How to become who you want to be by surrounding yourself with art and changing your environment (this goes beyond just putting up inspirational messages!)

I have been moving house in the last few days. I am still in the middle of moving house! Being on the Aspergers scale most likely, I have had to get my own space in the house sorted first. My domain: the office. And in doing so I have been really thinking about how my environment affects me. Does surrounding myself with carefully selected items change who I am and help me to grow into my potential and vision?
Now I am going down in size. I won’t explain why, but I think my space is down to 1/3 that which it was. So all my boardgames, my art supplies, things to run both ministry and business are in a tiny place.

defining the past

Let me explain another problem. For 30 years now I have been involved predominantly in church jobs. I have had Bibles, commentaries (which explain the context and messages of the bible in easy to understand words), ideas for telling those messages and other resources surrounding me. In some ways, defining me. I’ve always been quite happy about that. It’s like a comfort. But in some ways those things I have kept around me is because that is how people have expected me to be. After all, a minister – for me children then this fresh expressions/pioneer type – will have the things of ministry around them. (I still am a kids worship leader by the way!). So I have defined myself in a way that other people expect.

Defining the future

This move though is to start to move us as a family towards a different vision that God has given us. Again, I won’t go into details although if anyone contacts me I am more than willing to explain. But the three things I feel ‘called’ to, which become even higher on the list than simply earning money, are:
– create a form of church that is replicable in which children are the priority
– To write, publish and lead worship with children which has a dance nature to it…from street dance to dance music.
– Transform the nations

There are all sorts of knock on effects from each one of these massive goals.

Defining my present with an eye to the future…I am in control

In the space I have right now, there is no way that I can keep the paraphernalia of my past with what I need around me for the future. More than that, I can’t even think in terms of what resources do I need to do the above. That is, I am in control through free will given to me to decide that I will follow God’s lead (I believe) and put things around me to get to that.

Redefining resources as a comfort blanket

Resources are funny things. I’ve had them for years. They are kind of grab and go things. Stuff you can just pick up and use. Idea generators. I’ve noticed, though, that I don’t use them. I did years ago because there were few resources on the internet. Then we had to have books. Now, not so much. I dumped my beloved commentaries because I now have a combination of the internet, and a growing commentary library on my Kindle. 5 yards of commentaries now in 5“x4”? Yes please! For kids ideas I use scripture Unions site (I wrote some of it anyway) and mix it up with other online ideas. So for the last 5 years my ‘things’ I had around me were simply nostalgic collectibles I rarely looked at. I just don’t have the space for those things.

So I had to decide what I wanted out in the new space. How would I filter? How to decide? Not resources again. Then it struck me. What if I put the things around me that I wanted so that it would remind me who I wanted to become. The focus of why I am doing this for God. Why we are as a family taking this risk. Why other people are getting behind me. Where we can see God leading.

Putting to oneside the past in favour of the future

I kept the ministry things to a minimum, the things I use very regularly. A prayer book. One copy of each way of interpreting the bible…they are called versions. Basically it helps to have them like that for writing sermons as an English word changes its meaning. So it’s not so much the scripture which changes, as the modern words we use to express the scripture changes. Useful to have different ‘versions’ so that you can find the common ground.

A small area for borrowed spiritual books or ones I want to read. I read more books on art and business now, but there are still spiritual ones that I dip into to help my spiritual growth.

I’m not saying this wasn’t hard. It’s been tough. Those things defined me and made me feel safe. But if I am a Christian then my safety is in trusting God, not in those things I have collected over the years. And I am not a tamed creature either. God made me to be wild. Dangerous. To take risks. Here me roar.

An environment for the future

But what then? Well it no longer matters how people look at me. What I am called to that needs resources is artist, and musician. So I used that definition and started putting out, carefully chosen, things which actually did that for me. I now can sit at my desk and by surrounding myself with those things I will start to think more in those patterns. Maybe it’s because I am highly intuitive. Maybe it’s because surrounding myself with other things I become distracted. All I know is that this feels right.

