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Don't Should on Yourself!

Don't Should on Yourself!

Molly writes...

A wise CZT friend once said something that made me take pause. And since then, the thought is one I have carried around with me on my journey.

It was at a seminar I think, and I was rambling on and on about how I could have done this and should have done that, and I should do this more and she stopped me in my tracks and simply said, “Molly, don’t should on yourself.” I giggled and really took pause. She was right! What good was it doing for me to go on and on about all the things that I could or should have been or done? What if in that same moment I thought of all the things I had done and perhaps pondered the things I looked forward to doing? The truth is our lives are full. We do what we can. We push ourselves to do more when we can, and perhaps there are times we do less. And that’s okay. If we build on what we have done and celebrate our strengths and successes, we are more likely to grow and become inspired to do more. Pouring energy into all the things we have not done, does not put us ahead or even feel good for that matter. I have slightly modified the famous words of the wise old Yoda to serve as a mantra for myself,

“Do. Or do not. There is no should.”


It is easy to beat ourselves up about the past or wallow about what we were supposed to get done. But if we shift our focus, just a tad, and empower ourselves on what we have done, even the little things, you realize that you can and will do more. And then well, let’s celebrate those things.

Our Zentangle practice is a great place to shift in our focus in this way. First remind yourself, this is your practice, your journey, your mountain to climb. Comparison does not validate or dictate your path. You are in charge. You are the artist. If you tangle every day for a year: Awesome. If you have not tangled for a year, but you found a moment to tangle today: Awesome. If you tangled once and it was delightful, and you look forward to tangling again someday: Awesome. If you need a push and you know a friend that might inspire you to pick up your pen, give them a shout. If taking a break from your practice feels right, take a break. If you can’t keep up with all the content out there, that is ok. If you only ever tangle crescent moon over and over, that is awesome too. Choose one thing that inspires or interests you and start there. Do a basic tile with all known tangles. Start with one stroke and take it from there. Or maybe just admire a tile you did a long time ago. Embrace how your practice changes and how your art changes. You get to choose. Do what you can. Celebrate the moments. Celebrate your art. Push yourself a little and cut yourself some slack. And above all, “Do not should on yourself.”

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Thank you to all who left your thoughts on Maria's blog, heARTistry. We have randomly selected five commenters to receive a gold heart tiles from Maria. If you see your name below, please send your snail mail address to julie@zentangle.com.

  1. Melissa Flores
  2. Paula Ansley
  3. Cathy Kurvers
  4. Dianne Riva Cambrin
  5. Nancy Needler

Julie Willand

44 comments

  • Great post! I really like your writing. you always provide the deep information. thank you for inspiring. I would like to share some information this is really good I wish you like Click here

    Kristal Kaif on

  • Thanks Molly. This post is perfect, and just what I needed to hear. It helps take away some of that FOMO. I think we all do the best we can! And if not this time, then it’s best to focus on the next time because that’s the only one we can change. ❤️

    Kelli King CZT 36 on

  • This is exactly what I needed today!! I was getting frustrated about not having tangled in a while. Life takes us in so many directions, it’s easy to sideline even what we love to do most. Thank you for the suggestions of how to get started again! When life takes us left and right, I know I’ve gone “right” when I tangle, as it gives me so much joy!!

    Thanks Molly.
    Tangle On! Kel

    Kel Hellberg on

  • Appreciated your comments, Molly. I am really trying to work on that very thing. Your words were encouragement for my efforts

    Thanks! cec

    Joeann Bereaford on

  • Great advice! Those “shoulds” slip in so quietly, it is always good to pause and remember.

    Mary Bartrop on

  • Shoulda coulda woulda thinking doesn’t exist with no mistakes philosophy

    Jackie on

  • YES to your observations and recommendations, Molly! Probably from some wise remark, years ago, from one of you at ZHQ … I tell my students whenever it seems appropriate, “Don’t ever let Zentangle become a ‘should’ – that will steal all of its joy from you!” The more I say that out loud, the more I hear it. For me, Zentangle is always a “want to” now!!

    Jan Brandt. CZT 12 on

  • Molly you are a mind reader girl!! Have been so stuck with the should that it’s weighing down on the joy of nows💕
    Thank you

    Meghna on

  • Exactly what I needed to hear today. Thanks Molly.

