You Should Be Your Own Muse



1: any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences Clio is the Greek Muse of history.
2 : a source of inspiration especially : a guiding genius The writer’s beloved wife was his muse.
3 : poet

My grandmother used to stock a drawer on the end of her bright, pink kitchen with paper. When I visited her as a young child it was always waiting for me. Whether she placed that paper to indulge my penchant for sketching, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful that she provided the materials which acknowledged the importance of creativity.

Being able to create something, whether great or small — helps us build a stronger core; one that extends to both life & work.

Yet, as we all know, inspiration can be difficult to come by, even in the best of circumstances.

In times such as these, it may seem frivolous to indulge the notion of an “inspirational state” (more about that here). But, I have come to think it essential to our lives. Something that underscores the best of being human. Of finding & expressing our own individuality. Yet, if we continually rely on other people to help the creative process ignite, this puts us at a distinct disadvantage.

While you are likely grateful for what you do have in this moment, your life & work may suffer now from a lack of inspiration. The usual “triggers” may be absent or limited (serendipitous hallway conversations, conferences, time away from our desks, quiet moments). But, I’m a stubborn sort and feel that there are ways to build the potential for creativity within our daily lives. I’ve relied on this vantage point for some time now. On some days I am successful. On others days, not as much. But, I am resolute and committed to the process.

To combat this internal gridlock, we must find what we might need from within ourselves. More specifically, to find our own energy sources. My own journey has led to a number of observations — including this:

We must learn to function as our own muse.

Here are a few of my tips & techniques:

Pay attention. You must become more sensitive to your own distant drummer & indulge the pangs of interest. What are you drawn toward? A development in an adjacent field? A new writer? Design thinking? Attempt to not dismiss a seemingly random element that attracts you, however unrelated it may appear to your work. Read more on that topic. Talk more about it. Ultimately, if your brain engages with something — the benefits are likely to spill into other areas.

Get a hold of morning rituals. What are you consuming along with your coffee, first thing in the morning? What fills the first moments each day? How might this affect you? How can you better control negativity, tension & stress (which likely fight inspiration and creativity)? Know this: cultivating inspiration & creativity is an art form — and not the result of divine intervention.

Stop the energy drain. There are people & situations that truly drain us — drowning our abilities to serve as our own muse. If someone or something consistently leaves you in a funk, stop the exposure or contain the effects as soon as possible. Process why the interactions affect you in that way. Resolve to change your perspective or move beyond it.

Edit your physical surroundings. Most of us have been sequestered to a much smaller world over the last 22 months. As a result, our immediate surroundings have become more and more important. Pay attention to where you work. Pull out items or mementos that help you feel safe & settled. Organize your office. Insert a healthy dose of art or music. Do what you can to trigger positivity.

Utilize a dreamy state. Writer’s block, a well-known ailment, known to be difficult to tackle — has been around for centuries. This article offers a glimpse regarding how mental imagery can open the door to recovery. In a sense, writer’s block is simply a creativity deficit. A frozen state, in which the sufferer is caught without a worthy muse.

Indulge, not stifle. Try not to shrug off an idea or collection of observations. Grab a notebook and record the source idea. Then use that page as a nexus for related thoughts & refinements. Return to those thoughts regularly and build on the threads. Be loose with your thoughts. Try not to edit your creative meanderings out of existence.

Get visual. Creativity breeds creativity. So being a bit closer to the visual arts, may help you feel more productive. I challenge you to discover 5 inspiring photographs or photographers at Unsplash. Note the subject matter and why you are drawn to it.

Go ahead and create something, anything. Whether you have raw talent or not — dabble. Choose a vehicle that attracts you, whether it involves paint, pencil, ink, a hammer or a camera. Remember that creative acts, can be pursued solely for your consumption and no one else’s.

Please note that you do not have to work in an known “creative field”, to benefit from the contributions of inspiration & creativity into your life. I would wager that both of these elements, fund both our well-being and problem-solving abilities.

Inspiration requires that we become aware our own creative triggers.

Let’s find them.

Then pull the thread.

Read more: Thoughts on Asimov’s The Eureka Phenomenon here.

Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life & have appeared at Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


Ready for a Playlist About Time Management? (Pencil it in.)


Many of us feel that there just isn’t enough time in the day.

I first captured my observations about this common source of overwhelm (and the behaviors I observed) in the post The Ugly Truth About Time Management. The post starts with the premise that time issues begin with our own imperfect perspectives concerning time and value.

However, what resonates concerning improving time management varies across individuals. Luckily, there are quite a few TED speakers who have shared their take on the issue. They each offer a unique view of our ever-present tangle with time.

Here are 3 talks to help you to further understand your relationship relationship with time. (See the playlist at our channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPobAd0urxAGPaVu4PNWsIQ)

Greg McKweown. Essentialsm. Time and focus are highly interlaced topics. In his talk at Google, McKeown explores how we often hold ourselves back by having too many “good things” in our lives. The result? Even success can actually lead us down a cluttered path — and less, is often better.

Rory Vaden. How to Multiply Your Time. A self-discipline strategist, explains that everything we’ve learned about time management is likely wrong. From the 1950’s on, we have developed a view of time that doesn’t really help us become more effective. The problem? Time management requires us to consider a new, critical construct.

Laura Vanderkam. How to Gain Control of Your Free Time. Somehow when we must make something a priority, we suddenly have the time. Laura Vanderkam unpacks an interesting dynamic, that plays out day after day in our lives.

