What is wellbeing? (and why does it matter?)

What is wellbeing?

It is easy to think that good health means just the absence of disease, injury or pain. But is that really what we are all aiming for? Wellbeing takes things a few steps further. The New Economics Foundation describes wellbeing as “how people feel and how they function, both on a personal and a social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole.”

So it’s more than just being healthy. It’s also more than having material wealth: “Some people believe that wealth is a fast track to happiness. Yet various international studies have shown that it is the quality of our personal relationships, not the size of our bank balances, which has the greatest effect on our state of wellbeing.” (Better Health Victoria). Wellbeing may be linked to the deep satisfaction we find in our social connections.

It might relate to a persons social, economic, psychological or medical state. The Black Dog Institute says “In positive psychology, wellbeing is a heightened state that’s beyond just feeling happy or having good health. It’s a condition of flourishing, where we thrive in many aspects of our lives.”

Why does it matter? 

“…perhaps few subjects are more crucial to understanding the world, and our place in it, than understanding what it means for human beings to flourish” – Happiness and Wellbeing Research

Wellbeing isn’t just about attaining some heightened happy state. It is also about keeping us resilient in the face of stressors. “A strong sense of wellbeing contributes to good mental health. It also helps to protect us from feelings of hopelessness and depression, acting as a ‘guardian’ of our mental health” says the Black Dog Institute.

How do we find wellbeing?

Wellbeing is found through having many helpful elements present in our lives. These may include (but not be limited to):

  • feeling relatively confident in yourself and have positive self-esteem
  • feeling and express a range of emotions
  • using our strengths
  • building and maintaining good relationships with others
  • feeling engaged with the world around you
  • finding pleasure in losing ourselves in things we find challenging and enjoyable (aka attaining ‘flow’)
  • contributing to a ‘greater’ cause in a way that creates meaning
  • connecting with feelings of gratitude, satisfaction and contentment
  • being stimulated ‘enough’ by challenges, new experiences and learning
  • living and work productively
  • coping with the stresses of daily life
  • adapting and managing in times of change and uncertainty

Wellbeing takes ongoing focus and care 

Wellbeing is not a static state where we achieve it once and for all and can then forget about it. Instead we may need to revisit the things in life that help us feel well, and do this again and again, especially in the face of challenges. One new definition is that wellbeing is the “balance point between an individual’s resource pool and the challenges faced” (Dodge, Daly, Huyton, & Sanders 2012).

“Wellbeing is not a beach you go and lie on. It’s a sort of dynamic dance and there’s movement in that all the time and actually it’s the functuality of that movement which actually is true levels of wellbeing (Nic Marks, Radio 4, 7 January 2012)

Setting up some regular practices, or habits, and some social structures that embed our wellbeing activities might help.

For example:

  • making a regular catch up date with friends that help you feel engaged, confident, and free to express a range of emotions
  • finding paid or volunteer work where you can use your strengths and contribute to a greater cause
  • signing up for a new course or class where you can meet people and learn new skills
  • deciding to call key friends or family members for a chat on a regular basis rather than relying mostly on social media for contact
  • having some ‘go to’ activities or resources that you can use in times of stress
  • having some hobbies or activities that you can immerse yourself in and that are both challenging and enjoyable
  • doing volunteer work as a way to extend your social networks
  • working on your self image with a counsellor or coach
  • having a counsellor, therapeutic group or support group where you can deepen skills in relationships and express a range of emotions
  • practicing acknowledging and accepting stressors and challenges through journalling, meditation, or other forms of reflection and self acceptance
  • attending to any social, economic, psychological or medical issues in your life that may be reducing wellbeing, including getting help where needed

Of course the activities that help might look different for everyone, and we may draw on some of these resources more at some times than others.

How does revisiting the concept of wellbeing help in your situation? Which aspects of a flourishing life might you want to attend to going forward? 


[Note: text in bold /emphasis in text by this author, not the original sources].


