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Practicing the Art of Containment

My tendency is to tell pretty much anyone pretty much anything, unless I think it’s going to hurt their feelings.

Sometimes this is awesome because I have a TON of community support around my dreams and desires.

But sometimes it bites me in the ass.

Example: I’m pumped about a new creation. I haven’t finished it yet but the sweet rush of beginning has already set in (we Aries girls love a good beginning). And I’m excited. And I want to tell people.

So I do. I tell everyone I speak on the phone with that week. I tell my mom. I tell a few folks in person.

Then I think: Go big or go home!

I decide to tell my online community. I plaster social media and my blog.

Now the world knows and it’s awesome.

Except that here’s what sometimes happens: There’s actually not that much juice left for the project beyond those initial sparkling first steps. And now I’ve announced that something is coming.

So I make the thing, because I said I would — and because people are counting on me. But I make it with way less-than-optimal inspiration and passion. And that’s not only not so fun for me, it’s also not really in alignment with what I value, what I believe in, or what I teach.

There are times to tell and there are times to contain.

Sometimes I shout something from the rooftops and I’m thrilled I did. Sometimes it’s really smart to create buzz, even way before what’s coming comes.

But this year I’m working on something new: the art of containment.

I’m asking:

What happens when I marinate in my joy?

What happens when the project is in the can before I press send?

What happens when I create something and then tell people about it?

photo (1)I was incredibly inspired by Beyoncé’s surprise release of her self-titled visual album (there’s a music video for every song plus three bonus videos). There was no fanfare. No PR. No lead-up. She made no major media appearances. One day in December she just dropped the album on iTunes. And it broke sales records.

(I saw her in concert a few days after the record was released. Drop-dead gorgeous and madly inspiring — that’s what I have to say about Queen Bey.)

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I’m bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans,” she said.

When it’s ready. What a novel idea.

I love social media. I love the fact that I can talk to tens of thousands people all over the world anytime I want. And I love talking through my ideas with my community.

But there’s something so elegant, and even subversive in today’s tell-all culture, about doing our work, reveling in the satisfaction inherent in making stuff, and not saying anything about it until it’s ready.

Some projects need steeping. Some ideas need to marinate.

Some messages are ready early. Others are ready later.

Begin to decipher which cards to play and which to hold close to your heart.

If you’re like me and sometimes feel like you have a bullhorn strapped to your mouth, next time you’re about to make a big announcement, see what it feels like to contain it.
Tweet: Sometimes the best ideas get sweeter when you let them cook fully before the big reveal. ~@katenorthrup the best ideas get sweeter when you let them fully cook before the big reveal.

Try keeping it silent and sacred for a while. You may be surprised by how good it feels.


  • This is at the heart of my ‘tea philosophy’ – like tea, we need to steep our ideas, in the dark, while they reach just the perfect flavour for those we wish to pour for!

    Containment is an absolute art form and – like you – part of my practice for 2014.

    Happy mutual steeping… ‘Mums the word’… can’t tell you what I’m brewing except that it’ll be worth it when you taste it.

    P.S. My favourite response when people ask what I’m up to, ‘oh… this and that. How about you?’ Usually takes the focus straight of me and my private projects!

    • Love the ” tea philosophy”.

      Yes, it’s hard to delay or retract once you’ve spilled the beans. However, I trust in myself that I don’t need to explain the delay in anyway. I always follow through, and will have faith that my friends will happily anticapate my new venture and await it’s arrival. Sharing with people that have your best interest in mind is key to support.
      Kate, your great! Trust yourself!

      • Kate

        I totally agree that sharing with those who have your best interest in mind is critical to the success of any project!

  • Very well said, Kate and inspiring too. This is exactly how I am approaching my next two projects and programs I am releasing. I actually only announced it to a small group of people who were able to join me but I am leaving the big reveal for when everything is ready 100%.

  • Love love love this. And working on it too! I have a few things in the works that I am ultra excited about and keep going back and forth with sharing on social media. Get people excited! But, then yes. I am just driven to get it out ASAP which somewhat motivates me to get done, but then it does loose the sparkle a bit in my own eyes. I am more driven to get it out then to make it speak from my heart. And in my experience I know that the timing always works out perfectly.

