Challenges can be just enough to keep us moving forward
Challenges can be just enough to keep us moving forward

Accommodation can be our friend, or our enemy…

(5 minute read)

More lessons about life, and art, overheard at the gym this week.

A client was amazed at how much better they felt after only a few days of physical therapy. The therapist working with him said something that caught my interest, describing a well-known principle in the field: The SAID Syndrome.

Posited by a Hungarian physicial, Dr. Hans Selye over a hundred years ago, SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. That is, our body, given any form of stressors (biomechanical or neurological), will specifically adapt to that stress. (There are now more modern acronyms and phrasing similar in tone, but this is the one I overheard.)

That can be a good thing, a neutral thing, or a bad thing.

For example, if all we do we sit all day, month after month, year after year, our bodies will adapt to that. We may lose our ability or inclination to do any physical activity, or worse.

If we train by running laps, we may get fit and strong, but it won’t necessarily mean we prepared for lap swimming. The two activities use different muscles. We have to cross-train in both activities, in order to get better at both.

If we gently, slowly, challenge our body, all our muscles, and our mind, they will adapt to that, too.  We can challenge our body in different ways, too.

We can strive to go from simple motions to complex motions. From moving slow to moving faster. To go from using a low level of force to higher force. To walking/running a short distance to a longer distance.

We can get stronger, faster, more flexible, more resilient, more persistent.

How does this apply to making, marketing, and even selling our art?

If we get discouraged with our sales, we could slump into our sad place and believe no one wants our work. Or, if sales matter, we can experiment with shows and fairs until we find the ones where we find an audience. We can approach stores or galleries to represent us. We can use an online sales venue or sell from our website.

If our art isn’t quite up to snuff, we could keep our blinders on and do nothing about it. Or we can explore ways to get better: Use better tools, or experiment with a new media that might suit us better, or expand our skillset with classes/books/online tutorials.

If we feel like failures, if we believe our work of our heart doesn’t matter, we could walk away from the work we love. Or we can seek out a supportive community, realizing if it makes us happy, that can be “good enough”. We can ask for input about how we could do better, whether it’s our technique, our color palette, our subject matter, etc. (I overheard one local artist declaring if they never painted another vineyard, they would be totally okay with that.) (We live in wine country. Guess what most landscapes are?)

Short story: For our work to change, WE have to change. For our skills to get better, we have to do the work. For our attitude to change, we have to explore what our goals really are, what is important to us—and practice that mindset. To find our audience, we have to believe there IS one for us out there somewhere, and do whatever we can to get our work out into the world.

This effort doesn’t have to be a major shift, either. Some of us can do that, maybe. (We moved across the country to California five years ago, to reboot my partner’s career.) But usually, small incremental steps, moves, and changes will suffice. Otherwise, we could injure ourselves by trying to do too much, too soon, too fast.

One of my favorite challenges I’ve seen (which I haven’t tried yet, myself) is the 100-day daily challenge: Painters a single small work every day. Collage artists create an ATC (artist trading card) every day. Writers write a page a day. Then share it with our audience. I’ve seen these so many times, and it’s jaw-dropping how this simple exercise seems to not only improve the person’s skillset, but also set them on an entirely new journey, one they couldn’t see until they tried this.

My goals moving forward are pretty manageable so far. Keep a happy heart. Do the work. Get “bigger” in a way that’s manageable for me, and let myself be the judge of what “bigger” is. Trying the occasional new thing, whether it’s materials, subject matter, color palette, venues, etc.

Even my story, which still means so much to me, has evolved over the years. The heart of it is still there. But as I’ve faced spiritual and emotional challenges about my place in the world, my story has grown: A woman artist finding a place in the world, a place in prehistory and more modern history. Finding the medium that let me tell that story, then adding new media to the mix. (First fiber, then jewelry, then prints and sculpture, now assemblage.) Expanding my color palette from “only what we’d find in the Lascaux Cave paintings” to what those ancient artists would have used if they’d had the access. (Indigo/lapis blue! Aqua! Turquoise!) Expanding my skill set. (Refinishing antique boxes, creating museum-inspired mounts for display.) In the process, my definition of “creative work” has gotten bigger and stronger, too.

If everything is working for you, then the “challenges” can be just enough to keep us moving forward, or comfortable with staying in the same place. Maybe we can share our techniques and knowledge with others, so they can take our original journey and move onto their own. Maybe we can encourage other artists by making recommendations for a gallery that might be a good fit for them. Or we could assist them with finding their own powerful stories.

Or we simply share conversations overheard at the gym, sharing a little insight in our lives, for others who just might need to hear them, today.

How do YOU challenge yourself? Have you had a successful experience with challenges, like the “make a ‘whatsits’ every day for a 100 days”? Where are you stuck, and did this article get you thinking about an intriguing challenge, just for you? I would love to hear about it, and I bet others here would, too!

As always, if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if someone sent you this article and you liked it, you can sign up for more articles at Fine Art Views or more from me at my blog LuannUdell.wordpress.com. 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

7 thoughts on “LESSONS FROM THE GYM: The SAID Principle”

  1. Oh, Luann, this is huge. We have the opportunity to CHOOSE to be CROSS-TRAINED at MAKING, MARKETING AND SELLING. We can chose NOT to step up and choose to develop these skills. But if we embrace building these skills, if we freely choose to, we can build a climate for success. And as you say, the skill-set needed for each changes over time. I say this as a person who grew up in a world where there was no plastic; bread cost 4 cents a loaf and came wrapped in waxed paper. Paradigms shift and we can freely choose to create a climate for success by flexing with the paradigm shifts. Point in play: I advertised on Facebook that I would hand deliver handmade jewelry from my Etsy shop, SusanDolphinDelaney, locally until Christmas. I already made one sale this way and a friend, a guy who visits other businesses all day, and who is a good customer, has said that he would spread the word, that it would be a blessing for the folks he will visit before Christmas. Everyone else in the world is advertising that it is the last day for shipping. But I am going to hand deliver my jewelry locally. Woo hoo!


  2. Luann thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I do find your articles to be very thought provoking. This time of year instead of making resolutions for the upcoming year I start thinking about what goals and challenges I want to take on. I have participated in the 100 day challenge twice now and found the rewards to be well worth the effort. It was quite difficult for me to keep up with it while away from home so working around that was a challenge in itself. This year I’m focusing less on my polymer art and more on art journaling. I’m choosing to do a monthly challenge, a weekly one and a daily one that will be combined into a book at the end of the year. I have also learned over the years that I can’t beat myself up if I don’t finish all (or any) of the challenges I set myself. I used to really feel bad if I had not filled out all of the spaces in my spread sheet (yes I always make a spread sheet which starts in January) by the end of the year. This year we started a big remodel in June so the entries stopped then but I have allowed myself to be okay with that. Challenges\artistic prompts give me a needed focus and get me thinking in different ways and I find that very useful to my growth. The daily aspect has multiple very different benefits, one of the chief being that it gets me to my work table every morning. Sorry to ramble on…I guess your article touched strongly on what I have been thinking about lately. Thanks again for putting your thoughts out in the world for me to find.


    1. Dawn, I’m honored you shared your experiences. And no worries, it’s not a ‘ramble’ if it’s useful. Your thoughts are very useful indeed! Last, I love knowing you like the thought-provoking nature of my columns, I LOVE that! Keep up the good work, and I’ll do the same. Hugs, Luann


    1. Dawn, remember, you can create your OWN challenge, and set your own schedule. You can invite people from social media or your community. I ALWAYS encourage people to pay attention to what lights YOU up, and do what works for YOU. You’ve got the inspiration, good on you! Now YOU can create the implementation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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