Many people long for more from their lives. They read books and attend seminars trying to find that one resource or piece of information that will unlock their potential and free them from fear and confusion – the missing ingredient that will help them to discover their path to fulfillment. Ironically, it is this very confusion that contains the seed of their transformation.
In 18 years as a Coach and Trainer working with people all over the world, I have witnessed a special attitude, philosophy or skill set that is present in all those who have bypassed mediocrity in their careers and their lives and moved on to their customized version of the big leagues. The common element running through all of their varied (and sometimes exotic) lives is best described as a capacity for “creative living”.
Simply stated, creative living involves making the most of available resources to express the best of Who You Are. You don’t have to be an artist to live creatively, but you do need to understand the creative process.
Chaos, confusion, dissatisfaction, uncertainty…..Fabulous! You are entering the creative process. Everyone recognizes the archetype of the tortured artist whose creativity comes out of her angst. Chaos is the signal that it is time for change and is essential to creativity. Things are shifting. You are entering into a new cycle of growth. Your old image, values, beliefs, attitudes no longer fit. That job that you used to love just doesn’t excite you anymore. You know that your life is basically good and that you have every reason to be happy, but still there is this vague feeling that something is missing. All your co-workers are incompetent, your boss is an imbecile, and everyone expects you to pick up the pieces. Heed the signals, let go, and remember to have fun as you flow with the changes.
Chaos will naturally lead to the next phase in the creative living process; introspection. This always involves an increased need for silence and space. All artists recognize this as essential to being able to create. Our society often refers to it as “down” time, a reflection of the value we place on activity as the foundation of personal worth. This belief is incredibly toxic in your quest for creative living. Silence is vital for you to turn inward, liberate yourself from old models and expectations of what you “should” be and do, and allow yourself to become aware of what you WANT to be and do.
For most of us, separating what WE want from the expectations that our families and societies have for us is a monumental task. Living in Japan for five years, I was able to experience first hand and through various clients the beneficial effects separating from your nearest and dearest can have on the ability to listen to one’s inner voice. While moving to a distant land is not the only way to gain this perspective, living in a foreign culture does force a reassessment of old assumptions and necessitates learning to accept, or at least work with, an entirely new set of values and beliefs. You can accomplish the same at home by exposing yourself to different types of people than you normally would, paying attention to the things that you do simply to please others or avoid “rocking the boat”, and making a conscious effort to assess your values. As you get to know your own inner truth, independent of your needs for approval and acceptance from others, you will begin to make choices that are in integrity with this knowingness. This ability to know and follow one’s inner direction is the foundation of creative living
The next phase of creative living involves taking these ideas of Who You Are and What You Want and beginning to explore ways of expressing them in your life. If you start to realize that you don’t really enjoy teaching, for example, work out a way to do a bit less of it and start taking a course in Shiatsu massage. Gradually start grabbing more time to read books dealing with an obscure and long-buried interest. Take up a new hobby that excites you, even if you think you lack the talent to be any good. The key in this stage is to collect as many different experiences and as much knowledge as you can about all of the things that you love or want to do. Collecting experiences gives you the chance to discover firsthand where your talents and passions lie.
In the experimentation phase, creative living artists are constantly challenging their beliefs and perceptions to look for new ways to view and benefit from their current circumstances and resources. Asking questions will help you to remain vigilant to unwanted beliefs and expectations that will keep surfacing to sabotage your efforts at creativity.
Try on new perspectives by asking:
What if everything I thought was right, was wrong?
What would happen if I combined A and B?
How can I do more of A and still have time / money for B?
What if I did the opposite of what I feel I should do?
What if I had to start all over again without any experience?
What is another way I could accomplish that same thing?
Watch. Listen. Feel. Pay attention. As the insights into Who You Are and What You Want start flowing in from your experiences you will notice how unexpected opportunities keep appearing for you to express, create, and learn in just the ways you desire. At a speed uniquely suited to your needs, you will evolve toward a more solid understanding of your ideal work or Life Path.
Expression & Flow
As you become more aware of Who You Are and What You Want, you will develop the inner strength and conviction to express yourself creatively through all of your choices and interactions. To move into and remain in this phase for longer periods, creative living artists cultivate the following characteristics: 1) A high level of tolerance (and even a liking) for the periods of chaos that signal growth and change. 2) A respect for silence, a recognition of the need for introspection, and an ongoing commitment to self-discovery. 3) A willingness to experiment and break away from set roles, methods, and standards. 4) Above all, they recognize and honour their basic human need to create; to contribute to the world through continually expressing Who They Are.
A commitment to creative living is the most effective career strategy I have seen for realizing both success and overall life fulfillment. Creative living, like any other natural process, is cyclical. Your experiences, with all of their challenges and discoveries, will continually return you to the beginning of the cycle and prompt you to create changes so that your life more accurately expresses Who You Are. Ultimately, when the joy of being in the creative process becomes one and the same with that which you are creating, you will have found the never-ending source of fulfillment you have been seeking. And you will realize that it was inside you all along.