Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives … most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity… [and] when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
There’s a great theosophical myth perpetuated in our culture that is based on this one core misunderstanding: that there is humanity, and then there is the divine, and they are two. Out of this misunderstanding is born many painful polarities: work and play, self and other, time-off and time-on, business and pleasure, heaven and earth, and so on. These views are what lead me to conclude at some point in my life that running a business was one of the most conventional, boring, one-dimensional endeavors one could imagine. It also lead me to believe that being human, and in general, just being alive, was a bit of a bummer.
Which is true, if that is what one believes. Inside this idea we spend our lives enduring the weekdays, looking forward to Fridays, and dreading Mondays—52 cycles a year, for decades. We search for safety, while avoiding risk. Basically, we just get along. According to the most recently released Gallup poll, only 13% of people worldwide like going to work. Even for those fortunate enough to ‘enjoy’ their work, there can exist little deep meaning. Year by year we become increasingly numb to the absence of that meaning, and decreasingly alive and vibrant.
After college, and after a few excruciatingly boring stints at three large companies, I was fortunate enough be asked the following question, ‘If you could do anything in the world and make money at it, what would it be?’ Why, I was asked, did I need to separate my life into sections of work and play, creativity and productivity? Fortunately these questions pointed me towards meaningful work, and a life navigated by curiosity. And they continue to run like a mantra through my life, keeping me close to the truth of how I want to spend my days.
The trouble is, this is not our usual cultural mantra, and we are faced with enormous push-back when we search for ways to live and work that really ignite our passion and creativity. There are a few times in our life when we are vulnerable to this push-back: after college, after grad school, after a long sabbatical or long trip, when we are fired or laid off, when we are newly divorced and need to get back on our feet again, or during any other large transition in our life (death, illness, break-up, birth of a child, child off to college, moving, etc). But these transitions are also brimming with creative potential, and tend to be the times when our vulnerability breaks us open to our hearts’ longings.
But this is not a rave about ‘finding your passion and doing it’. Though it a very worthy topic, it can feel like one has to put off living their passion until they quit their job, start a blog, and move to Costa Rica. This post is more about living creatively within what are already, right now, your current circumstances. I believe that in allowing creativity to seep through the cracks of every day, it will have its way with you and seamlessly lead you to a passionate vibrant life.
Let’s first get down to the basics. Just the physics. You, being here, alive. Exhale, and just give yourself a full two minutes to take in this paragraph: entertain the possibility for a moment that this lifetime is a gift, not just in that clichéd, sentimental way, but really take a moment and imagine that this is the most amazing place to be in the universe, at the most amazing time in history, right here, right now. Take in the fact that you are sitting here, reading this, your heart pumping, your chest breathing, your body filled with life force, your feet pressing against a planet that supports you, and gravity keeping you gently grounded here. This life, this body, this set of circumstances. And imagine, just for this moment, that this entire orchestration of life, body, earth, circumstances, is not just for you to endure, or to survive, but to thrive and shine. And let it sink in, that within these miraculous circumstances, you have a very, very limited time.
Taking time to really experience the above is the primary inspiration behind all creative inspiration. Whether made implicit or explicit, those who live creatively, live from that place of embodied gratitude and wonder. It’s not a religious thing; it’s an embodied thing, a physics thing. Life really is this way, except that culture, news, media, and that core theosophical misunderstanding would have us believing otherwise. Diverse spiritual views aside; most of us can agree that creativity is a powerful, non-denominational approach to meaning. And for some of us, feeling that creation principle flow through our days, brings us as close to the bone marrow of the sacred as we can be.
So whether we call it ‘creative’ or not, every moment, every endeavor, every organization, every political policy, actually is our creative expression. So we may as well do it mindfully, because a lot of our collective expression right now seems to be reflecting that sense of enduring life, rather than shining through it. Let’s not wait.
If you want to live more creatively, do not do the following (or, how to live a flat, boring, uninspired life):
- Jump out of bed and rush to read email first thing, without any time for self-reflection, meditation, self-care.
- Ignore synchronicities and signs.
- Lean on adrenaline to rush through your day, running from task to task.
- Never have a Sabbath – day, weekend or week
- Navigate by ‘how’ of what you do, while having no idea of the ‘why’ behind it.
- Watch and listen to the news, without discernment.
- Engage in one more self-help book, healing practitioner, or personal development guru before you feel ‘ready’ or worthy to be of service.
- Never ‘check in’ with yourself to feel if something is right for you before you proceed or say ‘yes’.
- Navigate through external indications and signals.
- Bury yourself in technology, alcohol, gossip, preservative-laden foods and other mind-numbing substances.
- Never dance alone in your kitchen, sing loudly in the car, read poetry, go to a gallery, draw, write or journal.
- Surround yourself with naysayers.
- Avoid nature.
- Avoid trouble, problems, risk and anything messy. Ew!
- Say you are doing any of the above because it is serving, being responsible for, or taking care of someone or something else.
- Forget about gratitude, daily.
Many people have confusion around the concept of creativity. They imagine innovative technologies, or great music, or something visually captivating. This allows them to undermine any hint of it when it peaks through their own lives. Creativity is simply life force. It is often heralded by a sense of aliveness, curiosity or lightness. If you feel it moving through you, it’s creative. It doesn’t have to be pretty, tidy, right, balanced, productive or skillful to be creative. It only has to feel alive. It doesn’t have to please others, win awards or end up on a TED stage. It only has to exist for you, and be set free to roam around in your life. If you do things to numb or squash that feeling, because you think its stupid, indulgent or dangerous, then you invite mediocrity and boredom. The more ways you invite the sense of aliveness into each moment, then the more your life will begin to transform into a creative, deliberate life. And the more all of your endeavors will begin to reflect it.
Imagine the change in the world that would be possible, if our businesses and organizations were deliberate expressions of our creative dreams, rather than mere money-making machinery.