I hope that you were all still able to find moments of rest and joy this weekend, despite the shocking and deeply troubling news pouring in from around the world.
I, myself, was a bit frozen from it all.
In times where the suffering of others comes racing to the front lines of my head and my heart, continuing to create or share or do what I love sometimes feels so… cold. Insensitive. Trivializing.
So I spent the weekend checking off things from my to-do list, getting ready for our cross-country trek back East for the holidays (we leave tomorrow) and I made myself busy to avoid both the sadness and the guilt of being anything other than sad.
Then I came across this beautiful post by a favorite artist of mine, Emily McDowell:
All day I've struggled with what to say about Paris and Beirut and all of it. Even though it's kind of my job to say things, everything felt meaningless. And then I read this, by @jenpastiloff, who founded @girlpoweryouareenough:
"I don't know what a prayer is but I know how to love. The only thing I can think of right now, with the sun on my back, as I sit on my couch reading articles about Paris and Beirut and Turkey, is "I love you." So I decided that today is the day I'm dedicating to making other people feel better. Now, I know I'm not a magician (just a little bit of a witch) & I know I'm not God. But we ALL have the power to make someone feel good. Pick up the phone. Go hug someone. Write a letter. Smile at a stranger. Donate blood. Offer to help. Ask, "how may I serve?" Tell someone you love them. There are so many ways, and every one of us has the power to radically alter the day and life of another human. Go do that."
// We all know how to love. To paraphrase Dr. King, only love can drive out hate. // My painting style here is heavily influenced by@pamgarrison, who's amazing.#girlpoweryouareenough #jenpastiloff
As I read it, I thought to myself, “YES, I want to do that too. I want to DO SOMETHING that will pour love back out into the world in a time like this.”
But, moments later I was scrolling through my feed, on to another post, and then hours later I realized I hadn’t done anything at all.
That seed of a thought never turned into anything at all because I didn’t give it the action it needed to grow.
So, that’s what I want to talk to you about this week. Not in the context of the tragedies abroad, but just about why so many of us often have these wishes and desires to improve our lives, yet fall just short of taking action (myself very much included.)
Do you have this issue? Am I alone here?
How many times have you thought to yourself:
I want to be a better friend.
I want to make more time for my art.
I want to read more books.
I want to brush up on my Italian.
I want to travel the world.
I want to do something today to make someone else feel better.
How many times have you had that thought in your car at a stoplight, in bed before you fall asleep, after watching a touching video online, after having a conversation with a friend, after hearing someone inspiring speak?
And how many times has that thought then vanished into the ether without some sort of action to tether it to reality?
If we’re talking about me… it’s hundreds if not thousands of times.
There are so many things in my life that I WANT. Even things I know I need, things that I know will bring immense value to me, but inevitably I fall just short of putting those things into practice. Because it’s hard to change our everyday behavior without making at least one significant intentional action.
If you want to read more books, maybe that’s picking out one book a month and blocking out 30 minutes on your Google Cal with an alarm to your phone.
If you want to be a better friend, maybe that’s writing down the five friends that you want to have for life and sending one of them a letter each week for the next five weeks.
Whatever that aspiration is, if you want it to be real, you have to ACTIONIZE it. (Yep, I just made up a word. Actionize. But honestly, I’m surprised it doesn’t exist yet because I think we all need a LOT more actionizing in our lives.)
It may seem overly simple, but I believe THIS is the thing so many of us struggle with. We have dreams and ideas and goals and desires, but dreaming is so much easier than acting, isn’t it?
And yet I believe that if we can adjust our internal settings so that we’re just a little bit more biased to action, we can make some amazing things happen in our lives.
Yesterday morning I was in bed reading Essentialism, and the book was talking about giving yourself time and space to think. It suggested using an Out Of Office reply to curb your email monster, and I thought, Man, I should really put an auto-responder up for the month of December while I’m on creative hiatus. Just something to give myself the space to not feel beholden to my inbox when I’m supposed to be creating freely.
In the past, I would’ve had this thought and may or may not have acted on it later. But with this perspective fresh in my head, I dropped the book right then and there, opened my laptop and drafted the auto-response. I took one significant, intentional action to bring that desire to fruition. (And can I just say, it felt amazing! It was so satisfying to grab a potentially fleeting thought and take action on it.)
So.. here’s the how-to. Are you ready?
When you find yourself starting a statement with “I really wish….” or “I want to…” or “My life could use a lot more…” make sure that your next question is this:
What's ONE SMALL ACTION I can take in the next five minutes to bring this further into reality?
AKA How do I … actionize this aspiration?
Commit to asking yourself this question for the next week and see how satisfying it feels to act on all those tiny desires that pop into your head.
As for me? I still very much want to do something that will pour love out into the world in a time like this.
My one small action is this: I want you to email me with one thing you feel you're in need of right now, one thing I could help you with: Is it a vote of confidence? Some advice? A note of gratitude? A simple “I see you?”
Whatever it is that you need, you let me know and I’d love to spend the next few days replying and sending love to each one of you that needs it. It’s a simple act that may not stop wars or halt terrorism or end injustice, but it will mean that there’s a little more love in the world because of me and I hope that in return you all will think about spreading a little more love out there too.