Black Dog Institute ‘What is Wellbeing?’ https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources/wellness/general-wellbeing

Better Health Victoria https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/wellbeing

Dodge, Daly, Huyton, & Sanders (2012) ‘The challenge of defining wellbeing’ International Journal of Wellbeing http://www.internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/viewFile/89/238?origin=publicati

Edinburgh Napier University https://www.napier.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/research-environment/research-themes/wellbeing

Mind UK www.mind.org.uk 

New Economics Foundation (2012) Measuring Wellbeing: A guide for practitioners, London: New Economics Foundation.

Happiness and Well-Being: Integrating Research Across the Disciplines. Saint Louis University. Wellbeing Research FAQ http://www.happinessandwellbeing.org/wellbeing-research-faq


Image by leninscape on Pixabay

Create your own self-care jar!

Attending to the basics of self care can bring stability, joy and connectedness into our lives.

Have you noticed that things in jars are very popular right now?

Kale smoothies in a jar, milkshakes in a jar, salads in a jar; EVERYTHING seems cooler when it’s in a jar!

So running with the theme, here is a handy little self care ritual that you can do in under an hour, that creates a resource for you to (literally) dip into when you’re feeling low, and of course features a funky jar. The good news is, if you’re not into fads like these, you can use a treasure chest, jewellery box, makeup bag or whatever else you have laying around that can create a contained space.

When we’re feeling our worst we often forget what makes us feel better. 

What you will need:

  • 1 mason jar (any size that appeals but it doesn’t need to be large)
  • printing paper & access to a printer
  • scissors
  • the self-care toolkit list provided below
  • OPTIONAL: Acrylic paint, sharpie or paint pens to decorate your jar OR collage items and wide clear packing tape
  • OPTIONAL: kitchen string or raffia


  1. Download your Self-care toolkit list HERE. Save it to your computer or memory stick.
  2. Print out sheets you just downloaded (using black and white, single sided printing).
  3. Cut out each rectangle along the black lines without reading them in detail (as best you can). Mix them up on the table in front of you.
  4. Take some deep breaths and gently think back to the times you most need solace or comfort, that are still an issue for you in your life and likely to come up again – when are they? (You might like to write this down). This is what this jar will be focused on.
  5. Now pay attention to the pieces of paper. Begin looking at each of the pieces of paper you have cut out. Sort them into two piles ‘relevant to me’ / ‘not relevant to me’ – Determine this by figuring out which ones ‘speak to you’. Discard the not-relevant ones (pop into the recycling bin or compost).
  6. Look through them, and if a key behaviour or message that you think is also useful for your self care is missing, feel free write out a new one on a small rectangle of blank paper and add this to the pile.
  7. With the ones you are keeping, you might like to decorate with a symbol or drawing on the blank side
  8. Place each of these into the jar and as you do so imagine that you are wishing your future self love and care for the times when things feel difficult. You might like to fold each one in half or leave them as is.
  9. If you would like to decorate the jar with a word or an image, a doodle or a small collage please do. Perhaps tie a ribbon or some string around the jar and add some beads or dried flowers.
  10. Finally, put the lid on the jar and think or say a few words of intention or prayer to mark the end of this gentle self care ritual. Know that this resource of carefully thought-out reminders is here for you when you next need it.

Once you have your jar set up you can use it in a number of ways:

Place it somewhere visible so you are reminded that it is there, and anytime you find yourself feeling much better after doing something you might like to add that to the jar. Similarly if you find a comforting thought or new script (message inside your head about yourself or your situation) you might like to add that to your jar.

When you feel stressed / lonely/ blue / worn out go to the jar and see if you can find just ONE thing to do and ONE thing to think that might make yourself feel better that day. You can do this by reading them or by picking a ‘lucky dip’ from the jar with your eyes closed.

You can stick the strip of paper you choose to your computer screen or inside your journal if you need a physical reminder of the self care action you plan to take.

When you’re feeling well, you can use the jar to help plan self care actions for future such as vacation time or to check in on how you’ve been going the last month on self care (upend the jar and have a rifle through and see which ones you’ve remembered about and which ones you’ve maybe forgotten about). You could do some planning for the month ahead and see what kind of self care you’d like to focus on.

If you notice that you have already been doing a number of these things – CELEBRATE! Give yourself credit for all the great practical things you’ve been doing to care for yourself. Notice how far you’ve come.

