Be kind to yourself. Your creativity depends on it.

How NOT to start the year.

I had great intentions for the first week of January.

We had returned from a refreshing and happy family holiday at the coast. Johannesburg was blissfully quiet and bursting with green life from the abundant summer rains. The blank pages of my new year planner waited patiently to be filled with mind maps, plans, tasks, ideas, and doodles.

I love fresh starts and the promise of renewal that a new year brings (even if it is just in my own mind.) It feels like a Great Cosmic Control-Alt-Delete. I couldn’t wait to get started. During my down time away, ideas had been popping into my head: ways to grow our business, books to read, content to create, people to connect with, technology to acquire, updates to make and so on. My first priority was to get writing and to create a truckload of content from all my fresh ideas before business in South Africa kicks off again mid-January.  

Then a peculiar thing happened.

Having spent hours clearing out my office, moving furniture around, setting up my new magnetic calendar (*lovelove*) and adding creative touches to my work space, I sat down to begin my brilliant bustle and… nothing happened.

Nada. Nought. Zip. Apparently, no brain activity at all.

Try as I might, I could not conceive of a single plan, blog, email, or post.

Huh? It seems that, mentally speaking, my shoes were laced up for walking but I was somehow rooted to the spot.

I stared blankly at my screen. There was so much to do that I didn’t know where to start. Doubts arose in my mind. What do I want to say? What do I have to offer anyone? Meanwhile, my children and their friends kept popping into my office needing food/ stationery/opinions on their hairstyles/ permission to bake up a storm/ camera equipment for a home photo shoot (really!?) There were endless things to sort out around the house. My frustration grew and grew.

I’d had a wonderful long holiday. I was rested and refreshed. Why could I not get focussed and get going? The more I worried about my scattered brain, the less effective I became. I fretted and fiddled. I stared blankly at half-started mind maps. Monday ticked over to Tuesday which ticked over to Wednesday. My confidence drained away.

How could I talk to you about creativity if I couldn’t get my own head together? Was my creativity still on vacation?


Has this ever happened to you?

After taking a deliberate step back from my fruitless toil, I discovered two things that helped me to unknot my knickers.

In case you find yourself in a similar situation, break glass here and read on.

1. Try the High Five Habit

Mel Robbins (not Tony Robbins’ wife – I looked it up) found herself staring dejectedly into the mirror one morning, berating herself for a hundred things she’d not finished/ started/ achieved/ etcetera. Despite being a successful lawyer, author, television host and more, her inner critic was doing its usual thing and beating her down inside, sucking away her confidence and drive for the day ahead. She realised with horror that this had been her default stance towards herself for most of her life. According to Mel, this is very common amongst women, though more than 50% of women won’t even look at themselves directly in the mirror – the nasty inner voice just spews its vitriol as we go about our day.

On this one morning, she suddenly became aware that the person in the mirror was like another person in the room with her. A person who desperately needed her support. A person who needed her approval, care and encouragement. She thought about what she would do if that person was not her own reflection but a dear friend, so she absent-mindedly gave herself a high five in the mirror. There was a sudden shift in her energy and she felt a little shaft of light break through her sombre mood. The next day she high fived herself in the mirror again, but this time, she really felt an inner boost. Thus began a habit that Mel now attributes to getting her out of a serious mid-life slump.

Her research into the efficacy of this habit showed Mel that the physiological act of high fiving herself in the mirror was neurologically connecting a host of positive brain circuitry that is typically developed around this action, with the image of herself. When we high five someone, our brains think celebration, encouragement, connection… You’ve got this! Well done! You rock! She didn’t need to rebuild all these good thoughts, she just needed to link them to herself.

It sounds a bit silly, but I’ve been trying the high five habit and it is helping me.

It made me think of our Blueprint for Creativity model. Self-belief is one of the foundational mindsets upon which creative thinking is built. It is very hard to be creative when you are being unkind to yourself. It is like trying to dive gracefully into a pool from a wobbly, floating lilo. You are more likely to do a belly flop than a swan dive. 

Find out more in this video.  If you’re a podcast listener, Mel Robbins has likely been interviewed by your favourite host. I heard about this habit on an interview with Marie Forleo. She also written a book about it. Use the tag #High5Habit if you want to share on social


2. Find something that makes you giggle

The second thing that has been helping me recover my creative drive is recovering my sense of humour. It is crazy how often have I facilitated creative training sessions in which I implore my class: "Don’t take yourself too seriously!" yet here I was, losing my sense of humour and taking myself too seriously. 

A quick break to my Pinterest feed helped to bring back the giggles with these gems.


What can you do to ignite a laugh and help yourself to lighten up?

(If you need some more ideas, check out our blog on this topic.)

You’ve got this

Whether you’re delighted or daunted by all that lies ahead, I want to give you a virtual high five today. You have everything you need to begin. You are loved. You are unique. No one else can bring into the world what you can. You have come a long way. Everything is going to be okay.

You can.

End of story.



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