I was falling short of everyone’s expectations.
My relatives wanted me more engaged in family events—wedding, funerals, birthday parties etc. My boss wanted me to be more social at work. My publisher wanted my novel ahead of the deadline to market it early.
I tried to please everyone. So I ended up doing nothing right. My novel was delayed. My family wasn’t pleased with my half-hearted, in-and-out attempts. My boss still wanted more.
I’d forgotten this one rule about creation.
Every creation requires some kind of disruption.
Yoga says that the three gunas—the founding elements of nature—were in a dormant stage, in perfect equilibrium at the beginning of time. The creative urge shattered the equilibrium. That’s how the universe propagated. Kind of like the Big Bang.
An equilibrium has to shatter if you have to create.
So I chose creation over perfection. I worked hard at my job, I spent time with my kids, I wrote my novel, the rest of the time I was my flawed, sometimes unsocial, mostly introverted self.
Once I was at peace, others accepted my choice. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I couldn’t have done anything else. I had to write that book. Everything else paled in comparison to that urge.
Do you have an idea that you want to bring to life but are struggling to find space for? Here are three ways to create that space.
1. Remember the Golden Rule:
I’m not religious in the traditional sense at all but I (conveniently) like this one golden truth that all major religions reveal in some form or the other. To quote the Islamic articulation,
Only Allah is perfect.
(Or Christ or Brahman or whoever be your God).
I like this reminder. The human condition is limited, imperfect, we’re all striving for the infinite in a finite world. I fall short in some ways, others fall short in other ways. Earlier I used to castigate myself constantly—why is my mind not silent after years of meditation, why do I always crave freedom from obligation, why do I…Now I think it’s fine. I learn, I grow, I do what I can do.
Only Allah is perfect.
Don’t let the quest to be perfect with everything/everyone get in the way of the imperfect joy of following your pursuit even if you have nothing to show for it in the end.
2. Learn to say a transparent “No”.
The paradox of life is that the more you enjoy something and get better at it, the more you’ll be distracted from doing it. If you write even a moderately successful novel, you’ll be inundated with literary festival invites. You’d be finally running a company after years of climbing the ladder and you’ll find all your time taken in networking events and CEO forums.
Say No transparently and often.
Earlier I’d say Yes a lot, then bail out at the last minute with elaborate excuses—“I’m sorry I had to go for a last-minute conference outside the city, I’m sorry XYZ happened.”
Don’t be a flake like I was.
Say No early. Shatter the equilibrium. Only when you say No often will you be able to say yes a few times to creation.
3. Spend time only with people who lift you up.
I had a sudden realisation once when I was traveling for a large social gathering, probably a wedding. My presence wouldn’t make anyone measurably happier. I’d walk out of the event indifferent or depressed.
Why spend time and energy on obligation if it doesn’t help anyone then?
There are so many constructs that we inherit—belonging to this family or that team or community. So many bondages that tether the soul. Ultimately, the simplest test of every interaction is if it lifts your soul and conversely, if your presence lifts anyone’s soul. If it doesn’t, career or relationship, you have to slowly phase it out. You’ll burn some bridges but they’ll light the way to a brighter, more creative path.
Here’s wishing you a creative 2017 with a lot of No’s and some Yes’s! If this helps you find some emotional space in a chaotic life, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. As always, I read, reply, and learn from each one.