I am a type-A doer, go-getter, list-obsessed person by nature. This has usually served me well. Helping me to set high goals and work steadily to achieve them in school, in work, in life. After many, many years of this pattern – build the list, check the mark, start again, rinse and repeat — I was in desperate need of a change. I had checked all the boxes, but wasn’t happy, fulfilled or engaged in my life. I was longing for a purpose + connection beyond a list.
At the start of 2018, I leaped from the corporate creative world to be a creative-of-the-world at large. For now, this means I define my life less in job titles, to-dos, and meetings and more in daily rituals that bring me joy. Moments spent laughing with my daughter. Painting in silence. Delivering a design project that makes a client happy.
As 2018 begins to wind down, I’m finding a peace in this slower pace. Each day is different, but each day is more full of purpose and presence than my life before. I’m settling into this routine, the unknown, the unscheduled to the minutia and finding myself happier and more connected than I have been in a while.
A few things I’m learning to adjust to help myself find peace + calm in the chaos of life:
1. MY EXPECTATIONS. As a recovering list-aholic and people pleaser, my days are now measured not so much in what I check off, but in what I learned. What I smiled about. What I created. How I connected with another human. I’m letting laundry slide and dishes pile up. Not responding to every email and text JUST as it comes in. Creating space in my expectations to listen to my gut, has allowed me to take risks, build connections and more fully creatively connect in ALL aspects of my life.
2. MY SCHEDULE. Before my career shift, I was used to 9 – 10 hours a day of back to back meetings, conference calls, design approvals. Home for a quick nighttime routine with my daughter of homework, dinner, play, bath time and bed. Back on my computer for 2 – 3 more hours to catch up on email. I was exhausted and burned out. But I was addicted to the schedule, the pace, the sense of purpose I got from being so busy. This year, I’ve learned that busy doesn’t equal purpose or productivity. I’m building my weeks and days around what must-dos and want-to-dos. Some days this has me starting work at 5 am, so I can catch up with a friend mid-day. Others, I’m having a slow morning of hanging with my daughter before school, painting and then working later in the evening. I build my schedule around what I value and crave, and no two days are the same. It’s a juggle, but it’s my juggle and I’m soaking in the spontaneity and pace each day.
3. SELF-LOVE. As a single mom, a creative freelancer + entrepreneur, most days the only voice I hear is my own. And man. Is she a harsh critic! I’ve learned that good enough is passable in most areas of my life, and am taking time to recharge and nurture more frequently. My self-care toolbox adopted many new practices this year, in a quest to keep my cool, unplug and give my brain a chance to turn off. Loving myself first has helped me to get better at loving the people and the world around me.
4. LETTING DOUBT HAVE A VOICE. BUT NOT TAKE THE LEAD. As I journey into so much unknown territory – as a mom, a freelancer, an entrepreneur, I constantly doubt my self. Big time. All my life, this doubt has been my constant companion. Very recently, I’ve found a more productive way to listen to my apprehension, from a practical standpoint… giving her a voice and a seat at the table to share her concerns + worries. Thanking her, making a plan to address the concerns, and moving on with my day. Before this practice of listening to my doubts, I was frequently awakened by the loud, nagging, incessant chatter of anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still here and knows how to get my attention, but giving her a voice, and listening has helped to calm her just a bit.
5. SIMPLIFYING + SHOWING GRATITUDE. In this always connected, always on world – it’s easy to get distracted by comparing yourselves to others. The impeccable homes, stellar accomplishments, amazing hair so present on the curated social media feeds. This year, slowly, I’ve begun to whittle down my online habits only to follow people who bring me meaning + happiness. Self-preservation if you will. This practice, coupled with a nightly gratitude list, has helped me to reframe my perspective from one of what I DON’T have, to focusing on all the GOODNESS I do have. I now celebrate the small wins each day brings. Being grateful brings more kindness and compassion into my daily interactions, a win-win.
These shifts have helped me to find peace in the day-to-day. Not always chasing the someday, but learning to live in the moment. Each day is different, with its own set of challenges and celebrations. Leaning into the unknown and trusting that even as life shifts and changes, I may not be exactly where I envisioned – but I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.
Jill Elliott is a creative consultant, strategist, and thinker constantly seeking inspiration and balance. As a writer, artist, and founder of The Color Kind she seeks to inspire others to live creatively every day. She can often be found making art and messes alongside her 7-year-old daughter and Goldendoodle puppy.