Art as an environmental factor

So how does art work in all this? Behind me now on the wall that is only 4 feet from my back when I sit at the desk, above the electronic piano I use to compose ideas, sits my 1/2 finished painting for mine and Anne-Marie’s wedding anniversary. it will be finished during holiday times. On my wall is the Dandy desperate Dan picture…and my picture of the space shuttle. A watercolour which was a doodle of intense colours to remind me of what is possible with the stuff to keep me from what my wife calls wish washy. These are curated in a way to help define my space. They have meaning.

When you hang art, or for that matter surround yourself, it can be just because you ‘like’ the picture. Nothing wrong with that. But as I ask myself the question as to why we hang art or other stuff that has no function to it other than decorative and design, I start to think about it’s purpose.

For some, it is historical. This is what I want to remember of my past. Documentary in image and forms. A statue from honeymoon. A painting of a place visited.

Other people surround themselves with what they call ‘inspiration’ which I closer to what you might think I have done. Things to get them going. Inspirational quotes and the like. I’ve always found it interesting the pictures that schools hang to ‘inspire their children’ and teachers. The problem I have here is that this is more like a broadcast message of expectation rather than inspiration. An implied level of expectation rather than something which is personal. Inspiration must be personal. It’s also something that can keep you focussed.

The third way…you become the average of your environment

Then there is what I wonder is if it is the third way. Something not really talked about. It relates to the idea that John Lee Dumas on says at the end of his podcasts each and every day.
“You are the average of the [5] people who you hang around with”
What if you also become the average of the things you surround yourself with?


Surround yourself with what you want to become…not defining yourself for now, or the memories of the past, but what you want to become.

Now that’s scary. First, you can use art to help you. This is what you want to become. Put images of that thing in your environment. You can use books, even if you don’t read them. Tech, even if you don’t use it.

I think there may be something psychological there too. We are amazingly adaptive creatures, us humans. We adapt to our environments. Of course, some environments just may not be the things we want in the first place. We can adapt to being cubicle office workers, but do we really want to be that. Apologies if you DO! But it’s not for me.

So you might want to start with the thing that you want to achieve in life.

Adaption to environmental factors may lead to a new you…and you can choose your environment

As a creature when we go into the sunshine our skin darkens to cope. Our body mass changes depending on environmental factors. Do lots of heavy lifting and we get stronger. Practice and instrument and we gain muscle memory. We are amazingly made.

What I am saying is something that I have chosen to do for a change. In the past I have surrounded myself with things that reflect who I currently am, or have been in the past, or who people expect me to be. Very practical. But I have had to make a decision. What do I want to become. And I have actually surrounded myself with the things which are for the future. Everything else has been put away. Ok…the boardgames are now in my space…but I like boardgames…I need them for much of my ministry time. And I don’t really want the office to have the silly paperwork in it but it’s unavoidable, so thats on a high shelf. The rest of it is mine. And as I grow into my future and the promises, I believe, of God and what he has my eyes set on, then I will move the boardgames and the office stuff out to other places.

For now, they stay. Only because the rest of the house is like a high rise of moving boxes.

How to do it

Quick and easy how to. If I am right, that is.
1) Look at what you want your future self to be
2) Once you have done the whole SMART approach, and got clearly defined goals, imagine what the environment of a person who inhabits that world looks like
3) Begin to curate the tools, art, and images that produce that environment. Even if you can’t use them yet.
4) Remove distractions of things in the past or definers of now. Put those things somewhere else for your downtime…give you roots. But in your workspace have only future-you environment.

Over to you

What about you? What do you surround yourself with?

What would happen if you changed your environment to reflect what you want to become rather than what you have been or what you currently are?

The take away

  • Surround yourself with an environment which leads to your future, rather than one which holds you in the past
  • Carefully select and curate your future
  • Be clear about what your future will be…