Christine Mason Miller is a Santa Monica-based artist, writer, and explorer. Her next book, Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, begins shipping later this month and includes work by Scoutie Girl’s own Liz Kalloch. We are excited to share with you an excerpt from Chapter 2 ~ The Foundation: What Values are Shaping Your Daily Choices?
“I am compelled to share what I have experienced in my own life – namely, that small shifts in perspective can make a huge impact. This concept goes for our creative process as well as our lives in general. It’s a daily practice the same way being creative is. How I choose to live and what I desire to share with others is indelibly intertwined.”
~Tracey Clark, Photographer, Writer, Mom
When I began writing this chapter, I had just returned from a week on the east coast teaching and taking art classes. On my flight home, as I faced the final days before the first deadline for this book, I looked forward to getting back to work, confident I would be able to meet my goals without any undue stress.
I arrived on a Sunday evening, and as soon as my day got going Monday morning, it happened – as per my usual first-day-home-after-a-big-trip routine, I hit the ground running with arms flailing, feeling like there was way more on my plate than I could handle. Between raising a puppy, organizing a group show, planning for a family wedding, writing this book, and getting caught up on grocery shopping and emails, I seriously contemplated taking drastic, irrational actions, such as contacting my editor and telling her I couldn’t write this book because I had too much laundry to do.
Not only was I in over my head, having decided – rather arbitrarily – that a long list of tasks simply had to be done that first day back home, but I was also monumentally annoyed. I was a Writer with a capital W, and that meant my most important, meaningful work was to write! (Right?) In fact, I decided it was my only meaningful work, which meant everything else was to be regarded with disdain and rushed through as quickly as possible.
What I had temporarily forgotten was that my most important values and priorities aren’t only expressed through my work as a writer but through everything I do – even making coffee, even walking my dog.
The work I needed to do to take care of my home and family wasn’t separate or taking away from my work as a writer, but part of the same path. The fact that I felt cranky and overwhelmed had more to do with my choice to judge my first day back home as “less than” what I thought it should be (“I should be writing my book, not running errands!”), when really everything was beautifully interconnected and, in fact, wholly reflective of my highest priorities and values.
“I value kindness and compassion, courage and honesty, an unabashed love for life, wisdom, humility and grace. I think all of these guide my desire to inspire in some way or another. I try to stay mindful of them by hunting for beauty in the small details of every day, keeping a record of these in my journal, sharing them with the people in my life, and practicing gratitude.”
~ Christine Castro Hughes, Artist and Writer
In order to write this chapter, I asked the book’s contributors to share their thoughts on core values and how they stay mindful of them in their daily lives. The term daily being the key, because – as I just demonstrated – even with my best effort, I still run up against my share of distractions, deadlines, worries, and woes that threaten to derail my intentions.
I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night having worn the same hat all day long. My colleagues and I juggle a multitude of roles on any given week, yet we’ve managed to sculpt lives that reflect our strongest passions, beliefs, and values. And we’ve done so as unique individuals, developing our own customized “tool kits” from personal stories, wild dreams, and one anothers’ examples.
Vineeta Nair, Artist and Designer, expresses the joy of receiving such inspiration beautifully when she says, “We are each on a path to being a better person. Any help that I can get to find my way there, I take – unabashedly – with both hands spread open.”
Taking the time and effort to become intimately acquainted with my core values – creativity, honesty, and compassion, to name a few – was the first step in what has been a lifelong journey of creating a mindful life.
Putting these values into practice in all areas of my life takes, well, practice, and I am always hungry for insights and ideas on how other people do this. Developing a catalog of core values provides the foundation; creating a meaningful life from that requires daily work, and the same way a home is built atop its foundation with hammers, nails, and blueprints, constructing a life I love is all about using the right tools.
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