Why I'm Allowing Myself to Get Bummed Out by Failure in Order to Succeed

Flowers in ice

We're here again. I've got my head buried in a pile of pillows on the couch and I'm taking short intense breaths. On the inside I feel like smashing something to pieces and jump and run and scream really loud all at the same time. Yet, I remain completely still on the couch, like a bag of potatoes (style note: not one of those boring brown colored bags of potatoes, but one with a floral pink pyjamas and fluffy grey sweater). Yes, this my friend, is what my creative frustrations and failures look like.

This strong emotional reaction is what happens in me when an idea or project I had envisioned doesn't quite turn out like I had planned or hoped for. It's the disappointment of facing the gap between my ambitious fantasies and my earthly reality. In that moment it's not even about things like self doubt or low self confidence, I'm just filled with burning irritation and passionately hating the thing I've just created.

Most recently I've come to encounter these feelings in the process of taking, or I should say, making pictures. I'm using the word “making” pictures since my style has become more thoughtful and styled recently, instead of mundanely captured everyday moments.

But anyways, back to the feeling of creative failure. When I find myself in these situations there's often an internal dialogue that starts playing inside my head, one that can be quite contradictory. On the one hand I think “come on, it's not that serious, just let it go and move on”. I will start to look for rational explanations to why my idea didn't work and try to analyze my way through it. On the other hand, I just feel really bummed out and disappointed and want to cry a little. I had secretly hoped I would impress myself and now just I feel disappointed that I didn't.

So, the question then becomes, what would be a constructive way of dealing with these feelings? Because it's pretty safe to assume that there will plenty of more of these situations in the future, so maybe it would be good idea to have a method to dealing with them instead of taking it all out on our poor couch pillows?

Well, actually it turns out that my “bury the head in pillows” tactic is a pretty good method. According to a study done at Stanford University people who allow themselves to get affected by failure emotionally, rather than cognitively,  will actually be more likely to succeed when faced with the same task in the future.

People who approach it from a more cognitive aspect and try to think themselves through it by reasoning end up often justifying to themselves why they failed. The study suggests that that can be a self protective thing which can make you less likely to learn and develop from the experience, as opposed to someone who really takes it personally. The theory is that by allowing yourself to get emotionally engaged in the feeling of failure you will be more motivated to try harder next time and put in more effort, all in order to avoid those nasty feelings.

I've always been quite a dramatic and emotional person so this is game changing information for me. No more of trying to convince myself I shouldn't get so affected when things don't go my way, instead I can now allow myself to feel bummed out because I know that I can use that energy as a motivator next time.

Wohoo for being a sensitive person who doesn't deal well with losing or failing!

So there you have it, now you have science saying it's ok to become emotional after you've worked really hard for something you didn't get. Use that knowledge to get really productive instead and make sure to learn from the experience.

Sleeping with books and butterflies

How do you react to failure? Can you recognize if you're more prone to react emotionally or rationally? I would love to hear about your experiences.

I first stumbled upon the study through the podcast The Good Life Project, link here.

For the full study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, link here.

The Winter Stories Chunky Knitted Scarf Pattern

Chunky knitted scarf with cables

I pretty much live in knitwear from September to April. Not because Winter is necessarily always that long, even though to be honest it can get pretty hardcore up here in Scandinavia.  My main reason for hoarding knitwear is that I worry that I might start to freeze at any given minute during the cold season. This often leads me to wearing layers upon layers and always being equipped with an extra sweater or scarf in my bag when I go out. I'd like to think of myself as the MacGyver of knitwear, always having the right piece of knitted accessory or garment close by when I find myself in a tricky cold spot.

So if you are looking for a cozy knitting project that will result in a chunky scarf that will keep you both safe and warm this Winter, this one is for you. All anyone can be expected to do is stay curled up on the couch with a hot cup of chocolate and a blanket this time of year anyways, so why not make something nice for yourself while you're at it.

