My Account

Where’s the Balance Between Being Creative and Being Responsive?

red rose
I’m jealous of a rose because all it has to do is grow.

Caught Between Two Worlds

I have two parts in me: a part that loves to go deeply into one thing, and a part that loves to adjust and go with the flow of serving other people wherever they may lead me. Unfortunately, I can’t do both at the same time very well.

When I’m going deeply into something—creating something, learning something, developing a skill, building something—I prefer to be alone in a place free from distractions: a library, or retreat setting, for example. I like to have a large block of time available to slowly solve a problem or create something new.

On the other hand, when I’m in response mode—answering emails, being available for course participants, working with clients—I prefer to have no other creative responsibilities on my mind. I want to be free to go with the flow and feel like I can go anywhere for anyone without time restriction. 

Unfortunately, These Are Both Idealized Versions of Life

I don’t get to live in a library creating silently by myself and bringing together large, interesting projects without time restraint. And I don’t get to be free to answer questions and give support without regard to time. 

Believe me, I’ve tried it many times. I can do each for a while, but it’s never enough.

The Problem Is Not With Reality, But With My Thinking

The problem is with my wants. I want to do it all. And I want to do it all well. Basically, it’s perfectionism showing up. I want to have unlimited creative time and unlimited responsive time. 

When I look at it this way—that it is my thinking that is causing the conflict—it shifts it a bit for me. It means that there must be a way to look at things differently that would be more easy on me.

My favorite way to look at things differently is to question what I think using The Work of Bryon Katie.

Here’s How It Works

In my brainstorming above, I identified two wants: “I want to do it all.” And “I want to do it all well.” So I take one statement at a time and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work. Here’s what I found when I went through this process in a current situation.

When I questioned the thought, “I want to do it all,” I found that my to-do list became instantly infinite. Not only do I have to answer all my email, private messages, reminders, course questions, and a bunch more inboxes, but I also have to do things like write this newsletter, plan a retreat, work on a podcast I’m developing, learn a bunch of stuff, and coordinate a lot of people that are helping me in various ways.

If I imagine what it would be like without the thought that I want to do it all, my world becomes instantly focused. There is nothing else to do but type the next word in this sentence. The wider to-do list fades as I write the best newsletter I can in one hour’s time. I trust my calendar and know that I will reevaluate my schedule for next week during my weekly planning session. In short, I don’t feel overwhelmed at all. 

The amazing thing is that this shift in experience comes simply by experimenting with a thought. With it, total stress and overwhelm. Without it, back to normal. I feel the bliss again.

When I turn it around, I easily find that “I don’t want to do it all.” No, just writing this note to you (and me) is all I care about in this moment. I realize that I don’t have to hold up the world at all. Whatever is meant to stand will stand, and whatever is meant to fall will fall. That feels very freeing. 

Your Turn

I’ve given you a little taste of how this work can be done. Now, it’s your turn to try it out. Find a specific situation first, then identify a stressful thought to question. See what you can discover when you look at the same situation from upside down and inside out. The questions of The Work will show you how. 

Join Us for Open Sessions Each Week

Want to start exploring this process of The Work and how to open to the freedom that can be found inside? Join us weekly for my free Open Sessions where I facilitate participants to do The Work and answer questions about it.

Have a great week,

“Put on paper the part of the mind that is saying these things. You can’t stop the story inside your head, however long you try. It’s not possible. But when you put the story on paper and write it just the way the mind is telling it, with all your suffering and frustration and rage and sadness, then you can take a look at what is swirling around inside you. You can see it brought into the material world, in physical form. And finally, through The Work, you can begin to understand it.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further reading: The Trap of “I Need to Do an Amazing Job”

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.