Most of us think of creativity as solely referring to artists: painters, musicians, writers, or even architects. They are so creative. I beg to differ. I believe that to be authentic requires that we each live from a place of creativity.
Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka put it best in their book mBraining: creativity is the quality of consciousness from which you author your life.
There are several essential aspects of this to consider:
- Creating your life is like writing a story: there is a creator or writer. Who holds the pen?
- Life is constantly unfolding with events and situations which are beyond our control. Nonetheless, we control the meaning and significance we assign to these events. How are you interpreting your life? What stories do you tell yourself?
- There is a constant cliché: life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. You are the creator of your response, not your situation. How are you creatively responding to the challenges that life throws your way? Are they obstacles or opportunities?
- Envisioning your future with intention: where attention goes, energy flows. What does this create for you? Where are you putting your time, effort and money?
You need creativity to live authentically.
If you want to live an authentic life, you need to step up and sit in the driver’s seat. You can’t be a passenger or bystander. More importantly, your role will be that of the creator: consciously setting the intention to live your life and make decisions.
In my early twenties, my sister was going through a life crisis and said that her husband’s terrible decisions were to blame. When I asked her who put him in control, she responded that this was the husband’s role, and she accepted it. I still remember my inner horror of realising that she had handed over complete control and even now could not see that she had played a part in decision-making: she decided that he was allowed to call all the shots.
How we respond to life’s challenges
Unfortunately, many of us do this without even noticing.
- My boss said…
- If only my family would let me…
- I would if I were allowed to…
In each of these instances, we had a choice. There would have been a price to pay for choosing not to go along:
- I would have lost my job if I didn’t…
- My family would have rejected me.
- I would have been ostracised…
Sometimes, our choices are between two bad options. It’s the height of privilege to have a good opportunity to choose. But the first step in leading an authentic life is to step into the role of creator:
I chose what I believed was the lesser evil.
One of the harsh realities is that there might have been options that you overlooked, but stop beating yourself up for not knowing what you didn’t know.
Be authentic: authoring your life.
You can choose to become the author and creator of your life at any moment in time. Just because you haven’t been sitting in the driver’s seat so far doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to learn to drive.
Even if you are learning, treat yourself with the loving-kindness and compassion you would treat another. Like any beginner, you will probably make mistakes. Unfortunately, they don’t hand out learner plates to let others on the road of life know to give us extra space and treat us compassionately.
There are so many sayings about being a new page of life every day. While it’s true that you can’t go back and rewrite the past, you can rewrite the stories you tell yourself about your past. You can choose to look at it through another lens and see other perspectives.
Who is in control of your stories?
One of the best exercises that you can do is to look at some of your life experiences (from your teens or young adulthood) and sit down a re-write the story.
For example, rather than “I was helpless”, you might write, “I chose my habitual and learned response of doing nothing”. You choose the habitual and learned response of doing nothing because you feel helpless. Anyone who has learned about trauma responses will tell you that you might not see another option open and available to you in these situations.
But until you begin to rewrite the stories, you will stay “helpless” and not see other options in the present or the future.
Learning to rewrite past stories is not about blaming or judging yourself. It is rewiring your brain to see situations (in the future) differently. It’s opening up the possibility that opportunities might exist that you don’t see, so you look for them.
Even the stories of your past are essential in the conscious creation of your future.
A creative perspective
What if you could train yourself to look at life through a different lens? Do you look at the big picture or are you stuck in the details? Perhaps you need a wide-angle lens, instead of just using the lens for close-ups.
- Could you become a storyteller and author, not merely an actor?
- What happens if you look at your life from behind the camera?
- What do the other supporting actors and cast see and experience in each scene with you? How are they interacting with you?
- Or perhaps, you sit in the audience, watching the story after the fact and see how all the parts interplay.
- Take a moment, and be the movie critic.
Notice what each of these different perspectives shows you.
Do this as often as you need to refresh your perspective and vision on your life and your roles: parent, child, lover, friend, employee, employer, or community member.
What do you need to look at differently in the story of your life to live authentically as you?
We create meaning in our minds:
Part of your task when consciously authoring your life, part of your task is to check the meaning you are giving to events, situations, and even relationships. As humans, we are meaning-making machines. Think of writing: each symbol or letter has been assigned a meaning we learn and use to communicate.
We assign meanings to smiles, particular looks, silence and even the physical distance between people. When we say that “someone is keeping their distance”, we might mean it literally or metaphorically.
One way to consciously author your life is to become aware of the meaning you are giving to events, relationships, and possibilities.
Where awareness goes, energy flows.
This awareness will help you live more authentically as your mind uses a filtering system (the RAS) to select what it will show you. A prevalent example:
Your friend says that they are looking to buy a red convertible, perhaps an MG, but they aren’t sure. You’ve never noticed (until now) any red convertibles on the road. Suddenly, you see them everywhere. It’s not that there are now more red convertibles on the road. The only change is that your RAS has included them as “important information” in your filtering system.
This is one of the reasons why so many spiritual and religious traditions have you focus on gratitude, compassion, abstaining from complaining, humility, and even suggest “ask, and you shall receive”.
When you ask for something (that you want), you focus your attention on the signs that you are getting it. You notice more opportunities that arise in that direction.
On the other hand, if you are focused on complaining or offences, you will find more to complain about or be offended by.
If you want to create a more authentic life, turn your awareness towards the meaning you give to life and what you want to make more of. Your RAS and subconscious mind will do the job of focusing on finding more opportunities for you in that direction.
Be authentic when creating the future.
As Stephen Covey suggested, “before you climb the ladder of success, make sure your ladder is leaning on the right wall.”
Whose definition of success are you using? Is it truly yours? What happens if you use your parent’s or family’s definition of success? Will it feel fulfilling? Or empty?
Remember, I said to be careful of the meaning you create in your mind. This is particularly important when it comes to your future. Get very clear about what you want to make for yourself.
Use your imagination a little to look at yourself at 80 years old:
- What do you want written in your eulogy or epitaph?
- How do you want to be remembered by family and friends or your community?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
Take a moment to return to that eight-year-old child who had huge limitless dreams or that teenager who knew everything: what would they fix in the world to make it better? When life was infinite, what did you imagine?
Happiness is an inside job.
Working towards your goals and dreams is admirable. But creating a life that you love is priceless. I’ve talked elsewhere about “satisficing”: what’s the minimum you will accept to be satisfied? Only you know the answer to that, but make sure that you are authoring your life consciously, not simply avoiding conflict and confrontation with others and their expectations.
If you want to be authentic, you will risk pissing other people off. They won’t always appreciate it when you don’t live up to their rules and expectations. But you can do this with meaningful conversations and compassion.
Everything you do is creation.
You are never not creating your life.
Each decision you make – big or small – makes ripples throughout the timeline of your life: the butterfly effect. The plans and goals you make – or don’t make – will shape the life you are creating.
So, if you want to be authentic, wrap your head around the fact that you have to author your life with creativity consciously.