Recently, in a small town in New York state, I noticed a store called, Canaseraga Hardware and Coffee Company. I laughed a bit, thinking what an odd combination to offer together, but such seems to be the way of business life in Smalltown USA.
In our travels about the country we find ourselves in lots of small towns and see lots of odd combinations of businesses all working together under the same roof. The oddest, I believe, was the one somewhere in rural Missouri that combined “Beauty Supplies and Bait.”
Being no stranger to having a lack of focus myself, at first blush it would appear that these people either can’t make up their minds or they have too many business interests. (Sounds like me.) I suspect the truth is that those odd combos are borne out of necessity.
For way too many years – yes, years – than I care to admit, I’ve suffered – and I do mean suffered – with a lack of focus. Seems like I’ve had a knack – for as long as I can remember – for being able to help other people gain clarity and focus around their business interests but not so good at helping myself in that area.
Lately, though, if you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been able to get more clear about what it is I really want to do in my business and both my productivity and satisfaction have gone way up.
Oh, I still have my bouts of indecision and doubt, and quite frankly I have more ideas than I could possibly ever fulfill in this lifetime, but I dream none-the-less.
So what happened that has helped improve my focus?
Well, about 13 weeks ago someone introduced me to the concept of doing Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron. Best thing that could have ever happened to me.
I had resisted reading that book for many years for the simple reason that I did not consider myself to be an artist in the traditional sense of the word; or at least MY interpretation of the word. I don’t paint. I don’t draw. I don’t sculpt. I design printed stuff, but I didn’t think that counted.
What I realized was that this book is for EVERYBODY, not just for someone who might call themself an “artist.” And, since I am getting so much good out of it, then I think everybody else should be using this process, too. Ha!
If you did nothing else from the book but the Morning Pages, I think you’d see a huge shift in your life, where you put your focus, and how you grow your business.
What you do is handwrite – yes, handwriting is a must – just 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness thinking. Whatever comes to mind write it down. Don’t worry about how it looks. Don’t worry about sentence structure or grammar or anything at all. Those are just distractions. Write down simply what is on your mind at that time.
You aren’t supposed to go back and read your Morning Pages. (At least not right away.) I couldn’t read mine if I wanted to, because they are pretty sloppily written. These pages are for your eyes only. So hide them if you live with snoopy people.
Here’s the amazing part for me: I’ve never had so many creative ideas in my life! It’s wonderful! I make all kinds of plans, talk out ideas with myself, brainstorm, cuss, write about my life, fuss about my partner, and dream, dream, dream. I am feeling happier and healthier than I’ve ever been before.
Running my business and my life successfully means doing a lot of planning and I’ve never considered myself to be that good at planning. You might not be either.
But the Morning Pages – and I think it is largely because doing them is unstructured; there are no rules to follow – are really helping me create better plans because, while writing those pages, I’m thinking about all the things I want to do.
Beware the gremlin!
Your gremlin will come up for you, too, whispering all sorts of nasty things in your ear, creating all sorts of self-doubt and offering “helpful” tidbits of information. I call my gremlin Mr. Blurt.
One day I was telling my coach about how thrilled I was to be disciplined enough to sit down first thing in the morning and write my pages no matter what. At that point I think I had been doing them for 10 days straight. I was quite proud.
Of course, Mr. Blurt pops in and says “But you won’t stick with this, Marty, you never stick with anything.” At first I thought, “go away you @#$%#&, and leave me alone.” But then I decided that whenever Mr. Blurt pops up and says something nasty, I get to say “Thank you for sharing. Now go away, because I have work to do. I’ll show you what I can stick with.”
I’ve learned many lessons while engaged in my Morning Pages, one of which is that I am a disciplined person and that I can get things done. I just have to decide if I really want to do those things or not.
So even if you don’t read Julia’s book, nor do the exercises and tasks she sets forth, if you just tried doing the Morning Pages you might be amazed at what comes up for you, too. You may rediscover a source of creativity within yourself that will make your life work better and your business run better, too.
The side benefit seems to be that my relationship with my partner has even gotten better. Hmmm.
Now, Mr. Blurt and I have other things to do.
© Copyright 2010 Marty Marsh