Curiosity + Courage + Creativity = An Unbeatable Formula

“Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.”
— Paulo Coelho

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I think about that quote a lot lately, almost every time I watch the news in fact! ‘From the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.’  Watching the news and keeping up with current events, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But it’s important to remember, we all have the creative potential to start changing the world.

But why are so many people so afraid of the idea of creativity? Perhaps it’s the idea that to be creative is to relinquish control.

Matisse famously says: Creativity takes courage.

And Joseph Chilton Pearce adds: To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

Picasso adds to that: The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.

To allow oneself to put aside that part of us that is in control, that is logical and rational is a scary thought. For those of us who have worked so hard to keep everything ordered and in control, the thought of relinquishing this control is scary. But I love the image created by Lady Gaga about letting go to access one’s creative spark:

When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condom-less sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.

A lot of research is also pointing to curiosity being an important key to unlocking creativity:

creativity-curiosity

In order to spark new levels creativity as adults, we need to get back in touch with our childlike curiosity. We need to observe, explore, ask questions, and again venture into the unknown — Andrew Merle explains in a recent article in Huffington Post: Why Curiosity is the Key to Break Through Creativity.

Along with fear of losing control, a great many people believe that they aren’t creative, that they ‘don’t have a creative bone in their body.’ The sad truth is that many of us have been shamed out of even trying to access our creative spark. Some of us have even been taught out of our creativity. Sir Ken Robinson explains this beautifully in his popular TED Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

The reality though is that we are ALL born creative, we all have that creative potential. Yes, some of us are more artistic than others or more talented in certain areas. But all of us are creative.

Creativity is not found just in the chosen few who exhibit artistic talent. It is a force that flows through every single one of us, allowing us to dream things up and make them happen.

–Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy

In a wonderful article on Greater Good Website, Ten Things Creative People Know, Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy explain that:

Creative expression opens the door to the inner world of our imaginations. It is here that we make meaning of our lives. It is here that motivation takes root. The more creative we are, the more capacity we have to imagine what’s possible and make those visions real.

So although it’s a conundrum, creativity sparks creativity!

So the next time you look around and feel as though it’s time to start changing the world, remember:

Curiosity + Courage + Creativity = an unbeatable formula

I think I’ll close with Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED Talk, he is always a good choice to illustrate the 3 Cs!  Bring on The Revolution:

I’d love to hear how you spark your creativity.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
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Being Too Busy

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
― Socrates

Busy – So damned busy!  It seems like everyone I speak to  recently is saying the same thing. Too damned busy. Argggghhh! The way it manifests for me is that I feel chaos in my brain.  I feel like there isn’t enough room in my brain for everything that I need to keep track of. I keep telling people that I wish I had that little tool that Dumbledore used in Harry Potter, the pensieve. Well not the pensieve itself, which is the shallow stone or metal basin used to review memories; but instead the tool, the little crochet hook thing itself that Dumbledore uses to take the thoughts and memories out of his head. He explains:

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links.

I’m not as concerned with the patterns and links, but mostly just to extract the excess chaos out of my head!

With this in mind, I was touched by the latest article in Daily Good: The Disease of Being Busy.

How did we get so busy that we no longer have time for each other? What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

I love the way the writer, Omid Safi,  explains about haal

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

I want to remember this the next time someone asks me how I am doing. I do not want to go into a litany about how insanely busy I am these days. I will try to remember to answer from a place of how my heart is doing at that very moment. And when I ask people about how they are, I will hope they can tell me something about their own heart and soul.

But is there anything that we can do to avoid this avalance of busyness?  In this short video –  I feel too busy! How can we get out of this busyness trap? Oliver Burkeman gives us some ideas.  The one that resonated with me is to make sure that we choose what’s important, and to schedule time for the stuff that fills us up instead of continuing to do what depletes us.

It will never all get done, so until I find that elusive pensieve tool, I shall endeavor to make time for the things I love and choose what’s important!

 

 

I’d love to hear how you avoid the busyness trap. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Creativity isn’t always easy

Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture.

– Sir Ken Robinson

Some people claim that they have to create – that painting or writing or making music is as essential to them as breathing.  That is not the case for me.  I usually feel like I have to force myself to take the time to be creative. I set time aside to journal or write or just doodle because I know that that is the time when I can really connect with the source, with the truest part of me.

Other people are the oposite; instead of feeling like they have to create, they feel like they absolutely cannot create. Those people feel that creativity is only found in the chosen few.

Creativity is not found just in the chosen few who exhibit artistic talent. It is a force that flows through every single one of us, allowing us to dream things up and make them happen.

–Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy

In a wonderful article on Greater Good Website, Ten Things Creative People Know,  Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy explain that Creative expression opens the door to the inner world of our imaginations. It is here that we make meaning of our lives. It is here that motivation takes root. The more creative we are, the more capacity we have to imagine what’s possible and make those visions real.

But it’s important for me to explain, that for me anyway, it isn’t always easy.  It takes effort and determination and tenacity.  I force myself to journal every morning before I get up because I know that that is the time that I sometimes get glimpses of what is possible and ideas about how to make them real.  I sometimes get flashes of insight that lead to amazing things. And sometimes I even get lost in doodling or drawing and just love what emerges. It’s glorious to get lost in that flow.  Not that it’s anything I’d ever sell as ‘fine art’ – it’s just amazingly cool to get lost in, and to connect with that deep sense of self in the process.

In their article, Taylor and Murphy explore ten ideas about creativity and creative people:

1. Our lives have meaning.

2. We are all creative.

3. Creative expression empowers us.

4. We are good at heart.

5. Life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved.

6. Change is an inside job.

7. Diversity is a resource.

8. We thrive when we feel supported.

9. We each have the power to make change.

10. The challenges of our time require intergenerational collaboration.

 

We all have this potential and this gift.  It’s just that it isn’t always easy and often requires effort and determination to focus on our creativity – even if it’s only for 5 minutes before we get out of bed.

I’d like to close with a video clip with the wonderful Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. The clip is aptly called – ‘The Power of Persevance’

 

I’d love to hear about how you feel about your creativity. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Happiness is Good for your Health

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy”

– Audrey Hepburn


Enjoy your life – be happy. That makes sense. And now research shows another compelling reason to be happy. In a recent article from Greater Good, the concept that happiness is good for your health is explored.

Recently, a critical mass of research has provided what might be the most basic and irrefutable argument in favor of happiness: Happiness and good health go hand-in-hand. Indeed, scientific studies have been finding that happiness can make our hearts healthier, our immune systems stronger, and our lives longer.

The research shows that happiness is good for your health in six ways:

  1. Happiness protects your heart – happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure.

  2. Happiness strengthens your immune system – immune system activity in the same individual goes up and down depending on their happiness.

  3. Happiness combats stress – happiness seems to temper the effects of stress, or at least help us recover more quickly.

  4. Happy people have fewer aches and pains – positive emotion mitigates pain.

  5. Happiness combats disease and disability – participants who reported being happy and satisfied with life most of the time were less likely to have long-term health conditions.

  6. Happiness lengthens our lives – happier people were 35 percent less likely to die over the course of a recent study than their unhappier counterparts.

Happiness helps you live longer, combats disease, mitigates pain, combats stress, improves your immune system and protects your heart!  Don’t take my word for it, read about the this critical mass of research on Greater Good.

I’d like to close with a clip I have used in a past post.

Dan Gilbert explaining the The Surprising Science of Happiness.

Please let me know what you thought of Daniel Gilbert’s TED talk, and I’d love to hear your thoughts happiness and your health.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

The Best Version of Myself

“Be the Best Version of You”

– Brian Tracey


I am in the process of becoming the best version of myself. I love that image!

When I’m trying to make important decisions, I think to myself, will this move me toward becoming the best version of myself? It usually helps the decision making process a lot.

I’ve been using this to help me in the decision making process for awhile, so I was very happy to have this process affirmed in an article from The Happiness Institute.  In the article, Eric Barker interviewed Sonja Lyubomirsky.

Barker explains that research shows that thinking about your best possible self doesn’t just clarify goals — it can also make you happier just by thinking about it.

Lyubomirsky described an activity she did with her students:

Imagine your life in ten years and that your goals have been accomplished. You’re living your best possible life. Think about that in different domains. I did this once with students and they said to me, “I didn’t even know what my goals were.” So they were forced to articulate their goals. Some people said to me things like, “Yeah, I didn’t think my goals were feasible until I wrote about them,” and they realized there were concrete steps they could take.

A huge decision I had to make recently in my quest toward The Best Version of Me, was choosing the right publicist for my book, This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing your Creative Self and Transforming your LifeI interviewed several publicists, and liked a few of them very much. It was not an easy decision. I eventually decided on Joanne McCall because I think her ideas and connections are most inline with the goals I have for me, my book, and ultimately for moving me toward that Best Version of Myself. Joanne’s portfolio is very impressive, including people like Melody Beattie, David Simon of the Chopra Center, and Brian Tracey! Brian Tracey has long been an advocate of striving toward being the best version of yourself.

