Uncertainty…it’s what’s for breakfast.

More wisdom from Zen Habits
This is a guest post from Jonathan Fields, author of “Uncertainty:Turning Fear and Doubt into fuel for brilliance –

Uncertainty. It’s a terrifying word.

Living with it, dangling over your head like the sword of Damacles, day in day out, is enough to send anyone spiraling into a state of anxiety, fear and paralysis.

Like it or not, though, uncertainty is the new normal. We live in a time where the world is in a state of constant, long-term flux. And, that’s not all. If you want to spend your time on the planet not just getting-by, but consistently creating art, experiences, businesses and lives that truly matter, you’ll need to proactively seek out, invite and even deliberately amplify uncertainty. Because the other side of uncertainty is opportunity.

Nothing great was ever created by waiting around for someone to tell you it’s all going to be okay or for perfect information to drop from the sky. Doesn’t happen that way. Great work requires you to act in the face of uncertainty, to live in the question long enough for your true potential to emerge. There is no alternative.

When you find the strength to act in the face of uncertainty, you till the soil of genius.

Problem is, that kills most people. It leads to unease, anxiety, fear and doubt on a level that snuffs out most genuinely meaningful and potentially revolutionary endeavors before they even see the light of day. Not because they wouldn’t have succeeded, but because you never equipped yourself to handle and even harness the emotional energy of the journey.

But, what if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if there was a way to turn the fear, anxiety and self-doubt that rides along with acting in the face of uncertainty–the head-to-toe butterflies–into fuel for brilliance?

Turns out, there is. Your ability to lean into the unknown isn’t so much about luck or genetics, rather it’s something entirely trainable. I’ve spent the past few years interviewing world-class creators across a wide range of fields and pouring over research that spans neuroscience, decision-theory, psychology, creativity and business.

Through this work, a collection of patterns, practices and strategies have emerged that not only turbocharge insight, creativity, innovation and problem-solving, but also help ameliorate so much of the suffering so often associated with the pursuit of any creative quest.

Here are 5 starter-strategies to help get you going:

1. Reframe.

We tell ourselves stories all day long. I’m skinny. I’m fat. I’m talented. I’m stupid. This is genius. This is awful. I will succeed. I will fail. I’m terrified and anxious. I’m confident and proactive. It turns out, the storylines we create around a particular circumstance are far more determinative of success than the circumstance itself. They affect not only our willingness to act, but the quality of our ideas and solutions.

If you create a story that empowers action and innovation, that’s great news. Unfortunately, our brains have a strong bias toward negativity, leading most of us to create stories around circumstances that require action in the face of uncertainty that are more likely to paralyze and stunt creativity than fuel action.

Reframing is a process that asks you to suspend negative storylines, explore if the story you’re telling is the only one and, if not (which is inevitably the case), construct or frame a new storyline that empowers you to experience an uncertain circumstance not as a prime for failure and inaction, but as a signpost for meaning and opportunity.

For example, if you’re disabling storyline is around the risk of failure, instead of just asking “what if I fail?” and creating a doomsday scenario, you also ask “how will I recover, what if I do nothing and what if I succeed?” Then build new stories around those questions.

2. Practice Mindfulness.

Reframing is an immensely powerful tool in the quest to lean into the unknown. But it also requires a certain equanimity; the ability to pull back and see what’s really going on, re-center, then breath into that uncomfortable place long enough for amazing things to bubble up. Over time, a daily mindfulness practice goes a long way toward equipping you to do just that.

Plus, it cultivates the sense of persistent grounding that makes living and acting in a world where there is no new normal far more enjoyable. And it trains you in the practice of dropping thoughts, among those, destructive, limiting-beliefs.

3. Exercise Your Brain.

We’ve all seen the research on exercise and health, weight loss and disease prevention. But, did you know that certain approaches to exercise also have a profound effect on your brain?

Daily cardiovascular exercise, for example, especially with high-intensity bursts mixed in can improve mood, executive function, decision-making and creativity and decrease anxiety and fear. The latest research even reveals the possibility that exercise can grow new brains cells, something that until only a few years ago, was thought to be impossible. It’s also strongly correlated with decreases in anxiety and increases in mood, which are directly connected to improved creativity and problem-solving.

4. Singletask.

Multitasking is out. Turns out this badge of honor from the ’90s is more fiction than fact. Our brains don’t multitask, they just rapidly switch between tasks, sometimes fast enough for us to believe we’re doing many things at once. Problem is, every time we switch, there is a “ramping cost” in your brain, it takes anywhere from a few second to 15 minutes for your brain to fully re-engage. This makes you feel insanely busy, but simultaneously craters productivity, creativity and increases feelings of anxiety and stress.

Multitasking also requires you to hold a lot of information in your working memory, which is controlled by a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). But the PFC is also responsible for will-power, and for keeping fear and anxiety in check. Multitasking increases the “cognitive load” on the PFC, overwhelming it and effectively killing it’s ability to keep fear, anxiety and the taunt of distraction at bay.

Simple solution–just say no. Do one thing at a time in intense, short bursts.

5. Get Lean.

Instead of creating in a vacuum, explore the possibility of bringing a “lean” or “agile” approach to your creative process. Focus on maximum learning, create the simplest version of your idea possible, then bring a select group of those who’d potentially enjoy it into the process earlier in name of soliciting and integrating input into the next iteration. This not only minimizes waste, it changes the psychology of creation by adding more certainty earlier in the game and encouraging consistent, incremental action.

