Anyone can look up the word “thriving” in the dictionary and find its definition.
Thriving: grow or develop well, prosper, flourish
What the dictionary can’t ever do is tell us what the word means to us.
Only you can define what it means to you to be a thriving creative. Only you know what it looks like, what the qualities of that life are, the physical reality and the psychic impact.
Each of us know our own unique definition. But often, there’s some fear in accepting it as possible, even in the deepest parts of our souls. So, we tend to express our dreams in an amorphous way. We say,
“I want more than enough money.”
“I want love.”
“I want creative fulfillment.”
“I want work/life balance.”
“I want to work for myself.”
But how do we know when we’ve achieved that goal? How much money is “more than enough?” What kind of love, and how much? What brings creative fulfillment? How much life and how much work creates a balance? Should we open a full business with employees or be a solopreneur?
So many questions.
Do you have dreams and questions like this? Great! Join the club! We eat ice cream on Wednesdays and I’m ordering waffle cones for next week.
Because waffle cones are the best cones. I’ll fight you on that.
Since we say our goals in these amorphous ways, we can never know when we are thriving. In fact, we can miss it entirely! For example:
While recent months have been more about survival, looking at my past reveals times when I was thriving. Moments when I didn’t have to keep track of the prices of groceries as they entered my cart, when I could visit a bookstore or yarn shop and make an impulse purchase, even a point when Stephanie and I could take a vacation to New York City to eat great food, stay in a lovely hotel and go to Broadway shows every night.
But I didn’t know that I was thriving because I didn’t have a clear picture of what thriving looked like for me. That, while we were generous, we still felt like we lacked wealth. That, while we experienced fabulous things and had wonderful times, we still wondered if this was enough. That, while I filled my home with books and yarn, I did so in order to buffer myself from running out of books to read and yarn to knit. Instead of embracing all of the wonderful things that came from this good fortune and hard work, a feeling of scarcity invaded my being.
And this is totally normal, this feeling of scarcity. Every part of our society encourages us to embrace it, from the silliest of marketing campaigns to the most mundane parts of our daily lives like evaluating whether or not we need to buy soap on our next shopping run.
However, when we give into scarcity, we can’t thrive. There’s just no way. We always see what we don’t have instead of embracing the opportunities, the resources, and the joyful moments that show up.
Here’s one of the tools I use to battle that scarce feeling and begin the process of thriving.
I draw a picture for myself that I can hold in my head and compare to my life. This way, when I felt that scarce feeling sneaking up on me, I can quickly pull up the picture and say, “Oooooh! Look how close I am” or “Wow! In this way, I’m actually doing better than I wanted.”
Give it a try. Take a piece of paper and journal or draw a picture of your perfect day. Do it fast, and don’t think a lot about it. Spend about five minutes and just allow yourself to have fun as you sketch out this amazing view.
If it feels too scary to consider your perfect day, try writing it out in third person. For example, instead of “I get up and watch the sun rise,” I would write, “LA gets up and watches the sun rise.” That little bit of distance can defuse fear and help you express yourself.*
After you’ve finished, take a break and celebrate! Enjoy a square of chocolate or a lovely walk in the sunshine or whatever makes you feel a little luxurious.
With your celebration done, come back to this image or tale. What are the pieces that resonate with you? Which things make you feel peaceful, joyful, excited? Make a list of the things, events, and qualities that make this day a perfect one.
Remember, everything you want will probably not be able to be contained in one day. Know that you can always return to this exercise and create another day that’s entirely different. But before you do that, give yourself a day or so to spend some time with the list from this day.
The list you created begins to reveal your definition of thriving. And this knowledge can change the way you express your dreams.
From “I want to work for myself” to “I want to work at home by myself. No employees.”
From “I want a work/life balance” to “I want to eat lunch with my wife every day.”
From “I want creative fulfillment” to “I want to write delightful personal essays and books, and empower others to create their own version of beauty joyfully.”
What does your perfect day look like?
*This technique comes from Lara Zielin, the writer of Author Your Life.[https://www.lara-zielin.com/]