  • Lynette

    Kate,this is exactly where I am at after planning big and having several things fall apart between then and now. Containing is a beautiful learned the enthusiastic extrovert. Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh, this is me too!! I noticed this habit of mine last year when I decided (yet again) to start (yet another) business venture. While I have seen some mild success in the past, nothing has ever sustained itself for very long. So when I made the commitment to freelancing, I decided I wasn’t going to tell anybody. Well, except the man I live with! I may say I’m freelancing, but not what area specifically, which is the make-or-break it point of contention. I want to have some real success to point to when I shout from the rooftops that this is what I’m doing! It may be some time before it happens, but I’m committed to having X, Y & Z in place before I do. Until then, they can just think I have an extra gig or two every now and then ;)

  • Josee

    I told someone once I was planning on a big purchase to start a business. It was actually my motivator to make sure I followed through. (I did).

  • Delayed Gratification…that is a tough one!

  • Eden

    Hi Kate!

    Good meeting last nite & blog today:-). Thank you.

    While I’m fine tuning & moving toward the abundant year unfolding, ahead, this is one of the major directives I’ve come across in resource research.

    In the past when I’ve shared something before I’ve done it something crumbles from it like a stack meant to be kept from behind a moving door and I open the door and when it gets shut again the perfect stack I built is now missing a piece. Then when I try and fix it my energy goes there instead of just getting on with the task @ hand, I lost steam and some motivation and felt more obligated to others than myself. While working out the year, as desired ahead, I thought to post some of my internal discoveries online but wisdom said no and I’m glad. I said to myself “Would that be for you or for validation?” I decided if it’s for me then others have nothing to do with that @ this point. I’d rather share the accomplishment than the desire. That’s what inspires most people anyway. This blog was awesome validation of that realization. Big thanks for choosing to share this.

    Big Money <3 to you & Mike. Happy hunting for the big day!


  • Oh, Kate! You would not believe this! I had just decided not to post something on my Facebook page and heard my smart phone whistle (as it does when I get a new email). I saw the title “the art of containment” and gasped! I am so outspoken and don’t feel like I have to apologize for it. But I agree, it needs fine-tuning. Thank you for this post!! But you know, I wish there were more people like us in the world :Open and honest and wear their heart on their sleeve. Good on us! And good on us for being willing to fine-tune our greatness! xo Banu

  • Piper

    Wow, is this ever timely. I started reading “Money: A Love Story” and discovered a lot of my money issues stem from being the baby in the family (the youngest of 3 with a couple of very bossy older brothers). But I was so excited about some money memories that popped up, I texted my favorite brother about it. Lo and behold, he responded with his usual stuff that is so well-intended, but always makes me feel incompetent. (I know, I choose to feel incompetent… I get it, I get it.) Anyway, long story short: I am not talking to anyone in my family about any of this, until I’ve had a really long time to marinate in all the new, wonderful, empowering things I’m learning from your fantastic book. Cheers!

  • I’m rather intrigued by this idea and loved that you used B as an example. I’ve said many thing prior to the “it’s ready, now speak” scenario. I came from the old place/belief if you tell someone you’ll put pressure on yourself and get it done! Proved not to be so but for the put pressure on me part.

    I’m working on the expansion of my 3 companies and restraint of tongue has me feeling doubtful and like I’m not working. Familiar to anyone? I know I’ve got to be still to create yet the doingness of this world yells at me to, well, do something, anything. Oh, and writing a new business plan, creating services, cleaning up my files isn’t doing! My old idea of doing was pound pavement, make something happen, paint a house, etc. You get my drift.

    Thanx for sharing this today as I’m going to continue working in the quiet and taking care of raising my knowing rather than allowing the doubt to take charge.

    I’m reading Money, a Love Story.

    Reva Kussmaul

  • becky dempsey

    A great post to read today. I do have a hard time with containment and I am about to do something a bit different and want to tell friends out there to be on the look out for it. It is just in the beginning stages and it would really be best to contain it for now. Thank you for all the great information and inspiration!

  • juliet

    Thank-you!! Thank-you!! for this. I am guilty! guilty!!! And the intensity loses its flavour once I confess. Stewing and marinating are the key to creative power contained. I finally realize that!!! YAY!!! :)

  • Best idea I’ve heard yet this year. Keeping a secret is a powerful tool to keep Resistance at bay! Thanks for this post.

  • Thank you so much for this Kate! If ever your thoughts resonated with me, this one did…and actually took my breath away. I have a full time, non health related job…that I love and is successful. Additionally, out of the blue, with interesting paths converging, I’ve recently had the opportunity to rent a room at the Pilates Studio I frequent to have as an office for my health coaching in its infancy (by choice because of time, etc.)…I’ve been feeling some pressure to get workshops up and running to see clients to DO something with that room…and the “good girl” inside feels the pressure to do what’s asked of her.