The Winter Stories scarf is knitted with 7 mm needles (US 10,5 or 11). I've used 6 balls of Garnstudio Drops Andes yarn for this one, but any bulky yarn will do.

Start by casting on 39 stitches on your knitting needles. Knit according to the chart until the length of the scarf is about 180 cm long, or the length you prefer. Bind off any loose ends and you're ready to go and play outside in the snow!

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For more of my knitting patterns you can check out my Ravelry account here. There you can find patterns for some cozy Scandinavian style cardigans and sweaters.

Happy Knitting!

Hurray for Short Term Dreams

Bird in my lap

So we've all heard it a million times, "Follow your heart, dream big, make it happen!", "Be the girl who decided to go for it!", and so on.  Growing up I always thought that in order to become successful you have to choose one thing and stick with it. Like so many others I believed that going after your dreams meant completely devoting yourself to that one special thing, and that straying away from that chosen path was a sign of weakness and lack of determination.

While it's true that you have to start early and spend a lot of time practicing in order to become a professional violinist or ballerina (which was one of my dreams) I've recently shifted my perspective a little. I've started thinking that maybe having only one ultimate dream isn't the only way to chase your truest calling, maybe trying out a few different career paths in life might not be so bad after all.

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of success this past year. Or, to be completely honest, I've been totally obsessed about it. I've listened to podcasts, read books and watched all seasons of Shark Tank, and Dragons Den, the Canadian and the UK version... I wonder if I've always been so focused on the concept of becoming successful? Or is it this culture that has made me think about it so much...?

Anyways, the reason for all this pondering and wondering is because the last year I've gone through a bit of a crisis-ish phase. Last Summer I graduated with an MA in choreography and stepped out into the world feeling quite lost and confused about what my next step in life should be. Not something I was expecting at the age of almost *cringe* 30.

But, as I've had time to process these thoughts during this last, the idea that I would only devote my life to pursue one dream seems crazy! Who ever said it's better to stick to one Big Dream when you could have many smaller ones instead? I made the decision to pursue dancing as a career at the age of 16, an age when I was still listening to Avril Lavigne... Needless to say my taste in music has changed quite a bit, so why wouldn't I allow my dreams to change too?

While the idea of trying to find your one true passion is a concept that I fully support, I think it can also put an awful amount of pressure on a person. If you have to choose just one thing to devote your entire life trying to achieve, it puts a heck of a lot of pressure on that ONE decision.

Plus, while being so focused on the end goal, you might miss opportunities and shiny new things  that are right in front of you. So, instead of focusing on the long term dream, why not focus on a short term dream? Chances are that your short term goal will lead to the next one, and the next one, and the next one... And there goes confusion out the window, without having to get all panicky about having to determine the rest of your life in one daunting big decision.

For me those short term dreams have led me to set up my knitwear line, without any real experience of doing such a thing, and getting really serious about sharing my photography online. Both are things I've always really enjoyed but never allowed myself to truly explore before. All due to the fear that it would distract me from my one true path.

At the moment I'm working on a project as a choreographer, I'm getting orders in my knitwear shop and creating pictures almost every day. I'm not sure where all these things will lead me to. But, for now I'm focused on the smaller picture and letting the bigger picture unfold as I try to live in the present moment.

The control freak side of me is terrified, but the curious wild child side of me is celebrating this uncertainty. Abandon the long term plan I say, and enjoy that you are alive today!

What short term dreams are you working on at the moment?

 

A white lace dress

Define Yourself by the Things You Love

I've noticed that people have a tendency to define themselves by the things they're against or don't like. Somebody asks what kind of music you listen to and instead of getting excited about all the awesome stuff in your Spotify library you start talking about the kinds of music that annoys you or that you don't like. Sound familiar? In my case this kind of thinking is often the case, and that's why I decided to share four of my favorite moments from October that define me by things I really love and get excited about. And so naturally, the first picture is cake.

