This is a guest submission from Andy Mort from sheepdressedlikewolves.com
My birthday. Again? Already? I felt no different from last year, or the last five years for that matter. But the statistics don’t lie. Number of years lived: increasing at an alarming rate. And I was telling myself the same old story yet again.
‘This year is going to be the one. Everything will finally fall into place.’
And did it? Well, no…
But before lamenting yet another perceived failure, I stopped. What unit of measurement was I using when judging whether my life was ‘falling into place’? What did that even mean?
Stuck Only In My Mind
The truth was it meant nothing. It was just a way for me to offset responsibility for my own happiness and ‘success’ into the hands of a future that never arrives. I had adopted the mindset of ‘never enough’ and an extremely harsh attitude towards myself, comparing my life to my perception of others’ and constantly bouncing from one idea to the next hoping to somehow emulate the success of other musicians, bloggers, and solopreneurs.
I had lost all sense of my own ‘why’ and had become increasingly obsessed with copying other peoples’ ‘hows’. I was doing work that bored me, and trying to make money from my music and website that didn’t reflect any real sense of who I was or the message I wanted to convey. I was doing what I thought I ‘should’ be doing and pursuing other peoples’ ideas of success.
I am a songwriter and in March 2014 released my fourth studio album, Year 0. Since starting in 2005, I have experienced consistent periodic crises where I scrutinize and paralyzingly overthink my reason for pursuing my creative projects. During these periods I generally lose all of my momentum and creative motivation and feel like everything I’m trying to do is pointless.
Life Changing Discovery
In 2011 I read Marti Olsen Laney’s book, The Introvert Advantage, for the first time after it was recommended to me, and I began a life-changing journey of self-discovery. I had never looked into what introversion was until that point. I later found myself relating to Elaine Aron’s portrait of Highly Sensitive People, which was really the icing on the cake, allowing me to re-frame my relationship with performing, music, and other people.
A while later I had an enlightening conversation with a close friend and told him how frustrated I found it not having any idea of what direction I should be going with my art, work, and life in general. He paused before saying something that completely changed my whole outlook:
‘You are not defined by what you do, but rather how you do it and most importantly, why you do it’.
Called To Serve
We discussed the notion of identifying my ‘life theme’ to bring perspective and a sense of direction to the day to day. A theme can be unearthed within the truth that we all have passions, interests and a deep desire to serve certain groups or individuals. Well, since reading The Introvert Advantage I had become passionate about the desire to share my own discoveries and help people like me.
I felt compelled to serve other creative introverts and highly sensitive people, who might need inspiring, encouraging and equipping with new ways of seeing the world in the context of their temperament.
Knowing who I wanted to focus on helped me to get crystal clear on the goals I set for myself and I became content with the work that previously felt like a frustrating ‘daily grind’.
We all have a theme/narrative in life. It’s the way our character and personality interact with the world when we’re not really thinking about it. It’s what and who we naturally care about. It’s what dictates the kinds of films we like, the music we listen to, or the types of people to whom we are drawn.
Your “Why” Is Far More Important Than Your “What”
There is a common fallacy in our culture that removing oneself from the daily grind requires a change in lifestyle; quitting your job, doing what you love etc. But it seems to be a lot more nuanced than that. It is not about what you do, or what you’ve stopped doing, and more about why and how you do or don’t do it.
I have found ‘The Grind’ in those moments when I’ve lost my sense of why. It is not something that ever disappears completely; there are days when I am tired, overwhelmed, grumpy, comparing myself with others, and wishing that I was doing something else. Those days when I forget who and why I am serving with my music and words.
But I always come back to my bigger sense of why I’m doing what I do and who I’m doing it for. I have an email folder full of ‘encouraging’ messages from people who have experienced ‘aha!’ moments reading my blog, feeling encouraged and inspired to step through their fears and into their creative projects, despite not feeling ready or good enough. This is more than enough to keep me going during those grind days.
Even if we love what we do, we will all still feel a negative ‘Grind’ from time to time. But being aware of your place/focus/theme to come back to when you need to re-center and gather perspective becomes comforting and reassuring.
Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, which is a Blog and Podcast aimed at encouraging introverted and highly sensitive people to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. Be sure to download his FREE eBook “The Gentle Rebel Manifesto” as well.