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I Don't Want to Change the World, I Just Want to Contribute

I’ve been into goal-setting lately. It’s not actually a new thing for me, but I certainly gave it up for a good many years. You see, I was raised in a strict religious sect. Sometimes I call it a cult. And if you look up the definition of the word after knowing some of the rules of our game, I think you might agree. However, I’ve refrained from overusing the word because I care about the people I grew up with. I care about those who still associate with the organization's ideals and practices. I have no desire to offend or hurt anyone. But where has that gotten us, I wonder?

The fact is, the leader I grew up idolizing–and encouraged to do so–sits in prison awaiting the end of his federal sexual crime sentence which is now barely more than a year away. And most of the time, we don’t talk about it–because we know his family. We know people affected by his actions every day. And I hurt for them. I hurt for us all.

Because it didn’t start out this way...we thought we were going to change the world.

In our realm, goal-setting was everything. Metrics, numbers, analytics. They were power. Every Monday, I’d sit in the chapel and fill out a required form to measure how many people’s lives I had tried to change that week. It was a requirement of the organization. They were keeping track.

But what they didn’t know–or perhaps they did–was they shouldn’t have counted my numbers. I lied most of the time. Not that I viewed it as lying, goodness no, I was a rule-follower. But from a young age, learning to manipulate a system with impossible demands was a way of survival.

As long as we showed up, put on a good face, said the right words, and inflated the numbers, we were valued. To see fabricating numbers as wrong was just silly. I was, in fact, attempting to change the world. Surely it wasn’t my fault that I’d get shut down pretty quickly by a wicked outside culture who didn’t understand my message yet. So, yes, the numbers stuck.

I suppose once you're stacking up form after form each week, talking yourself out of admitting that you are piling not just papers but lies, the stress can get to you. I knew I wanted out, and since I married a guy who was not familiar with the movement until his adult years, it didn’t take long for us to do things differently–kind of. But like a slow-moving river forms deep trenches in a malleable ground, so the profound impact of habits in the human psyche are etched and rooted.

I was still measuring my goodness, or rather, my badness every day.

Long after it was a requirement, my self-imposed numbers weren’t adding up and I began to spiral. I knew I couldn’t prove I was doing the "right thing" every day–that I wasn’t changing the world, and I started to feel as if my life was worthless. I know there are those who would argue that we weren’t actually taught we were worthless if not following the strict rules, but I disagree. And a quick YouTube sermon search could prove it.

So a number of years ago, I gave up. Fully, completely, gave in. There’s a longer story involving my journey that I hope to talk about someday, but I’ve been thinking lately about the major changes I’ve made since my early thirties. I didn’t lose my drive fully, but I certainly gave up the practices of measuring progress.

And I think I may have done myself a disservice. Oh, I’m not going to go back to weighing every activity on the good or bad scale of life. I’m not counting the lives that may or may not be impacted by my existence or my work. I’ve come to realize those metrics are not my business–it’s not tied at all to why I need to continue showing up. But I do have a list of goals this year.

My newfound love of goal-setting is only measurable by my ability to continue moving and growing.

And perhaps it’s the message I craved all along. To think that positive outcomes may be fully dependent upon actions of an elite few is a burden far too heavy for one person to bear. Because the message that what I do or make needs to literally change the world, can–if you’re like me–be the opposite of motivating. It can be paralyzing to think about.

What if we are meant to simply show up with our talents and our ideas instead of following the agenda that someone else tells us we must? What if we’re meant to create, ideate, and contribute…and that’s enough?

If you’re familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s work you may have read her book, Big Magic. And if you haven’t, you should. It’s one of my favorite reads of all time. In it, she talks about how creativity is the hallmark of our species. It’s what we’re meant to do. In essence, we’re all creative types. Brené Brown agrees, and from her research has taught us that creativity is essential in the process of human connection–what she says we are hardwired to experience. (Guys, get ready. She's starting a podcast!)

So over the past couple of years, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my creative side…since it’s kind of a big deal. I’m learning that creativity breeds more creativity and connection, and inaction leads to isolation and more inaction. If my goals are to move and grow this year, I need a plan. Not a report-filling guilt-laden system, but a way to keep me moving forward and remain accountable to others when I am tempted to isolate.

That’s where you come in, friends. I decided to create a little challenge for us all. I don’t know about you, but when I commit myself to just showing up, amazing things start to happen, and I’d love for you to join in on the fun!

This March, in a little thing I’m calling March Creative Madness, I’m asking you to join me every day for one act of creativity.

And here’s the thing, there aren’t any rules…because who wants to stay inside the lines? I mean, if lines are your thing, that’s cool too!

Each week, I’ll be posting discussion topics and as a bonus, if you sign up for my newsletter now, a couple of days before we begin, you’ll receive a free daily journal download to keep track of your creative progress during the 31 days of our challenge. Join me on Instagram where I'll be sharing thoughts and my own creative work every single day, and I want to follow yours too!

Because I think the world needs more art. I think it needs your art.

Am I saying that your creation is meant to change the world?

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s meant to change you. Or maybe artistry isn’t about change at all, it could simply be about your contribution.

And that changes everything.

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