Pine cones and little rocks stick in my bare feet as I make my way down to the old wooden dock at the water’s edge. Reflected pine trees and blue sky are so mirror-like that if I took a photo and turned it upside down, you would swear you were looking at the real thing. In the distance I hear the sputter of an old outboard motor on a small metal fishing boat, and I can see the glow of a red hat about a half mile from the dock.
The 100-year-old wooden Adirondack chair, which has been baking in the morning light, warms my back as I lie against it. Today is the perfect lake day, calling me to some kayaking into the grassy bogs. I’m in my happy place, and if it were not for that evil snow and 30 below weather, I’d be here year round. I’m on a quest to find a winter equal to this lake paradise where we plant ourselves each summer.
I feel blessed to be able to be here and to pick and choose most of my living circumstances. As every summer ends and we’re set to return home, we say farewell and wish we were going home to something equally beautiful. But then, vacations would be less sweet if we were on vacation year round. There is value in having things to look forward to. In fact, I think you have to be deliberate about it.
Blindfolded at an Airport
Decades ago, when I was too busy to take a vacation, my wife begged me for just five days off so we could go somewhere special. As an anniversary surprise, I was blindfolded at the airport gate only to find out we had boarded the Concorde to London, which was a great way to save time on a short vacation. And though I loved the vacation and the experience, I would have loved it more having a year, or at least a few months, to look forward to it.
Making plans in advance was never my best skill set, but I’ve learned that looking forward to things can get you through a lot of tough times. I’ll tell myself, “Just a few more weeks and I’ll be in Russia painting,” or, “I can’t wait to see my friends at my fall painting retreat,” or, “I can’t wait till the kids have spring break so we can take a trip somewhere together.”
Making Myself Better
Planning my future, sometimes two or more years in advance, has turned out to be a powerful way to make sure I’m living life to the fullest. I used to tell myself I didn’t have the time, and now that I take the time, I’ve realized that time away makes me better at home and work.
Most of us have seen a recent shift in our priorities. Suddenly that two-hour daily commute is no longer appealing. Working in an office and wearing “dressy” clothes is less appealing than working from home, being more productive, and wearing your favorite T-shirt and yoga pants. And it turns out that pent-up demand for travel is something many have discovered. A busy buddy told me, “I’ve spent half my life putting off travel because I felt I needed to be at work all the time. But that’s about to change. I don’t want to wake up unable to see the world, and COVID made me rethink my priorities.”
If you’re telling yourself you don’t have the time or the money to do the things you always wanted to do, what you may really be saying is that you have not made it enough of a priority.
Finding a Way
At age 19, when my parents offered me a chance to meet them in Europe for my first visit there, I didn’t have time or money, but with a few months’ notice I took on extra gigs on nights and weekends, I accumulated as much vacation time as possible, and I scheduled it months in advance to make it happen. And I stopped buying $5 cups of coffee and eating lunch out. In other words, I found a way. And I suspect most of us can find a way if we work on it enough in advance.
I’ve had too many conversations with friends about their unrealized dreams, watched them delay their dreams, and then later gotten the call that they’ve passed away, moved to a nursing facility, or they are battling some dreadful disease. These past two years, the possibility has been more of a reality.
So I ask you…
What dream are you delaying?
What do you want to get done in your life that has not been started?
If you could only pick one thing, what would it be?
What’s your plan?
Putting things off may be practical, and going now may not be possible. But if you don’t make the commitment, don’t pull the trigger, you may never get it done.
A woman approached me at my Adirondack painting event this past spring. She said, “I’ve been trying to come for 10 years, but my husband got ill and I needed to be there to take care of him. This is the first time I could get here.”
I was so proud of her for doing the right thing, but then going for her dream the moment she could.
We had a couple come on one of our fine art trips to Europe. They told me, “We’ve been intending to come for years, but we just never got around to it. We’ll be back again next year.” But that year, one of them passed. I’m thankful they came.
An artist once wanted to come with me on my second trip to Cuba. He told me, “I can’t afford it, so I’ll go next time.” Thankfully, he found a creative way to raise the money, and it turns out there was no next time.
I’m not suggesting travel … but I am suggesting that there are things you want to do that you need to get started on now. Don’t let anything get in the way. Pull the trigger now.
Your dreams are important to you, and you need to find a way to live them.
Take action now.
You can always find a way.
PS: A few years ago a lady saw me painting and said what people always say … “I can’t even draw a stick figure. I wasn’t born with the gift of painting.”
Of course, I said what I always say … “You can do this, you can learn. It’s not about natural talent, it’s about following a process and practice.”
She took my free Paint By Note course online, and sent me images of her progress. Now, just about three years later, she is doing a great job and painting beautiful pictures.
I think it’s important to fight with the assumptions in our own minds. Why am I telling myself this? Is what I’m telling myself actually true?
You can do what you can set your mind to, but the key is setting your mind, and overcoming the things in your mind that are blocking you.
