Celebrate Your Actions, Not Your Awards

I was talking with my friend the other day about working on longtime projects and how the day-to-day process can be grueling.  You see the end goal in the distant future, but it always seems just out of reach.  But what is the end goal really?  Is it the praise you receive or could it be something else?

I think it is important to celebrate the act of finishing.  This is quite an achievement in and of itself.  You would be surprised to know just how many people never actually finish what they start, especially when it comes to a longer project.

Why don’t we finish?  There are lots of excuses.  We’re too busy, we’re bored with it, we’ve changed direction, we no longer have the resources, and on and on.  But there really is just one reason: we’re scared.  We don’t want to know what the end result will be.  We’re worried we’ll fail.  That our project won’t turn out as we imagined.  If we stop now, we’ll never have to taste failure…or success, whatever that is.

So for those brave souls that push through these fears and frustrations and make it to the end, I say THIS is the victory.  This is the accomplishment for which we should be so proud.  Celebrate those actionable steps you take, each and every one, regardless of the outcome.  And then see how you feel.  You might be surprised to find that you want to take more steps.  That you’re motivated by simply finishing.  That you become more confident in your ability to make decisions and carry them out.

Typically I think we only find ourselves celebrating after we receive a prize or praise for finishing our project.  If we win an award for our submission to a writing contest, we celebrate.  If we get a promotion at work, we celebrate.  If we lose five pounds, we celebrate.

But what is the true accomplishment?  Is it winning the award, or is it finishing the work and having the courage to submit?  Is it being recognized and selected for a promotion, or is it being motivated to do our best at work and actually enjoying what we do for a living?  Is it losing weight, or is it having the strength to adopt a healthier lifestyle and commit ourselves to an exercise routine every day?

If we only celebrate our awards, we run the risk of never being satisfied with ourselves or our lives unless we receive awards.  Also, we tend to simply want more and more, almost like a drug.

On the other hand, if we celebrate our actions, we take pride in ourselves regardless of whether the outside world recognizes our value.  Then if we receive recognition, it’s just icing on the cake.  But meanwhile, we don’t internalize it as much, because we’re already back at the wheel taking action once again.  We’re not caught up in our successes or failures.  We’re free to simply live, experiment, try, push ourselves even further.

So start celebrating the act of finishing without awaiting judgement.  Don’t wait for others to deem your work worthy.  Don’t wait for an arbitrary award to be handed out.  Give yourself a reward right now for simply being brave enough to take a chance and act.

A Reflection Beyond Words

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m feeling grateful.  As I mentioned before, my artwork and poetry were recently exhibited at an art show, Beyond Words, in Toledo, OH.  Opening night was a flurry of excited guests, yummy treats, and delectable artwork.  I enjoyed taking my family and friends around to see my work.  I also had the opportunity to overhear feedback on my art, reminding me of the days when I shared my poetry in front of a crowd at an open mic.  I even met some of the artists that collaborated with me.  One of them chose to write a piece to go with my artwork, Bamboo with Red Bird, because she, too, has an affinity for Japan and even lived there for a period of time.

Then came the icing on the cake.  We attended the awards ceremony.  Two of my poems received second place.  What made this especially gratifying was that the poems were compared to a specific style reminiscent of a famous writer.  I had never much thought about my style in regards to poetry.  Apparently, I have one…or two 😉  My poem, Suffering from Poetic License, received second place for the T.S. Eliot Award: Modernist in style with a range of techniques.  Another poem of mine, Whose Musing, received second place for the Mark Twain Award: humorous or social commentary.  At the end, they announced the People’s Choice Award, which went to a poem written in response to my watercolor collage painting, Giraffes on Reserve, pictured above.  Hooray!

Now, awards are a bonus, but not why most artists, including myself, make art.  We do it because we love it.  Because we have a need.  It fills us up.  We feel alive.  It helps us make sense of the world and hopefully helps others, as well.  As I said in my previous post, making a connection is the best part about participating in an art exhibition like this one.

How will you connect with the universe this holiday season?