Remember, there is no one right way to do self care, and no one right way to use this tool. You are unique and your path is unique, so take what helps you, and don’t be afraid to customise the process so that its helpful for your unique context.

Good luck! Email me to let me know if this has been helpful or if there are additional self care actions you’d like to see added to the list.


Please note: this tool is not intended to assist with a mental health crisis or intended as medical advice. It is a tool for ongoing self care and wellbeing. If you are feeling unwell please consult your doctor about physical and mental health. You may be able to access a Mental Health Plan under medicare through which you can access free or discounted sessions with a psychologist. For crisis support call Lifeline. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 – a confidential telephone crisis support service available 24/7 from a landline, payphone or mobile.


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Honouring your multiple interests

This article includes some tips from fellow multipassionate ‘scanners’ (or multipotentialites) on how they are combining their interests to create a great life. Barbara Sher describes scanners as follows: “Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things, and that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do.” This is how six different scanners from around the world are combining their interests (and their passing passions) into a satisfying life. 

“This year I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do. I needed to make money whilst at the allotment, making art and walking the dog and doing something in the community. As a result, I’m dyeing local wool using natural dyes found in local plants and asking people to weave small patches on 3d printed looms. These are being joined together to make a blanket of colours throughout the year. I hope this will show the true value of artisan made pieces, and encourage makers to charge fairly for their work. I’m blogging about the process so if someone has one of my baskets they can follow the wool right back to the dyepot or farm. An unexpected side effect is that people recognise my degree in Computing and I’ve been asked to build websites for other people, something I enjoy and a useful supplement!” – Caroline Finnigan from happymakes.org

“I have a photography website – this lets me code, design, write, photograph, research, market, sell prints – tons of skills everyday! I also quit work earlier this year to travel – I get to learn language, eat new foods and fruit, learn how a new city and transit system works, everything is new and a challenge all the time.”– Shimona Carvalho  from www.sidecarphoto.co

“By alternating most interests for 2 hrs a day. By building my lifestyle on the foundation of travel (first by emigrating to Australia then by house sitting) so that provides heaps of excitement and thus other projects become ‘fillers‘”.  – Marianne

“I found a good-enough job that is more than good enough: while it pays well enough to keep me alive and fund my side interests, it also allows me to pursue interests at work and to switch interests every few years. Because it’s only a 9-5, 5-day-a-week job, it leaves plenty of time to do other things that I want to do, such as tutoring high school students, volunteer travel, designing board games, paint, train to be a yoga instructor, teach photography, coach rowing, and so on. Naturally, I don’t do everything at the same time, and pick up new interests while dropping or rediscovering old ones. I love doing things that allow multiplying of interests, for example tutoring high school students means getting to sharpen my science, calculus, French, art history, English, social studies, and so on in order to keep up and explain it to someone else. It’s never not both challenging and fascinating.
There are too many things I want to learn and not enough time to learn them all, plus as I age, I have less and less energy after a full day. I don’t have a plan, but when I get a sudden flash and see an opportunity, I jump on it. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to volunteer my photography for an NGO project abroad, so I found an organization that made these connections and was selected to go to Botswana. This year…I’ve got something else that sprung out of my head a few weeks ago that may turn into a 3-week assignment across Canada.
One of the things I discovered about myself is how much I enjoy the adventure of not knowing what’s going to happen next. This is what I enjoy about travel, about meeting new people, about starting on a new interest. I see everything as possible, so it’s only limited by how much I want to pursue.
The way this works for me is to never worry about having to make a living from all of my interests. This way leads to folly for me. I don’t have an entrepreneurial drive to see something through and then keep doing it over and over for years until it starts to see results. I don’t have the ability to pick something to specialise in and become an expert in: no matter how long I continue to photograph, and no matter how much I get paid to, I will always be an amateur.” – Margaux Yiu from margauxyiu.com

I let myself get excited whenever I find a new passion of mine, I allow myself to fully dive into it, and the really fun part about this is: I never know what things stick and what don’t. It’s like running through a field of flowers while covered in honey and later checking the kind of blossoms sticking to your skin. (That’s a weird image, but let’s pretend it’s pure poetry 😅)” -Steffi from oilonpaper.com

