The anxiety of ‘what I should be doing’ gets us all.
“Since many are confronted with an eerie void, lacking essential qualities in their daily repertoire and suffering from missing out on a second or third dimension in their lives, they feel disjointed and disgruntled, unconsciously struggling to find out a kind of strategy to ‘construct’ or to ‘reconstruct’ their living.” ~ Erik Pevernagie
My coaching client and I stood in line at our local café. She turned to me and said over her shoulder, “Did I tell you I am not sleeping?”
She saw my eyebrows disappear into my hairline.
“Yeah, it’s my new thing. That and having zero energy to do any client work. I dread every single responsibility with a passion.”
We found a seat in the back where we’d have a private spot to talk. She settled in across from me, rested her phone on the table, and tapped the screen.
“I just want to check one thing….”
I watched her forefinger slide up with a few jerky flicks of the wrist.
I felt immediate and enormous compassion. I knew that edgy addiction all too well.
“So, let’s start with the no sleep,” I said. “Say more about that.”
She slid her phone toward the wall and looked up. She blinked, rapid fire, trying to keep ahead of the tears. “Would it be too dramatic to say I have no idea who I am anymore? That nothing brings me joy? That my entire life is drained of color?
I read the blogs of the top entrepreneurs, listen to the right podcasts, and scan social media for opportunities to engage with potential clients. I have a morning routine…I’m doing all the things I should be doing, what the pros suggest…and I’m working on my productivity and building my list…I’m not keeping up…everyone else is doing so many exciting things…crushing it…and I’m, well, not.”
My client had fallen prey to Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) in every area of her life. In her quest to kick ass and do everything on the Success Checklist, she spent the majority of her time comparing herself to the entrepreneurs on her screen. No matter how hard she ran on the Influencer Conveyor Belt, she felt lessor than.
She felt she was already behind, late, and/or couldn’t catch up; or, if by some miracle she did, she couldn’t keep up.
She had begun to believe what I consider to be one of the greatest lies of the modern age: that what she saw on her screen represented unvarnished reality. 100% Truth.
She had forgotten that curated public selves are mirages. Palm tree-lined oases that are not real (as we approach them, what we thought was truly there, evaporates in front of our eyes).
The subtle and overt idea of ‘what I should be doing’ is baked into the social media experience and it’s killing our inspiration. Scroll by scroll, screen by screen, another brick of duty is placed into our entrepreneurial backpacks:
It’s been two days since I posted something witty and cute on Instagram.
Did I use the right hashtags on my Facebook post?
What was that productivity app so and so mentioned on his podcast?
We have forgotten that creativity happens in the gaps. The spaces. The not doing. (Or, in the mindless doing of something that is meditative…doodling, walking, showering, journaling, cooking, driving, etc.)
It is born in stillness. In hearing our own voices and thoughts. In letting the quiet and sacred germination of dot connecting occur. When we lose our engagement with our inspiration, we lose our connection with the best parts of ourselves and the birthplace of our joy.
And that is when we climb onto the slippery slope of believing we can fill the void by mirroring what we see on our screens. What happens instead is a slow descent into trying to become an impossible version of ourselves. An apparition of perfect imagery and languaging.
Step one for igniting inspiration, then, is having a big, fat media filter. Become an oyster, with a highly-developed filtering system. Before you scroll, acknowledge that the vast majority of what you will see is the image the wizard behind the curtain is projecting onto your screen. (When everyone is an “Influencer,” this is a must.)
Next, reclaim your precious, unique self by giving yourself ample, unplugged time. Take yourself on Inspiration Quests that fill the well for you and lift your focus up and out. Notice how the golden light of October is igniting the back of your brain and calling you to pursue that idea that’s been on the back burner. What if you dusted that idea off and played around with it?
And finally, put yourself in front of beauty and fall in love with the Art of Appreciating the natural and human made miracles of design, color, shape, and line. Find a spectacular book of photography, a fresh market bursting with fall flowers and produce, a gallery off the main street on a rainy day that is showcasing a new artist, or the bakery on a quiet, early morning.
Let yourself be transported to a place of no words, where you can heal your sacred energy and repair strained synapses. Release once and for all, the lie that you are not enough. That you are not doing enough.
In the counter intuitive state of not doing, you will find your greatest connection to the source of your best generator of energy…the jolting pulse of your vast inspiration.