🎨 September Renaissance
'Your Life As Art': A creative guide to getting traction on your goals
Two years ago, I was reading poolside in Miami when a stranger rocked up next to me. “What book is that?” he asked with a hint of ridicule. I read the title, ‘Your Life As Art’, aloud as I spun the book around to give him a better look. He raised his eyebrows and laughed as he took in the visuals below:
I laughed too, as I would’ve misjudged this book by its cover if I’d stumbled upon it randomly. But fortunately, it was recommended to me by the same woman who put me on to the book ‘Designing Your Life’ by Burnett & Evans—a favourite of mine. So despite its outward appearance resembling what the guy next to me poetically described as “clip art shit from the ‘90s,” I decided to give the book a chance. And I’m glad I did. Because despite its cheap visuals, clunky format, and the odd typo here and there, I loved the book’s essence of approaching your life as “art.”
The Blank Canvas
When you want to make a change in your life—personally or professionally—it helps to start with a blank canvas. Before you start imagining what the future looks like, you need to go deep within. Often that means shifting from external awareness to internal awareness.
Here’s a prime example: I shared in a past newsletter that I quit my job after a two-week vacation. I had what’s called a “come-to-Jesus moment” upon returning to work—“a moment of sudden realization, comprehension, or recognition that often precipitates a major change.”
When I broke the news to the Executive Director, a veteran entrepreneur, I thought he’d be frustrated I was quitting after vacation and wonder why I didn’t tell him beforehand. But he reassured me it was “normal” to have a come-to-Jesus moment after time off and away from my typical environment. He understood my trip had been the “blank canvas” I didn’t know I needed.
The Backward Approach
The powerful thing about shutting out your external awareness and going inward as you stand before a blank canvas is you can imagine all the possibilities. It gives you space to ask yourself, what do I want? What do I see?
Everyone is an artist because everything starts with imagining.
In ‘Your Life As Art’, Fritz shares a 3-step formula for how to bring your imagination to life using a backward (i.e., outcome-driven) approach similar to the one I use to design courses and workshops:
Step 1: Imagine your ‘Desire/Goal/Vision’
Visualize what it is you want. This could be a desire, goal, or vision of the future. Imagine what the end result could look like, as though it were a vivid painting conveying the positive emotions you feel after having achieved it.
Step 2: Take stock of your ‘Current Reality’
Once you imagine a future you want, your next step is to assess where you are in relation to it. This step is particularly hard for people because it means acknowledging the distance between the two—and that can make you sad. But the good news is you’re setting yourself up for success by taking a good hard look at your reality. You’ll only make things harder by being anything less than 100% honest with yourself about where you are now.
For example, imagine someone keen to run a marathon dramatically overstating their current running ability. Their entire training plan will be doomed simply because they’re too proud to acknowledge their current reality. And thus they’ll prolong their journey to achieving their goal.
So be honest with yourself. And if you feel down about the distance between your current reality and where you aspire to be, “think like a designer” as they say in ‘Designing Your Life.’ Reframe the situation until you’re content with what you see. For instance, here’s how I would reframe sadness or frustration about being far from achieving something I want:
I would acknowledge how empowering it is to know that by being 100% honest with myself about where I am now and accepting I need to do X, Y, and Z to achieve my goal, I’m guaranteed to get there as fast as possible (even if that takes a while). Secondly, if my image of the end goal feels impossibly far off, I can easily add images for milestones along the way. So if my goal to run a marathon seemed too far off, I would create a smaller goal of running a half-marathon first and use the same visual exercise to imagine it happening.
The key thing to keep in mind is if you want to shorten the gap between your current reality and your end goal, add milestone images to your quest. But don’t flub the details of your current reality. That’s a recipe for failure.
Step 3: Pick your ‘Concept’
Bridging the gap between where you are and where you imagine yourself being in the future sounds simple. But it’s not easy. It requires discipline and consistency because this is where the bulk of the work lies in realizing the necessary change. Therefore, it helps to have a concept guiding your efforts. A concept can vary from things like strength training for fitness folks to a weekly newsletter for writers, a painting concept for painters, etc. Your concept can be anything that provides “scaffolding” as you work toward your desire, goal, or vision.
Here’s a visual aid from the book to help you understand how these 3 steps fit together:
September has always been a “Renaissance” month for me, much like January is for others. The tranquillity of summer—and time spent by the water or in the mountains—breathes new life into me. September becomes my “all systems go” month. It’s the month I moved to London in 2014, the month I moved to Sydney in 2017, the month I moved to Paris in 2018, and the month I quit my job to bet on myself in 2021.
Needless to say, I’m excited for what the next 24 days will bring. And if, like me, you feel the good energy emanating from the “September surge,” I hope you approach your biggest, boldest goals with the vision and vigour of an artist creating a masterpiece.
Thanks for reading and have a wonder-full week,
P.S. If this post made you think or feel something, like it and comment to let me know.
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