    Betty card on

  • Thank you to my Zentangle instructor Lee Kay,czt for sharing this post. I needed to be reminded of the importance of trusting that I am doing and have done what I’m supposed to do. I look forward to doing what’s next!

    Iris on

  • I am currently frozen on a new project because of all my shoulds. I have brushes and dotting tools and paints and books and Pinterest ideas. but i’m stuck. Thanks for the inspiration..

    Clarissa Banda on

  • Great message, Molly! I tend to ‘should on myself’ frequently, and then think later, ’there’s still time. It doesn’t have to be done today.’ Those shoulda, coulda, woulda’s can go, now that I think about it. Instead of thinking ‘I should’, I’m going to switch to ‘when it fits in my day/schedule, I will take a little time now since I can.’ I have a lot of doctor’s appointments, and when I think of it, I’d like to start creating those random bijous we leave around for others to find. I can’t remember what we call them. I think my doctors and nurses might have a nicer day to find those when/where they could be surprised with a good thought/gesture. I’ll do it when I think of it because I want to, not because I ‘should.’ I may edit Yoda’s line to “There is no should… do when inspired and able.” I like that much better.

    Theresa Caillouette on

  • WOW! This is just the #ZenPost I needed. I know that I have the tools needed to start teaching classes. However, I just keep letting the #Shoulda get in my head. I let doubts and fear of failure stop me from just #Doing! Time to just #Should! Believe in the #ZentangleMethod and move forward #OneStrokeAtATime!

    JojelliCZT36 on

  • WOW! This is just the #ZenPost I needed. I know that I have the tools needed to start teaching classes. However, I just keep letting the #Shoulda get in my head. I let doubts and fear of failure stop me from just #Doing! Time to just #Should! Believe in the #ZentangleMethod and move forward #OneStrokeAtATime!

    JojelliCZT36 on

  • Just as I finished reading this post, my cat, Lila came in and “flopped” onto the floor, looking at me with her “Iisn’t this the perfect time to just flop?” expression. I think that this post is much like living the life of a cat….just enjoy every moment and pounce (or not). Thank you!

    Lisa Wyckoff on

  • I love this. I needed that attituded adjustment reminder. Here’s to more Do or Not Do and forget about the should dos!

    Sue Leslie on

  • This is a great message about letting go of the past and having permission to enjoy the present.

    I also have a mantra for the future: Worry is praying for that which you don’t want to happen. When we embrace our lives, in each moment, we find happiness.

    Susan Litteral on

  • Thank you, Molly. This made me cry. I’ve been hard on myself lately. This message translates to everything. You are a rare gem. Thank you.

    Debbie Thompson on

  • Thanks Molly. Words I needed to hear.

    Mary Ellen F. on

  • Could is a healthy replacement for should. It gives me choice without the guilt attached to should. Thanks Molly for the reminder of something I learned years ago. It’s allowed so muchmore freedom in my life, including tangling.

    Donna Dastrup on

  • Thank you, Molly. Not only did I need that message for my self talk, but I also need to eliminate the “shoulds” in listening to others. Often when someone relates their problems or issues, I find myself offering advice. … “What you should do….” Is not what they need to hear.

    Donna Lamoureux on

  • Such a super useful, helpful mantra. Thanks so much. Rimona

    Rimona Gale on

  • Have been unhappy with my tangles lately. I should have read this sooner! Haha 😄 just kidding!

    Jan ~ Sailandbejoyful~ on

  • As I struggle to find a place in my life for Zentangle without the self-judgement that crops up with many artistic endeavors through my years, this message was perfectly timed and presented. Thank you!

    Shari Malin-Sifuentes on

  • Thank you. That’s a great reminder as I head out the door for my Zentangle class. I have fifteen eager students aged 8 to 18 who surprise me every week with their tangling.

    This week a student inspired me to create a new tangle I’m calling Tearza. It’s a single metallic gold teardrop.

    My student, Tierza, suggested I use Fescu during an online class challenge. Fescu has a lovely teardrop on the end of graceful stalks. The challenge was to incorporate N’Zeppel into another tangle. In working out how to do that it naturally happened that droplet shapes began appearing in the sculpted N’Zeppels created by the intertwined Fescu stems. Tierza loves metallic gold ink … And there it was: a golden teardrop.

    Tearzas of happiness, of course!

    Ann Baum on

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