“My life since finding out that I am a scanner has been very interesting; to have learned that it’s not about final stage product as a goal but the learning and enjoying part of the project is a goal. It made me feel confident that I have achieved happiness. It doesn’t have to be complete product to show to others. It’s not only about admiration from the audiance, sometime it only about fulfilment of finding a solution for my projects.
I therefore started to not put pressure on my projects, working on each of them only as much as I feel like and leave it until nextime.
The funny thing is that when I started putting unfinished/in progress projects on FB, it has made people feel like they are joinnung me with my journey, I’ve got question from people on how to make the particular part of the project, which is the kind of question that makes conversation goes on and on. When I posted only the finished product, sometime people have less questions to ask!” – Patrick 

Does this idea of building a life that honours all your interests resonate with you? Do any of these tips inspire you? Tell us below!

JadephotoHi there! I’m Jade, a creative business owner, art therapist, artist and certified Barbara Sher life coach based in the Inner West of Sydney. I love using art therapy and coaching to help people see themselves and their situations in new ways, and helping others create, connect and work towards their dreams.

If you would like help to design a life that uses all your interests, or work towards a long held dream I can help!

Check out my coaching page for info on how we can work together.

best wishes





Making a wonderful life as a scanner or renaissance soul

Now I understand that being able to do learn quickly and do many things is as valuable as doing one thing well.

You may have heard me speak before about scanners (aka multipotentialites, mulirenaissance souls, people who are into lots of things), but today I want to share some tips from people who identify as scanners on how they create wonderful lives to accommodate their unique way of being in the world.

I asked them “What have you learnt from Barbara Sher’s books/ from your own experiments with scanner living… which has made life as a scanner easier or generally better?”. Here is what they had to say:

“I’ve learned it’s okay to move on. I used to feel terribly guilty about getting bored with projects, work etc… Now I understand that being able to do learn quickly and do many things is as valuable as doing one thing well. I don’t move on too quickly, I push myself to complete some projects. But then I’m ready.” – Shimona Carvalho (from www.sidecarphoto.co)

I’m learning to be OK about who I am and how my brain works. I’ve felt a social pressure to identify an acceptable career path (no, you can’t be a surgeon because you’re a girl, no, not an engineer because you’re not strong enough, try again). Instead of chasing my own dreams I pushed them away because they were ‘wrong’. Being at home with the children has been challenging, but in a way, a chance for a new start.” – Caroline Finnigan (from happymakes.org)

“I’ve learnt to mix and match any hobby, career, interest in a structure that suits me. Writing down all I’d like to do and knowing I can fit it all in to a 30+ yr calendar. That now (50+ yrs of age) is the best chapter in my life to do all I want.” – Marianne

“I’ve learned two things, first, I’m not alone. I felt so isolated in my flitting around from idea to idea. Her recounting of schedule of classes at college reminded me of when I got one and marked all the classes that sounded interesting. I would have used FAR less ink if I had just marked the ones I didn’t want to study. The other thing I learned was it didn’t have to be all of something. I could have a taste, a small piece of chocolate of my dreams. One moment of perfect beauty that can sustain me for a while. I juggle by accepting merely that I have many interests and that’s okay and it is a super hero power.” – Done Dennison

“I’ve learnt that: A. It’s okay not to finish things
B. It’s okay to finish something once in a while
C. It’s easier to do things if you don’t make a production out of it. Don’t try to plan a ginormous 200+ hour project. Just do _something_, some small part, for 5 minutes.
D. Uncover what it is about exploring different things that drives you to do it, and then think of ways to create value for other people while doing that. This isn’t easy, and it’s taken me 10+ years just to sort out what fascinates and motivates me no matter what the topic. Figuring out how to turn that into usefulness for other people, though… So far, it means getting to teach or coach others on what I learned. That also happens to fascinate and motivate me. It also means getting to the front of any trend so that I’m the first person occupying that space, such that I can lead it while it’s still a new thing to other people. Once the area gets flooded with other people who have this knowledge or skill, I can leave it to find something else that’s new and unoccupied and needs someone to pioneer.
E. It’s okay not to be an expert in a field if you know D because D cuts across any field, any market, any interest.” – Margaux Yiu (from margauxyiu.com)