    The wiser calmer woman, however, in her good moments, knows that I have to be ready and cannot do this because of anyone else’s expectations….and then here comes your amazing description of the simmer and the marinade and of the “do it when the time is right”.

    I feel a sense of peace about this that I’ve been longing for…and a surge of enthusiasm for putting things together and dates together with a renewed energy.

    Thank you for your vision and for striking what for me, today, has been a stunning chord!

    Sending my thanks, love and all good energy!


  • Rachel Northrup

    Dear Kate,
    I am also a spill all and I happen to cook beans for a living at the moment. Beans are always better fully cooked! This also reminds me of a exercise from your book regarding holding onto money versus blowing it all right away! Not only do I spill the beans early often I spend my money quick and so the practice of gestation for ideas and containing money totally correlate for me.
    Thank you for sharing the practice of containment, it’s like fire tend it, and it will keep you warm throwing gasoline will just make big flames for a minute:)
    Both are great in different circumstances!
    THa’ts all, thank you again for sharing your gems*

  • Isabelle

    This is so true ! It is actually a secret of the initiates (think the concept of Golden silence), that if you spill the beans, well, you can’t use the beans anymore, in other words the energy of the intention gets diluted, your energy drops thus your motivation and chances of materialising are dramatically cut down. Silence gives more power to the intention and to the one intending. It’s like preparing a surprise party for yourself ;-)

  • Jen Goodson

    Yes sirrrr-eeeee! So true. In fact, I cut off my social media for a good while until certain projects are complete – or well on their way. The temptation to spend more time talking about intention verses putting that energy into the creation is there – for me – and sometimes requires different actions to reinforce the containment. I’m having a blast NOT being in the social media vortex and narrowing the pool of those engaged in my *process*. I find it is allowing me to be in the creative space more and clear on what and who nurtures that for me. Sending you some love and encouragement for your goal from Ohio. Fondly…Jen

  • Amen, sister! I just wanted to tell you how much this post resonated with me and also, some encouragement to “keep it contained” in 2014.

    Some of the biggest & best things I’ve done in my life have been kept on the “down low” until everything was sorted & done. Sometimes it seems that secrecy brings a feeling of power, and savouring this sweetness does feel so good! I also think my desire to keep some of this big stuff contained stems from the fact there are a lot of talkers in the world and many less doers. So why not instead of telling people about that big move you’d like to make, book you’d like to write, or habit you want to drop you just do it?! Keep it contained is something we all can benefit from :)

    Thanks again for sharing – enjoying Money Love & seeing you at the Conscious Divas event in November.


  • S

    This message is unbelievably timely. I am a shout it from the rooftops before it’s done kind of girl, and actually still carry a bit of shame about those things I ended up not following through on after going on and on to people. Remember that time I told my mom I was going to try out to be an NFL cheerleader??? OMG.

    Anyway, my husband & I are expecting our third child. With #1 and #2, we pretty much announced before the peestick was dry. This time, we decided to keep the sweet secret to ourselves for a bit and I’m loving it. We are also not going to find out the sex of the baby until the birth.. another form of this same idea. It feels so right!

    Thanks for sharing, and I am definitely going to be looking for other ways to apply this to my life.

  • denese bottrell

    i didn’t have a label for what my heart has been telling me to do about an ecourse i’m working on. it’s not ready. it needs to marinate. i started telling a few people about it when i first had the idea, then backed off a bit when i realized it was too important to me to rush through it just to get it done. i’m not holding on to it for perfection sake either… it’s simply not ready. i can’t wait to open the container and set it free … when it’s ready! thank you for this :)

  • Thank you for this. We Aries have the ability to generate big enthusiasm, mastering the art of sustaining the energy for the final product is vital. I appreciate the reminder to let things marinate. PS I also very much enjoyed your open letter to your mom!

  • Hehe, I just read my Jonathan Cainer horoscope for tomorrow and it started off with – “Encouraging a Cancerian to become less self-sacrificing, is a like advising an Aries to slow down or suggesting a Sagittarian should abandon hope.” Then I read your post and giggled out load to “us Aries girls.”

