Oh Those Helena Handbasket Days….

Oh Those Helena Handbasket Days….

Sometimes when you make a big change in your life, all hell breaks loose around you.

I mean, here you are, all pumped up from your brand-new and exciting decision to…

….leave your overworked/underpaid job
….start taking better care of yourself
….clear your clutter
….start charging what you’re worth
….actually work on your creative project for 15 minutes every day

And you’re feeling so good and brave!

You feel joyful and excited and have butterflies in your stomach!

And then….
And then….
And then…

someone you love gets sick (hospital sick)
you get fired (and you were going to quit anyway, but wow…fired???!!)
your lover gets mad (ugly mad)
your house falls apart (the roof literally caves in)


And it really seems like there is no way you can possibly follow through on your new commitment to your self, your creativity and your prosperity.

It really seems like you must abandon your new decision and go back – at least for a little while – to the way things were.
But please please don’t.

You Must Keep Your Resolve — Especially When It Seems Impossible.
These Troubles Are A Kind Of A Test.

Now I’m not saying that you should ignore the sick person or leave your lover or fail to fix the house.

I’m saying you’ve got to manage these “Helena Handbasket Moments” in A NEW WAY.

Welcome to Transformation-Induced Chaos.

When you think about it, it’s no surprise there’s so much turmoil — you are changing and growing at lightening speed and you’re going to get some splashback, right?

So the secret is not to take all this chaos as a sign to revert to your old behavior.


Sam’s Slightly Counter-Intuitive Two-Fold Remedy for Transformation-Induced Chaos

The two-fold trick to managing this might seem a bit counter-intuitive:

1) Focus first on yourself and your well-being

2) Focus on the money

So for #1, make sure that you are calm, rested, fed and centered. Nothing good happens when you are running around undernourished in any sense of the word.
Take time for your art, for your spiritual work and for the things that bring you joy. In this way, you’ll be able to negotiate the pesky “circumstances” of your life. (And yes, even the IRS, the threat of divorce and the shadow of bankruptcy is just a circumstance — it’s no reason to lose your balance : )

And for #2, keep your eye on your highest-income producing activities.
Stand firm in your rate increase.
Refuse to work cheap.
Draw a firm boundary around your creative-work time each day.
Celebrate your daily successes AND keep it up!

You will be much better able to help yourself and the people in your life if you are bringing in a healthy income.

(Please note: bringing in a healthy income will not suddenly turn you into a money-grubber, a shallow, materialistic person, nor will it take away from your street cred as a “real” artist. It will simply give you the freedom to make new choices.)

So while it may seem “selfish” to be out getting new clients when your family is in crisis, it’s actually an act of compassion. You are putting your own oxygen mask on first.

And it may seem “irresponsible” to keep your meditation time each morning when your lover is so upset, but it’s actually an act of true love.  You are nourishing the love within yourself so you can better share it with another.

And while others may rush to judge you and your new priorities, their criticism is just a light breeze blowing by as you walk, run, rush pellmell or stagger into your new life.

Keep your eye on your prize.

What’s the prize?

A satisfying creative life filled with love.

How to change your life without running-around-crazy-like-your-hair’s-on-fire – aka – how to stay serene and joyful while you change the world is a bit of a challenge.

But if you’re ready for the chaos and you stand firm and fight, you can find a gateway to a whole new kind of heaven.

Cross It Off The List

Consider the art of Selective Neglect.

We know we’re not going to get everything done today that we would like to get done.

We know that we’re probably not going to get it done tomorrow, either.

So rather than walking around feeling bad about all the stuff we know we’re not going to get to, let’s do some strategic thinking about “the list” itself.

We’ve discussed before the the idea of moving your highest-income producing activities to the top of the list (http://sambennett.wpengine.com/?s=highest+income+producing+activities) and I still find that to be a useful tactic.

But what about eliminating some of the non-income producing activities entirely? (I know – there goes your chances for being crowned Queen Perfectly Doing Everything…)

Seriously – what could just go? And I don’t just mean delegate, I mean eliminate.

For example:

– Alison has an online grocery delivery service do the bulk of her weekly food shopping. Yes, this deprives her of the opportunity to squeeze her own melons, so to speak, but it saves this working mother at least 2 hours a week of parking, shopping and schlepping.

– Nancy quit Facebook. Cold turkey. Probably gained her an extra 6-9 hours per week.

– Jessica quit her church choir. “I loved the singing,” she said, “But I was not loving the 2-hour rehearsal each Thursday night. Being home with my family instead means we’ve started a weekly game night – Bananagrams! – and now in church on Sundays I get to just relax and enjoy church.” So she gained two hours plus not having to be there early on Sunday – probably three hours a week.

