In The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters, the reader is invited to “imagine that you are 100 years old and on your death bed with one minute left to live. Your great-great-grandchild asks, ‘Before you die, tell me what I should do with my life?’”
The answers you come up with are really advice to yourself. Peters says “if you are not living by this advice, which is the essence of your existence, you are living a lie. Don’t live a lie; it will unsettle you more than anything else.”
My own results from doing this exercise can be summarised as follows:
“Take notice of who you are and be that person with all your heart.”
~ Liz Humphreys
When I reflect on my life, I can see that, too often, I adapted myself to meet what I thought were the expectations of others. I compromised. I sat meekly on the sidelines, without standing up for myself, all the while complying with what I perceived to be the rules of life.
Now, in the lead up to my 50th birthday, I can, with much relief, see how those rules, which seemed so definitive, were either my own construct, or were arbitrary and challengeable. I am much more likely these days to side with Nietzsche:
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
~ Frederich Nietzsche
So how can we wake up to who we really are? One answer is through creativity, or rather creative living.
Elizabeth Gilbert in her marvellous book, Big Magic, clarifies that to live creatively has nothing to do with pursuing the life of a professional artist. She is referring to “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear…..A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”
I can relate to this. I have come to realise that I have lived much of my life in the shadow of fear, whose constant refrain has been “stay small; don’t stick out; do what’s ‘right’; don’t colour outside the lines”. I am working on breaking free of these chains and barriers – writing this blog is a particularly valuable therapy.
“There is no must in art because art is free.”
~ Wassily Kandinsky
This post is not a manifesto for the grand gesture. As Kandinsky highlights, there is no ‘should’ or ‘must’ about living creatively. Instead, we can find our own path and wake up to ourselves through the smallest of steps – take a different route to work; pick a different flavoured sandwich for lunch; read a magazine you have never before picked up. As Austin Kleon says in another of my favourite books:
“Take time to mess around. Get lost. Wander. You never know where it’s going to lead you.”
~ Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist
Such practices create space for us to find our real selves. To re-discover what we knew about ourselves but had forgotten. To illuminate our true colour from underneath all the burdens and expectations of our monkey minds and of society.
This message is beautifully captured in the following short film. Take a look, and then take a moment to think about whether you need to dig out your colour from underneath an otherwise grey cloak. Have fun. Be Brave. There is nothing to lose and everything to find. 🙂