“What’s made things easier for me is knowing that there is nothing wrong with my losing interest in a subject once I got the hang of it. Also, I love to connect with like-minded people, which makes scanner groups so valuable—they are an awesome extension of Barbara’s books.” – Steffi from (from oilonpaper.com)

“My life as a Scanner has been better to the core (since discovering Barbara’s books). To know that I‘m not a dysfunctional human being and that someone understand what it’s like to feel the way I feel with various interests. Not feeling guilty everday made life much better and easier. Then the solutions in the book for many aspects of Scanner life started to make sense. The Scanner daybook which keeps all the ideas without fear of loosing them has been a great tool, and now it’s no longer the proof of failure to execute ideas / source to feel guilty like before!” – Patrick 

Are you someone with multiple interests who loves to learn? Have you read any of Barbara Sher books? What have you learnt that helps you thrive as a multi passionate scanner? Let us know below! 

To read more of my musings about scanner life check out these blog posts:

What to do when you have too many ideas

What it feels like to be a scanner

And this interview with me by Terri Connellan on her blog ‘Quiet Life’

Embracing a creative life – a wholehearted story

Image credit: Pexels, artist unknown



Want to be an actor?


Now let me know…
Is it standing in front of an adoring audience that brings you the ultimate high? (No shame if it is – plenty of performers love this feeling). Is it surrounding yourself with people in a theatrical tribe? Is it the chance to get outside your own worries and be absorbed fully in the moment that draw you in? Is it the rush of adrenaline? Is it the feeling of fully emerging into and understanding a character? Is it critical acclaim and approval from those who really know the craft and judge excellence your ultimate goal? Is it the physical, textural aspects of costume, set and stage that gets your heart pounding? Is it the ability to share deep important stories? Is it the feeling of connecting a whole group of strangers in the audience to each other through their shared emotions?

Barbara Sher reminds us to dig around and understand the core of what is most delicious to us about our dream. Your driver and mine might be quite different even if we are going after the same thing.

Knowing what ultimately is your ‘nectar’ – the thing you seek at the heart of the activity you like – will help you shape your dream to best meet your needs. Two people might love acting, but what really lights them up might be different.

If you love the rush of a large audience you might decide that musical theatre will get you there faster than small independent productions. Or if you know that storytelling and shared emotional experience really lights you up, you might choose scripts that really deliver on that. These are just hypotheticals, I’m not a performer so they may read clunky if you know this space. But do you get what I mean?

Knowing what is at the heart of your dream can make you more resilient in the face of ‘should do’s’ and clearer about what steps or opportunities will really light you up. This self knowledge makes it easier to find our own unique path that fits us well, like Goldilocks discovering the bowl of porridge that is ‘just right’.

Going after our dreams: Forget perfect

When we have a long held dream it can be tempting to aim super high. We can visualise the BEST concert, the MOST AWESOME workshop, the BEST SELLING BOOK. This vision can be enticing, exhilarating, and frankly terrifying.

It can paralyse us with fear because we can imagine all the things that might go wrong along the way, and the pain we might feel when that moment comes if it’s NOT that raging success we dream of.

Instead try ‘beginner’ level.

Imagine your first one being full of mistakes and maybe not quite as bright and shiny as you would like AND THAT BEING OK.

Imagine the ONLY objective is to actually give it a go, and celebrate your learning and courage along the way.

If this still feels terrifying, try writing a long list of all the wonderful things you might get out of doing even a small and slightly shabby concert, or running a averagely attended workshop where you forget a few things and do an OK job, or writing a book that barely sells at all.

ALL the things you will learn
ALL the connections you might still make
ALL the experience you will gather up
ALL the personal growth and insights you might have
ALL the old fears you might step away from
ALL the old self beliefs you might gently challenge
ALL the new ideas and inspiration you might get

Feel worth it now?

Even a beginner level effort teaches us so much. In fact we often can’t get to excellence without doing ‘kind of average’ first (many times over).

Do average.
Do beginner.
Do practice.
Do ‘this is just a pilot’.

