Reignite Your Creativity with a Jar of Awesome

Few things can kill creativity faster than the feeling that nothing will work. Same goes for momentum in leadership. If you are facing a blank page, a deadline, a growth barrier, or some other challenge, the last thing you need running through your head is, “I can’t do this.”

The honest truth is, you might be right. While I believe that thinking positively is a good thing, telling yourself that you can do it because you believe in yourself doesn’t actually mean you can do it. It also doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just affects your mood, confidence, and willingness to try — which are all facets of tackling challenges.

A more helpful approach is to remind yourself that you have done it before. There is a very real history of your having risen to challenges before, of your having filled the blank page, and of your having negotiated tight deadlines. The question is, do you have access to that record? Is it tangible? Can you hold it, see it, feel it?

A recommendation* from blogger, podcaster, and author Tim Ferriss is to create a “Jar of Awesome.” Whenever you have a success, write it down on a slip of paper and put it in your “Jar of Awesome.” Then, on days when you’re in a funk or feel daunted by the tasks or challenges facing you, dump out the jar and read them. Remind yourself in a very real and tangible way that you have a history of finding a way. The things you have tried in the past have worked — not always, but more importantly, not never. You can do it because you have done it.

I struggle with forgetting, and this seems like a great practice for creatives, pastors, and churches alike. Imagine if you had a big jar of awesome somewhere in your narthex/lobby or worship space that you could go to whenever you feel discouraged. If you’re a creative, imagine if you had a jar of thumbnails from all the designs you have cranked out under pressure. After a certain point, you likely wouldn’t even need to actually read through them. Just glance at the jar jam-packed with victories and know that the challenge you face is nothing you haven’t faced before.

This is in no way a new problem. So many of the Psalms are, at their core, a reminder of all the things God had done for God’s people in the past. Why do they doubt now? Why do they fear? God has always come through and will come through again. Even when it looked like failure from the outside — when pain, sickness, death, and exile were real — God was still at work.

The challenges we face may look different, they may be bigger, and they may be harder — but they aren’t new. Not really. Not at the most basic level. It is a challenge, you are someone who has faced challenges, and you never faced them alone.

Find ways to acknowledge in your records how God was involved in those victories. If nothing else, God gave you the breath in your lungs, the blood in your veins, and the spark of creativity that makes you who you are. When you make the “Jar of Awesome” about more than just yourself, you take it to a new level. The hope your history gives you for the future no longer rests solely on your shoulders. And it never should have. If we’re brutally honest, those times when we try to function on our own likely lead to very few victories for the jar.

*The “Jar of Awesome” came up as part of the conversation Tim had with Chase Jarvis of Creative Live. The whole conversation has really great thoughts on many different aspects of creativity.

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