“Hey Ollin, I have a full-time job that sucks out all my energy so that when I get back home, all I want to do is sleep and avoid doing ANY kind of work. How can I still be creative and follow my passion in my situation? It all seems impossible. HELP!”
Let’s get real: many of us do not have the luxury of being able to be creative all day, all week and all year long. Many of us—well, most of us—have day jobs that we basically need to put a roof over our heads and pay the bills.
But, as many of us have discovered, the day job that was supposed to help supplement our income, and allow us to have some stress-free downtime in order to engage in our passion, has basically used up all the creative energy we have—so there’s none left over for our passion.
I’ve been able to find a solution to this very problem, and as always, whenever I overcome an obstacle I like to share it with you, too, so you can also overcome this challenge.
So here it is:
3 Ways to Restore Your Creative Energy
(When Your Day Job Has Sucked Every Last Drop Of It)
1. Learn How To Better Manage Your Energy
I’ve been thinking a lot about energy lately and how valuable it is. Napoleon Hill, one of the very first self-help gurus, and author of Think and Grow Rich, said that if you wanted to realize your dream, you had to spend all of your energy on tasks and activities which would progress the manifestation of your dream—and give “0” energy to tasks that did not help you realize that dream.
This is a jarring statement when you think about it: because if we really judge our energy in terms of whether it helps us achieve our dream or not, then so many of us will find that we waste so much of our energy engaging in useless activities, or getting caught up in silly dramas with strangers, family members, or friends. Meanwhile that energy could be better spent on realizing our dream.
This is why the first step to getting back our creative energy (when our day job seems to be sucking every last drop if it) is to look closely at the energy that we spend after work and recognize the ways in which we waste our creative energy on things that do not deserve it.
For instance: do we spend hours thinking about ways we can get our annoying neighbor kicked out of the apartment complex? Are we spending days wondering what our ex-boyfriend is thinking now that he’s moved on to someone else but we still want him back? Are we spending hours and hours watching the news as it covers the next natural disaster, the next humanitarian crisis, the next foreign conflict, the next wrongful murder, the next mass shooting, the next political scandal, the next celebrity pseudo-crisis (do leaked nude photos really warrant such around-the-clock international news coverage? Come on, people), the next this or that—and is our obsession over this news even helping to alleviate the situation, or is it all just serving to wind us up and make us angry and depressed about the whole situation, only exacerbating the situation and not helping it at all?
The truth is our energy is sacred because it is so limited. Let’s face it: we often cannot help infusing our creative energy into our day jobs because we really do need to pay the bills, and that is totally understandable.
But should we really allow ourselves to expend our “after-work” energy on things that do not help us grow in our passion? Shouldn’t we always carefully and meticulously regulate every single drop of energy we have so that we are making sure that all our free time is dedicated on things that will advance our happiness and not deter it?
Which is better to help reach our goals after we come home from work:
- An hour of cable news, or an hour with a therapist who can help heal us with their loving attention?
- Time spent obsessing over the best friend who stabbed us in the back, or some down time spent in quiet prayer or meditation, focusing on the people in your life who have always respected you?
- Stressing over the situation at work you can’t do anything about until the morning, or playing some tennis with your kid, and afterwards listening to what’s concerning him today and offering your love and support?
If we are not careful about managing our energy, and spending it on things that truly nourish us, then we may soon find ourselves profoundly depleted and unable to do the creative work we so love and cherish.
2. If You’re Already Going 100 MPH, Don’t Push the Gas Pedal More–Break Instead.
In learning how to manage my creative energy, I made a classic mistake that everyone makes: instead of “putting on the breaks” after I was finished with my day job, I would “push the gas pedal” even harder.
What I mean by this is that instead of recognizing my mind’s request to rest and relax after a long day of hard mental exertion, I still pushed myself to be creative, even though I knew my mind was exhausted. I did that because that is what so many bloggers and ‘experts’ recommended. Those experts always seemed to say:
“If you got a day job, well, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep pushing even if you are depleted because that’s the only way you are going to make your dream work.”
I know many will disagree with me, but I am convinced that this approach to a more creative lifestyle is so profoundly unhealthy for us that it may actually be the reason so many of us do not make it to realizing our dream.
I tried this approach myself for some time and I am going to state unequivocally that it actually does NOTHING for energizing us creatively. In fact, it does the exact opposite: it makes us resent our creative endeavors even more because we feel like our dream is demanding more of us than we can reasonable handle.
And we would be right with that instinct.
Here is what I mean by “putting on the breaks” after you come home from work: I meant that you should literally engage in doing nothing for a period of time after your day job. Your mind needs that period of nothingness. It DOES NOT need you pushing it to its limits so that you end up depleted and exhausted and cranky.
Lastly, you are also going to have to give yourself extended “break” times: I’m talking about days, weeks, maybe even months where you put your creative project on hold so that you can spend that time re-energizing your creative faculties.
When you are once again eager and thrilled to be creative again that is when you know you have given your mind the break it needed to recuperate its energy.
3. Don’t Reduce Your Creativity To This Specific Moment In Time
Every since I started my day job almost two years ago, I felt profoundly guilty that I didn’t spend as much time on my novel as I used to. My work in progress—which at one point was developing at lighting speeds—is now slowly slogging along, inch by friggin’ inch, and it seems like its completion has no end in sight.
The creative energy I used to be able to aside for it is now nearly evaporated, and the little moments here and there that I can add to its development seem to feel like just a “drop in the bucket” compared to the grand monsoons I used to unleash back in the days.
This had lead me to wonder about who I currently am as a creative person:
Am I to be reduced to this moment in time? Where the creative energy I can dedicate to my dream is more limiting than I would want? Or am I to see myself from a more “panoramic” point of view? Not see myself as an “irresponsible creative person,” but as creative person who has always tried his best in each circumstance he was given? A person who did good by his work in times when he could dedicate all his energy to it and in times when he could dedicate only very little energy to it?
Is our success in life to be measured by how exhausted and depleted we are at the end of the week? Or is this a false notion? A notion that finds its source in an American culture that has lost its way and now believes that workaholism should be the new normal, and cannot view a person as a “success” or truly “hardworking” unless that person is perpetually bleary-eyed, exhausted, and constantly wound up with all the stress and anxieties of the world?
I, for one, choose to counter this unhealthy trend. I choose to honor my creative energy. I choose to trust my intuition when it says I need to break and not push on the gas pedal even harder. I choose to avoid pushing myself beyond my capacity, and I choose not to rack myself with guilt because I’m not a superhuman.
I choose to set limits and boundaries.
I choose to create a world in which we judge our success not by how depleted we are at the end of the workweek, but how energized we are, at the end of our lives, by all that we accomplished in sum and not in pieces.
much love energy,
Today’s Courage Exercise
1. Take Napoleon Hill’s advice and focus all your “after-work” energy on activities and people who move your dreams forward. (Meanwhile, don’t waste your energy on people and activities that do not serve your purpose in this life.)
2. Go into a “space of nothingness” after your workday. Put on “the breaks” and don’t push yourself to be more creative until you honor your intuition’s urging to re-energize your mind first. (If your intuition asks you to take several days, or even months, off from your creative project—trust it, so that your creativity may be fully re-energized. Do this even though it slows your creative project down considerably.)
3. Take the panoramic view of your creative life on this earth. Don’t reduce your creativity to this single moment in time. Realize that at the end of your life, you will be judged by the totality of you, and not on this singular moment.
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