How can creativity help me get what I want out of life?
I was asked a simple question many years ago which really stayed with me. It was a question I had never thought to ask myself before and yet it seemed to unbuckle me from the restrained seat I felt I had been in for so long.
What gives you your energy? … And when are you most happy?
At the time, these questions startled me and left me quite stumped. I had never stopped to think about this so consciously before and it took some time to really sink in. Now when I pause to think about this, it conjures up all sorts of emotions and can put me in an incredibly calm, peaceful or even energised state.
What does creativity mean to you?
Feeling stuck is hard work. There’s no hiding from that. You feel low on energy, unenthused about life, lack motivation and don’t really know where to turn for your next step. This ‘funk’ you’re in makes you feel like your life is spiralling and you don’t know how to stop it. Even if you know what you want and have a clear vision of it, suddenly this feels so distant and clouded. Taking your first steps onto an unfamiliar path is daunting. Scratch that. It’s outright paralysing.
I’ve been there. Many times. It’s where I was when I was first posed the question. It’s about at that point when people around you start offering their support or words of wisdom. For me one of the most irritating suggestions were: ‘why don’t you try a new hobby?’; ‘try something creative’; and ‘it’ll help you feel more motivated’. Actually come to think of it, maybe I even offered the same advice to my close friends as if it was so easy to kick-start back into gear. ‘Why don’t you just try painting again? You used to like that, right?’. However, instead of making me feel on top of the world, excited and energised, it just made me feel frustrated and annoyed (and even more stuck in that spiral, only now it was spinning even faster).
What I was hearing when people stepped in with their advice was ‘the answer to all your worries is that you need to do something creative’. I interpreted this to mean: ‘you should take up painting, be a dancer, take singing lessons, join a writing class, do art lessons…’. None of which jumped out at me as very doable, in fact, far from it.
I was telling myself: “I can’t do that. I’m not creative. Those things are reserved for people more talented. I’ll look silly. I’ll feel silly. Don’t be ridiculous, this is real life, not a movie…” etc. etc. etc.
When I reconnect with the question now, I see it in a whole new light. What I’ve learnt is that creativity doesn’t have to equal professional artist. Finding your own personal outlet is what is most important. Simply put, it’s about reconnecting with those things we love doing because they make us feel good. I now look for ways to get these feelings into my life no matter how big or small they are.
So, what gives you your energy? When are you most happy?
Why is creativity important and what can it do for you?
Innovative global companies (think Google, Apple, Virgin) recognise the importance of creativity on a much grander scale as a means to inspire innovation, more employee satisfaction, productivity gains, and ultimately more market share (a.k.a. profit).
There’s also plenty of evidence to show that tapping into your creativity can reduce stress and those big global companies are well tuned into this. They promote down time for their employees and provide opportunities for creative outlets to give them a chance to refuel and therefore perform better. Google even developed their own ‘nap pods’ to allow employees to rest their minds, improve their thought flows and enhance their innovation capabilities.
“Google’s work culture and environment is such that it triggers maximum creativity … Strategies such as accidental meetings between creative people and engineers, the freedom to explore, tailored work stations to help them feel more relaxed and a heavy dose of independent time are all fuel for the creative process and ultimately, for more innovative products”.
So why is it we don’t treat ourselves with the same level of support, nourishment and respect – the kind we expect from our employers? Why can’t we give ourselves the ‘nap pod’ equivalent in our daily lives? Sarah Lewis, in her book The Rise, talks about creativity in the context of embracing failure. I’m only halfway through it and already there are numerous examples of where successful people all over the world have adopted the mantra of ‘there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback’ in order to fuel their creative flames. Whether this is for athletes, explorers, physicists, or corporate business, this has given them the resources they need (emotionally and psychologically) to get what they want out of life.
If the most successful people and big businesses of the world see the value of embracing creativity and are reaping the rewards, how can we too use it in the context of our everyday lives?
I like to think of creativity as our ‘psychological immunity’, little by little you are training your brain to think differently and react differently. As Aristotle says “we are what we repeatedly do”. The more you tap into creativity, the more you fuel the fire, the more consistently it will keep burning. Which means you get to keep that energy (your motivation and purpose) to concentrate on your own growth, tackle each day and overcome any challenges thrown your way. It also means you get to reenergise your passion for your career, relationships or life itself as your immunity strengthens.
You get unstuck and back on track to feeling like you.
