What If I Don’t Know What I Want? (The Blank Vision Board Blues)
Something weird happened to me recently. When I was in L.A., Shauna started asking me about vision boards. She had heard about how effective they could be, and was keen to give it a shot. When I asked her what she’d want on her vision board, she immediately rattled off a very specific list. I was psyched for her, and as we talked, I could see her future blossoming in my mind’s eye.
I love vision boards and I’m always up to make them, but there was just one problem: I couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted. Nothing really lit me up. I just felt kind of empty; tapped out.
This feeling followed me around California, to Nevada (where we had a debaucherous and wonderful few days), and even home to New York City. I returned to an empty house — my husband has been racing motorcycles in Florida — and spent the majority of the week in bed. I was exhausted and demotivated. I slept 12 hours a night more than once. I accidentally fell asleep in the middle of the day. I didn’t want to update my blog. I just wanted to lie around and do nothing.
I was filled with conflicting emotions. On one hand, it was thrilling to not have to do anything. (This has been the first time in over a year that I’ve legitimately had nothing urgent on my to-do list.) But on the other, I felt immense guilt and pressure. My blog, my book, my other projects were all waiting… And I was excited about them! But I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm.
After a period sitting on the couch staring into space, I Googled Danielle LaPorte to see if she’d ever written anything about how it’s okay to take a break. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything. Next, I Googled “is it okay for me to take a break?” like I was asking the internet for permission.
An hour or two later, I looked at Instagram… And I got the sign I had been looking for.
REST IS PRODUCTIVE : THE SAVASANA OF CREATIVITY + WORK At the end of a big project, you will be pulled with equal force in three directions: CLEANING UP. You’ve been in the creative bubble. Your auto-responder was set to “don’t bug me,” your door mat said “Unwelcome.” Now your inbox is encrusted with emails like barnacles on an ocean-liner. There are many things that legitimately need tending to, people you care about are waiting, and you genuinely want to move into responsive mode. But you also really need… STILLNESS. Your mind has been burning for so longing that needs the cooling effect of suspension and ambling. A nap. Reading a book unrelated to your line of work. Unscheduled time. Listening, receiving. NEWNESS. Part of you is raring to get going on the next Big Thing. You’re wired to make stuff. It’s what you do. If I was more chemically imbalanced, I would have started my new book the day after I submitted my last book, (it crossed my mind. The next tome is burning a hole in my heart.) But I knew it was Savasana time. Prone on the floor with your eyes closed, it’s easy to fall asleep in Savasana. Some yoga instructors discourage this because it’s not about escaping per se, it’s about integration. I used to consider it nap time. But now I listen, and I hear so much more. And I re-enter the world more energized. The same approach applies to work. I used to wrap a project, crash hard, and then zip into the next thing. Now…I sit with both the discomfort and the enthusiasm. I stay awake and look at where I’ve been and how it relates – or doesn’t – to where I want to go. We rest to integrate the benefits of the work that we have done. CLEAN UP without rushing, without panic or guilt, and with respect for the patience you’ve been shown. BE STILL in the ways that your body and mind crave. LET THE NEWNESS ROOT. Allow yourself to be sensationally excited…without acting on it…yet. When you rest, you have space for all of it. And when you rise to meet the future, you will be very, very ready.
That’s when it dawned on me: I needed to take a fucking break! Since January 2014, I’ve launched 365 days of Radical Self Love Letters, The Blogcademy Home School, Radical Self Love Bible School, Blogcademy Online, and Radical Self Love Bootcamp. This is in addition to editing and finishing my first book, blogging around three times a week, flying around the world to teach The Blogcademy, and holding Radical Self Love Salons in NYC and London.
It’s no wonder I’m exhausted. Just looking at that list makes me want to take a big nap (yeah, another one)! It’s an enormous amount of content, marketing and customer service to juggle.
It’s so obvious: after you create something, you need to recover. As wonderful as it is to make new things and put them out into the world, you can’t do it 24/7… Because your creative energy is a finite resource.
The reason I can’t think of what I want — and the reason my vision board would be blank right now — is because I’m so burned out and tired. I haven’t taken any breaks. I have been, as they say, “burning the candle at both ends.”
Yesterday, I asked Google if it was okay for me to take a break. I mean, if you have to go to Google to get permission for something, stop! The answer is simply yes. You are clearly exhausted (and slightly delusional). Just allow yourself to do what you want to do. You are in charge!
Let me say that another way. If you’re looking for a permission slip that says it’s alright for you to step away, THIS IS IT. Nothing good will come from pushing through, forcing yourself onwards, and gritting your teeth. You need space to figure out your next moves. Your imagination needs traffic cones placed around it so your thoughts can percolate.
If you’re feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t know what you’d put on your vision board, this is a sign that you need to back off and relax. Make yourself some space. Ideas will start to flow back in when the time is right. (Trust that. There are always more ideas.)
Close your laptop and go for a walk. Sit in the sunshine and close your eyes. Go and see a movie with one of your favourite people. Play with your dog. Buy some plants. Do whatever it is you have to do in this moment to recalibrate your soul. (You already know what you really need.)
I needed to take a rest and let things sink in. That’s what I’ve been doing this week, and what I’m going to continue doing for as long as I need it.
Being creative and doing your work — especially when it’s meaningful and fulfilling — is fantastic, but it shouldn’t be your entire life. Go do something else!
Take a load off, mama.
Want more like this? Try In Praise Of Calling It Quits: What To Do When You’re Burned Out, & How To Get Your Spark Back.