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Ideas come and go. But there are some that quietly linger. We can so easily disregard them because we doubt our capacity, we’ve never done anything like that before or we’ve been told by others it would never work.

I travelled the well paved road of medical school and became a doctor. But I had so many other ideas brewing whilst I spent years of dissecting cadavers and treating real life patients. I had longings and yearnings that where way off the beaten track. Medicine was fascinating but my creative longings stirred deep inside me and as Brene Brown so perfectly put it: “unused creativity is not benign, it turns to grief and judgement”.

I felt time moving by and felt an creative urgency infuse me with courage to take a leap. I left medical training for a while and studied music, travelled through West Africa learning percussion with Griot master drummers and then followed rhythm to Cuba to learn how to dance Salsa. I was captivated by the stories of Cubans I met and so was compelled to capture their stories and started my exploration of documentary film on the streets of Havana as I met one musician after the next who brought their gifts music to my camera. Making documentaries became my focus and I filmed in Cuba, Sri Lanka and New York City (one of them screening at the United Nations).

After so much moving and doing, I discovered meditation as a powerful way to be still, tune in and learn more about the inner world. It was a transformative practice for me and so I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I launched a global meditation campaign called Mindful in May that has taught thousands of people to meditate and to date raised $300,000 to bring clean, safe water to more than six thousand people in Africa.

Mindfulness meditation was a key that helped support me to be more courageous and taught me to recognise my habits of thinking that could keep me limited to old patterns of being. So often what holds us back in life is the ferocious inner critic and our self limiting narratives. Mindfulness meditation transformed me in many ways and helped me to develop a new relationship with my mind and my thoughts. It opened up a doorway where there wasn’t one before and catapulted me into a world of possibilities that I would have never imagined.

Here are ten steps for bringing your ideas to life (mindfulness was a crucial ingredient from my experience):

#1: Pay attention

Many people who tend towards creativity have endless ideas streaming through their heads. The dilemma is which idea to choose? There are a few helpful tips that I’ve learned along the way. Ideas that sprout from your soul stick around. It helps to have a regular practice of tuning in to yourself. If your life is too full and busy, you won’t be able to hear the idea that lingers quietly, day in and day out in the background. It is important to create some space in your day to tune in to your soul’s whispering.

#2: Research

Spend some time researching your idea. This can involve starting to talk to people about it and gauging their response. Don’t be deterred by those who don’t seem particularly interested, as not everyone is going to like what you do. However, pay attention to the people who are interested, and ask them questions to refine what you are doing. Spend some time on the internet to see if your idea is already being done. If it is, how can you develop your idea so that it has a point of difference from other projects that are similar.

#3: Budget

Start an ‘ideas fund’. This is an account where you start saving money so that by the time you are ready to execute your idea you have funds available. If your idea is something you hope to develop into a career, it is often helpful to transition gradually. Work by day and chip away at your idea by night. Keep a kitty building up so it’s ready to go when you are. Consider asking friends or family to contribute to the idea fund, in lieu of a birthday present. Or you could start a crowd funding campaign. 

#4: Set a deadline

It always helps to put deadlines in place, especially deadlines that can’t be moved. Book a venue, a recording studio or whatever you need to do to make your timeline concrete. Without setting a date, your project will very quickly be suffocated by other seemingly urgent but way less important tasks. It’s helpful to find a friend who’s also working on a project so you can keep each other accountable. Alternatively, hire a coach. Having someone who can keep you accountable and help you challenge your limiting beliefs will save you years in procastination.

#5: Prepare to disappoint

Projects of the heart require complete and utter focus. Especially with the many demands that can arise from day to day. It is likely that you will need to get better at saying no to socialising so you can tend to your project wholeheartedly – imagine your project is a baby – it will need as much attention. Call up your close friends and let them know you will be missing in action for a while. People generally don’t like change so give them some psychological preparation. You may disappoint a few people but ultimately sacrificing your soul’s mission to keep others happy is a recipe for resentment.

#6: Prepare for the dip

If this is your first giant leap into following a creative idea, be warned: there will come a point where you truly believe your idea is rubbish. This is where the challenges of your new idea start to feel insurmountable and the overwhelm-o-meter hit the red zone. Self doubt and the inner critic will ramp up in an unhelpful and primitive attempt to protect you from what it fears is going to be catastrophic failure and public humiliation. This makes total sense as you are way out of your comfort zone. Now that you’ve been warned you’ll be more prepared. It’s an inevitable part of the creative process and it gets me every time.

#7: Pacify your inner critic

If you want to move from idea to outcome you are going to need some tools for managing the inner critic. This is where mindfulness skills can help a lot. Basically, this just means having enough self-awareness and presence of mind to recognise when the inner critic is speaking, making room for it without being controlled by its commands. There is a community of voices inside your head – it takes time to discern which ones are to be trusted. Meditation can help you start to see more clearly and respond more consciously to the many thoughts and feelings that arise when you are facing a challenging situation. Learning to become master rather than slave to your own mind is key – it helps you continue to take steps forward when your reactive fear centres are trying to turn you away from the destination.

#8: Reach out to others

People who have travelled the creative path understand what a challenging experience it can be. Those who have stepped through their creative right of passage are usually very generous in sharing learnings and mistakes. Happiness breads generosity. People who have had the courage to bring their wild ideas to life are often the happiest people of all. Don’t underestimate your connections and networks as a source of invaluable learning. If you don’t have people like this around you email people that inspire you and offer to take them out for lunch or pay them for an hour of their time. You can learn more in an hour with the right person than you can from many a course on entrepreneurship.

#9: Have a self care plan

Taking the leap toward making your idea a reality is exciting but also extremely demanding. When you are driven by passion, adrenaline kicks in and you become unstoppable.  However, this can often effect your sleep, appetite, and attention to daily living (such as paying the bills). Make sure you schedule exercise, socialising and meditation (if you meditate) into your diary. Consider getting more support on board – whether it’s a coach, meditation teacher, and make time to take a break. Balance in the short time will cost you way less time than burn out in the long term.

#10: Reflect

When you have finally executed you project. Take some time to reflect on the process. Don’t just think about it, write down what you learned. What would you do differently? What were the key factors that made it a success? This will ensure you can actually enjoy the results of your effort and develop your capacity for the next project. Marking endings is also a powerful way to move to the next chapter. Think about creating a celebratory dinner with friends or if you have a friend that you admire who has made their idea happen, why not host a celebration dinner for them.

To put mindfulness into practice download this FREE guided mindfulness meditation that you can keep forever.

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