Friday, March 21, 2014

Cows and Aliens

For an artist I lead a rather practical life. In high school I got an internship my junior year, I had a part time data entry job during my senior year. I saved money, I got good grades, I planned my life. All of that work in high school lead to a great part time job in college and savings to pay for school with. I actually escaped college with only one semester of debt. It was great. All of my planning got me what I wanted.

I have learned that when I really want something, I can be awesome at achieving those long terms goals. I take a rather logical approach to everything when it comes to goals. All of that planning is great, but for the most part it isn't what actually gets me to the end. I have learned that for me I have to give myself something back in order to find the motivation to get to the end.

I like most people love a little instant gratification. It is kind of a spirit lifter when you are in the middle of a long term goal that seems to stretch out into the unforeseeable future. I can get a little over whelmed when I look at just how much further I have to go before I get to the prize at the bottom of the box. There is just so much that I have to get through before I get there, and I am tired. That road can be horribly discouraging when you are ready to give up.

It has been like this for me when it comes to many of my longer term goals. Like my weight loss. I have been desperately trying to get to my goal weight. Like most of the world I am not satisfied with my progress. I keep to the rules, I check in, and continually try to keep up morale.

Instant gratification is my way to keep that morale up. Every week I make a deal with myself, if I keep my rules and don't put any weight on by the end of the week I get a portion size of Hot Tamales. This for me is a source of instant gratification that I look forward to every week. I still follow the rules that day and aside for that little package of sugary goodness I keep to my plan. It helps me keep my spirits high.

Long term goals can be hard. When I decided I was going to go to college I was 8. It may have been a little earlier than the average person to make this kind of life plan. It was over 10 years before I was even going to get into college let alone the extra 4.5 years it took me to actually graduate. I actually asked my mom to help me open up a bank account that year when I realized my goals and I wanted to start saving then. 

Though all that hard work eventually paid off, it was the little moments of instant gratifications that got me through all of those years and still have the savings needed to pay for school. A movie with friends here, a top there, they all helped me to keep up the morale to keep working towards my goals.

And this is where the Cows and Aliens come in. Last month was hard when it came to completing my goal for this year. I have the goal to finish one thrift store piece and one watercolor piece each month. I had trouble with my last thrift store piece. I lost faith in myself, I got down and lost some of my motivation. Then I picked a difficult subject for my water color right after. I put in lots of work on these two pieces. I have started running out of steam on my goal.

So I decided that what I needed was a little instant gratification to get back into my work again. Since I started making thrift store paintings I have wanted to do an alien and cow painting. I didn't know what it was going to be about but I did know that I wanted a farm, cows and some kind of interaction with the standard gray aliens. So this month I found myself a picture of cows to work on. I am so excited to work on this and it is renewing my excitement for my work.

Though instant gratification can be looked down on by people as being immature, or shallow, for me it is a tool. I make goals, and stay productive if I just use it as a moral builder when I am losing steam. So this month we are all about the instant gratification of doing something I want to do right now, but also letting it be a part of the end goal.

Here are the results of instant gratification 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Good Things Come to Those Who...

The saying goes "Good things come to those who wait". I believe this to be a fallacy. There is more to getting what you want than waiting. Yes, there is some patience required, but that is not the same as waiting. Waiting suggests that all you are doing is sitting there hoping that something will happen soon. It is like sitting by the phone hoping that it will ring. It is like checking your email every five minutes hoping you will get some news. Waiting is like a prison sentence. Hospitals have waiting rooms. Dentist's offices have waiting rooms. These are places where nothing happens, where you do nothing while stuff happens around you. Waiting is an action that keeps you from taking any other action. You are entirely consumed with the idea that something will eventually come to you if you just sit there. 

Waiting doesn't bring you good things. Action does. You aren't going to get a phone call if you are the kind of person who spends all of their time sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring. You have to actually go out there and make friends in order to have someone who will give you a call to begin with. You aren't going to receive an email if you haven't done anything that will get you one. 

I believe more in the idea that "You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take". Waiting requires you to miss a ton of shots, because you are so obsessed with the hope of some wind fall. I have learned this lesson the hard way. I spent months waiting for things to happen, to get sales and to get noticed to get loads of different things I wanted. That just doesn't happen. You have to put yourself out there first, if you are going to get noticed. Winning the lottery is so unlikely that putting your hope in that is misguided. You aren't going to get the good things you want that way. It is like hoping that you will get a phone call from a wrong number and it turns out they are a really nice person and want to be your friend, and out for drinks or something. It just doesn't happen that way. 

You have to do the work needed first. That is where patience come into it. I think that if you are going to use the phrase it should really go like this "Good things come to those with Patience" Patience is different form waiting. It doesn't exclude you from other action. It means that you work while you hope that things will come to you. It means that you check you email while you are sending out other emails, you make calls while hoping you will get one back. Patience is beautiful because it doesn't kill your hope that things will happen for you, but also doesn't paralyze you. 