These five strategies and practices can change the way you experience the creative process in a profound way. They’ll not only allow you to tap a reservoir of previously hidden creativity, they’ll also allow you to experience any creative endeavor with a far deeper sense of equanimity and joy.

I just can’t leave it alone!

Remember the post about the mixed media piece I did from the book, “Taking Flight” by Kelli Rae Roberts?  I wasn’t thrilled with it because there were too many colors going on and the colors I’d chosen weren’t making me happy either.  I’m definitely a novice when it comes to color mixing.

But still, I couldn’t just leave it as is and move on – I had to try to improve it somehow- that, or completely cover the canvas with gesso.

I attempted to play down some of the colors by adding more blue to it and I was ok with that but still not lovin’ it.  I usually take pictures of the art-making process to help me remember what steps I’d taken along the way and I’d done that with this piece also.

After adding more blue and a couple of highlights and before covering it and starting over I decided to drop the image into Photoshop to see what I could do to change it in that way.

Here are the results.

I know I keep talking about filters but I just think being able to see something in a completely different light can be helpful.  These changes are easy to make and very forgiving – since you’re only working on the digital file while leaving the original art intact.

Check it out…

Absolutely!

Isn’t this a cool greeting card?

I never send the greeting cards I buy – I keep them around as inspiration.  This one is perfect for the way I’ve been feeling lately.

I feel like I’m on the verge of a breakthrough – or a breakdown

its hard to tell really.

But regardless…I’m on the verge of something – that’s certain.

I haven’t quite figured out what the triggers are but I know that feeling very well.

The racing heart when you hear about something that piques your interest.  The butterflies in the pit of your stomach when you read something that makes your heart sing.  Viewing art that you feel directly connected to…

You get the idea.

I’ve been having that feeling a lot lately.

And I’m pretty sure its not indigestion.

Stay tuned…

(greeting card by curly girl store.com)

Orange you glad…

Orange you glad you’re an artist?

aRtist’s R DifFereNt.

Unlike anybody or anything else.

Distinct.

Unusual.

Eclectic.

Quirky.

Colorful.

Creative.

Inventive.

Fun loving.

Adventurous.

We’re a special breed.  And it’s all good.

But what would the world be like if everyone had artistic tendencies?

I don’t mean to say everyone would necessarily be artists but what if everyone had the capacity to see things artistically?

Can you imagine it?

My first thoughts are – No more litter!  Or if someone did litter, the person following immediately behind them would quickly scoop up the goods to use in a collage!  And then that person would chase the litterer down and give them a stern talking to, even if it meant chasing them a really, really long way (even if they were on their lunch break) and after having to repeatedly honk the horn at multiple red lights (getting attention from everyone) before getting them to finally agree to pull over. Hypothetically.  (It’s a long story).

Everyone would have nice yards.  Every person would want their landscapes to reflect their love of nature.  And everyone would love nature.  They’d probably write poems about it.

There would be no more crazy drivers because everyone would be slowing down to look at the cool clouds or rainbows or fall colors, or spring wildflowers, etc., etc., .  I suppose this behavior could cause more fender benders – but at least everyone would be traveling at slower speeds on impact!

People would be more healthy ‘cause there’d be no more need for fast food since we’d be more interested in the quality and taste and not the convenience  – due to the fact we’d no longer be in a rush because of the slower driving/cloud watching thing. Hey, it could happen!

There’d only be quality television to watch.

There’d be flea markets and art shows and bake sales and talent shows and fundraisers… every weekend in every town! 

There’s be no more ugly billboards littering the landscape.

Jobs would be more fun because everyone would have great ideas.  Note:  I didn’t say more would get accomplished – I said they’d be more fun.

Kids would grow up feeling encouraged because people would be interested and open to their ideas and their uniqueness; not much reason to rebel. Now there’s a game changer.

There’d be no more wars.  No explanation needed.

 Orange you glad you’re an artist?

We’re the lucky ones. 

It’s too bad everyone can’t see the world the way we do.

But since they can’t …maybe it’s up to us to help them along.

Maybe we could drop a hint, give a nudge, put a little fun in their day…

They need all the help they can get!

🙂

ARt fOr aRt’s sAkE

“L’art pour l’art” (translated as “art for art’s sake”) is credited to Theophile Gautier (1811-1872), who was the first to adopt the phrase as a slogan.  Gautier was not, however, the first to write those words; they appear in the works of Victor Cousin, Benjamin Constant, and Edgar Allan Poe.  For example, Poe argues in his essay, “The Poetic Principle” (1850), that…

We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem’s sake…and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force – but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem’s sake.

I don’t know about you but I have to remind myself of this – a lot.

It is too easy to get caught up in the making of art when all we should really be concerned with is making art.  And, as they say, the rest will follow.  That is such a hard thing to do sometimes.  To really let loose.  To not worry or obsess.  To play.

Regularly.

When did we forget how??

So today, in the spirit of playing, (and on my lunch break – ’cause I play responsibly) – I created a paper boat.  You know, just like the ones we used to make as kids?  Well, like everyone else used to make apparently.  I, on the other hand, had no idea how to make one.  I’ll admit it.  I had to look for instructions on-line. Not kidding.  And please don’t ask me how long it took to figure those out!  I must have spatial reasoning disorder or something!

Anyway…

Here it is.

My paper boat.

Hey, I play hard for my blog!!

Note the ‘reflection’ in the water!

🙂