When we’re caught in a bind, we need to find that magic spot between brutal realism and everlasting hope.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It’s not unusual, when life goes south, to want someone to tell us everything is going to be OK.

When my life hit a rough patch, that’s exactly what I wanted.

And the people I turned to were psychics.

Desperate for some kind of reassurance that things would get better, they were the only people I could think of who could give me a glimmer of hope that my life would get back on track again.

And they did.

I would come away after each session floating on air, filled with unbridled joy and an unshakeable belief that everything in my life would work out just fine — so much better than fine, in fact. …

When a passion project ceases to be one, we need to look at the expectations we have of it — and what we are willing to do for it.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Adam Cai on Unsplash

Passion projects can be tricky, not always in finding out what they are (although that is hard enough), but more in the actual execution of them. They require a lot of effort and all too frequently they attract little (if any) reward.

They are invariably thankless tasks. We can find ourselves grafting for weeks, months, years, even, with no external validation or financial gain of any kind.

Before long, what once made us invigorated will make us feel drained; what was previously a passion will become a pain; what fulfilled us before will leave us feeling resentful.

What can be done, then, about this inevitable side-effect of sticking with our dreams, when there appears to be no external evidence to convince us it is worth sticking at in the first place? …

The magic of zero expectations and the happiness it can bring

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Cory Woodward on Unsplash

I would argue that the number one killer of creativity (and happiness, in general, for that matter) is the need for brilliance.

It‘s paralyzing. It‘s also depressing, as it is steeped in — and is rocket fuel for — feelings of gross inadequacy.

If we didn’t feel inadequate already, then piling ridiculous expectations on ourselves for something we haven’t even done yet (or have/own/become) is a guaranteed way to get there.

When we aim disproportionately too high, the Ugly Sister of Inadequacy — the Critical Inner Voice — is then, by default, given free reign to well and truly put the boot in. …

Ambition requires sacrifice, says Gary Vaynerchuk. So, leave your bling at the door

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

A relatively recent article in The Guardian (kind of summed up by its title: “A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it”), did its bit to blow the lid on an entire industry — but also an idealised view on life we all might be guilty of having.

That view is that achieving our dreams is somehow egalitarian in its nature — available to all; that all you need is talent and passion and fate will take care of the rest.

(Or, for literal interpreters of The Secret, just close your eyes and imagine it’s true and somehow a magical Universe will conspire to make it so.) …

We need to ask ourselves this question — as frequently as possible —or crisis might force us to

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It’s not unusual to run on auto-pilot, particularly when life is hectic: the diary is packed, the to-do list is brimming, the days are full.

What is unusual is to take a step back — as frequently as we can — and reassess: to look at what we are doing and ask ourselves: “Am I being true to myself?

This kind of question is a catch-all for an infinite number of variations:

Is this who I am?”

“Is this what I want?”.

Am I heading in the right direction?”

Did I mean what I just said?

Is this person right for me?” …

We don’t always have to take drastic steps to feel we have a bit of control in our lives

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Christian Hermann on Unsplash

We can frequently find ourselves in incredibly demoralizing situations.

Take the average office. For many of us, it provides little more than a delightful daily cocktail of insufficient pay, mindbogglingly repetitive tasks and stifling levels of box-ticking.

Feeling like a cog in a wheel is hard enough when this is a job to pay the bills (rather than a step up the ladder to something greater).

It can become intolerable, however, when we are perpetually undermined, given insufficient freedom to make decisions and are left feeling overworked, undervalued and underpaid.

For many of us, quitting isn’t an option, which just compounds the misery we feel. …

The real trick is to start first — and then the magic will come

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by niklas_hamann on Unsplash

It’s not always possible to feel fired up. When it comes to the magic of motivation, the only thing we can actually rely on is the fact that we can’t rely on it all.

Our enthusiasm levels fluctuate throughout the day, waxing and waning with our circadian rhythms. All being well, they run their natural course and we feel the fire in our bellies again.

Other times our “down” spells can go on for what feels like a lifetime.

We stare at blank screens, with blank minds and zero idea how to get back to that place of inspired action we had before. …

There is actually a perfect time of day to do utterly meaningless tasks…

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Sébastien LAVALAYE on Unsplash

So, you wake up, feel motivated, feel on point — today is the day. And for a few hours you are on fire, you feel like you’re really getting somewhere.

And then you hit that wall.

Suddenly all that optimism you had has gone out the window and a different self emerges: one who could not give a sh*t. About anything. Least of all the stuff that got you out of bed this morning.

It’s the dreaded Afternoon Slump. For most of us, who can at least recognise that is what it is, it is one of those unavoidable unpleasantries of life where we do our best to slog on despite it, in the vain hope we can push our way through it. …

Life isn’t always going to go our way. Here are 4 techniques that might help when life has won the grand prize of being the world’s biggest shit-show

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Randy Laybourne on Unsplash

Sometimes, life is just shit. It’s bleak. It’s boring. It’s repetitive, predictable, petty and small. It’s going nowhere. And worse, we can’t seem to find any reprieve from it.

We can find umpteen motivational videos telling us that “We can be or do anything we desire!”. We tell ourselves that we just lack confidence and are “afraid of our own power”.

We are told (by therapists, life coaches, gurus, self-styled experts) that we just have to believe in ourselves, repeat mantras and visualise success (yet nothing happens).

Surround yourself with people you admire!”, we are frequently advised. “Find a mentor, then get better than them!”. …

The Zeigarnik Effect teaches us the value of deliberately putting things off

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It feels extremely satisfying coming to the end of a task, completing something, getting stuff done, particularly if it has taken a lot of work.

The joy of facing the next day with a clean slate.

While this might sound like something worth aiming for (and in certain cases it can be), it can also, paradoxically, be hazardous for our productivity levels.

In fact, being too proficient at getting stuff done can be the very thing that can stop us from being able to get started the next day.

The Perils Of A Blank Slate

Any of us who have ever suffered from creative block knows how excruciating it is to stare endlessly at a blank page (figuratively or otherwise), praying for inspiration to come flooding in. …


Rachel Oliver

Writer & Creator of Re-Made (https://www.re-made.life), a life skills library.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store