    Even though I am a Cancerian I can totally relate :)

  • Hello Kate,

    Loved your article. Yes, I’ve spilled beans before their time! And lived to regret it. Creative energy, in my experience, is best contained. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of inspiration – inspiration is a figurative in-breath…it’s the follow-through that actually requires energy. Creative projects need to settle before they can take off, and if the energy is used before the project gets off the ground, the project tends to falter and its energy quickly dissipates. And with it goes our enthusiasm, our motivation, our grasp of the end-product. It feels good to expound on our wonderful project though, and therein lies the problem – we’re excited! That kind of energy is like being in love…we just want to shout it from the rooftops. But, like a lot of relationships that burn hot and go out fast, that’s what we do with our creative energy unless we protect it.


    Sending good wishes from Halifax, Nova Scotia

  • NIchola Napora

    Yes! Great article :) This was the final teaching left to us by my design instructor when I graduated from textile art school – to contain our ideas as a way of energizing them and allowing them to fully flourish. Our tendency to talk our ideas up or down can distract us and even deter us from finishing the project. Can’t wait to see what you’re brewing up next Kate!

  • Andrea

    This really struck a chord with me as I have been practicing “containment” for several months now….not everyone has to know every little detail of what you’re doing in life whether it’s career, relationship or otherwise! I guess our motivation for “yelling from the treetops” comes from a deep need for approval from our peers, parents, siblings, etc regarding the decisions we make, but I’ve had enough “Debbie Doubters” in my life and have learned to not always share the things that I have planned because their comments very often come from a place of fear…..

  • Too true, Kate!

    A couple of weeks back, I said something similar in one of my FB groups:

    Sometimes, after an A-Ha or a breakthrough, I share too quickly because I’m so excited, but then I lose that juicy energy of joy and pride and satisfaction. Like I’ve given it all away, and haven’t kept any for myself. (Hmm, this could apply to the way I am with money as well…)

    With work, I’m learning the value of keeping the lid on just a tiny bit longer before I let it all boil over. I can feel it, like a slow leak in the balloon of my momentum, when the cat’s out of the bag too soon.

  • Susann

    I’m a writer, and the best advice I’ve ever gotten in my life came from my first editor, many years ago, who told me to keep my stories to myself because there is nothing more deadly to the creative spirit than a hint of criticism that comes too soon. Also, for storytellers such as myself, once we’ve told the story, the creative urgency is often gone and writing the thing just feels like work. I’ve been practicing the fine art of containment for 35 years!

  • Ursula Ferreira

    I am so guilty of this and completely resonate with what you are saying. Yeah!

  • LOVE THIS! This is exactly what I needed! I am with you (although I’m a gemini myself) on the whole “Share everything all the time because I love my people and I don’t hold things back!!” business. I think it’s great but you are so right! Sometimes things just need to marinate! Thanks for sharing the awesome.

  • I launched a customer loyalty program option and it fell completely flat! When I asked my customers would they be interested they all responded with a resounding YES! When I sent the email to sign up – CRICKETS! I’m taking the idea back to the drawing board and this time, like Bey, I’m just gonna drop it!

  • Jane

    As a fellow Aries lady, I know this behavior so well! I have had to learn the art of duct tape therapy over the years. We Aries love to build the energy from our great ideas and we want to include everyone for the ride. I had to laugh in recognition at so much of your experience. Yes, the art of containment and keeping others out of our magic cauldron until it is truly ready to be shared is such a growth experience for we Aries:)
    Thanks for all you are sharing Kate!

  • When I was younger…much younger….I used to pre shout all my news then, guess what? It didn’t happen! Now I just wait and see. Pulling a wait and see doesn’t take the wind out of the sails, it just gives me some think time.

  • Cait

    Identified so much with this Kate , being a big mouthed and excited Sagittarian I often go he’ll for leather on things at the beginning and then run out of momentum and not deliver , I will cook things first xxx

  • Kris Carr

    So right. So true! Thanks sweet/smart Kate. xo kc

  • Cassie

    I’ve learned this lesson over the last few years! My motto has become “Show, don’t tell”.

  • Ruby

    Ok, it’s 4 in the morning and i can not sleep, my head buzzing with excitement about my new project and piecing it all together, I head downstairs, all the while thinking about how I am going to play this one and how to present it, who to work with, you know the rest…. Until when I log into my emails, I read your timely piece on Containment and now I know what I must do. Thank you Kate, this resonates so well, for me. Time to marinate on this one. Blessings , Ruby.

  • This resonates a little too well with me. We don’t have to share our ideas with the world until we’re ready, and when we do, we should ask ourselves–as Brene Brown suggests–“Who has earned the right to hear my story?”.

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