FINDING INSPIRATION – THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

Corporate Coaching | Finding Inspiration – The Struggle Is Real - Tonia Noland

At least once a month, I find myself struggling to feel creatively inspired. Imagine that! The person you may hire to motivate and coach you to be your best self struggles. Well, we’re all human, aren’t we? Personal struggle isn’t anything new. It would be weird if we didn’t struggle. It’s what we do when we’re in the struggle, in the pits, that matters. Though it’s easier to throw oneself a pity party (and believe me, I frequently RSVP, yes), the brave and strong thing to do is to find your way out of the struggle. Personally speaking, it’s a mindful practice that’s still in progress. Let’s explore how to find inspiration together.

What’s wrong with me?

As a child you could find me finger painting, drawing, coloring, and meticulously creating collages. I wasn’t getting graded on my work or paid to create a mood board for a client. I was simply playing, stretching my imagination and creating for creating’s sake. Somewhere between childhood and graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design, being creative became more of a chore than a passion. I realized I’d chosen a career that would require me to be creative for people who didn’t understand the principles of design, color theory and composition. Needless to say, working with my first real graphic design client was more of a nightmare than a dream career.

In my early years as a young professional, I was living in San Luis Obispo, CA smack dab between San Francisco and Los Angeles. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to grow my career as a professional designer. I shifted my skills into the marketing and startup space where I wore many hats and learned by doing (and failing). Within a few years, I felt myself coming up against creative mental blocks. I felt uninspired to brainstorm content for the marketing campaigns, social media posts, and the marketing collateral I was designing. I was so frustrated with myself. I had been an extremely creative person for the majority of my life, but I was struggling to produce work. Being paid to be creative 24/7 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

When I wasn’t at work, I could be counted on to think creatively, on the spot. Why didn’t I feel inspired to think like this at work? It was my job to read a creative brief, brainstorm, get ideas on paper, and all of a sudden, blank. I would sit in front of my computer screen waiting for inspiration to strike, like a lightning storm. Alas, no storm came. It was a drought.

Being an entrepreneur has only amplified these feelings. I often find myself wondering: Who’s reading these posts? What difference is this really making? Does what I share actually resonate with people? I create content aimed at positively impacting and inspiring you, and I take that seriously. What I put out into the world could be the catalyst that has a positive or negative (or nonexistent) impact on you.

Stick With Me! It Gets Better!

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the feeling of hitting “publish” on my WordPress page. More often than not, though, the journey getting me to that final piece of the content creation can be a real struggle. If you’re feeling uninspired, uncreative, unmotivated, you are not alone.

Whether we’re naturally gifted at pumping out content or are more methodical in our process, at one point or another we have struggled with feeling relevant and worthwhile. The works of many famous painters didn’t become highly sought after or idolized until years or decades after they had passed. It’s insane to think that Vincent Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo didn’t feel they were making worthwhile art. Technology makes it seemingly easier to get our work noticed. The downside of that is the pressure to continuously pump out bigger and better pieces of work to glean the attention of an ever-changing and distracted online community.

Reality + Encouragement = Motivation

We’re in this together. Arm in arm, we will battle the doldrums of unmotivated waters and push on. Think the grass is greener on my lawn? It’s not! Really, it’s not. We have a xeriscape lawn. All kidding aside, the reality of being an entrepreneur is not meetings, content creation, leisurely lunches and blue skies. It’s a crazy, jumbled up mess that somehow works. Case in point, see the diagram below:

It’s been my experience, as a creative entrepreneur, that something magical happens when you hit your mental rock bottom. If the work, project, task, or message you’re creating is aligned to what you’re truly passionate about, the downward spiral will eventually take a turn upwards.

What does that mean? Somewhere inside you, there’s a spark of passion that is alive. That spark is what will motivate and pull you upward. Focus on that spark.

