Being a designer is difficult sometimes. It can be pretty scary to start a new project from scratch, to face a blank canvas. Sometimes I freeze, my mind goes blank and all creativity leaves my body because I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities. I can't even make the first mark because there are so many options, endless opportunities, and it is up to me to create something out of nothing.
When this happens, it is incredibly helpful to use a template. A template is just a preset format or an outline of how a project might look and feel. It provides some guidelines and an organizational structure for your work. Often, I can't even begin to be creative until I have a framework to orient myself within. But once I set a few ground rules for myself, then I am free to let my imagination run wild. Give me some rules so I can break them!
Most of the time, when I start a project with a template, my ideas will stretch and grow and transform the piece into something completely different than what I started with. But without that template I never would have made the first mark.
I've always heard the phrase "You can be whatever you want to be" or "do whatever you set your mind to" and while this sounds great, I just don't believe it anymore.
I agree we should each aim to be all that we can be - but we cannot be anything we want.
God designed each of us differently. He gave each of us a template to start with. He gave us distinct physical characteristics - tall, short, strong, agile, muscular, lanky. And we were each born into certain environmental conditions - large families, small families, single-parent families, royalty, riches, poverty, various physical locations and socio-economic conditions. Some of us are only children, middle children, oldest or youngest, our parents are strict and demanding, or kind and supportive. Our neighborhoods are hostile or inviting, some of us live in urban areas, some in rural communities. Some of us are shy, introverted, listeners and observers. Some are extroverts and social butterflies. Some are street-smart and some book-smart. And each of these factors contributes to our own unique template.
And this is good news to me. It means that I don't have to search through every single option in the universe to find my strengths, talents and passions. I don't have to face a blank canvas and design a life from nothing. I already have some substance to work with, the ground work has already been laid.
I'm not saying that you should just accept the hand that you've been dealt. If there are things in your life that you wish to change or improve, by all means you should do that. I'm also not saying that a person cannot rise above negative circumstances in their lives. Dysfunctional families, difficult childhoods, disabilities - these aspects of your template should not limit your potential for happiness. However, they are a part of you and your story, and ignoring them or wishing them away will not lead to long-term success in life. You have to accept them and come to terms with them before you can make them better.
I spent a lot of time in my younger years valuing the templates of others above my own. I wanted to be shorter, skinnier, more outgoing, wittier, more athletic. For a long while, I desperately wanted to be something other than what I was. I ignored and defied my own template and set off in search of a new one. I truly believed back then that I could be whatever I chose to be. But that was a difficult and painful path, each step harder than the last, and eventually I just got tired of the struggle. So I back tracked. I took a long hard honest look at my template, and I realized that it's not so bad after all. Actually, some parts of it are pretty dang amazing. So I decided to honor my template, I decided to make the most of it, to value myself and the way that I was created. And things started to make sense to me again. My life felt happier and easier. There was no longer a constant struggle to be something that I was never meant to be. There was just the total freedom to be myself - the me that I was born to be, the me that God intended.
Sometimes, the very thing that we're so desperately searching for is something that has been within us all along.
Now I am so grateful for my template - my strengths and weaknesses, my physique, my preferences and geographic location - I choose to embrace and honor these limits. They give me a starting point. They provide an organizing structure for my life and for my future so that I don't have to waste my time sorting through endless options. I can just get right down to business designing and creating my best life, and making the most of what and who I am.
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2018
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