So it is fitting to close with a short video of Tracey, Be the Best You

I’d love to hear about how you work toward being the best version of yourself.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Tenacity!

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

– Richard Bach


I love that quote by Richard Bach. The quote is attributed to him, he uses that line a lot, although he states he didn’t actually make it up. Either way, I love the quote and I like Richard Bach, so I’ll give him credit. And yes, if anyone ever asks me to speak about the writing process, I will quote Bach, because it’s true. I’m finally going to be a published author, the team at She Writes Press is designing cover ideas as I write this post.  My book will be published and out there very soon. And the reason that I will finally be a published author is because I didn’t quit. Tenacity! This has been a ten year process. It began at a bookstore, while I sat with my son Lukas, who was 12 at the time, having coffee and leafing through a stack of self-help books. He asked why I hadn’t written my own book. He said that I had been telling him that stuff in those books for years, and that I shouldn’t be reading other people’s work, but writing my own. I felt like a deer in headlights! If I didn’t start writing, I felt like my own sons would doubt what I had been saying for years:

Follow your dreams! You can do it!

Not to mention it would be a kind of betrayal to myself. So in early 2006, I started writing. Since then, there have been many permutations. I’ve felt despondent, hopeless, frustrated and very close to giving up. But I didn’t. When I felt close to throwing in the towel, I asked for help and advice; I put the book away for awhile; I read inspiring blogs about resilience and happiness and gratitude until I felt inspired to focus on it again. And I kept on going. Ultimately it’s down to tenacity. Don’t give up! A fitting, if rather whimsical closing – I’ll leave you with Bruno Mars singing Don’t Give Up – with the Muppets.

I’d love to hear about how you keep going, what has helped you not give up. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Insights from 2014

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.

– Hermann Hesse


One of the things I love about starting a new year is making intentions. One of the intentions I usually make is to pay better attention. Which means that for the first few weeks of the year anyway, I’m paying closer attention to life, being more mindful in what I do. Wish it lasted longer than just a few weeks, but baby steps, right?

And along with intentions for the year to come, I love to look back on the past year and see what insights I’ve gained. One of my insights from 2014 is that I always feel better, more connected when I’m paying closer attention to the present moment. Another insight from this year is how much better I feel – body, mind and spirit – when I’m alcohol free.  So once again, I’ve decided to abstain from any alcohol for awhile.  This is not a new behaviour for me. Alcohol and I have quite a history. This isn’t a typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – this has been coming for quite awhile, I’ve been alcohol free for several months now. It just feels like alcohol doesn’t fit within the context of who I’m becoming.

I like reading the articles that come out in the new year about the ‘bests’ of the year that has passed.  And I love learning about other people’s insights from the previous year. So it’s no surpise that my favorite article is from The Greater Good Website.  Not only do I love that site! But the article combines those two things, the best of and insights gleaned. The article is based on the annual list of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude – the science of a meaningful life. The article –  The Top 10 Insights from Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014  – is wonderful. It’s well worth reading the whole article, but for those of you who like things put in a nutshell, here you go:

  1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.
  2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. (Makes us better in all we do!)
  3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. (see the video within the article on the GG website)
  4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.
  5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. (So Be Happy!)
  6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.
  7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.
  8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.
  9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism
  10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

Each of these points is explained in depth in the article and is based on studies done in 2014.  As I said, well worth a read, helping us all work toward leading a more Meaningful Life.

I’ll close with a lovely short video about gratitude –

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

 

 

I’d love to hear about your insights from 2014. Or some of your intentions for 2015.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Be kind to yourself – it’s good for you!

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

 

– Buddha


Why is it that we are so often our own worst enemy? Why do we all find it so hard to be kind to ourselves. Why is it that so many of us cannot accept the simple truth that you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

I just had a long conversation with a good friend of mine about this.  We both agreed that it can be an absolute nightmare to live in one’s head.  We always seem to be our worst critic.  On the heels of that conversation, I read a great article and watched a really helpful video on a wonderful site I’ve mentioned several times:  Greater Good.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D believes in a healthier way of relating to oneself.

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become a virtual religion; and a tyrannical one at that. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special and above average to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average at the same time. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion

So what exactly is self-compassion.  Neff describes it as having three components:

Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement

Common Humanity vs Isolation

Mindfulness vs Over Identification

There are several video clips by Kristin Neff that are all worth watching.  I’m attaching this clip as a wonderful introduction as to why self-compassion is so important to all of us. Because as the Dalai Lama reminds us:

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others, you will not be able to love others.
If you have not compassion for yourself then you are not able to develop compassion for others.

