hand holding paint brushes

Unlocking a Joyful Life: Breaking Free from Self-Imposed Chains

Happy New Year! There's an invigorating energy that comes with the start of a fresh year, making it one of my favorite times. Whether you're setting resolutions, listing actionable goals, or choosing an inspirational word, the new year is an opportunity for a clean slate. In this article, I want to share some thoughts on a trap I've encountered in the past and offer encouragement for your own journey.

Before delving into the concept of this so-called "trap," let's take a moment to reflect on the choices that have led us to where we are today. Consider your own path as I share a snippet of my story.


arizona landscape in oil by beverly gurganus
(Higher Ground 8x10 oil painting)


During my third year teaching elementary art, I welcomed my youngest daughter, leading my husband and me to decide that I would leave teaching to stay home with her. While this had always been my dream, it wasn't financially feasible until then.

As my daughter started kindergarten, I found myself at a crossroads, questioning, "What now?" Despite taking on responsibilities like watching my husband's cousin's daughters, I felt a yearning for something more, something creatively fulfilling.

That's when I reignited my passion for candle making, sharing my creations on social media and even venturing into selling them at a consignment shop. While I enjoyed making candles, a moment of realization hit me like a wake-up call. "Why am I running a candle business when my lifelong dream is to become a full-time artist?"


the birth of beverly gurganus fine art
(My first poorly lit studio space after starting my art business in 2016)


In the summer of 2016, I began planning my art business. The prospect of taking those initial steps toward doing what I loved was exhilarating. The vision of waking up, sending the girls off to school, coffee in hand, and retreating to my own studio to paint day after day felt like living the dream.

Fast forward seven years, and I found myself questioning where that initial zest had gone. Instead of feeling the wind in my hair, I felt more chained to my business. How could something I loved become burdensome?

As we approached the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, I stood at a fork in the road, faced with a pivotal choice. Do I continue pushing through, or do I choose another path? If you find yourself standing at a similar imaginary fork, keep reading.

chasing slow by erin loechner
(currently reading and highly recommend reading it.  Kindle version is 2.99 on Amazon)


I recently started reading "Chasing Slow" by Erin Loechner, and her words resonated with me. While I haven't finished the book, gaining a new perspective has given me hope to continue doing what I love with a mindset shift. I hope my insights resonate with you, providing encouragement to take steps towards a slower, simpler life that feels truly free.

So, where did it all go wrong? Cultural expectations. Our society sets the model for what business should look like, how hard and fast we should push toward success, and how to measure that success. I got caught up in this model, finding myself drowning with self-imposed chains on my hands and feet.

Turning to social media and Google, I tried to determine what to create and how to create it. I measured success by likes, comments, followers, and sales, putting unrealistic expectations on my creative practices. When I failed to meet these expectations, imposter syndrome crept in.


studio view with paint brushes and palatte

But let's be clear – social media and culture aren't to blame. They're tools we can use to build our businesses, and I did just that. I chained myself by telling myself to work longer and harder, only to feel like life was passing me by in the pursuit of creating a life.

Why are we so adept at enslaving ourselves with the constant mantra of "try harder" and "be better"? We weren't created to live in chains. Jesus came to die for our sins so we could have freedom in him. Yet, what do we do? We put those chains right back on ourselves with the pressure to be better and try harder. All we need to do is love Jesus and live in fellowship with him. He will do the work in us to shape us into who we are meant to be.


beverly gurganus fine art
(Current studio 2024)


Whatever you're chasing, just enjoy the process. Show up, serve, and love others. Success isn't solely in the money you make or the size of your following. True success is found in living. As someone wisely said, happiness comes when we serve others.

My friend, let's embark on this year together and begin the journey of taking those chains off by choosing to live a simple, slow life full of serving others with our God given gifts.


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