By never giving into the paralysis of waiting you can get so much more done. You also put your self out there for more opportunities to come your way. This applies to anything you may want in your life from making friends, to job opportunities. If you want something you have to go out there and get it. Don't waste your time waiting for things to happen, you will watch you life go by with little to say for it. Waiting is a trap, don't fall into it. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Throwing in the towel

I spend a ton of time considering giving up. It is easy to give up. But at the same time it is hard. There are many advantages of just giving in. It is a lot less work to just give up. You also don't have to deal with the criticism of others over your work. There is loads of instant gratification of just letting go.

The down side? I have to deal with myself. I have to face the guilt of abandoning my work. I have to cope with the feelings of failure. I have to be able to sit there knowing that I have completely squandered my abilities, and therefore my life. Any long term benefit I might have gained has also disappeared.

When I get the inner urges to cut out and drop my work, I have to weigh the pros and cons of continuing my work. What usually happens is that I add things up and realize, that even though it is physically harder to keep working it is more mentally demoralizing to give up.

What I have learned over the years, is that even though I tend to lose steam as I work on a project, and want to just give up, because I have grown tired of it; it actually hurts more to give up than to keep going. The thing about physical pain is that after a couple of days it goes away and your are stronger next time. The mental anguish of giving up, and the subsequent failure sticks around longer. It brings you down and holds you back from trying again. And what do you get for all of that depression you put up with? You don't get anything. At least with physical effort you are stronger for it, this is not so with self pity and depression.

I have had to learn this the hard way. I have given up on things so many times, all to the same result. Not only do you have to deal with the negative emotions of quitting, but there is also all of the opportunities of learning and growth that you could have gained if you had just kept going.

If you were to break it down logically like a math equation, giving up just doesn't add up. You start out your life at a base line of 0. When you work on a project you gain confidence, strength, knowledge, and understanding. This adds to your life in a positive way so now you have say +4. This just come for making the effort to start a project. Great you are going somewhere. Now here is where things change. When you give up on something you lose the +4 you got earlier, because you didn't finish gaining those attributes since you didn't finish the work. That puts you back at your base line of 0. Then you get a -2 or -3 for all of the mental anguish you put yourself through. You end up depressed because you gave up. That leaves you below what was your base line existence, all of the bad feelings leave you more empty than when you started out.

If however you were to finish your project you have the +4 for the skills and knowledge you gained working towards your goal. Then you get a +3 or +4 for the positive emotions associated with completing a task. Though you may have expelled a bit more energy maybe a -1 or -2 you still end up with more than if you throw in the towel.

This analogy may not really make sense to you, but when I am having those days where I don't really feel like getting out of bed. It helps me to think about all I can gain just by continuing my work towards my goal.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Too much force

When I was in high school I suffered often from what I called "mental constipation". This was when I was working on a project and I had all kinds of ideas for things to be working on, but what I was working on at the time just didn't seem to flow. I would sit and look at the assignment and try to come up with ideas on how to complete it, but all of them were lame or would never work. I would day dream about all of these other great ideas I had but nothing would come for the task at hand. It was like all of these great ideas were clogged up by the fact that I couldn't use them on my current work.

These last couple of weeks I have been suffering again from this ailment. I have had a thrift store piece that has been sitting on my table forever and I have yet to come up with something to add to it that makes me feel satisfied. I sit there and look at the picture and try to force my brain to think of something. It is kind of like when Winnie the Pooh tries to think of something. ( It is square peg round hole moment where things just don't quite fit. At time it feels like the more I try to force something to happen the less I can actually think of. The harder I strain to think of something the more crap the ideas get.

I have made a goal for this year, to finish a thrift piece and a water color every month, but this thrift piece is holding me up. I am actually behind now on my goal, because things just don't seem to want to come together for it. It is horribly aggravating that my imagination seems to have stopped dead when it comes to this piece.

What I usually do when I get to this point is throw it aside and work on something new. I just take issue with that right now, because it was my goal to do this. I don't want to just leave this goal behind. I also don't have any other thrift pieces to work on. So in essence I have to work on this one in order to keep up with my goal. My other issue with leaving it for later is that I have a tendency to put things aside and never come back to them. The "while" I say to myself seems to mean to put it away and forget about it.

So I guess what I am going to need to do is, either be willing to commit to an idea that may not be great now and just put something on paper and hammer things into place the hard way and see how it turns out, or I need to figure out a way to set something aside for a while and put a time limit on how long I can put it there.

I just cannot allow myself to become caught up on things like this. I need to be able to keep working instead of becoming stalled on a single piece. This piece is not stronger or smarter than me. I just have to out think my thinking problem and move on.

When I get done with this pieces it may not be my best piece, but at least I will have figured out how to work my way around this "mental constipation" that I find myself with right now.