This is exactly the approach taken by the successful people in Sarah’s book and all those innovative companies. The great news is you don’t even have to be a pro athlete or elite musician to be creative or to burn off stress! You just have to look for your own ways to access it.
What does this look like on an average day?
Defining and understanding what your creativity looks like is about finding those moments when you feel most energised, happy, in flow, and motivated. When I first got asked the question I realised some of the things that light me up the most are when I’m meeting up with friends that talk about adventurous things; when I’m cooking or baking; when I’m outside in the sunshine walking or exploring; attending theatre shows or musicals (lots of musicals); playing my favourite tunes on full volume; having Skype dates with those I love all over the world; and being able to offer support and comfort to family, friends and colleagues by lending a listening ear, offering insights, or checking in regularly to make sure they’re ok.
Once I realised creativity doesn’t have to be about being a professional ‘artist’, I started seeing opportunities all around me. The more I did those things, the more lively I felt, the more ease I brought to challenges, and the clearer my next steps seemed.
My ‘why’ and my mission in life is much more attached now to how I want to feel, rather than the things I want to have. This shift in itself has released so much more energy into my life. I’ve realised more and more that what I’m actually drawn to most is the feeling I get from delivering a performance, a speech, speaking from my heart, and sharing my creative spark with others. I now do this through the support I give to others, when I get to teach or mentor, and through my coaching sessions which all give me that energy, that spark, and that fuel. You can give so much when you are performing on your own personal stage. You just have to allow yourself to do it and to embrace it fully no matter how big or small that is.
“You will recognise your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need”.
– Jeremy Gillies
This is one of my favourite quotes because I know with certainty that being able to tap into my creativity has put me back on my own path. Creativity to me is my juice, my fuel, the food for my soul. What does creativity mean to you? How can we break it down into something that makes sense to you?
How can you stoke your creativity fire?
1. Do a stocktake. Explore where you are currently at.
How much creativity do you currently get? Where do you get inspiration from? Where do your ideas come from? When are you most energised or happy? Who do you hang out with? What are they saying to make you feel different? When do you find yourself relaxed or smiling?
The answers will be different for everyone – it could be after watching a game of football, an episode of Glee or baking cakes. Write down a list of things that come to mind and keep going. Ask yourself: ‘What else is there? … What else? … What else?’. The more you can identify here, the easier it will be to start building up your immunity.
2. Brainstorm. Think outside the box and have some FUN.
Ever been in one of those meetings where you have a 5 minute brainstorm and suddenly the whole mood of the room changes? Things feel more dynamic, ideas start flowing, nothing is right or wrong, you just have to put it all out there on the table. Do this. For yourself. Let out your creative ‘flow’, give yourself permission to dream and you’ll be surprised at the results.
This is about really letting your imagination run wild. Where else could you get creative? How else could you give yourself more of those moments?
3. Keep it simple. Now that you’ve done your brainstorm, decide which actions are going to work best for you. How are you going to embrace creativity?
Then start small and try something new for you.
Walk up the escalators, take a different tube line home, ask for a cappuccino instead of a latte, smile at someone instead of looking down when you pass them on the street. All of this changes how our brains react and process things. ‘Mixing things up’ a bit helps our brains to know that it is ok to be creative, to think of new ideas, to change our standards. Which means next time you’re feeling low it will be quicker to respond in a new way that really supports you.
4. Set your standards. Start embedding creativity into practice.
How much are you going to commit to? And how will you know when things are different?
Decide how much you need or want of it. Carve out the diary time to make it happen. Then stick to it, checking in regularly to make sure your standards are working to support you. If they’re no longer working for you, change them.
In Apple’s Think Different Campaign the most successful people of the world were chosen because of their ability to think differently; and they all started to do so in small simple ways. You too have the ability to think differently. Through embracing your creativity, you really can change your own world.
Danielle Brooker believes life is about creating yourself, not finding yourself. Danielle is passionate about helping others to get back on track to what is true for them. The Daisy Patch supports people to make transformational changes in their lives—to live a life of growth, connection and balance.
Doing something different with your life and career is hard… but you don’t have to do it alone. If you need help with your Escape and if you are ready to re-take control over your life, join our Tribe.
“No one can tell you what to do with your life and there is no “one-size-fits-all” escape that will lead you to happiness. What does work, however, is exposure to new ideas, likeminded people and a safe environment for you to figure out what it is you really want.”
– Rob Symington, Escape the City co-founder.