Life is rarely easy. We all face challenges of one sort or another—illness, loss, fear, mental health challenges, financial distress, and so on. Even if you aren’t struggling with anything personal at the moment, the world in general seems to be in constant turmoil these days. The chaos and uncertainty of the world can be hard to handle, which is why it’s so important to access the power of being relaxed, open, and patient.
Happiness is the goal. Creativity is the way.
You want to live a happy life. Everyone does. Your happy life might look different from mine, your colleagues’, or your family’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that you, like everyone else, want to be happy.
For creatives, creativity plays a big part in a happy life. Why? Because as you grow and utilize your creativity, you’re able to come up with creative solutions to big problems (personal, professional, and even national or global), you’re able to visualize a better life for yourself and for others, and you’re able to create real, positive change in the world.
Even for “creative people,” creativity isn’t always easy to access. Stress, tiredness, overwhelm, fear, and more can stifle your creativity and leave you feeling discouraged. I’ve heard many creatives talk about their creativity as though it comes and goes as it pleases, and they themselves are subject to its whims. If their creativity “shows up” today, it’s a good day; if it doesn’t, then they’re out of luck.
But here’s the thing: creativity doesn’t work that way. You can invite your creativity. You can develop it. Creativity is inside you, and you are capable of bringing it out.
You’ve got the power.
Let me be perfectly clear: you have the power inside of you to create and live the life you want to live. You have the power to make your biggest, craziest dreams come true. You are capable of creating a reality that serves you and makes you feel like your best self.
You have power over your thoughts. That means that no matter the circumstances or trials you face, you are capable of maintaining perspective and thinking things that will help you grow in spite of (or even because of) those very challenges. If you can learn to wield this power over your thoughts, you can live a happier, more fulfilled, more creative life.
Certain mindsets are more conducive to being able to exercise power over your thoughts. I’ve found that three qualities in particular can help creatives as they strive to control their thoughts and “create happy” in their lives. Specifically, being relaxed, open, and patient can set you up for creative success.
The power of being relaxed
Sometimes, we think of relaxing as lazing around on a Saturday afternoon. But being relaxed has a lot less to do with what you do, and a lot more to do with how you feel doing it.
The truth is, I’ve had plenty of times when I’m “vegging” out on the couch watching TV, and yet, I’ve felt anything but relaxed. Maybe I have a work project hanging over my head, or an errand I’m procrastinating.
Similarly, I know I’ve had moments when I’ve been working hard and being productive, and yet, I feel relaxed.
Why is relaxation so powerful?
Because it counteracts your body’s stress response. It pulls you out of feeling stress and overwhelm and takes you to a more positive, peaceful place. When you’re relaxed, you feel content and recharged.
Relaxation also has several measurable benefits on the body and mind. According to the Mayo Clinic, relaxation can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve digestion
- Increase blood flow to major muscles
- Reduce muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improve concentration and mood
- Improve sleep quality
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
Regarding creativity: when your brain is overcrowded and overstimulated, it’s hard for new ideas to emerge and develop. You have to give your brain room to breathe if you want to inspire its best ideas.
How to relax more
Many of us lead busy lives, and with so much trouble in the world around us, how can we possibly be truly relaxed? I know there have been times in my life when I’m so tightly wound that relaxation feels impossible. In those times, more than any other, trying to relax is important. Here are a few things to try when you’re trying to be more relaxed:
- Meditate. Meditation can help lower stress as it brings you into the present and quiets your thoughts.
- Get outside. Spending time in nature can reduce stress and leave you feeling more invigorated. Even if all you can do is a daily walk around your neighborhood, it should help.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with either your head or your feet, flex and relax every muscle in your body. Flex the muscle for about 5 seconds, and then relax it for 30 seconds. This is a good way to become more aware of what stress feels like in the body, and how you can release it.
- Journal. Writing in a journal is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world, which almost always makes them seem easier to handle. Journaling can leave you feeling more relaxed as you explore and process your thoughts and feelings.
The power of being open
There are plenty of qualities that can have a big impact on your creativity, but openness has to be near the top of the list.
Being open means being willing to discover and explore new ideas. It means not settling for the status quo. It means challenging the norms and wondering if there could be a better way.
