action without outcome

An anecdote for anyone stuck in a creative rut, or a life rut:

It dawned on me recently that I’ve been doing a lot of marinating about what to do next and not a lot of actual “doing.” I realised it was because I’d been thinking a lot about the outcome I wanted, and not so much about the process, so I decided to do an little life experiment: choose a task, and do it with no care for the outcome.

I decided on 30 days of painting, because it’s meditative and I felt I needed that right now. It’s also been something I’ve wanted to spend time doing at home as a hobby for ages.

I challenged myself, at the very least, to put a brush full of paint on paper AT LEAST once a day for 30 days. This instantly felt really light when compared to the “goals” I’d been setting myself. Rather than threatening to be another source of guilt if I didn’t complete it, it felt like a permissive “here Ella, you get to spend the next 30 days doing this thing you’ve always wanted to… and better yet, your paintings don’t have to be good because that’s not the point, the point is to put paint to paper daily.”

Outcome 1. Some days when I reallly couldn’t be bothered, I’d just add a random layer of colour… On the days where I was more motivated or had more time, I eventually transformed it into something resembling an ocean.

Outcome 1. Some days when I reallly couldn’t be bothered, I’d just add a random layer of colour… On the days where I was more motivated or had more time, I eventually transformed it into something resembling an ocean.

It was my way of tricking myself to be in the moment more. Similar to the way kids do things; with zero pressure behind their actions, just “because.”

I’m onto day 16 and so far, taking action without the burden of an outcome in my mind has been freeing and easy. It feels like I’ve been given permission to play like I did when I was a kid. Once the paint is all set up, I end up painting more of course, but the leniency of my challenge makes it realistic.

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If all I can do one day is paint one line, no worries. If on another day I get inspired and paint a whole picture, that’s amazing, but either way really doesn’t matter because that’s not the point. The point is to trick myself into take action by making it dead-easy and free of any pressure to do good work, by focusing entirely on the process. So far, it feels good, forward-moving and motivating. It’s been just what I needed and I thought I’d share in case it inspires at least one of you out there.

An unfinished, not-so-masterpiece (but I had fun doing it)!

An unfinished, not-so-masterpiece (but I had fun doing it)!