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Tangle Your Own Conclusions

Tangle Your Own Conclusions

Molly writes...

My mom never really told us what to do or think. If you ask my siblings, they will say the same. There was always an abundance of time spent listening, supporting, nurturing, and loving us, but how we were going to navigate our lives was up to us. We were steering the ship. Even when we were practically begging her for advice on some big life decision making moment, she always gave us the same answer, “make a decision and make it right.”

“What does that even mean?”, my younger self would ponder. For years I took in the words of wisdom trying to digest them. Over time, I realized what she meant was that it wasn’t so much the choices I made, but rather what I did with those choices that mattered. If you move forward through your journey believing that the path you are on is the one you are supposed to be on, you spend more time embracing and nurturing where you are, rather than focusing on regret and disappointment. It is true that we are forced to work through difficult times, but when you embrace and own all your choices and focus on looking for and discovering even the littlest bits of beauty, you will soon realize you start to see more of it.

In Zentangle, we practice this philosophy too. We encourage Zentangle artists to own every stroke they put down, to make choice and then let those choices inspire and guide the next ones. We encourage you take chances and work through so-called mistakes in a way that allows you to see them as opportunities.

This is your story to write and your tile to tangle. If you believe that your life is a complete story and each event, every relationship, every mark you put down on your tile is part of that story, you will see that it is “you” that leads the way. As artists we can move along on this journey artfully, tangling our own conclusions every step of the way.

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Leave us your thoughts and we will pick one commenter at random to send a "tangle your own conclusions" Zentangle MantraBand.



Thank you to everyone who shared your thoughts on the "No Mistakes" philosophy on our last blog post. We have randomly selected Judy Grimes to receive the Ultimate No Mistakes Bundle!

Please send your snail mail address to

Molly Hollibaugh


  • I just had this conversation with my granddaughter (she is making college choices) this morning and I had her read this blog post because Molly and Maria say it so much better than I did! I love “make a decision and make it right” thank you for just the right inspiration at just the right moment.

    Brenda on

  • Thank you for recognizing Mental Health Awareness month. This has become my life focus through my work and personal experience. Though very rewarding, it can also be very stressful. At the end of each day, if I cannot find enough focus to read another read, take another call, or think another thought, I turn to zentangle. Thank you for bringing this meditative practice to so many. #CZT8

    Heidi Woody on

  • Zentangle has given me confidence that I have never had before in my abilities to create something amazing I am 72 years old and have never been able to paint or create and now I am taking art classes and enjoying life in ways I have never been able to before.

    Ann Florence on

  • Molly, such timely advice. Lately, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about making decisions, even simple ones. “Make the decision and make it right” takes the angst out of decision-making. And by applying the “One Stroke at a Time” philosophy, I can focus on one decision at a time and embrace either the opportunity or ‘oopsortunity’ that results. Thank you for sharing.

    Jen Jessop on

  • Thank you so much for sharing this Molly. That’s so mind-opening (if there is such a word) like so many other things Zentangle. I have spent the last many years trying to raise my kids the right way, but now that they are teens, it’s only right that I let go and let them make the decisions that’s right for them. Make a decision and make it right, seems like so much more of an enlightened philosophy and certainly something I’m going to try in earnest. It will be a lot of hard work for me to change, but anything is possible one stroke at a time, ain’t it?

    Vee on

  • Crazy as it sounds I am grateful for my cancer journey at this point in my life. Four years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. Three years ago I had a total bone marrow transplant that resulted in a near death experience . My focus became to fight the negative side effects of the transplant, the chemo and the multiple medications and steroids needed. Thanks to a wonderful organization in Sylvania, Ohio named The Victory Center I was exposed to the miraculous power of Zentangle. From the many classes I attended I grew stronger and healthier with the mantra that I was going to LIVE UNTIL I DIE!! I have successfully made it into remission due to this mantra and the continue benefits of tangling whenever I feel overwhelmed. I share the incredible blessings of Zentangle, prayer, and the glory of living each moment to the fullest along our journeys wherever we are taken. The gratitude of each breath, each day, each joy, each trial can be enriched for us with incorporation of the Zentangle philosophy of “no mistakes”. I am so grateful for every opportunity to apply the life experiences I face into the fabric of a Zentangle creation. Continued blessings to you all…Julie Bair, Sylvania, Ohio.

