Self-doubts are thieves.
They sneak into your mind, and they steal your self-confidence and your creativity.
It’s an awful feeling to stare at a blank page realising that you’re as empty at that page.
Sometimes life tests us.
Things don’t go exactly as planned.
The expected results are not coming.
The self-doubts lurk in.
And before we realise it, we are questioning everything.
I know the feeling.
I’ve been there often.
It still happens.
We all have moments of doubts and fear when we question what we do and who we are. I used to rely on self-reflection to find my way out of those moments. But in doing so, I was adding even more questions and making the hole bigger.
I was feeding my fear.
Now, when it happens, when the self-doubts arrive I ground myself in my rituals. I stop the thinking that is just feeding my self-doubts and rely on the habits and structures that I created when my self-confidence and my creativity were full and energised.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralysing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.” – Vincent van Gogh
Years ago I went to a conference about eyesight. Among the various information that I’ve learned that day, one really surprised me.
When we discuss eyesight and its related problems, we put most of our attention into our focal vision, yet it covers only 5 to 8 degrees out of the almost 180º of the human field of view.
We see most of the world through our peripheral view.
I think it has to do with our hunting heritage. If we want to snatch the prey, we must entirely focus on it.
The focal mode is almost exclusively visual, while the peripheral vision acts in concert with all the other senses. When we focus all our energy on the focal vision, we reduce our ability to perceive the world.
The other day I was talking with an old friend about the beginning of our careers almost two decades ago. He reminded me of the endless and boundaryless conversations we used to have at crazy times of the day or night. We were able to spend hours talking about impossible things and visionary stuff disconnected from reality. Though, a lot of great ideas that flew into our work came out of those conversations.
Unfortunately, because of their nature, nowadays those conversations can’t find space inside our work time. We are so focused on the outcome, the prey, that we put all our energy in the focal vision becoming blind to most of what’s happening around us.
This ability to have an extreme narrowed focus has surely improved our performances, but I believe it is affecting our creativity.
Those open conversations were our way of nurturing our peripheral vision.
Are you still able to find space for open and aimless conversations?
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” — C.G. Jung
We all want to be loved, liked and appreciated.
The desire to belong is one of the basic human needs.
Sometimes thou, this can get in the way of our ability to live fully.
Particularly at this moment in history, when we are all overexposed.
We begin to focus more on being, or I should better say appearing, good than on being real.
At least, this is what happened to me.
Growing up I’ve always been a good guy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing.
But at some point, I got stuck in that role.
I believed that being “the good guy” was the reason why people loved me.
So, I did that.
For the first thirty years of my life, I sealed any potential shadows away.
I wanted everyone to see only the lights.
Including me, and that’s the worse part.
I was deliberately ignoring my shadows.
But they didn’t go away just because I ignored them.
And in doing so, I was neglecting my wholeness.
It didn’t last.
You can’t sustain an entire life without substance, without being whole.
I had the opportunity to restart, and I started by acknowledging and taking care of my shadows.
It was nice to be good.
But it’s even better to be real.
“Who am I?” is one of the toughest questions we can ask ourselves.
Any answer we can think about is just an approximation.
It is like measuring the mass of a black hole in space.
By definition, we cannot observe black holes directly because nothing, including light, can escape from inside them.
Astronomers determine the mass of a black hole by measuring the impact they have on what’s around them — for example, measuring the orbit of the stars around the black hole or analysing how the gravity of the black hole affects the light of near stars.
We do the same when we have to answer the question “Who am I?”. Our essence has no form so we can’t measure it with objective parameters. This is why we define who we are by talking about the impact of our identity on our world; our work, our beliefs, our why, our role and so on.
I believe the only direct answer to the question “Who am I?” is “I”.
And even if I know that I will never find an answer that can satisfy my analytic mind, it is vital to keep asking that question and searching the answers.
P.S. I’m not an astronomer so my description of how the black holes are measured may not be accurate.
I began journaling years ago.
It’s one of the morning rituals that help me reconnect with myself.
Over the year I’ve adapted my journaling to my changes, but one thing never changed; I never read what I write. Never.
Once my thoughts and feelings are out of my mind and heart, black ink on white paper, they are gone.
I don’t read what I write in my journal because I soon realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
Every transformation starts with an honest conversation. One in which we acknowledge that we want to change something and we bring it out in the light.
I always knew that these kinds of conversations with others are difficult. There is the fear of the judgment, of the pain that we can feel or cause, of the unknown that can emerge.
