Learn to Thrive at Work and in Life

For a long time I’d forgotten I was a creative soul. Have you? Unless you’re obviously gifted in the arts, chances are you haven’t been encouraged much in developing and celebrating your creative capacity.

I really believe that if you’re not connected with your innate capacity for creativity, you are leading a smaller, more restricted, less fulfilling life. Because you’re not being fully you! This doesn’t mean that you have to become a fully actualized artist, or create anything that others would call "great". You just need to let your creative self out to play now and then, in some way. You will feel so much happier and more alive.

Many people think they’re not creative—are you one of them? Let’s think back for a moment: when you were a child, did you love imaginative play? Did you love to draw, fingerpaint, or make Playdoh masterpieces? What did you love to do? That child is still a part of who you are, and that child surely was creative in some way.

When I was a little girl I loved to make up dance routines and wanted to be a Solid Gold Dancer (my parents didn’t know I was obsessively watching this show, I was in my thirties by the time my mother heard about it and by then it was much too late to do anything about it!). I also loved to read and dreamed of writing stories or being a journalist. I loved the crafts that came with the Christmas Season, and still dream of the days I used to get to arrange brightly coloured gumdrops on the icing of a big gingerbread house.

When my teachers pronounced that I was "smart", around the time I was ten years old, I discovered that this seemed to have more currency in the world than any creative activities. It wasn’t until almost two decades later, when I was drowning in depression during my Emergency Medicine residency and desperate to find a way out, that I remembered my creative dreams of the past. I literally saved my life, and ultimately built a new career path, through dancing and writing (I write about this journey in my book Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You).

Here are some fabulous quotes on creativity to get you back in touch with the playful, imaginative you that wants to be let out:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

–Scott Adams

My very favorite book on creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. From her I learned that in order to create good art, you have to create bad art first. Don’t be afraid to be messy, imperfect, and incompetent. Just let yourself play.

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.

–Ray Bradbury

One of the best skills I’ve developed in my life (which I still fail at sometimes) is to just do it already. If you’re thinking about something too much, chances are you’re killing it. Forget what other people might think. Get them out of the room, and out of your head.

Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.

–T. S. Eliot

Much of my work with coaching clients involves talking them through their anxiety. Whenever you’re doing anything new, anxiety is virtually certain to accompany you. It’s a hallmark of the new, the extraordinary, the brave, the courageous. Anxiety and uncertainty doesn’t mean you should stop or run away – it very likely means you’re right on track. Outside the comfort zone is where the best creativity and your best life live.

The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.

–Pablo Picasso

Forget what makes sense, pay more attention to what calls to you. Give airtime to the crazy ideas you have, take them seriously. Don’t be too quick to dismiss what to you seems impractical. It seemed completely nonsensical for me to walk away from full-time medicine before I’d even finished paying off my student loans. I felt called to focus on dancing and writing (and even photography, for a while), and was only willing to practice as much medicine as I had to in order to survive. People thought I was nuts. Some still do. It was the best thing I ever did. These days I get to do what I love most full-time, and I am still pinching myself.

For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.

–Jean Dubuffet

I can’t imagine trying to be normal. I gave up on that a long time ago, when I finally woke up to the fact that trying to be "normal" seemed to cause endless misery. Don’t be afraid to dream, to imagine, to toy with the idea of creating something delicious in your life. If you honor your creative dreams, you might act a lot less crazy and frustrated and be a lot more peaceful and content (and therefore almost appear "normal").

Let us be about setting high standards for life, love, creativity, and wisdom. If our expectations in these areas are low, we are not likely to experience wellness. Setting high standards makes every day and every decade worth looking forward to. 

–Greg Anderson

Write out the highest standards and dreams you can imagine for these areas of your life which Anderson refers to: life, love, creativity and wisdom. It’s so true that when you set your sights on what may seem impossible, you somehow live your way into much more than you ever dreamed could be true for you. You will indeed start to look forward to each decade.

Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.

–Madeleine L’Engle

When you embark on a creative dream, or really anything at all in life that’s deeply worthwhile, you’re going to battle demons. It is like there is an angel of destruction that wants to keep you down, to make you distract yourself with addictions and distractions and superficial cares of life, to prevent you from doing what you’re here to do. I love Steven Pressfield’s work (such as The War of Art) – he often writes about the divine help that seems to descend the moment you put yourself in your chair and simply show up as a writer or artist.

If you take a tiny step towards your creativity (such as signing up for a class or getting out those paints), it’s like a bright angel shows up, takes you by the hand and dances with you along a bright sparkly new path.

You just have to show up.

Creativity totally transformed my life, both in how it looks and feels. Why not let it heal yours?

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