It’s funny how we have ourselves conditioned to do certain things. As we do the same tasks day after day, we tend to fall into certain routines and lifestyles. This doesn’t happen over night. For most of us it creeps into our life and then before we realize it, things become a habit.
The past couple of weeks have been odd for me. Not really in a bad way, just different. Sometime at the beginning of the month, I had ‘caught up’ with most of the projects I was working on and decided to take some time to not only reorganize things and sort, but also to concentrate on doing some things in preparation for the holiday. This threw me out of my usual routine and while I am happy with what I have accomplished in some areas, I feel like I rather miss the work routine that I have come to know these past few years of my life. I am sure it sounds silly, but it feels rather strange.
Last night, I even had a dream about some things regarding work that was a bit unsettling. As with most dreams, I don’t really remember it all, but I do know it had something to do with me feeling as if I wasn’t putting my entire self into my work and my business was suffering because of it. I woke up feeling a bit anxious and uneasy.
I don’t think that my dream has much merit in many respects, as our business is doing quite well. We have been growing and more people have been following us and buying our patterns directly from our site, which is good. We also have many new things planned for the upcoming year in designing which will help expand our business further and broaden our customer base and (hopefully) appeal to even more people. These are all works in progress in which we are carefully laying down the foundation for the future.
Still, as with any new venture, there are still the insecurities and doubts that come with practical thinking. Things will be changing for our business in some ways in the upcoming year and while the prospects of change are exciting, there is still the unknown that looms before us and while that can be very exciting, it can also be quite intimidating.
But no one ever got ahead by staying in their comfort zone. When I used to take many art classes when I lived in the Chicago area and had access to them through the painting club that I was part of (The Society of Decorative Painters), a common theme that the teachers conveyed was to do things out of your comfort zone.
At first I didn’t really like that idea. Like most, I associated discomfort with negative things. But as I progressed and tried to stretch my abilities a bit and experience new and unfamiliar things, I discovered something very exciting – I was LEARNING! I realized that even if I wasn’t completely successful in my new venture, I usually picked up at least something new and grew and developed as an artist. I quickly realized that those who played it safe didn’t advance at anywhere near the rate as those who were a bit more daring and tried new techniques, and not being willing to take some risks resulted in them being somewhat stagnant in their painting.
Now that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as everyone in the group had different objectives and goals. Some were there to de-stress and fill their time, and they painted well enough and were happy with what they had achieved. They had no desire to push themselves, as the action of doing that would just replace the stress that they were trying to escape in the first place. And that was fine.
Others however, were taking classes as part of a journey toward a different goal. They enjoyed the most challenging techniques, and when they achieved them, they found themselves searching to push themselves even higher. These were the people that I migrated to, and I discovered something within myself that I didn’t even realize existed. And the challenges became goals in which to better myself as a painter, with no other reward than knowing in my heart that I had accomplished them. And this became a way of life for me, as it is for many who read here.
Later on, as a teacher, I became even more aware of these differences in people. Sometimes I would have classes of 20 or more students with each one having a different objective of what they wish to get out of the class. Since the classes I taught were ‘casual’ and we were doing them for our own personal satisfaction and not a university degree, it was very important to learn to respect the goals of each individual that participated. I learned to set different standards according to what each person wished to accomplish. I adjusted my critiques accordingly. For instance, I would be much more easy going with someone who took the class just to get away from the busy days with her young children than someone who was perhaps learning to paint or scroll saw to sell their items and maybe start their own small business. To me, it was important to not only to be in tune with these different objectives, but encourage each one at their own pace so that everyone who attended would get the most out of what I was teaching. It was something that I saw applied to many other aspects of my life.
So how does this all pertain to my own business?
These experiences help me to be aware of my own goals and accomplishments, and help me create a business plan that will not only sustain my business, but advance it and help it grow in the future. While the rate of advancement varies all the time, it is important to me that even if I allow it to settle when I reach a plateau, soon I need to reassess things and set my goals a bit higher. In other words, I don’t want to be ‘comfortable’ for too long.
I believe that we have reached one of these plateaus recently, as the business has had a good year despite the sad state of the economy. While any small business that is able to survive at all in this economic climate, I feel very fortunate that we have done as well as we have. I think in the past few weeks I have taken a breath to absorb these accomplishments we have made and to appreciate them and enjoy them.
But as my dream indicates, my sub-conscious may be telling me that it is time to continue. I am no longer comfortable living in the comfort of the success we have achieved at this point. It is time to start moving once again and advancing the business and getting out of this lull that I feel I have been in and really get to work. And that is exciting.
With Christmas just a few days away, I still have some wrapping, baking and finishing up of some things. I think it is important to take this time to enjoy my family and friends and focus on them. But I find myself antsy to get back to the routine and schedule that I have come to know and enjoy.
Many people say that I push and work ‘too much.’ While I understand the need to get away from things once in a while, I don’t think that I agree with them. I have said many times that my ‘work’ that I do is enjoyable to me, and because of that, most of the time I don’t feel like I am working at all. That isn’t just a line I am giving you. It is truly how I feel about what I do. And while this personal time has been pleasant, I do miss the challenges that I feel when I am in the true working mode. And that is a great thing.
So whether it is painting, drawing, scrolling or even working with clay, I look forward to once again getting back to ‘work’ and creating something new. I am not quite crystal clear on the direction yet, but I have some pretty good ideas of where I will be heading. And I will appreciate and enjoy each new challenge that comes my way.
Enjoy your Friday. Remember to challenge yourself.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"