I am willing to risk my illusion of safety in order to expand my self-definition.

Release Conditioned Limits

Week 7, Day 5 of The Artist's Way

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Today, let's expand our self-definition by releasing conditioning limits.



QUESTION: What would I do if I didn’t have to do it perfectly?

ANSWER: A great deal more than I am.

We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living, but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining. The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action. This brings us squarely to risk. Most of us are practiced at talking ourselves out of risk. We are skilled speculators on the probable pain of self-exposure.

We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel assured of success. Living within these bounds, we may feel stifled, smothered, despairing, bored. But, yes, we do feel safe. And safety is a very expensive illusion.

In order to risk, we must jettison our accepted limits.

Usually, when we say we can’t do something, what we mean is that we won’t do something unless we can guarantee that we’ll do it perfectly.

As blocked artists, we unrealistically expect and demand success from ourselves and recognition of that success from others. With that as an unspoken demand, a great many things remain outside our sphere of possibility.

Once we are willing to accept that anything worth doing might even be worth doing badly our options widen. “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try …”

Very often a risk is worth taking simply for the sake of taking it.

There is something enlivening about expanding our self-definition, and a risk does exactly that. Selecting a challenge and meeting it creates a sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for further successful challenges. Viewed this way, running a marathon increases your chances of writing a full-length play. Writing a full-length play gives you a leg up on a marathon.

Complete the following sentence. “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try …”

(The Artist's Way, 2016, p. 121 – 123)


Read the following affirmation with gusto and intent:

I am willing to risk my illusion of safety in order to expand my self-definition.

I am willing to risk my illusion of safety in order to expand my self-definition. (AFFIRMATION CARD)

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The phrases that follow are more of your sleuth work. Very often, we have buried parts of ourselves that can be uncovered by some digging. Not only will your answers tell you what you missed in the past; they will tell you what you can be doing, now, to comfort and encourage your artist child. It is not too late, no matter what your ego tells you.

Complete these phrases.

  1. As a kid, I missed the chance to ____________________
  2. As a kid, I lacked _________________________________
  3. As a kid, I could have used ________________________
  4. As a kid, I dreamed of being ______________________
  5. As a kid, I wanted a ______________________________
  6. In my house, we never had enough ________________
  7. As a kid, I needed more __________________________
  8. I am sorry that I will never again see _______________
  9. For years, I have missed and wondered about ______
  10. I beat myself up about the loss of _________________


“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”

– Agnes de Mille


What is one small risk you will take today toward a dream?

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