– I put my husband in charge of all national and international events. I do skim the front section of the newspaper each day with one eye half-closed, just to stay abreast of the general news trends. But I realized that don’t really want to take the time to learn all the details. Plus, I find the details depressing. But my husband reads everything cover to cover and is well-informed about almost everything and so, when I find myself wondering about what’s actually going on in Tunisia, I just ask him. It’s very refreshing to remain deliberately under-informed in this world of the non-stop news cycle. How much time do I save? Maybe ten minutes a day plus a whole lot of brain space.

– David sent out a hilarious post-holiday email to his family and friends saying something to the effect of, “Dear Ones, A better father would probably be able to get his kids to write thank-you notes. But I’m not that guy. So please accept this generic email as a sign of our sincerest thanks for the gift/card/well-wishes you sent/made/delivered. We really like/appreciate/use it a lot. We love you. Sincerely…” This single dad’s big savings was in deciding to quit nagging his kids. Again, some gain in time, probably, the bigger gain was in his newly-peaceful approach toward his kids.

So what could you just give up on?


1) Look in the areas of your life where there are a lot of “shoulds” going on in your head.

2) Be willing to sacrifice some pleasure for a greater good. All of the activities above were at least somewhat pleasurable – Alison loves food and cooking, Nancy loved Facebook, Jessica loved her choir, I love being well-read and David loves having polite kids. But what if the gain in time or peace of mind is greater than the pleasure factor?

3) Is the gain in time or peace of mind greater than the ego gratification? (This is a biggie – so be gentle but firm with yourself in your answer to this one.) After all, it can feel pretty good to know that, “you did everything yourself, ” or that “you stay connected online,” or that “you sing,” “you’re informed,” “you appear to have perfect kids.” Your ego could take quite a hit, here. But there is great freedom in stepping down off the moral high ground.

4) I would not eliminate anything in the arena of personal care. The time you spend working out, meditating and getting your hair cut is a valuable investment in your appearance and your self-respect. Clearly, this is just my big ol’ opinion (and I suppose if you’re spending an hour blow-drying your hair every morning or two hours a week at the manicurist keeping up your elaborate acrylics, you could consider an adjustment there…) but I really want you to keep your self feeling good and looking current. Not necessarily dressed in cutting-edge fashion, but in a style that is neat, clean, well-fitted to your lifestyle and, you know, from this decade.

5) Try it before you decide. Consider eliminating something for a week or a month before you cut it out entirely. After all, if you really miss it, you can always go back to it.

So, what will you selectively neglect today?

Notice That You Being Hard On Yourself Doesn’t Help

I notice that you being hard on yourself doesn’t help you get more done. You criticizing yourself doesn’t help you learn and grow. You dwelling on your perceived failures, shortcomings, faults, weaknesses and screw-ups doesn’t help you be a creative person.

In fact, it makes everything worse.

Being hard on yourself depletes your energy.
Being hard on yourself discourages you from taking action.
Being hard on yourself makes every idea an opportunity for punishment. (“Why didn’t you think of that sooner?” “You should have done that already!” “What’s this – another idea that you won’t finish?”)

Treating yourself as though you are some unreliable and troublesome child who must be constantly watched (“Heaven knows WHAT she’ll do if we take our eyes off her for even just one second”) is completely counter-productive.

I might also point out that you being hard on other people (criticizing, dwelling on their perceived failures, shortcomings, faults, weaknesses and screw-ups doesn’t help anything either. In fact, it makes things worse.

So just for today, be tender with yourself.

Give yourself a sincere compliment and don’t then immediately talk yourself out of it.

Look around your life and notice all the parts of it that are truly, truly wonderful.

Being gentle with yourself and others is not a cop-out: rather, it is the only way out of the destructive spirals of procrastination, perfectionism and self-loathing.

If You’re Tired, Rest (Radical Thought, Huh?)

You are no longer a child. You are not trying to get out of math quiz. You don’t fake it. If your body is telling you that you are tired, listen.

And even if you have the impulse that you MIGHT be faking it – that’s important information, too.

About once a month I teach a 4-day intensive at Sam Christensen Studios (www.SamChristensen.com) and I finally had to make it a policy that I keep the day after we end free of appointments and obligations. While it panics me slightly to do so (how can I take a day off! I’ve been in a workshop for four days! I’m so far behind in my work! Eeeep!) I have learned that if I do NOT take the day off, I will pay for it all week.

In other words: one day of rest equals a whole week of productivity. And “pushing through” leads to several days of exhaustion and poor quality of life.

Where can you rest? What deadlines could you move? What projects could you set aside for now?

Want to get truly radical? Rest BEFORE you get tired.

Also known as: fill up the gas tank before it hits “E.”

Now excuse me, please – I’m going to go take a nap.

Might As Well Make Some Art

You’re not going to get everything done today anyway, so you might as well:

– spend some time on a thing that matters to you
– spend some time resting & restoring your soul
– spend maybe a minute or two communicating with someone you love

Make a part of today about spending your valuable time on that which is truly important to you because that is the highest and best use of your time and your talents, and doing so will enrich you and your community.

Your life deserves your best. Make time for it.