    Julie Bair on

  • I was turned off to ‘art’ in middle school. In art class (which was a one semester required class), I was told you can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. It wasn’t until I was in my 60’s that I was introduced to Zentangle, where lines didn’t have to be straight. I’m still a novice, but learning to love my non-straight lines.

    Candace on

  • Zentangle has given me so many reasons for gratitude. The guided flexibility of the Zentangle Method is a mirror of parenting that allowed for creative freedom with loving guidance—and owning the outcome. Not everyone can give that to their children, but wow – it’s a very powerful example. So, thank you! I have even more gratitude for the wisdom shared. <3

    PJ Stewart on

  • I was raised very similarly and I felt that it helped me in so many ways. I learned that my choices had meaning & that all of them affected more than just me. I realized at a young age that I had so much to be grateful for & appreciative of. Choices•••💛

    Jennifer K on

  • My daughter is about to move down an exciting new path – with all the anxiety that can cause. I am definitely sharing your words with her as well!

    Jane Lawler Smith on

  • Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I posit that observation applies to our Zentangle journey as well. Each tangle we create begins with a single stroke. Make that stroke confidently bold and deliberate. Own the tile. Follow your inner voice. Let your imagination guide you to the next stroke, and the next, wherever they may lead you. Until suddenly, you arrive at the conclusion of your tangle; amazed by the unique design you created, yet strangely renewed and refreshed by each stroke of your journey. This is the power and joy of Zentangle! Don’t let fear of failure or mistakes hold you back, or keep you from starting on your journey. Without trial and error, there can be no progress. And you never know where or when a serendipitous mistake might lead you to a new level of understanding, accomplishment, or fullfillment. For me, Zentangle is a continuously evolving journey, not a destination. I just like to relax and enjoy the ride!

    Jessica Dykes (aka Jake) on

  • I agree that owning our decisions is of paramount importance. Zentangling reminds me of the movie “Scent of a Woman” (a horrible title for a good movie) wherein Pacino says, “If you get all tangled up, just tangle on.”

    James Meckley on

  • Parents who let their children take ownership of decisions are golden, and mine too were like that. I have such gratitude for my upbringing, and it’s wonderful to see you putting this advice out for all to benefit from. I also am grateful to the zentangle process, which allows for oopsies that I can then transform into – OH Yes – that’s a good way to go.

    Linda Barnett on

  • To Own it …. One must Focus Decide and Take Responsibility for every Stroke in Life to Make Life worth living and worthy of Life itself. Thus this tangling act and action directs one’s mind into undeviated attention upon oneself, like one stroke at a time. Thus leading to random acts when grouped gradually coming out as a life-changing event in one’s Life. So that’s Why I include this Art Form to incorporate into one’s creativity to help in pondering decluttering and creating new ways of Life.


  • I think sometimes the “own it” part is the hardest. It’s too easy to want someone else to be responsible, to tell us what to do, and we turn to various thought leaders (parents, teachers, clergy, politicians, YouTubers) to avoid thinking and choosing for ourselves. I think it’s both because thinking for ourselves is hard, and because we are afraid of living with the consequences of what we choose. But the bottom line is that we DO always make our own choices (even if we get the ideas from others) and we DO always live with the consequences of those choices (even if we don’t take responsibility for them). Living in anger, frustration, and disappointment is exhausting and achieves nothing good in most cases. Why not choose (that word again!) to live in gratitude, appreciation, and wonder instead? Zentangle helps with this by providing an opportunity to do all of the above: choose, take responsibility, be thankful and appreciative and look in wonder at the art you’ve created. And you know what? We can allow that practice to spill over into the rest of our daily lives. Maybe tangling is just an exercise in a training program for living a better life.

