"Creativity" is something I've struggled with for most of my adult life. My focus has been on achieving my goals, striving to maintain total control of my environment, and doing it all to some impossibly high (and incredibly unrealistic) expectation of perfection...only as a superwoman could. I was too hard on myself to endeavor into creative expression. I "didn't have time" to be creative, I told myself. In reality, I was too scared to let myself open up to the vulnerability that creativity requests; too afraid to come out from behind the veil of perfection and control.
Yesterday I attended a creative yoga class. Our intention was to keep the channel open and find joy in creative expression.... through the act itself, not by producing any particular or perfect end result. I cast aside all wishes of creating a perfect masterpiece and instead set a personal intention for openness and curiosity. I gave my Self permission and freedom to play. I had no ideal in mind, other than to enjoy the process and see what emerged. I chose to stand rather than sit so I could get my whole body involved and so I had the mobility to see what I was creating from multiple perspectives. I had to trust my inner guidance to know when I was done (a struggle for this recovering perfectionist...to know when something is done rather than ceaselessly striving and then over-doing!).
I wasn't worried about what wasn't getting done while I was creating. I wasn't afraid of what others would think of what I created. I wasn't looking around, comparing what I was creating to what was being created by others in the class. I was fully present with my Self and my art. When I was done, I turned around and said to no one in particular, "That was fun!" Something was ignited in me and the joy flowed freely.
And as if the Universe was making sure I had learned something deeper from this experience....as I was trying to get all of my still wet paintings loaded into my car at the end of the class, I dropped two on the floor. They folded up onto each other and onto themselves, altering what I had created. A year ago, the perfectionist in me would have been really upset that my creations were "ruined." The emerging artist in me today sees beauty in the flaws, like they were meant to be. There is no perfection in creativity. As there is no perfection in life.
There are many ways to be creative, and art is only one. We can bring creativity into anything we do. Creativity, and life, asks that we be open, be curious, and be fully present. It helps if we give ourselves permission to bring a sense of playfulness into all that we do. These actions may require us to lean into our vulnerabilities and fears. But presence helps us with this. The more present we become, the easier it is to let go of the fears that masquerade as control and perfection and that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once (she) grows up." Pablo Picasso
I’ve often been told by others that I have a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and passion. Some have even said my energy is contagious. So I was not surprised when I found out that my top character strength is zest. When I’m activating my zest, I live fully and feel alive.
My zest typically manifests itself in work and volunteer commitments, in home improvement projects, and through my learning and personal growth endeavors. Even though I have the capacity to bring energy to what I do, I have a hard time playing.
Last week, I had scheduled two days of work, one day of self-care, and four days for fun and family time. I wanted to fully activate my energy in each of these domains, so I made a very deliberate choice to focus on my strength of zest. At work, I wanted to be fully engaged and productive. At rest, I wanted to fully disconnect. And when it was time to play, I wanted to let down my guard and have fun.
Drawing upon my zest, I:
An unexpected benefit of reminiscing in my hometown was remembering how I used to play as a child. I recalled how I used to ride my bike, romp around the neighborhood with friends, play at parks, and climb trees. Indoors, when I wasn’t drawing, painting, coloring, or playing with my favorite toys, I played school and taught lessons from my favorite childhood books to all of the eager learners (stuffed animals and dolls).
Reminiscing about all of this made me feel a little sad. I realized how much I enjoyed playing as a child and how infrequently I allow myself to play now. And play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Play creates joy, leaves us feeling recharged, and is important for our creativity and relationships. We all can tap into the character strength of zest to bring more play into our day.
Join in the Fun!
Here are a few ideas for how to bring more play into your life:
What would you add to this list? What do you do – just for the fun of it?
If it’s been awhile since you last played, can you find at least one activity you can do in the next week – just for fun? Let me know how it goes!
“We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.”
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
Resources: Character Strengths and VIA Survey
Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press. www.viacharacter.org
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. www.viacharacter.org