Back in January, I decided out of a ‘relative nowhere’, that I wanted to undertake the #365 ‘take a photo a day and post it to Instagram’ challenge. I also decided that I would keep a daily diary, because I always enjoy stumbling onto old diaries/letters/poems/etcetera, and remembering what it was to live in that particular moment. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.
And then, I read this article.
To give you a little bit of context: I have a LOT of unfinished projects, books and ideas on the go. I always have, really. Those old diaries I stumble upon generally have a few entries over a few months, before my writing disappears into oblivion. I have an exciting fiction project that I seem to get out every March, add a few sentences, and then put to bed again. I have, at current count, about 16 craft projects I’m simultaneously working on; and by working on, I mean ‘whip out about once every six months and add a little more to it’. And as for ideas… well, I’ve got apps, notebooks, diaries, documents and brain cells full of them!
Now, I like being an ideas person. I like to think creatively and to have lots going on in my life. I genuinely don’t think that will ever change, nor do I want it to. However, what I didn’t realise was that I was leaving so much undone, because of deep-seated Entity Theorist belief systems.
Entity Theory says that we are “born with a talent” (or not), and as we develop this belief, it leads us to pursue things we’re “good at”, and give up easily on things we’re not. And I realised, when I really thought about it, that when I was working on my projects, if I got to a “stuck point”, got frustrated, felt bored, or couldn’t think of the next sentence… I would set it aside, and only sporadically come back to it.
So, how does this relate to photos on Instagram and entries into a diary? Because it’s about keeping my word to myself, and following through.
Personal integrity is something I didn’t know much about, as a concept, until I started attending a lot of leadership seminars five years ago. It was the beginning of a journey, in which I realised how often I did not keep my promises – not so much to others – but primarily to myself. And the trouble is, that when we don’t keep the promises we make to ourselves, we teach ourselves that we cannot be trusted to follow through. And what often happens, with time, is we just stop trying altogether. One of my favourite leadership authors, John Maxwell, said this of Personal Integrity: that “the key is being willing to do something because it matters, not because it will get you noticed.”
If we can stick with our values, or a spirit of excellence, or a commitment to see a project through – particularly when it comes to “the small stuff” – we build our resilience for resistance (just try writing a book, and you’ll experience that!), we reinforce to ourselves (and others) that we are worthy of trust, and we get to experience the joy of completion. Giving up part way doesn’t provide any of that!
So, what’s Incremental Theory? According to Karen Salmansohn, it is “the belief that success is achieved through putting in the necessary hard work”. And it’s true: you could be the most talented person in the world, but if you never put it into action, you’d never see success!
This year, for me, is about rebuilding my trust in myself. I’m working on building my focus (starting and finishing a craft project!) and learning to follow through (hooray, for personal integrity!).
So, it may look like some inane scribbles in a bright pink diary, and some amateur photos on Instagram to some; but for me, it’s making a statement to myself that I do have value, and that I can achieve what is important to me.
Today, it may be something small. Imagine what I will create next!