 

I’d love to hear how you show yourself self-compassion.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Want to Change a Behavior? Make a Plan!

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes  open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want.  No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

-Paulo Cuelho


No one will argue that bad habits are hard to break, but making a plan on how you will achieve it is half the battle.

Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits, looking at steps seven and eight:

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

I’m a big fan of goal setting.  I believe that heart centered goal setting is life changing. As I say in one of my past posts, A Fine Balance:

In my 7 Tools,  I discuss Heart-Centered Goal Setting.  In order to really focus on true goals, you have to find out the deepest WHY of the goal, the emotion behind it. Work to discover WHY you want that particular goal, journal about it, question it. When you understand the deeper emotion of why your want that particular goal, the emotional need behind it, then you have hit the WHY.  You can FEEL the why in heart-centered goal setting.  And in order to feel it, you have to be paying attention and be present to the moment.  That ability to stay present actually helps to define a direction for the future.

By setting a definite goal and getting specific, it helps to build new neural pathways. You are engaged in what Rick Hanson calls Self-Directed Neuroplasticity. For example, I have a friend who is trying to watch less TV, she knows it is mind numbing, but it feels so addictive (According to several studies, TV is addictive!) Decide if you want to exercise or read a book or journal instead of watching TV. Focus on the new choice. The more you decide to read at 7pm after dinner, instead of watch TV, the more your brain expects that behavior.  Self-Directed Neuroplasticity kicks in, the behavior starts to change.

Sometimes it feels like you are trying to trick your brain, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.  In an article in a great website, Greater Good, it is argued that:

Ultimately, what this can mean is that with proper practice, we can increasingly trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind.

The second point, transforming the obstacles is really more of “tricking the brain” again. Look at the obstacles, at what is in the way of you changing the behavior. What have you been getting out of the old habits or pathways? Going back to trying to break the TV habit – it feels like a treat, to just blob out, numb out.  But often after a couple of hours of TV, the numbing out feels negative and kind of yucky, and a waste of time. So before the TV goes on, transform the lure of the TV (the obstacle is the old belief that it is going to be a treat) – but you know it becomes a burden. Identify that obstacle, that lure, and make the decision before the TV goes on to do something else.  Get your mind in the place of possibility. Begin that process of changing your brain by remembering the truth about the situation and transforming the obstacles.

I’m going to close with an old favorite.  Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals.  This is part 1 of 3, if you have a chance, watch all 3, they are inspirational and fun!

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Neuroplasticity – Retraining our brain to get rid of bad habits

“What were once vices are now habits.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

The Doobie Brothers


Habits are hard to break, but understanding how they are created in our brain is the first step in breaking them.

No one likes having bad habits – smoking, over-eating, drinking too much – they are often expensive and usually bad for our health.

*I know there is a lot more to smoking  than just the habitual behaviors. Cigarettes are filled with chemicals that serve no other purpose than to addict the smoker. And I’m well aware of the fact that alcoholism is not a habitual behavior. But I’m talking about habits here, not addiction.

In terms of habits, think of it like walking in a virgin rainforest. The first time something is done, it’s like cutting through the rainforest with a machete. The more you perform this act, the more you are clearing the path. And after awhile, the neural pathway you’ve forged becomes easier to navigate, more like an open road. The more often it is traveled, the better the pathway. And this is great news when you are learning a new language or a new skill, the more often it is practiced, the better it gets.

What’s not so great is when this big neural pathway is associated with a habit you want to break, and the repetition of this bad habit keeps making it more entrenched. If each time you turn the key to start the car, you also light up a cigarette, the brain associates these actions together, and they become part of the same neural pathway. The bad news is that the longer you have done this, the more entrenched is this habit.

But the good news is that our brains are not static. Research about neuroplasticity is showing us that our brains can definitely change. We can rewire our brains and get rid of bad habits forever. We can all learn new behaviors and attitudes and transform our lives.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get rid of bad habits. But I am saying that it is possible. There are powerful ways that we can retrain our brain, and with practice rid ourselves of entrenched habits that we want to change.

Marilyn Gordon wrote a good article about training your brain to get rid of bad habits.  Each of the 10 steps deserves to be explored on it’s own, so I plan to dwell on each point individually in my next few posts.

She outlines the 10 steps as:

1. Identify the habit you’d like to transform and set the intention.

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

4. Use your imagination.

5. Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when they arise.

6. Use aversion therapy.

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

9. Connect with your Higher Source for inspiration and support.

10. Transform and make the shift.

I’ll close with a great talk, held at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, by Rick Hanson about Neuroplasticity.

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.