avril 4, 2014

Inspired or anxious?


Last night, I had this great idea about what I would write. In the moment, I was convinced of its importance and relevance. Then I went to bed.

This morning, the idea was no longer there. It had vanished. Disappeared, leaving nothing but a vague odor.

Frustrating, isn’t it, to see an idea that seems really good, return to the nether from which it came? Unable to catch it.

The good news is that it’s not only good ideas that go up in smoke. Toxic thoughts likewise—at least if one doesn’t grasp at them.

Because thoughts are like smoke in the sky.


Today, I want to talk about how it happens that some people tend to be easily inspired, while others spend most of their time feeling anxious.

The difference? It’s where they put their attention.

If I think it, it must be true

Once, in the era when the media were limited to several newspapers and a few TV channels, everything published, everything said on camera acquired an air of authority. “They said it on TV.”

Today, we are more sophisticated—and much more suspicious of information from external sources, even so-called reliable ones.

But we still have a tendency to take the information we get from inside our own skulls as if it were gospel. We fail to realize that some interior publishers are also unworthy of our attention.

The fact that “I have a thought” does not mean that I am right. The fact that a thought arises does not mean I am obliged to give it my attention. The fact that a thought presents itself to me doesn’t mean it serves me to become obsessed with its contents.

The frightened cowboy

If inspired thoughts are as volatile as smoke, frightened thoughts look like they are as sticky as fly paper. A worrisome thought just bumps the end of one’s nose, and that’s enough to trigger obsession with it.

It’s a natural survival reflex: like all animals, we are programmed to give our attention to anything that threatens us. We wouldn’t want to completely deactivate this protective mechanism.

Except that this mechanism tends to trigger all the time, with no good reason, like a nervous cowboy who tears off after anything that moves. And remains on guard even when there is no real menace.

Obsessed by what menaces us, distracted away from what is beautiful

I find it sad that most people, even creative professionals, cultivate an obsession with everything that upsets them, worries them, brings them down. They run themselves ragged, day after day, chasing the same thoughts, meanwhile barely paying attention to the vivid flashes that are trying to find them.

They greet moments of inspiration with distraction, letting them escape, but are quick to lasso their ugliest thoughts hard, reining them back in. After which they take out their branding iron and mark their initials on the thigh of the disturbing thought: « Oh, that one is so ME. »

No wonder they feel blocked and fail to create what they have always dreamed of creating.

Reversing the trend

What must be done to ensure that good ideas, moments of inspiration, rich veins of thought, truly new ideas do not disappear without a trace? And so that the others, the agonizing ones, the distressing ones, the daunting ones, do not last forever?

Probably less than you think necessary. Because thoughts-even scary ones–are not as tangible we make them out to be.

Maybe this will seem overly simplistic, but here’s what I would say: use your attention to nourish what you would like to grow in your life, and ignore what does not serve you. Nature, which is change, constant movement, will do the rest.

This suggestion is the exact opposite of what we usually do: ignore what is valuable because we are too busy struggling with what bothers us.

The absented-minded Professor

Most of us would do well to become a little more like Professor Calculus, constantly curious and attentive to a promising germ of thought, and perpetually distracted from the rest.

Without losing all practical sense, Wonder, at least develop the reflex not to remain where it stinks:

Greet each thought with a sniff. Does it smell good? Is it promising? Take note. Wait. Keep your nose in the air. Later, revisit, expand, branch out further. Invent a new fragrance.


With unhelpful thoughts or downright poisonous ones, do the opposite. There’s no need battle yourself, to resist the gloomy thoughts or to chase them, or to replace them with others. Just do not give an unhelpful thought that much attention, rest assured that something else will eventually come to take its place-as long as you do not resist:

Greet each thought with a sniff. Doesn’t smell good? Pass it up. Expect something else to show up (something else always shows up). Breathe again. Appreciate the nuances that arise.

A thought has no more substance than a dream that eludes memory when the sun rises. You decide which is worth to being noted and expanded upon.

Your friend,


Photos: heanster, Piero Serra

Here’s to receive a new letter each week:

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