If you find yourself saying…
“I could never…”
“I don’t have what it takes…”
“I don’t have the talent…
Your brain is lying to you because of something you absorbed from your parents, your friends, your kids, or your environment. This is a time to challenge all of your assumptions. Even if you tried before and failed. You can do this … whatever “this” is
I’ve got hundreds of people who signed up for my Pastel Live virtual conference in a couple of weeks who have never before painted in pastel, but want to learn. I have others who have never painted in their lives but took the leap and told themselves they could do it. Pastel may be the easiest way to learn to paint because it is much like what we used as kids (though more sophisticated). If you’ve resisted learning to paint because of oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, or other mediums… this is your best shot at producing beautiful artwork. I highly recommend our Beginner’s Day (which is 100% guaranteed or your money back). I’m guaranteeing I can make you an artist, even if your brain is telling you it’s not possible. Take the shot. It could change your life forever.
Thanks for the inspiration. I am going to quit procrastinating and find a way to make some of these things happen that are important to me.
Also, I love the Plein Air Magazine. I subscribed before the first issue came out. I kept bugging you wanting to know when was it getting published. It has been a great source of inspiration all these years. Keep up the good work. We miss seeing Steve since he retired. Hope he is doing well., You and your family be safe.
P.S. I enjoy all of your podcasts on you tube, also. It;s great listening to other artists discuss how they got where they are.
I love your beautiful writing, positive attitude and encouraging words. While unpacking after a move, probably 15 years ago, I found a small clipping rom the NYTs about a farm in Tuscany hosting painting workshops. I always told myself when I retired I would learn to paint. I wrote to the “Farm” in Tuscany and received back a glossy, fold-out brochure of the art class offerings hugely more expensive. I packed it away, disappointed. As a single, 75 year old female who can barely draw stick figures, I still dream in technicolor. Thank you for keeping those dreams alive.
IF THERE IS A WILL THERE IS A WAY
I so enjoy your Sunday missals! You take very serious subjects and provide all your readers an optimistic point of view, no matter the obstacles involved. Most of us today have challenges that may well be beyond our control in so many instances. For my own part, I take away the hope and the sense of determination that we all are able to handle those opportunities set before us each day with gratitude for the personal growth that comes with faith and hard work! Your life is an inspiration. Thank you for all that you do for others.
I can’t say” I can’t”, until I prove that I can’t.
“I came. I saw. I decided.” You might remember me saying that?….. as my mouth fell open at the site that you and half a dozen other artists were already painting at at the VIC facility on Paul Smith’s Campus? That was this past June in the Adirondacks! A trip that has changed my life. On that first day, I had wandered around the grounds for a couple of hours in indecision – paint this view or paint that view, where to start? So, committing to paint that particular view was a 2nd and pivotal “pull-the-trigger” moment for me. Signing on for the Publisher’s Invitational Paint Out, at all, was the first. YOU ARE SO RIGHT, Eric!! Oh how grateful I am for your always-encouraging words, whether you’ve been on hill or in valley!! Your wisdom resonates and inspires. Since then, I have kept in touch with several really great new artist friends and the energy continues. Have continued painting en plein air and just did my first West Paint event, yesterday, in Old Lyme, CT. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Art is life! Blessings be to you and your family for your hours and days.
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your inspirational Sunday Coffee! Thank you for encouraging us all to paint and enjoy life!
Once again, you have gifted me with encouragement and inspiration at a critical time in my life. Reading your ‘Sunday Coffee”‘ is my dessert for the week and sustenance for the future.
Thank you, Eric!!
If you’re truly looking for a winter place in the country with near perfect winter temps (60° TO 80°), look no further! LaBelle Florida, on the bank of the Caloosahatchee River is it! Population approximately 8,000. The Caloosahatchee is navigable from Ft Myers on the Gulf to Port St Lucie on the Atlantic. A plethora of seadoos, fishing boats, ski boats, yachts, sail boats & even cruise boats pass by daily.
You’d love it. Only 45 mins from Ft. Myers airport (RSW). Nice little art gallery in a 1914 Florida home, on the bank of the river…What more could you ask for!
You have a rough life there Eric…..ha ! Have fun!
I look forward to reading Sunday Coffee each week. Thanks
Loved this pep talk. I am notorious for putting things off. I wanted to take art classes in high school and my dad wanted me to take college prep classes. I never got the chance. Then every time I started life happened. I now have the excuse I can’t afford it. I do watch all your videos. That is helping a lot. We will see if I can take your advice. Thank you for being such a positive influence!
I love getting up on Sunday, coffee in hand, sitting on my patio reading your Sunday morning coffee email. You have a gift of words & I can shut my eyes and envision what you have explained. Thank you for you kind words, encouragement & positive approach to life. I was diagnosed with ALS in March & my hands won’t let me paint anymore which makes me sad. However I watch your daily video’s with other artist & enjoy watching them.
Southeast France in a preached village in a home built in the 11th century now complete with internet and each bedroom en-suite hosted by an accomplished chef and professional artist…..you and bride are invited for a week in March or April to join us. Fly to Nice and we will pick you up. Bring your paints!
Spot on! Thank you for your dedication and willingness to share, Eric. I enjoy tuning in at every opportunity.