Your work means the world to you. It’s a big part of who you are. When things aren’t going well at work, you feel it in your heart because you don’t do this work just for the money. You take bad days personally. Because it is personal. You’re taking care of people, people who depend on you for your advice, empathy and compassion. When you’re feeling anxious or depressed your customers, patients and coworkers pick up on it and you know it.
At times like this, you need to step back and take a look at the situation or day from an outsider’s point of view. You do this to remove yourself from the work so that you can be more objective and take it less personally. This will help you recreate the day.
Sitting Next to the Crombies
Five years ago I started a fun little ritual to help me when I had writers block or my writing was just crappy. I use writing as a way to process how I’m feeling so that I don’t carry any negativity into my work in the pharmacy.
I would get my notebook or computer and head to my local Starbucks where they featured the paintings of a wonderful Northeast Ohio artist- Rob Crombie. I would sit right next to those paintings, staring up at them occasionally for inspiration.
Especially inspiring were Crombie’s tree paintings- the colors, how they seemed to move on the canvas, and how the roots were situated on the grassy hills. I was in awe of these paintings and imagined that painting came so naturally to Crombie- these beautiful trees just magically and naturally flowed out of him and onto the canvas.
If only my writing would be like that- inspired and effortless. If I could write like he painted, I would be a happy woman.
One day I left my house, headed to Starbucks, to “sit next to the Crombies” as I would call it. I had been feeling depressed and anxious and generally down on myself. Work had been very stressful and I was finding it difficult to keep a positive attitude, so I really needed the beauty of those paintings that day.
But, for some reason, I drove right past Starbucks instead of pulling in the parking lot. I decided since I missed the turn, I would keep going to the grocery store that was only a mile away and then head back to Starbucks on the way home.
Since I hadn’t planned on a grocery shopping trip, I didn’t have a list. Instead of taking my usual route through the store, for some reason, I headed straight for the freezer section.
Incredibly, the artist, Rob Crombie himself was standing right in front of the frozen vegetable section. I was so shocked to see him, that without thinking, I went right up to him like some crazed fan and said, “I was just headed to Starbucks to be near your paintings! Your work inspires me. It helps me write.” He was very gracious and kind.
We talked for quite a while and the conversation led to him sharing a shocking truth about his creative process: if he doesn’t like a painting that he finished, he paints over it.
I couldn’t believe it.
I said, “You can do that?! Just paint over a painting?”
He said, “Yes. Of course. I do it all the time.”
“You mean it doesn’t flow out of you perfectly the first time?”
“No. It’s a process. Sometimes you have to paint over it- start over.”
I needed to hear those words on that particular day. His words to my ears are like his paintings are to my eyes. I’ve even expanded on the concept and apply to my work.
I remember that there is always a chance to do it over- to start again- to create a space at work for my talents and abilities to create the change I want to see in my patients and customers.
Stealing From an Artist
Think of your day like a canvas that you can paint over. You can create the day anew! Here are some ways to apply this concept:
Before your day begins, take a few moments to visualize how you want it to go. Picture yourself smiling at your patients and them smiling back at you. Imagine how happy people are to work with you in making your patients healthier. Picture the work flow going smoothly and throw in anything else that to you signifies a good day at work.
If you’ve found yourself at the end of a really terrible day, once you’ve settled in at home, imagine taking a big paint brush and painting over the day with white paint. Picture yourself letting go of that day. In your mind’s eye, look at that white canvas you just painted over, smiling, knowing that tomorrow, you can create a beautiful day.
Even in the middle of the day, you can pause for a moment. Imagine that you are in the process of creating a painting. If the day is like a storm at sea, imagine instead calm waters, little sailboats and a bright sky.
Like a painter who doesn’t like what he’s created, you always have a do-over. You can start again tomorrow or even with the next interaction. You are creating this day. There’s room for mistakes, you’re human. What you choose to create is beautiful and meaningful to others, even if it isn’t perfect.
Here is the video I shot next to my Crombie that goes along with this post.