When I was in grade 5, I decided that my art wasn’t good. I decided I wasn’t creative. In an act of self denial, I left my creative self behind at age 11.
For the next four decades, I labelled myself as “logical”, “sensible” and “analytical”. I pursued my life in a logical, sensible and analytical fashion. I looked toward the future, set objectives and created action plans. I followed my agenda. I achieved the financial results I was striving for.
And I felt increasingly empty and depleted.
How could this be, when I had achieved pretty much everything I had set out to achieve?
I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so trapped. Why I had financial latitude to do anything I wanted, yet felt so restricted.
It took me a very long time to figure out that my intense focus on the future was causing me to entirely miss the present moment.
Despite all my successes and good fortune, I spent my time consumed with fear about the future. What if my fortunes changed? What if the economy didn’t hold up? What if the future leadership of my firm changed their views about my performance? What if my clients stopped loving me and I couldn’t find new clients who wanted to pay my high fees? And on and on.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to create the financial wealth I believed I needed to be “safe” when I was older and retired. I worried about not having enough money after I retired to support my kids. The amount I thought I needed to be safe kept increasing.
I thought that the best way to respond to my worries was through more analysis and planning. My mind was extremely busy. Even in the middle of the night, I would often lie awake, planning my next steps.
I didn’t think my busy mind was the problem. I thought the problem was my circumstances. I thought my problem was that I hadn’t saved up $x yet. I didn’t notice that my targets kept changing.
I believed that I would eventually land in a spot where my future was completely wrapped up with a red bow and there would be no risks left. In those circumstances, I believed I would be able to finally relax and be happy and free to explore life.
What I didn’t realize for so many years was that in my controlled and planned world, there was no room for creativity. There was no room to open myself up to everything that was already possible. There was no room to see that there was a different way to do things.
And so my planned, safe approach to life kept me from actually living my life.
What I have learned as an artist and life coach over the past 5 years is that we never, any of us, reach a moment where our future is all wrapped up and completely safe. Our human tendency is to always move our targets and to think we don’t have enough yet. Our human tendency is to continue striving.
But what I know now is that creativity happens only when we open up ourselves to the moment. When we set aside our agendas for a few moments, hours or days and allow ourselves to be utterly present. When we sit in awe and gratitude for the life around us. When we soak up the sun’s warmth, allow ourselves to float along on a beautiful song, chew our food slowly and let delicious bursts of flavour hit our taste buds, smell a fresh rainfall, or exult in noticing the beauty of sunrays lighting up a tall, glass building at sunset.
These unplanned moments, these moments where we sink into presence, are the moments when our creativity wakes up. When we are surprised by new ideas that emerge suddenly. When we get flashes of insight. When we see new possibilities.
We can plan and “do” all our lives. But if we don’t leave ourselves time to just be, we profoundly limit what is possible. It’s like we have blinders on. We keep repeating old patterns and achieving similar states of being. We limit our ability to see different paths. We miss new, more enjoyable or productive ways of accomplishing things. We don’t see available solutions to the problems that plague us.
Above all, we miss the richness of life.
Creativity comes in moments where we stop worrying about the past or future. When we set down our plans. Where we truly understand that we have everything we need in the moment right now. When we feel grateful. When we notice that there is nothing to fear. When we realize that life is already good. And when we see our power to have a loving, beautiful, creative life.
Happy Canada Day to all of you! I hope you are outside, soaking up that beautiful sunshine!
If you’d like to explore how my coaching can help you create the life you want, I’m offering free personal strategy sessions. Go to my website www.gracedcanvas.com and click on the free personal strategy session button that appears in several places. Or just click on https://gracedcanvascalendar.as.me/schedule.php to directly access my scheduling page.