five weeks ago before we left for Italy.
While on our trip (and, if I'm honest with myself, even before that) I could feel myself coming back to life again after a period of intense creative fatigue.
See, when I made my big 2017 Plan, the truth is that I was tired. I don't mean physically tired, I mean creatively and spiritually tired.
Bringing to life my digital mindfulness magazine Color Your Soul at the end of last year was incredibly rewarding, but it also required a level of introspection and creative production that I couldn't imagine. That, coupled with my daily art project where I was spending hours reflecting on my own life and expressing it on a daily basis, ultimately left me feeling burned out. Last year was a season of intense growth and creative production, and I think part of this 2017 Plan was my way of reaching for permission to take a step back and nurture projects that a) had already been for the most part created and b) required less soul-baring vulnerability.
But, with enough time and space to recharge, throughout the past month or so I've been able to feel myself missing that soul-baring work that is SO central to what makes me feel vibrant. Missing it A LOT actually.
That rich, messy space between personal growth and creativity is where my soul wants to live, it just needed a reboot to come back to it with a fresh perspective and renewed gratitude. I can now feel the pull of my art studio coming back to me. I'm aware again of those daily insights that were always revealing themselves to me last year — when I was open to them.
All of these shifts became even more apparent while we were traveling through Italy. Each new experience and smell and thought and conversation filled me up with inspiration. My soul was doing a happy dance imagining what art and writing and ideas might be created from it all.
Then we returned home and guess what was waiting for me: The Plan.
There it was enticing me with its comfort. ("You don't want to go back to that place of scary uncertainty, do you? Here's a nice, tidy plan you've already taken the time to lay out!")
There it was taunting me with its criticism. ("Can't you just follow-through completely on ONE thing you set out to do?")
There it was persuading me with its sunk cost bias. ("You've already invested all this time and effort… You don't want all that to be for nothing, do you?")
For all these reasons I told myself I needed to stick to The Plan, despite my intuition telling me it was time to course-correct.
Until, thankfully, I called upon the same lesson I've had to learn over and over and over again:
The pain we experience in our own evolution only comes from our resistance to letting go of what came before.
Maybe I was clinging so tightly to this path I'd mentally carved out because of the creative fatigue I mentioned. Maybe it was because I was sick of having to make yet another shift or course-correction, and I just wanted that sense of completion that I so rarely get when I'm evolving all the time. Or maybe it's because I had a sunk-cost bias that was holding me back from changing directions, feeling like I had wasted time and energy on something I was no longer going to see to fruition.
Whatever the reason, my spirit was now asking me to engage in a different pursuit, and I know from experience that my brightest life exists in listening to that request and letting it lead.
I don't regret making The Plan -- I needed it. I needed it so that my creative spirit could rest for a while, to grow stronger again and to gain some perspective. But, now she's back. She's well-rested, dialed in, and she's ready to find the next challenge that makes her feel vibrant and alive.
So it's time to write a new Plan, one that is better suited for this recharged soul.
The new plan is to make magic again.
To me that means writing more. Painting more. Having real conversations. Going deeper. Uncovering more. Seeking out new challenges. Sharing my daily experiences in a way that goes one step deeper.
It means re-committing to the idea that Made Vibrant as a business isn't just about teaching art, it's about BEING art. It's about using creativity to discover and RE-discover ourselves.
When I ask myself how I want to be spending my time in the immediate future — making lettering tutorial videos or sharing the deepest, realest parts of my ever-evolving experiences as a creative person — the next iteration of the Plan suddenly becomes abundantly clear.
I won't cling to a roadmap that no longer feels aligned with who I'm becoming.
Now... What lessons do I want to offer up to you from this experience and this latest shift of mine?
#1: PLANS ARE INCREDIBLY VALUABLE AS A PLACE TO *BEGIN*.
I'm still a big believer in planning because, as I said, it gives you something to aim for. Something -- even the wrong thing -- in my opinion is more valuable than standing still. Even the mis-steps and the dead ends teach us something. As the author Garrison Keillor says, "It's all material," and I believe that to be true about writing AND about life. Without my own experiment of trying this version of my Plan and having that feeling as a point of comparison, I wouldn't have the conviction that I have right now to rededicate myself to my art and more soulful content.
#2: DON'T LET YOUR LOYALTY TO A PLAN PROPEL YOU FURTHER DOWN A PATH THAT DOESN'T FEEL TRUE.
That doesn't necessarily mean give up before seeing a plan to its completion; it just means be honest with yourself when it's time to shift gears and then (here's the kicker) actually take steps to make that shift. Pay attention to the signs your intuition is trying to share with you about charting a new course. Recognize your sunk cost bias, and ask yourself if it's worth continuing down a path that will only be harder to shift the longer you're on it.
#3: ALLOW YOURSELF TO EMBRACE THE EVOLUTION.
Listen, in my opinion, if we're doing this whole human being thing correctly, then we're going to be changing all the time. Every six months I feel like I'm a new version of myself with slightly (or not so slightly) different wants and needs and desires and dreams. We have to honor that if we're really interested in living full-color, vibrant lives. Is it frustrating to constantly feel like you're in a state of flux? Well, yeah, but it's also what makes life fun and exciting. The sooner we embrace that, the more time we'll spend in alignment with what our souls truly want.
#4: HAVE SOME SELF-COMPASSION WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LEARNING THAT SAME LESSON OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
That last statement I made about "allowing yourself to embrace the evolution" — yeah, I've probably written a newsletter about that exact topic in different terms every six months for the past three years. And yet, every time I'm in the midst of another shift, I try to fight it. And I have to learn the SAME set of lessons all over again. The newest difference though? I'm no longer interested in beating myself up over it. With every new evolution, I'm able to pivot a little faster, with a little less guilt, with a little more self-compassion, and I know I'll probably continue to do that for the rest of my life. You too might have to relearn the same lessons, but as long as you're becoming more resilient and still finding your way back to your truth each time, I think that's all we can ask of ourselves.
So that's where I am. Riding the wave of this latest shift, rewriting The New Plan as I go.
I've given myself one week to plan the launch of the iPad Lettering for Beginners course (because, y'all, it's a badass course that teaches you every nook and cranny of my favorite digital art app Procreate app and it deserves to be shared.) But then I'm going to scrap my long-term content plan in order to transfer my limited time and attention back to creating what makes my heart happiest… The soulful, creative stuff. The never-ending journey to becoming vibrant. The always fascinating, usually uncomfortable lifelong process of designing our lives as we peel back the layers of ourselves.
I hope you'll still be right there with me as I figure it all out!