Perfect is not the only option.
Perfect is not the only reason something is worth doing.
Perfect is not our obligation.
Perfect is not your responsibility.
Perfect is a changeable, subjective flip flopping notion that exists just to tie you in knots.

What is your responsibility is to bring those great ideas into the world, and express yourself, to give it a go.

Follow your nectar


It was a dark morning and the roads were bare. Snaking through the backstreets to go way out west the sky was starting to glow in strips between the streets empty of people and cars.

At the boom gates the shock of traffic told me that I’d arrived. The Sydney Flower Markets! A long held dream of mine, which due to a chance meeting with a fellow flower lover at a workshop on the weekend, was finally happening.

A non-priority that felt like a priority

Sure, it could be said that flowers weren’t a priority compared to my pre-Christmas to do list. That lethargy was pulling me towards holidays while my tasks nagged at me to stay in the here and now. But here I was. Stepping sideways, into an alternate universe. A universe of indulgence and leisure for me, and hard work and early starts for others.

First impressions

Forklifts circling, backwards, forwards, choreographed in a Summer morning markets dance. People in high vis vests striding, arms empty to the shed, arms full on the way back out. Quickly. Quickly before the colours you need go. Quickly before the sun rises higher and heats vans and wilts fragile petals. Quickly before the dreaded public arrive and slow things down at every counter and every walkway.

And here I was, beaming in my alternate universe, enjoying a quick coffee and soaking up the atmosphere before launching into the fray. Feeling like part of something old.

Sensory overload

Once inside my guide swung me up and down aisles, arms pointing, quick descriptions of people and flower farms, and imports, and species names, jumbled and mixed as we walked swiftly, her words like a tumbled bunch of flowers themselves.

The stall with buckets and buckets of flowering gums, Christmas Bush, stout yellow banksia. People walking through with just one gnarled perfect woody stalk ready to add to an arrangement.

The stalls that go down half a length of the market, a one stop shop, all the popular flowers, with a special emphasis of reds and greens this festive season. The stallholder a king sat low behind a vast counter top. Peonies, roses, November lilies, Lisianthus, assorted greenery spread out before him.

The tiny one-man show, with a single type of bloom that he grows, picks and transports and now sits behind, smiling. He has carefully arranged snapdragons and gerberas.

The vast stall with a sea of dahlias that leaves me overwhelmed and feeling giddy.

The plump, short bunches of waterlillies that have me feeling longing and wistful and wondering how they will handle the trip home out of water.

The boxes and boxes of imported roses, causing a stir, causing eyebrows to raise amongst those stallholders who proudly proclaim ‘locally grown’ on large hand written signs.

And amongst the blooms are trolleys being wheeled and me getting in the way, and slightly bawdy staff banter, and brides to be with armfuls, and florists with carefully chosen colours.

So many, so much. I drink in my fill, I drown in flowers and possibilities.

What I leave with

Two hours later I leave with an odd assortment of tall and short bunches, deep red, rust orange, buttercup yellow and white. I have three spools of ribbon which are almost 100m long combined. Maybe a plant pot or two. I have new sharp flower snippers which I never knew I needed. I have beads of sweat now rolling down the centre of my back. I have a whole heap less money then when I went in. I have an awkward gait of someone who didn’t quite think through how to carry all these.

Most importantly I have that kind of sweet sticky golden joy that glides down your core like honey along the inside of a glass.

It makes me wonder about why we wait so long to do the things we most want to do. As I leave I notice how the end of the year feels more glorious, beautiful and abundant than it did yesterday. This simple early morning visit to a place open all year round, less than an hour from home, makes me feel like I have stepped through into a new version of myself. Stepped back into the here and now energized, refreshed, and full of possibilities. This reminds me of the Artists Dates that Julia Cameron prescribes, and I realize I’ve been a bit lacking in these lately.

Why don’t we do what we really enjoy more often?

It humbles me as a coach to be reminded of how powerful it feels to do what we really love, and how complex the inner barriers can be to doing just this. It reminds me that I am just as susceptible to resistance and fear as my clients.

As an artist and someone who facilitates creative space for others I can feel how I am filled up and inspired with this experience of the wild abundance of beauty in so many different forms. It reminds me loudly that self-care can be about relaxation and rest but also about inspiration and the uplift of excitement blowing gently into our sails.

