The Power of Persistence: Part 2
A Wickedly Wild Women of Wednesday Guest post by Jan Dyer
If your schedule doesn’t allow for uninterrupted, unlimited enjoyment, you can still trick your mind’s internal stopwatch into thinking you have all the time in the world. One way is to focus. When you’re focusing on something fully, and enjoying yourself, time literally has no meaning. One of the best known researchers into this phenomenon, Csíkszentmihályi Mihály, calls it being in the flow. He has found that being completely absorbed in something can release you from the bounds of time. To use the swimming analogy again: A father and his four young children come to the same public pool I use—inevitably, they come just 15 or 10 minutes before it closes. But they make the most of those few minutes. Kids find it easy to be in the moment, and their reward is longer moments.
And that’s another way to “expand” your sense of time: Practice staying in the present. If you’re gardening, smell the moist earth and feel the sunlight on your back. Theoretically, when you’re fully engaged, you can come out of a 15-minute session feeling as though you had a mini-vacation. You’re more relaxed and yet, surprisingly energized. Little by little, it all adds up to a general feeling of well-being.
Feeling happy, engaged, and timeless are good enough reasons to persist in doing something you love. But if you’re hoping to make a career from what you love, it helps to keep doing it, to keep your hand in. Not only do you polish skills and stay current, you continually remind yourself that (a) you’re good or getting better at something and (b) there’s something that you enjoy doing whether or not it’s a career. Fulfilling the creative instinct is in itself a purpose. (In an interesting work study, researchers found that people who felt they had a purpose, no matter how “lowly” the job, enjoyed their jobs more.)
Spending time on your creative pursuit will always pay off, for you and for others. You need not invest hours and hours. If you’re a writer, write short blogs on other people’s websites or simply long posts on Facebook. If you’re a teacher who isn’t teaching full time, tutor. Or make a YouTube video demonstrating something you’re good at. My friend the yoga teacher put her basic class on video, filming herself in her mother’s attic. Another woman I know doesn’t have the money right now to bring her dream of a running a daycare center to life, but she puts enormous energy into coming up with fun and educational projects for her own young kids and the preschoolers she babysits. When she can afford the license, she’ll be more than ready.
And as everyone knows by now, one of the best ways to do what you love before you have a job doing it is to volunteer. An interesting website (www.catchfire.com) matches people and organizations who need help with volunteers who have the necessary skills. Whether you’re a writer, an accountant, a computer programmer—you can find a way to help someone else while helping yourself.
So, back to me. I kept at it. For 10 years in my 20s and 30s, I was commuting nearly five hours a day (yes, I know, crazy). I had little time for anything other than working and getting to and from work, let alone art. But I worked on things that I could do for very short bursts of time. I did detailed drawings that were very time consuming (each one took me about 15 to 20 hours to complete) but easy to put away and pick up again. I also made jewelry and began selling it in stores. Then, when I began freelancing more, and time opened up, I started painting again, with new confidence born of having marketed my work.
There will likely be moments when you wonder whether the world really needs what you’re creating. We’re sometimes encouraged to think of painting, writing, music solely as products, and to think that there’s a limited demand. After all, they can’t all be excellent products. And if we can’t produce excellence, what’s the point?
The point is, if you enjoy doing it, it’s worth doing even if other people don’t see the point.
So get out that sweater you began knitting 15 years ago. Finish it because finishing something is an accomplishment and we’re proud of ourselves when we accomplish things. (Studies have found a string of small achievements can be more satisfying than a major achievement.) But also finish it because you like to knit, not because you intended it for a baby who’s now in high school. Get back to doing something you love because it makes you happy.
Don’t wait. The world needs all the happy people it can get.
”Practical to the end,
it is the poem
of his existence
from The Sparrow
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)