How do you manage time? Weigh in on the topic in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


The Everyday Joy of Collecting

Silver_box_collection Collection of Silver Boxes. Source: Unknown

Jerry Seinfeld has a spiel which includes the following observation: “We are all just filling in the gaps of life. We’re killing time. There is a lot of dead air.”

If you do have any modicum of spare time to spend, you’ll want to use it wisely. One great way to fill that time is to collect — and what you collect is not nearly as important as how the process of collecting makes you feel.

Over the years I’ve seen 101 types of collections, from 1rst edition books to Pokemon to antique silver spoons to sea shells. While I know little about all of the sub-types, I surmise that they all bring joy to their owners. (My father refurbished vintage Victrolas and the associated records. It was on one of these that I first heard Enrico Caruso sing Pagliacci.) I now realize, that the activity of collecting was a welcome counter-balance to his role as a physician.

Collecting can provide balance & order for many of us — it can link us with the past and offer a deep sense of satisfaction.

Why collecting is enjoyable isn’t a mystery. Here is what collecting can offer:

  • A sense of mastery. Learning something new is always high on the hit parade of things you should be doing. Becoming well versed in a new area, can engage your mind and boost your mood.
  • Community. When you collect —  you will inevitably meet other people who collect. What could be better than exchanging stories about a rare item or a great new source.
  • Fun. The enjoyment that goes with the hunt for that perfect piece, is probably one of the higher points of collecting. The great thing? You never know when or where that piece will turn up.
  • Sharing. Displaying a great collection is an added bonus to collecting. You’ll create opportunities to discuss the where, why and how of your efforts.
  • Memories. Objects can connect moments and keep them alive in our minds. It is as if what we are experiencing, becomes frozen within the item.
  • Income. In some cases, collections can evolve into profitable businesses. The passion behind the collection can drive you to help others do the same. With sites such as Ebay, there is likely a market for your items. (More options to sell your items here.)

I’ll have to add, that as Jerry Seinfeld expressed about “filling that dead air” — collecting does a pretty fine job.

Do you collect? What has collecting brought to your world? Share what you collect in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


Hitting the Gym to Build Strength? Don’t Forget About Resilience


I’ve often wondered why building resilience isn’t a key “life imperative. Primarily because being human is often at odds with our daily struggles. Work can routinely bring stress, negativity and outright failures. Family responsibilities and stress can add to the equation. Most of us feel unprepared to combat the cumulative effects.

We often frame conversations about resilience with stories of extreme hardship or extenuating circumstances. However, built resilience could serve as an ever-present, daily mentor, helping us to rebound from the everyday pressures of our lives. Most of us forge on, taking little note of the increasing toll. Building resilience isn’t considered. This can be a serious mistake.

We don’t need to climb Everest, to reap the benefits of resilience.

Through all of our trials and tribulation, we rarely notice that our psychological resources are waning.We muddle on. We develop idiosyncratic mechanisms to bolster our mood. However, the damage accumulates and we become less able to bounce back. Months later, we may realize that we still lament the project that has been cut or the argument that may have cost us a friendship. Our energy levels are affected.

When the next event unfolds — we find ourselves bankrupt. Devoid of the necessary resources to meet the challenge.

There have been a number of discussions on this topic, including protecting ourselves from overload, banking positive currency and practicing self-compassion. However, what if we could take resilience one step further? Could we effectively build our skills (and our team’s skills) in this area — just as we challenge our muscles in the gym?

Can we learn to think and act more “resiliently”?

Well — yes. There is evidence that resilience can be learned. The work of Dr. Fred Luthans (who explores the construct of Psychological Capital) has completed research examining this area. Supporting research completed completed by Ann Masten also provides important foundational elements. This includes addressing 1) asset factors (elements that enhance our resilience, such as a stable home life or a healthy way to examine failure), 2) lowering risk factors (for example, a lack of a mentor) and 3) altering our perceptions concerning the potential to influence work life circumstances.

Here are a just few ways to apply this knowledge to our daily lives:

  • Facilitate network building. Building long-term asset factors, provides a stable foundation to help us deal with stressful work situations when they do arise. Consider losing a job for example; stronger networks can help employees move on more effectively by providing access to critical information concerning roles and growth needs.
  • Clarify strategy and goals. Reducing risk factors — elements which weaken our psychological safety net, is also vital. For example, knowing “why” we are completing a task and how our role contributes to outcomes is critical. If we fail to believe that our actions have meaning, we are less likely to forge on.
  • Utilize the “staunch reality” viewpoint. One scenario that quickly depletes psychological resources, is sticking to a game plan that is simply not working. Understanding that we have the ability to influence outcomes by embracing realistic assessments of workplace situations — can help us to prepare. This honest view is necessary to review history, properly identify setbacks, evaluate potential impact and brainstorm possible responses before they occur.
  • Aggressively focus on strengths as a “vaccine”. We can mitigate the negative after effects of stressful events, with a focus on positive elements. This includes the identification and utilization of an individual’s stronger vs. weaker skill sets. A focus on the latter, can quickly deplete our psychological reserves.
  • Explore the sources of “drain”. The elements that drain our psychological reserves can be varied (and often surprising). Consider the sources that affect you and meet with your team (or family members) to determine where the leaks are occurring. Brainstorm actions to stem the tide.

How do you build resilience for yourself? Share your strategies here.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.