I know that time of year can be exhausting. We are often juggling family responsibilities, Christmas parties, work deadlines, and feeling our energy flag from a busy year. It can feel like we are limping to the finish line. At my visit to the flower markets I am reminded that connecting with what fascinates and inspires us is always worth the time.

(Image is one of mine)

What to do when you have too many ideas

Recently I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with business ideas. There were just too many! Different services, different people I might work with, different resources I could share.

It felt a bit overwhelming and if I’m honest a bit like a traffic jam in my mind. So many ideas that together they couldn’t get through and sat side by side stuck in gridlock, honking their horns at me. I felt cranky and like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt even cross with myself and the ideas – why are you coming to me and just sitting here and not convincing me to take action?

Eventually a few things fell into place and now I finally feel as if the traffic lights have turned green, they are merging into one lane, and I know what order they will pull off in.

Here are five things that helped me, and might help you (especially if you are a big picture creative or busy scanner), when you have too many ideas:


  1. Write them down somewhere where you can find them

If you are anything like me you might have notebooks for everything. Lists, ideas, journaling, affirmations, drawings, outpourings of the heart, business ideas, the works. However those half pages lost in various notebooks you will rarely reread is not super helpful. It can add to the feeling that you are frittering away your ideas and that nothing is building. It’s easy to feel lost when your ideas are actually lost in a notebook.

Some things I have found helps for finding the ideas again is:

  • Using dedicated notebooks for different things and different notebook sizes or colours so I can find the right one quickly (my gratitude and celebration journal is bright yellow, my dream and wishes journal is hot pink, my regular daily journals are black)
  • Having a ‘scanner daybook’ as recommended by Barbara Sher for capturing those thoughts on big wild inventions, projects or life ideas (mine is a huge weighty tome with the very best paper and cover that I could afford at the time)
  • If you do keep your ideas in the one notebook or journal all mushed up, you might like to try what I have started doing, which is writing ‘IDEA:’ as a large header in capitals before I write or draw out business ideas. That way when you run your eye down the last few pages or few weeks of pages you can easily spot the bits that were to do with ideas, and you wont have to read all of your emotional outpourings, other lists etc.
  • Go digital and use a program like Evernote so you can access your notebooks from your mobile device as well as your work or home computer (I’ve just started using it, I’ll let you know how I go).
  • You could also create private Pinterest boards for yourself and save photos or articles that relate to your project or idea

OK… so that is all about how to write them down and where, but maybe you are a visual person and finding the connection between ideas is important rather than just a list, which brings us to the next suggestion: map them.


  1. Map them

I find drawing out or mind-mapping parts of the ideas really helps. For example are three of your ideas related to one core topic and the other three are on a different topic? Are there flows of information, materials or learning that would take place between these projects if they were happening side by side? Do some of your ideas support others, and of you were to do them first would help support subsequent projects? Pulling out these different ideas (that you may have written down in various locations at different times) and putting them together into a diagram can help you visualize connections, and make sense of what might at times feel like unconnected ideas. I find this ‘sense making’ helps bring a feeling of order and calm, even amongst the sometimes chaotic feeling barrage of ideas.


  1. Feel into them

Ideas can be persistent in our minds but when you pay attention to each one they can ‘feel’ different. In a recent podcast with Lisa Murray on the Recovering Perfectionist, she called it ‘following the energy’. I like to call it ‘feeling into them’. The way it works for me is when I visualize the idea it can either feel light, charged up, and unobstructed, or it can feel heavy, cloudy and like it is sitting behind a pane of glass some distance away. When it feels cloudy I often have my mind being indignant and saying things like ‘but it’s a very good idea! It makes sense’ – kind of defending it if you like. That tells me that my conscious mind likes the idea, but that another part of me isn’t so sure.

The way I think about it is this: our conscious minds are not the sum total of our wisdom. I believe our subconscious is the vast databank that integrates more information – contextual, historical, emotional, futures focused – than our day to day conscious minds can handle. I think that it can give us valuable additional info to what our conscious mind can, but that it doesn’t ‘speak’ in a linear, language based, logical way. So when I get that heavy or obstructed feeling about an idea I am learning to trust that it might be that there is a good reason that it might not be the right time, or that the idea might not yet be in a form that will work best in the world, and that I need to give it some more time to mature.


