I hope you're enjoying whatever version of the holidays you celebrate (or don't). Here are some year-end ideas and inspirations.
1: Make a different kind of gift list...
At year's end I like to make a list of all the good things that happened during the previous 12 months. We seem to be much better at remembering the things that went wrong than the things that went right, so we need a little nudge.
My list includes: the reunion with three friends from university days - the first time we've been together as a group since the Jurassic era; a trip to New York with my partner; a visit from my nephew and his family; and the publication of my new book. How about you?
ACTION: Take a few minutes to make your list of the gifts the past year brought you. This is also a nice family activity - each member of the family makes his or her list and reads it out loud.
2: What did daVinci and Edison have that we don't have?
What do you need in order to do anything creative? Talent helps, of course, but a few other elements are important, too. In a recent interview in Investment Advisor, creativity expert Michael Gelb pointed out the one that may be the one our biggest challenge these days:
"Both daVinci and Edison were deeply contemplative. Leonardo said, 'Men of genius sometimes work best when they work least.' Here he's expressing the importance of receptivity and deep relaxation in the process of creation.
Edison would go off in the middle of a workday to a nearby pond where he would fish with a baitless hook. Why? Because he was really 'fishing' for breakthrough ideas, and he knew that relaxation made him more receptive to intuitive insight. He once said, 'To do much clear thinking, a person must arrange for regular periods of solitude when he can concentrate and indulge the imagination without distraction.'"
Of course, daVinci and Edison probably had a few other attributes we don't have, but periods of solitude are a good start.
ACTION: Do you have periods of solitude? If not, how and when could you have some? If your assumption is that it's impossible, come back to that thought when you read item 5, below.
3: Could your flaws become your strengths?
So much of personal development is about imitating "the seven habits of highly successful people," or "what you can learn from Steve Jobs." The intention is positive but sometimes it seems they're saying stop being yourself, start being more like somebody else!
Is it possible that a happier and more successful path lies with being more of what you are? Even if that means increasing what society might interpret as a flaw?
Case in point: Lady Gaga. She is a great example of how eccentricity taken to an extreme (when merged with a great understanding of how to manipulate the media) can lead to influence and income. If Lady Gaga had tried to curb her excessive tendencies, we never would have heard of her. In an interview in The Independent, she said, "I had to suppress it for so many years in high school because I was made fun of but now I'm completely insulated in my box of insanity and I can do whatever I like."
Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali also come to mind. Even Georgia O'Keefe fits—although she was considered somewhat eccentric herself, it was the unusual size of her close-up flower paintings that captured attention.
The other week while walking down Goodge Street in London, I spotted the artist who paints miniature pictures on spots of chewing gum on the sidewalk (I'm not making that up). He's not famous, but with the right press agent he probably could be, and his chewing gum paintings could become collector's items. If you doubt it, look at what happened to Banksy.
I'm not suggesting that it was novelty alone that made Lady Gaga or Georgia O'Keefe or Salvador Dali so successful; each has or had talent as well. But that talent alone probably would not have elevated them to the heights of recognition and success they attained.
ACTION: Think for a moment about what you consider your flaws, or how you perhaps have tried to curb or change things about yourself that are somehow different (and let's face it, generally society thinks "different" and "flawed" are the same). Are there constructive ways you could emphasize them instead of trying to squash them? Are there ways diving deeper into them could turn them into a strength? Food for year-end thought!
4: What assumptions do you want to leave behind in 2012?
What assumptions are you holding on to that may be holding you back? Typically these start with "I can't..." or "I'm not the kind of person who..." or "It's not possible to..." For instance, "I'm not going to have time to write until the kids are out of the house."
These assumptions sound like facts but often when we question them we find out they're just opinions based on what used to be true, what others have told us is true, or fear of failure.
ACTION: As a year-end exercise, make a list of the assumptions that stand between you and something you'd really like to accomplish in 2012. For each one create a more constructive assumption. Get a head start on the new year by going through the holiday season acting as if the new assumption is true.
If you find it difficult, use the "Yes, but if you could, how would you do it?" strategy. You start with something like, "There's no way I will have time to write during the holidays." Then imagine someone asking you, "Yes, but if you could, how would you do it?"
Don't let this imaginary person take no for an answer! Eventually some ideas will pop up, like, "Well, I guess I could block off one Saturday morning and write in my calendar 'Visit friend in hospital' and not let anybody or anything encroach on that time, and use it to write." Once you see how well this works, you may want to make assumption-challenging a habit.
5: And this time, a poem to consider
The late Shel Silverstein was an artist, a poet, and a lot of other things. A new collection of some of his poems, called "Everything on It," was published recently. I'll finish our time together this year with one of his poems - let's consider it an invitation to enter the new year with hope...
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a prayer, a magical bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.