Struggle is what turns the hairy caterpillar into a graceful butterfly
When a creative person first embarks on his or her journey, they enter a very telling phase. They make sacrifices, immerse themselves in their craft, absorb the rules, learn the classics, and struggle to churn out their own (awkward) work. They refine their skills as they toil along.
Maybe it’s an apprenticeship period—lasting five to ten years—or maybe it’s a particular project—lasting, say, a year or two.
When we complete this phase—this apprenticeship or project—we come out the other end a changed person. To friends and family, we may even look different. But our appearance hasn’t really changed. No—we’ve changed in other ways.
Our brains have stretched; newer and stronger neural connections have been made; we’ve trained ourselves to study longer, to think deeper, to focus more intensely, and to learn new skills.
Image by кофе (Creative Commons)
We’re often told by elders and motivational speakers to “shoot for the stars,” and that “our potential is limitless.” I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s something wrong about these statements. I think that accepting your limits in life is always more beneficial than being ignorant of them. Here’s why:
1) Knowing your limits is motivating.
Being told that my potential is limitless paralyzes me: What if I don’t reach that potential? Am I flawed if I don’t? Should I be working harder to achieve this grand potential? Is what I’m doing now not good enough?
When these destructive questions and thoughts flood my mind, they deflate my creative confidence. They de-energize my spirit. When I hear that I should “shoot for the stars,” I lift my focus too far ahead, instead of channelling it to where I am now—the grindstone, the task at hand. When I hear that my “potential is limitless,” I look at completed work and berate myself for it not being good enough.
Who would want to live a life like that, one that’s never quite good enough? (This is how artists take to drink and unproductive bouts of self-loathing.)