Pursuing Creative Goals: Discipline vs. Flexibility

Photo by Angie Torres

My goal this year was to go to three yoga classes a week. On a number of occasions, however, I haven’t felt like going to a class I was planning to take — I’ve been in the middle of a groove with work, for example, or just haven’t felt like going. On these occasions, I’ve given myself a pass, and rolled out my mat at home later in the day or the next day instead.

Sometimes, I find that allowing myself this flexibility is very rewarding, with my home practice allowing me to intuitively respond to just what I need, just when I need it. On other occasions, allowing myself to skip a class I was planning to take has meant I’ve ended up only practicing twice a week — which, while hardly the end of the world, is certainly not what I set out to do this year.

This all makes me wonder: How do we navigate the fine line between discipline and flexibility when pursuing our creative goals?

On the one hand, I think of how much benefit I get from a daily writing practice, versus my former habit of only writing when inspiration struck. I believe that a regular practice helps cultivate inspiration and that it’s often when I think I’m uninspired, that I surprise myself with just how much I have to say. This makes me want to stick to a regular schedule of yoga classes, and make myself go to class even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I really don’t feel like it.

On the other hand, part of me thinks such rigidity is silly. In yoga, we’re taught to listen to our inner teacher above all else. It’s this teacher who tells us whether to go deeper into a pose, for example, and when to back off. Is listening to myself in terms of when I do or don’t want to practice yoga just another form of listening to this inner guidance?

I think the answer might be to explore a daily practice, while giving myself permission for each day’s practice to take a variety of forms — from a physically challenging 90 minute class, to a 15 minutes of gentle flow at home, or a restorative practice. This way, I benefit from the structure of regular practice while allowing myself the flexibility to intuitively respond to what I need on a given day.

Yeah. That sounds about right.

How about you? What is your biggest creative goal at the moment? Do you have a structured plan in place for achieving this goal — and if so, are you finding this structure useful? What kind of flexibility do you allow yourself, if any — and do you find this flexibility helpful?

I want to leave you with this thought:

“Viewing contentment as a choice is nothing less than a radical notion. Virtually everything we are taught causes us to believe that contentment is condition-based and in order to find it you need to do or acquire certain things. It is the very belief that contentment is the prize for winning the scavenger hunt of life that prevents us from being content.”

– Darren Main
Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

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One thought on “Pursuing Creative Goals: Discipline vs. Flexibility

  1. Right now I'm trying to write and record 14 songs in 28 days as part of the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) challenge. (See http://fawm.org & http://wiredformusic.blogspot.com/search/label/fawm)The time constraint of trying to write all 14 songs during February has really pushed me to up my creative output considerably – this month I will have written more songs than over the past 6 months combined. They're not all great; some of them aren't even good. But I know that I have to get them out to make room and clear the way for the great songs to emerge. By doing this, my inner songwriting apparatus gets a tune-up, and so I'm primed to listen when inspiration strikes with a really great idea afterwards. So while I am very happy with some of the songs I've made so far, I see FAWM more as a creative blast-cleaner than a means to recording my best work.Plus, it's just a whole lot of fun. 🙂

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