“Some people believe holding on and hanging in are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ~ Alyson Noel
As I wrote about last week, sometimes we need to release a project or say No to something we are currently doing in order to do the bigger work that is calling to us. This letting go of a creative goal can be a necessary heartbreak, especially if the thing that is in the way is something we love.
But what about those projects and creative goals we’ve been steadily pursuing that (if we are being honest) fill us with creeping dread and ick?
Maybe there is a stack of note cards, papers, and books on a corner of your desk that you walk past and feel shooting pangs of guilt each time it catches your eye. Maybe when you finally sit down to dig into the project, you feel resentment rising and an edgy bitterness. Or, perhaps each time you look at your planner, you have to move the note to work on Project X forward to a future date because you haven’t mustered up the gusto to get cracking on it.
Shame follows you around, compounding your dread.
Evaluating a Creative Goal
When we set a creative goal and/or decide to pursue a project and then avoid doing it, the cost is broken promises to ourselves which, in turn, erodes our confidence. This can launch a series of critical inner chatter which bleeds into our overall sense of self, diminishing our energy and focus throughout not only all our work, but also our relationships.
When we find ourselves in this space, it is a good idea to call time out and take stock. Grab a journal and pen, and begin to explore what is underneath your avoidance. Here are some questions to prompt your thinking:
1) Am I avoiding Project X because I’m stuck?
2) Am I avoiding Project X because I’m afraid of something (e.g. I’m afraid I’m not up to the task)?
3) When I think of Project X, do I remain genuinely passionate about doing it? Or, do I feel a sense of obligation?
4) Have I told myself if I walk away from Project X, I am a loser/quitter?
5) Is the underlying reason I originally wanted to do Project X still valid/current/in line with where I am now?
6) Is my once-sexy creative goal an anchor?
If our avoidance is rooted in fear and/or being stuck, we can reach out for support to help us move forward. However, if we are continuing to keep the project/goal on the back burner because of a sense of obligation or an outdated notion of needing to slug it out, most likely it is time to do the hard thing and release it.
Jocelyn K. Glei of the Hurry Slowly podcast spoke of her experience of making the challenging choice to let go of a project she had had on her To Do list for 20 years. She discovered that not only was it waaaaaay past time to take the project off her plate, she uncovered that she had actually been using it as a way to beat herself up during all those years.
Similarly, Tim Ferriss recently made the tough choice to say No to a book he was writing. He found the project was not working out for him on multiple levels, most notably it was negatively impacting his relationship with his girlfriend. His saying No to the book meant walking away from his book deal and returning the advance. A very courageous decision.
And the topic of his book was what you ask? Saying No. That’s right, Tim said No to a book about saying No!
As we make our resolution lists and creative goal cards for 2020, perhaps we can take a new approach for the coming decade. Maybe we could “Kondo” our projects and creative goals with a careful eye and an open heart and ask: Does this project or goal spark joy? If the answer is No, consider letting it go.
The ensuing lightness of being and sense of freedom we experience when we release our outdated attachments ushers in the energy required for the creative work we are truly in love with.
And that is precisely the work the world needs most from us.