Cake with raspberries and a big cup of coffee on a rustic table

1. Sweet Things

I've always had a weakness for sweet things, and even though I'm much more adult about how much sugar I eat now than as a child (I only had this cake for my second breakfast, so you see how responsible my eating habits are now), life is much better because chocolate cake exists. Simple yet brilliant.

A bouquet of orange flowers

2. Colors

Flowers are the true masters when it comes to color, and I love to bring some home especially in the darker months of the year.

Cat in bed with a book

3. Cats

Luna the cat gives me so much joy. It's a dream come true to have a fluffy little friend to call my own and I feel so lucky that I get to take care of such a sweet and beautiful creature.

Vintage Apple computer with romantic florals

4. Sharing my thoughts

In October I've really enjoyed scribbling down a lot of my thoughts and gotten into the habit of writing a little almost every day. Now my laptop might not be of the latest model, and I certainly get some confused looks from others when I walk into a café occupying at least two tables while getting some writing done. But you know what they say, "if you don't fit in, you're probably doing the right thing".

What things that you love define you?

 

Personal Breakthroughs and a Strange Feeling

This image got over 10k likes on my Instagram gallery, which is the most any of my pics have ever gotten.

This image got over 10k likes on my Instagram gallery, which is the most any of my pics have ever gotten.

In the last month I've had three big engagement spikes in the social media world, or to be more precise, on Instagram.

The first one happened when my picture got featured on Instagram's own page, you can read more about that here, and the second spike happened a few weeks ago when a picture of mine got over a 10,000 likes that resulted in over a 1000 new followers in one day, which are HUGE numbers by my standards. Then just a few days ago my picture got featured again (!?!) by Instagram as part of the weekends hashtag project.

Now that means my pictures got featured twice in a one month, which is absolutely insane and makes my socks wiggle and swirl around and do all kinds of fancy moves from excitement. And, even though the true joy of sharing creative work online lies in the connections and feeling of being part of a community much more than looking at the numbers, it does undoubtedly feel good to get validation that what I'm putting out in the world is resonating with people.

But, as I was dancing in the disco ball light of the online world, there was another peculiar feeling that hit me, namely a weird sense of passiveness. A feeling I wasn't quite prepared for.

Suddenly the engagement on my account skyrocketed without me actively doing anything, which immediately made me question, should I be doing something? It felt weird to passively stand by and see how the likes and new followers kept rolling in even though I wasn't actively doing anything right at that moment, I become almost like an outside witness to the whole thing And then an ambiguous fear started to creep in, maybe this would all be taken away from me if I didn't do something to show that I've truly earned it? Could I just lean back and allow myself to enjoy this moment and let go of my own fate? Just trust that my destiny is in the safe hands of the universe while I kick back for a moment?

Ok, so maybe I'm being slightly over dramatic here, it is after all only Instagram we're talking about. However, I think these feelings might be common when it comes to reacting to a small breakthrough of some sort. When that moment something you've wanted to happen for a really long time finally does come true, you start being afraid of losing it if you allow yourself to enjoy it too much. How can celebrating our victories be so difficult while talking about our struggles seems to come so naturally?

For me personally this might partly be due to the fact that I'm much more used to the feeling of trying really hard without really knowing if what I'm doing is going to resonate with anyone else or if it's any good. So the feeling of success is just kinda, strange.

While I'll continue to practice celebrating my successes without becoming numb and terrified, I'll remind myself that feeling like I'm failing is actually not a bad thing at all. On the contrary, whenever I feel like I'm failing or not achieving what I want I start to work that much harder. Whenever I'm feeling dissatisfied with my work I kick in another gear and start pouring all my effort and energy into it which I probably wouldn't do if I would feel confident and safe.

This picture was featured on Instagram as part of the weekend hashtag project #whpmyeveryday.

This picture was featured on Instagram as part of the weekend hashtag project #whpmyeveryday.

How about you, do you struggle with celebrating your successes? How does the feeling of having a breakthrough affect your work and creativity?