    Laura on

  • Great post! I once had life changing guidance from a councellor at work when I was having difficulty coping with a coworker. She used the acronym RYE: Redirect Your Energy. I was feeling frustration, resentment and sometimes anger. This councellor said i could redirect those energies by turning those incidents into learning situations. Was there a way I could encourage positive change? She said I would be a supervisor one day (and I did become one), could I learn how to motivate and encourage more positive behaviour? If there was nothing I could do in those negative situations, it was up to me to realize that and move on to better energy use – help more customers (I worked in a library), complete my own tasks in a positive and happy manner…. It’s a mantra I use often and maybe even more now while I’m retired, when I’m reading disturbing news, or with the trials of cancer treatments. And of course, Zentangle is and has been the BEST way to calm my mind and work through frustrations and negative emotions to come to a better way to redirect my energy!

    Sue Sharp on

  • Own it and incorporate it and move on. So simple, yet sometimes so hard.Thanks for sharing all of this wisdom.

    Alice Steuck Konkel on

  • Years ago when I stumbled across Zentangle, I realized that if there are no mistakes then each “mistake” that I “made right” became a part of the drawing as it was meant to be, even if not what I first intended. Transferring this to life empowered me to work through an “oops” or “uh oh” by making things right and moving on. Joy! So, I know I’ve made mistakes, and like in Zentangle, it’s embracing them and choosing to adapt and improve that matters.

    Lorraine on

  • As a high school headteacher I used to teach three things about mistakes. First, that if you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough, second that if you’re not making mistakes you’re not learning enough and third, to be grateful to the person next to you if they make a mistake because they have just given you the gift of learning from their mistakes. We wanted to teach the students to accept themselves and others, not constantly judge. I wish I had learned about Zentangle back then, because I could have added the wisdom that these are not mistakes anyway, they are just steps on the path to help you choose which direction to take.

    Elizabeth Soule on

  • Sometimes life events “happen to us” (thinking cyclones or flood or family happenings that are not idea) but it is a personal choice how we choose to handle these events. Art is one area in our lives that we can have choice, basic tool choices to craft “one stroke at a time” – the first steps to crafting a new story, a better story, to write a letter to yourself and packing on paper so to speak to send it off and let it go. Create a new image, a new story, see beauty, brightness and opportunities. Creativity is within us all, we just need to allow ourselves to come out and play. Creativity through art gives us al avenue to express our inner feelings, fears, anxieties in a safe, passive environment that on-one else needs to see unless we allow it. It is our own private therapy session that offloads in a fun way. In doing this, it replaces us with feelings of relief, joy, accomplishment and delight at what we actually can achieve. Art gives us a place to ground ourselves. Anchoring possibly a negative into a positive. Hormones shift, our souls feels it. It is a simple tactile move that has HUGE benefits. We just need to do it and feel it for ourselves. What and how we use our art is a unique opportunity and no, there are “no mistakes”. I love to “Tangle my own conclusions” daily. Thanks Zentangle family, I love it and I love to share it.

    Veronica Hodges CZT37 on

  • Your mom’s advice is full of wisdom and self-discovery. You are so fortunate to have been guided by it. I have totally embraced the Zentangle philosophy that there are “no mistakes” just opportunities. For me this way of thinking takes away a lot of the worries and stresses of everyday life. It helps me to stay positive through difficult times and I love sharing this philosophy with others. Just your way of thinking can make such a powerful positive difference in your own life as well as the lives around you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Brenda Salot CZT37 on

  • The art and philosophy of my Zentangle practice is a guiding principle for me. We find the words of our spiritual paths in surprising places. Thank you for being part of that.

    Deb Murray Czt30 on

  • Wonderful teachings from your mother! I loved the part about what you do with your choices! Would be wonderful to follow this in our art as well.

    Suchitra Komandur on

  • On the 4 Wednesdays in April, I taught a Zentangle class at our Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program. It was so much fun to share the philosophy of the Zentangle Method and the participants (all retirees) seemed to resonate with the life parallels. As my daughter is establishing her independent life, it is rewarding to see how she is making her decisions. It makes me appreciate that my parents encouraged my decision making.

    Joyce Rosenberger on

  • My mom never said much, but she did say, “You’ll know when the time comes.” That’s how I tangle. I don’t plan so much but seem to know what to do next when the time comes. My girls followed that same advice from me and seem to know what to do next themselves. Thanks, mom.

    Theresa Caillouette on

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