  1. Give them time – but not too much time

As long as you are not forgetting your ideas then thinking them over for a while before you start is a very reasonable proposition. For me, for big complex ideas, a few months of mulling it over feels about right. If it is a small idea that feels 100% doable right now the lag between thought and action can be quite brief (hours or days). If you leave it too long (years) you may be in danger of putting it in the ‘too hard basket’ and making the idea seem like an idealized fantasy far removed from your everyday life. That’s not to say that the whole idea needs to be implemented and completed in those timelines, but that you commit to it and start taking some kind of action. It may be that it gets harder and harder to take action. The exact nature of these timelines is probably different for everyone, but it might be worth considering the right amount of time you plan to give your ideas to mature before you get started.


  1. Expand your time horizon for implementation

Barbara Sher talks so beautifully about the way that scanners have a skewed sense of time, and often forget that they have a tomorrow and a next year to do things, not just a today. With these recent ideas I was having I kind of forgot that maybe my timeline was bigger than just the next few months. I realize now that maybe they will unfold over 5 years, and that is OK. It takes the pressure off and reminds me that I can start on them all now, but the preparations for some might run in parallel with the launch of others.

As Elizabeth Gilbert* says, “Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.” So don’t let a traffic jam stop you from bringing some of those ideas into the world.

Do you have lots of ideas too? how do you manage them so they feel like an asset rather than a burden? Did anything resonate from my list above? Please let me know!


*Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Courage, self criticism and stretching ourselves

I want to reflect on my recent experience of having a podcast interview, and share these with you in case they help you to ‘step up’ and get out of your comfort zone.

Recently I was guest on the Recovering Perfectionist podcast and spoke with Claire Barton about being a scanner and not being tied to just one career, hobby or focus in our lives. I love Claire’s work, I’ve enjoyed working with her, and she is a great source of info on business systems. To be honest I’m a bit of a fan, I find her down to earth and warm manner really delightful.

We had a great chat and then earlier this week it was published both as an iTunes audio podcast and also as a YouTube video, so I listened again to remind myself of what we covered.

Just like any creative endeavour there can be mixed feelings about the ‘end product’. For example I notice that the sound is a bit iffy my end at the start of the interview (internet connectivity issues). I don’t look right into the camera because I’m looking at her face on my screen, so I look a bit shy and distracted, always looking slightly away. As I watch I cringe a bit about random things to do with how I move my hands so much, or that I’m wearing foundation when I normally don’t so my skin looks strange to me.

These are fairly normal ‘oh no look I did a bad job’ kinds of observations that come up from fear of making a fool of ourselves, fear of appearing incompetent, fear of being rejected or ridiculed. As a recovering perfectionist myself I have an eagle eye for my own flaws and am great at spotting them.

However, as I watch I am also pleasantly reminded of the genuine connection we shared that day and the interesting topics we discussed. I am pleased when the audio sorts itself out and works again. I like my earrings. I feel proud of myself for stretching my experience and saying yes to a recorded video, when in the past my interviews for radio or online have all been just audio.

So on this day of being aware of something new and of myself, being in the public domain, I gently hold these mixed feelings. I know that I have learnt things by doing this, the sky didn’t fall in, and the world is still turning. I know that I will feel more confident the next one I do. I am aware and pleased that the inner voice of celebration and encouragement is louder than the inner voice of criticism. I know that these mixed feelings about our creative endeavours are part of the ride, and I’m glad I continue to get outside my comfort zones so I have fresh reminders of how that feels, and can walk alongside my clients who are doing it too.

I encourage my clients to start before they know every single little thing, as it’s in the doing that we actually learn. I am on the same path of exploration as they are, as we all are, and today I celebrate our small and big acts of courage.

scanner podcast

iTunes Podcast – bit.ly/TheRecoveringPerfectionist
Podcast episode – Episode #30 – https://www.clairebarton.com.au/podcast-feed/30
YouTube video episode –https://youtu.be/e1-nNslnkBo