Tag Archives: creativity

Earn your creative freedom

In the previous post, we talked about how out of place the primitive human mind is in our modern world. Overeating was used as an example of a natural effect of this situation, but many other self-destructive behaviors also stem from this source. In my experience, the one and only sustainable remedy to this unfortunate situation is creative flow.

Creation is the polar opposite of destruction, making it an obvious way to stop self-destructive behaviors. I’m sure that everyone reading this has been in that blissful state of creative flow where your body secretes happiness hormones without the aid of food, alcohol, social media, retail therapy or any other form of consumption.

Unfortunately, our primitive minds keep the vast majority of the population very far away from this ideal. Since most people remain stuck in a mindset of scarcity, our society still chases happiness through consumption. This perception creates an all-too-common vicious cycle:

Reversing this cycle holds the key to eliminating behaviors that destroy ourselves (e.g. overeating and sedentary living), our communities (e.g. consuming more than we create through excessive debt) and our environment (e.g. large CO2 footprint). Specifically, the following virtuous cycle is the polar opposite of the vicious cycle above:

We need a very simple shift in ambitions: strive towards the freedom to create instead of the freedom to consume. This simple change in thinking can make all the difference.

Obviously, breaking out of the orange vicious cycle and firing up the blue virtuous cycle is much easier said than done. In most cases, the most practical approach is to save up to buy your freedom. As a slave to consumerism, you will have to save up a sizable amount of money, not for a big house or car, but for a truly inspirational job that may offer lower pay and/or less income security (at least initially).

The next couple of posts will share some more practical tips to overcome self-destructive behaviors like overeating. All of them are helpful, but they will not be sustainable as long as you work to “earn a living”. Only when you stop working and start creating can you truly evolve to the point where happiness, health and sustainability simply happen naturally.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Psychology example: Healthy mind

As outlined in the seven posts on a healthy psychology, I consider life-long learning (1, 2), creative expression (3, 4) and unconditional contribution (56) to be the primary causes of the very interesting health and longevity statistics listed here (7). This post will give a brief example of how these three factors complement each other in my life.

When it comes to learning, my primary occupation (research scientist) makes this very easy because I simply have to go to work in order to get myself into an environment where constant learning simply has to happen. However, this researcher mentality has spilled over into many other areas of my life as well. The One in a Billion project in particular has been a tremendous learning experience.

I consider myself very fortunate to have accidentally fallen into this natural learning environment because I have now come to realize that constant learning is a prerequisite for creative expression. It is only when you have developed your understanding or your skill set to a certain level that you can really get access to the power of creative expression. For example; I first had to read a lot of literature before I could start writing my own scientific papers, I first had to develop my basic skills to a certain level before I could participate in spontaneous team plays or write new songs and I first had to work through hundreds of books, programs and articles before the One in a Billion project could begin to take shape.

Just as learning is a prerequisite for creative expression, creative expression is a prerequisite for true unconditional contribution. We will talk a lot about this later on, but if you really reach the level where new ideas just form all by themselves, the process of adding value to the world becomes the reward in itself and compensation beyond that which you really need becomes totally irrelevant. From this frame of mind, unconditional contribution is the natural state. At the moment, I consult for the company I will return to after my PhD is complete, I coach the local rugby team and I write this project all completely free of charge and without expecting any favors in the future. Most people would think this is crazy, but my mind has now reached a stage where this feels completely natural.

Now the crux of the matter is that these three components; learning, creative expression and unconditional contribution, automatically create a self-sustaining healthy psychological environment. The more you get exposed to the joy of creation and the joy of really contributing to the world, the more you are motivated to learn, create and contribute further – the very definition of a self-sustaining healthy environment. Our world really needs a lot more of these self-sustaining benevolent cycles.

Psychology: The power of creative expression (practice)

There are a number of practical ways in which you can tailor your environment to allow for natural and automatic creative expression. The first an most obvious is of course to ensure that you earn your living through creative work. This is a very broad and challenging topic, however, and we will spend much more time on that in subsequent chapters of the One in a Billion project.

In this post, we will only look at a much simpler short term source of creative expression: creative leisure activities. It is a sad fact that most modern leisure activities are consumptive in nature and therefore the complete opposite of creative. Watching TV is the best example of a consumptive leisure activity and should take a large portion of the blame for the lack of creativity within the general population today. Yes, seeing a good movie every now and then and watching the game with some friends every weekend is good and healthy, but parking on the couch for six hours every day staring at absolute nonsense really is bad in every way.

The best creative leisure activity to engage in is a creative hobby such as making music, painting or gardening. Sports, especially team sports, are also highly creative. In addition, social activities can also be highly creative if a very interesting or witty conversation starts forming. It is therefore clear that there certainly is no shortage of creative leisure activities out there. Shifting large potions of your TV-watching time to these kinds of creative outlets is therefore highly recommended.

In addition, you would do well to encourage and allow the free creative expression of those you interact with. Whether you are a parent, a boss, a colleague, a spouse or just a friend, always try to create an environment which allows the creativity of the people within your sphere of influence to come out and flourish. Creativity can bring some of the purest joy available to humankind. It can also be highly profitable in business.

Sure, our cynical world would like to impose limits on people’s creativity in an effort to maintain order and structure. After all, the most creative criminal (or the most creative toddler) will also be the one doing the most damage. However, if you simply use Warren Buffet’s advice when choosing who to associate with, this should not be a problem. He said: “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” The creativity of an integrous person is not to be feared or constrained.

So, bring some more creativity into your life via some creative leisure activities and some creative (and integrous) people. Better health and more happiness will soon follow.

Psychology: The power of creative expression (theory)

Free creative expression is central to general health and wellbeing primarily because it provides your life with something truly essential: purpose. If your life has no purpose, you really have no reason for even getting out of bed in the morning. On the other hand, if you are convinced that your life has purpose, you are automatically granted large quantities of energy and, generally speaking, large quantities of life.

Humans are creative creatures. We all have an insatiable drive to put part of our unique selves out there in the real world through creative expression. The specific channel through which this occurs is not important – the important thing is that you get those budding ideas swirling around inside your head out there for the world to see, whether it is in the form of a product, a service, a song, a dish, a team play or a piece of creative writing.

Creative expression is one of the most direct routes to health and happiness, but the opposite is also true. If creative expression is supressed by an overbearing parent, a controlling spouse or a deadly dull job, health and happiness definitely suffer – partly because of a tragic lack of purpose in life and partly because of the self-destructive consumption habits which thrive in such a situation.

But I have come to believe that the primary reason for the lack of free creative expression within our society today is our widespread culture of consumerism. Consumption is the polar opposite of creation and since most of us see our jobs purely as a means to fund our consumption habits, free creative expression is all but non-existent within our society. A widespread mental shift is sorely needed in this area and we will return to this topic repeatedly in the coming chapters of the One in a Billion project.

For the time being, however, we will strive only to tailor our own living environments to allow for free creative expression and also allow for free creative expression within our families and among our subordinates. We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.