But it was only when I started journaling that I realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
I never thought that I could be so good avoiding the truth when talking with myself. I could lie to myself even when I know, obviously, that I am lying.
Yet, no transformation can start without an honest conversation with myself. My never-read-it-again journaling ritual is a safe space where I can have a frank dialogue with me.
Do you have a safe space where you can talk honestly with yourself?
Riding my motorbike I learned that I must always choose wisely where to point my gaze. Due to a well-known effect called “Target Fixation”, if you focus on an obstacle, like a pothole, you are most likely going to hit it no matter how much you want to avoid it.
Your whole body follows your gaze.
And the bike direction is informed by your body.
So, to have a smooth ride one of the most important things is to be constantly aware of where your attention is while you’re riding.
You can even if you don’t have a motorbike. Try to walk straight towards a point while keeping your head turned and looking all the time at another direction. You will struggle to keep a straight line.
I found this principle very useful in every aspect of my life.
My attention drives my actions.
When my attention is not aligned with my goals, I struggle to keep myself on track.
If you’re not getting where you want, maybe your attention is not aligned with what you want.
It’s often a surprise when you meet, in person or through stories, the man or woman behind the artist.
I remember some encounters after which I was perplexed, asking myself “How can this person be the same who wrote those beautiful and inspiring songs?”
On the surface, this distance between the person and the artist may seem a lack of authenticity. But if we look a bit deeper, we can see that they are just different vibrations of the same energy.
Human beings have the potential to do things that are bigger than themselves. Things that go beyond the limitations, weakness and miseries of their human form.
This ability is more evident in artists, but it is innate in everyone.
We all have the power to go beyond our human form.
To make our actions and words bigger than ourselves.
We are all artists.
Are your actions and words bigger than yourself?
Are you inspiring and uplifting yourself and others beyond your limitations?
This morning I woke up with the awareness that I don’t know.
It was a bit scary at the beginning.
Then I took a deep breath, and I decided to acknowledge my not knowing.
I don’t have all the answers, and I will never have all the answers.
Not knowing makes me feel free.
I don’t know.
It is also an invitation to myself.
An invitation to embrace not knowing and be curious.
To open up to the wisdom of the world and the beauty of humanity.
So, I won’t get trap in the urge of knowing what is coming, but I will allow for the answers to unfold while I move forward.
Can you think of someone more creative than kids playing? They can transform every object in a new game, any space into a new world.
Then something happens while we grow up.
Studies are showing that our creativity dry out while we go through school and when we become adults, for must of us, it looks like it’s gone.
We get stuck in the logic trap.
We do things only when they are reasonable.
When we can predict the outcome. And in doing so, we become blind to what is possible beyond what is probable.
Unfortunately, when we are called to face the unpredictable, some crack. They can’t see a way forward, and so they hide moving backwards.
But we are all born creative.
Creativity is there.
It doesn’t disappear.
We just need to create space in our life for creativity to expand.
When I feel stuck in something, and my mind can’t find a way forward, I ask myself questions such as:
What would I do if this was just a game?
What would I do If I know I can’t fail?
A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. — Steven Pressfield
Sometimes all it takes it’s just to begin.
To do something.
To write a word.
To draw a line.
To say a word.
Whatever as long as you set things in motion.
Sometime our goals may be scary.
When I was leaving in London, I used to go out running early in the morning.
Midway in my usual path, there was this beautiful place called Primrose Hill. As the name suggests, it’s a nice little hill from the top of which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city.
Little but with a steep slope.
I knew that I wanted to see the dawn from up there but, being midway in my running I was scared by the climb.
For a while, I got there only to take a look and then start my way back.
Then one morning, inspiring by something I read, I decided to go for it.
That day I didn’t look at the top, at my destination.
I knew very well where it was.
Instead, I kept my gaze on my feet.
One step after the other.
A bit worried at the beginning but, in the end, it was just about taking a small step. And another small step.
And then I gained momentum, and before realising it, there were no more steps to take.
I was at the top.
The city before me.
It’s great to have bold and audacious goals, but sometimes those same goals may stop us from acting.
Once the goal is set, stop thinking about it. Find the first small action you can take to go in the direction of your target and put all your attention on that. That step is all you have to worry about.
And once is done, move to the next one.
Keep focusing on your next step until you gained momentum.
And then you are unstoppable.
Ready to conquer your hill.