I have recently become a big fan of Paint Nite. In a nutshell, it’s an event where a group of people gather at a local bar or restaurant and create a beautiful painting from a blank canvas. It’s a great way to spend time with friends, grab a glass of wine, and test our artistic abilities. It’s a lot of fun!!
Now, I’m not much of an artist. In fact, I can barely draw a stick figure. So, I was curious how I would walk away with a decent painting I’d be proud to show anyone let alone hang in my house. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty intimated my first time. I remember looking at the sample painting thinking “how the hell am I going to paint that?”. But, I quickly learned the big secret. There’s no need to look at the end result and feel overwhelmed, because the artist guides everyone through a series of steps that lead to the final product.
We start by painting the background color. Then we move on to the next part. Little by little we add more detail along the way, in bite size chunks, so we’re no longer fixated on the final outcome. Instead we are focusing only on what is next; following the steps that will get us there. In the end, everyone’s painting turns out just a little different. It’s a beautiful reminder that although we are connected, we are each unique in our own way.
As I was painting my masterpiece, I had an amazing burst of clarity. This painting thing is a lot like life! How many times do we look at a situation, something we want to do or change, and get completely overwhelmed? How often do we freak out, panic, and wonder how it’s going to happen? In that moment we’re attaching to the final outcome – the end result – the final painting. When we do this, we can actually miss what’s next. We can lose a step in between that will guide us to the final destination. Wow. Who knew this Paint Nite thing would become the perfect metaphor for anything we’re trying to accomplish in life?
And that brings me to my favorite topic - weight loss. Of course I relate this to weight loss, because…. well…. that’s been my big challenge in life.
I know I’ve done this before, and maybe you have too. I think to myself “OK, I need to eat better, make healthy choices, avoid all carbs and sugar like the plague, exercise daily, get my heart rate up, keep moving, and don’t stop. And for the love of everything holy, do not make a mistake! There’s no time to slip up!” Do you see what I’ve done here? I have created an expectation of what I think I need to do to accomplish my goal. There are a lot of steps here. It feels overwhelming, doesn’t it? In this moment I am fixated on the goal, the final outcome, and my anxiety is in control.
Using the painting process as a guide, let’s imagine for a moment that I shift my focus away from the end result. Instead of focusing on everything I think I need to do to lose weight, I pick one place to start. I select the next step, and I let go of the outcome. I’ll start with the background, just like the painting. This week I will take the first step. I will slow down when I eat and take time to enjoy my meals. That’s it. Can you feel the difference? There’s room to breathe!
Next time you have a big task ahead of you, or a major project you want to tackle, see if you can take a moment to shift your thoughts away from the big picture. Instead, think about the next step to take. Give yourself permission to enjoy each step along the way. Make it the way you want it, do what feels good for you. After all, we are all as unique as our paintings.