Here’s what I do when I’m stuck:

  • Step Back: Temporarily step away from the work/project. Not for a long time, just enough to gain perspective. Every task is different, so you may need to step away for a couple of hours, a day or two, or a week to clear your headspace. The important thing is, take a mental break from thinking about that project or task.
  • Re-Focus: Place your energy in other areas of your life that you’re feeling called or inspired to spend time on, whether that’s self-care, DIY projects, reconnecting with a friend/family member, reading, writing, taking a nap, meditating, take a drive, getting outdoors. Any activity that’s on the opposite side of the spectrum from your project/task.
  • Write It Down: After taking a step back from the project/task, put pen to paper and write down why you feel frustrated or uninspired (let loose, don’t hold back on this one).
  • Re-examine Your “Why”: 24-hours after writing down why you feel uninspired or blocked, review your list and feel into if those frustrations still feel true for you or not. If not, then dive back in. Now that you’ve given yourself some time to clear your head things might start to gel. If they still feel true, it’s time to ask yourself why you were putting time and effort into this project/task? What was your ultimate goal in creating this? Who was it intended to serve and why? Is there another way you could create content/project that would serve the same audience/people that feels more aligned to you and your creative process? Keep asking yourself, “why?”
  • Pivot and Realign: Now that you’ve spent time asking yourself which direction you want to go, block out 1-2 hours per day on your calendar to focus on the initial creative brainstorming of what that project will look like. Create the steps from inception to completion and stick to the time blocked out on your calendar. Write out a “to-do/action item” list the night before you’ll work on the project so you can focus those items for 1-2 hours first thing the next day.

 

Whether your goal is to start a business, change careers, take a year off to travel the world, start a family, go back to school, or return to the corporate world after being a stay at home mom, these steps work and can be applied to nearly every aspect of your life, the decisions you make, and what you create. When you’re doubting yourself, feeling frustrated or uninspired, take a step back and realign with the bigger “why.”

We are our own harshest critics.

Here’s some truth: 99.9% of the time I feel like I’m coming up short, and I’m failing you, my followers. I’m not doing enough, saying the right things, using my time as wisely as I could, reaching the right people, creating the right offers. Sound familiar? Told you I was human. It’s when I start answering these questions that I remember “why” I am here in the first place.

What you’re reading now is a polished and highly edited finished product. There were many steps taken to get to this very well-edited version. I struggle. Each time. It’s the struggle that makes me better at what I do. It’s the struggle that reminds me why I do it. Somewhere, out in the vast universe, we are connecting with someone. Perhaps my struggle is your struggle, and by being transparent and sharing, I connected with you. Great! I want to continue cultivating a community where people feel called to share their struggles, barriers and the support they need to stay in the game.

Your dreams aren’t crazy!

They are not unrealistic. They are yours. If you’re feeling called to pursue a career or an activity, it’s because that’s the true you. Everything you do, everything you say, and more importantly how you show up each day does make a difference – in your life and possibly the life of someone else. You’re not alone in your struggle. Keep going! Keep writing, studying, creating, sharing, pushing your way up the ladder.

Parting Wisdom

  • Inaction is still an action, so why not make it positive and intentional action?
  • You have the power to change your mind set by stepping back and not forcing yourself to do, be or create something you’re not.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. You’re bound to lose the battle.
  • If you don’t feel inspired by the task at hand, don’t be afraid to take the time to step back and re-examine why you started in the first place.
  • Make a habit of checking in with your higher self regularly and feel into what’s inspiring you and why?

 

Being a creative means being able to pivot and continuously reassess who we are, realize what we’ve grown out of, who we may have been, and be ok with constantly recreating ourselves. With great creativity comes great self-awareness.

I want to hear from you! Leave a comment below sharing what struggles you’ve had being a creative and how you overcame them? What are you currently struggling with and how can I help? I’m always here to be a sounding board and hold space for you to explore your deepest desires, fears and more one-on-one as well – Schedule your 30-minute Complimentary Consultation Call!

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