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You Can Have A Creative Life If You Follow These Rules

You Can Have A Creative Life If You Follow These Rules

We all want a creative life, but actually living one can feel like a challenge at times. The thing to remember though is that living a creative life is a habit more than anything else, and as with all habits there are certain rules you can follow that make sticking to it easy.

If you’re wanting to life a more creative life, follow these ten rules and you’ll soon find living a creative life to be easier than you imagined.

1. Learn to say no to things that don’t light you up

To live a creative life you need to be specific about what you do and don’t let into your life. By saying no to things that don’t light you up and excite you, you’ll be making room for the things that do. You can’t do everything, so make sure the things you are doing are the very best for you and your creativity.

2. Let curiosity guide you

Let your curiosity guide your creativity and really take the time to explore. Being creative is all about exploration and discovery, so let your imagination run wild and be open to the possibilities of what could be. You never know what amazing opportunities might come your way.

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3. Expect, accept & embrace your natural imperfections

Nothing is perfect, and neither is your creative work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of lamenting your imperfections but they are natural and completely normal. Creative work isn’t meant to be ‘perfect.’ It’s meant to be real and raw, made by a human being not by a machine. Embrace the imperfections in your work and you’ll see yourself flourish creatively.

4. Don’t compare yourself with others

Comparison can be a huge trap in living a creative life. The problem when you compare is that you’re not comparing like for like. When you compare your work, with all its known inconsistencies and struggles, to someone else’s carefully curated presentation of their work, you are comparing two completely different things. It’s simply not a fair comparison, and you will lose every single time. Remember your creative work is wonderful and unique just as it is, there is no need for comparison.

5. Make the space and time live a creative life

Living a creative life is easy when you have the time and space dedicated to make it work. Even if you work a full time job and live in a tiny apartment, you can still make a small time and space for your creativity. It might be as small as a simple desk in the corner of your lounge room and small daily commitment to show up and create.

6. Create a daily creativity habit and stick to it

There’s amazing power in forming a daily creativity habit, and it doesn’t need to be a huge time commitment either. If all you have time for is 30 minutes a day, start with that. Commit to a specific time of day every single day and make that your time to create. Schedule it in like an appointment and stick to it as part of your daily routine. There is amazing power in forming a daily habit, it’s time to start harnessing it for your creativity.

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7. Stop being your own worst critic

For all the criticism you might get from others, it’s quite likely that you are actually your own worst critic. Think about the way you’re talking to yourself about your creative work and consider whether it’s negative or positive. If you find it’s leaning towards the negative end of the spectrum, put an end to it by affirming some more positive thoughts. Your work is good enough, you have enough time and you will get there!

8. Keep learning

To live a creative life, it’s important that you never stop learning. There are so many great creators who have come before us and there is a lot you can learn from them. Whatever your particular creative field, make an effort to learn something new every week. It could be as simple as reading the story of a great creator in your field or as in-depth as learning a completely new style or technique. Learning keeps your creative mind active and your ideas fresh.

9. Expose yourself to new experiences

Living a creative life and creating every day means you need to expose yourself to new experiences. Drawing an idea from within during the creative process can be difficult at times, particularly when you are lacking experiences to draw from. Living is what informs your creativity. It is where you will draw your inspiration from and its importance cannot be underestimated. So get out there and do something new!

10. Keep showing up no matter what

If you want to live a creative life, you need to keep showing up and creating no matter what. We all have down days when we’re not feeling inspired but the most important thing to remember is that inspiration comes from doing. The more you show up and engage with creative work, the more inspired you’ll feel.

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11. Connect with a creative community

Creative community is so important. It will keep you on track, motivated, inspired and give you an amazing support system. If you want to live a creative life, find some creative people in your area to connect with.  They’ll be there for you to support and encourage you in your work, while you’re cheering them on with theirs too.

12. Don’t restrict yourself to one creative medium

Just because you consider yourself to be a writer, painter or designer, does not mean that’s all you should ever do.  If you’re feeling like you want to explore a new creative area then let yourself do that.  Living a creative life isn’t about pursuing one creative medium relentlessly, it’s about experimenting and finding what works.

13. Share your creative accomplishments

Always share your creative accomplishments with others! You’ve worked hard to get there and your good work shouldn’t go unrecognized.  Show off your creative work with pride.

14. Let your creativity evolve over time

Your creativity should be ever evolving, growing and changing. Don’t box yourself in just because you think your style or medium is all you should ever do. The magic of living a creative life is that you can steer it in any direction you choose. Let your creativity evolve with time, it might surprise you.

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15. Don’t forget to have fun (because creating is meant to be fun!)

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself, creativity is meant to be fun! Let your imagination run wild, experiment with different materials and when the pressure is getting too much, create something just for the fun of it. No goals, no pressure – just creativity running free!

Photo credit: Abby Lanes, Flickr, CC

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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