There are no secrets or formulas or one size that fits all when it comes to success. It’s all known, although for some not yet discovered. Here are 8 knowns (researched and evidence based) to living the creative life, successfully.
1. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. We are habitual, comfort seeking creatures. Unawares, we may lose a myriad of opportunities in our reach because we keep taking the same route home. For too many, remaining in a toxic environment feels easier than to break free because such risk-taking creates anxiety and discomfort. Ask yourself: Are your habits living your life? Is fear or anxiety preventing you from taking risks? Try this simple step: on a daily basis do one edgy thing. Break a simple habit – take a different route to work, sit at the big table for lunch, order something different off the menu.
“They would rather be dependent in a hostile environment and combat it every day than manage their own lives. In this way they avoid having to confront their own anxieties and discomfort about activating and asserting their real selves.”
-James F. Materson, The Search for the Real Self
2. Get Off the Fence (Stop putting your life on hold). Since creativity relies on one’s efforts, you could say everything responds to this effort. In psychological terms the false self has many reasons for putting your life on hold—it’s averse to risk, the unknown, exposure, and the intimacy of the creative life. It seeks to keep you safe in the routine of your life. We put our lives on hold because we have to lose weight first, or get into the right relationship, or have enough time or money to create our masterpiece, or find the perfect land or home that will sustain our creative life. You get this, don’t you? Clutter is often a manifestation of this agreement to put our creative life on hold. As the piles of paper, waste, and “stuff ” accumulate, it gives us more and more things we have to get to before we can get to our lives. Then, the door closes and it is too late. How much of your life is held hostage by a maybe? Maybe I will get to that, maybe I like that, maybe I can do that. “I will think about that” is a maybe too. Maybe later. I consider most of our maybes as another way of saying I don’t know, and another way of putting life on hold.
Of course, at times saying maybe and sitting on the fence is the exact nonaction we need to take. But studies show for example that sitting on the fence too long in a relationship (beyond six months) causes more distress and confusion. Better to just decide and live with the decision of no or yes. How many times have you heard others say, “I just feel so much better having made the decision”? Lingering too long in the maybe realm is detrimental to our creativity. Think of it as a foundational aspect to your creative life: how can you build from a maybe? When we remain in a maybe for a prolonged stint of time, we become uninspired. Our clutter often represents maybes. Our maybes at their best are our future possibilities. But they remain only that—a thought of a possibility—and result in a sort of sleepwalking. An enduring lack of inspiration can lead to giving up, addiction, depression, hopelessness, and helplessness. It can also create a dependency on outside circumstances to make change, mentioned in the research on happiness and the focusing illusion. (See more on focusing illusion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring
3. Live the Big & Small Yeses. Every success I have experienced has been taken in a big leap of commitment first, followed by a series of close-in steps. Say yes to your big plan, the big idea, then, take the next step, and keep saying yes and then taking the next step close in. Don’t get caught up in what you say no to; your energy and attention go to where you turn your gaze, to your yeses, and to taking the next step close in. Progress and inspiration are guaranteed as you focus on the next step of your creative idea and plan. Each one of my ten books was created line by line.
After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.