As important as openness is, it does seem to be a quality that’s in short supply in today’s world. So many of us are completely closed off to the ideas of others. Whether that’s because of pride, ignorance, or something else, when we close our minds, we are denying ourselves the possibility of learning something new.
We have to be willing to put aside the things we believe and open ourselves to the beliefs, ideas, and theories of others.
Why is being open so powerful?
Because openness is how creativity happens. If we all accepted the way things are, if we were never willing to change ourselves or the world, we would have no need to think outside the box. We’d deny needing any new ideas, so we wouldn’t feel motivated to go after them.
Not only does openness drive creativity, it also supports and builds relationships. “My way or the highway” type people don’t tend to be the easiest people to be in a relationship with. And because connection is such an important part of a happy life, openness is critical to happiness.
When we’re open to new things, we unlock our ability to see ourselves, the people around us, and the world in a whole new way.
How to be more open
Our beliefs and convictions are shaped and fortified every day. By the time we’ve had an idea for years or even decades, it can be hard to open ourselves up to new ways of thinking. If you’re struggling to be open, there are a few things you can try.
- Consider the other side. Take something you really believe in and argue the opposing points. How would someone else defend a position that’s different than yours? What sources would they turn to? What evidence would they present? More often than not, the truth lies between two extremes, and when you look at each of the different sides, it will be easier for you to open up to a more moderate way of thinking.
- Brainstorm. In a true brainstorming session, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The next time you’re working on a big problem, brainstorm some solutions. No idea is off the table. Write down everything that comes to mind. You’ll soon discover that lending credence to your ideas, even if it’s only by writing them down, will invite even more ideas to come to you.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a closed off space. When you’re there, other ideas can’t get in. It’s safe, but it’s not conducive to growth. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Spend time with a different group of friends, try a new type of food, read an article from an opposing political viewpoint. Exposing yourself to things that make you uncomfortable will allow your mind to see that life outside your comfort zone isn’t always dangerous, and that being open can sometimes lead you to fantastic new experiences.
The power of being patient
“Patience is a virtue.” We’ve all heard that saying, but I think many of us (myself included) tend to roll our eyes at it. (That’s probably because I only seem to hear it or think of it when I’m feeling particularly impatient.)
Patience is something I’ve always struggled with. As an ambitious creative and business owner, I tend to want things to happen NOW (or at least, fast). To me, being patient meant abandoning my ambitious plans and my big dreams, surrendering to a life of complacency and laziness.
But deep down, I know that’s not the truth. I know that patience and ambition can coexist. That’s because patience isn’t the opposite of ambition; it’s realizing that ambitions take time. I’ve come to realize that patience doesn’t mean letting go of my dreams, but allowing myself room to make sure those dreams come about in the right way.
Why is patience powerful?
According to Entrepreneur.com, “Patience radically increases your capacity for success.” Imagine you’re working on a project that you’re impatient to finish. What is that impatience going to lead to? Chances are, nothing good. In fact, it could lead to:
- Low quality work
- Frustration with yourself or your team
- Poor decisions
- Giving up
Patience, on the other hand, gives grace to yourself, others, and your idea. It allows wiggle room for error, setbacks, and unforeseen difficulties—which are things every project I’ve ever worked on has had to deal with.
There is power in that wiggle room. Embrace it and allow it to guide your projects and dreams in a healthy, productive, patient way.
How to be more patient
Ironically, building patience takes time. But if you give yourself a chance, you can learn how to be patient, even when it’s hard. Start by trying one of these tips.
- Take deep breaths. It sounds simple, but taking deep breaths can help calm your nervous system and quiet your impatient feelings. Counting to 10, slowly, can have the same effect.
- Do something that takes a long time. Read a long novel or book series, watch a series of movies, complete a difficult puzzle, or commit to taking the long way home from work. Such things can help you see that just because something takes a while doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.
- Remember your goals, priorities, and motivations. When you start to feel impatient, remember what you’re working towards and why. Remind yourself that reaching your goal, the right way, is worth any amount of time and effort.
- Identify your triggers. What really makes you feel impatient? Is there anything you can do to take control of that trigger? If so, get to work! If not, learn to accept the things you cannot change. Sometimes, there’s peace in embracing the inevitable.
Obviously, there’s power in being relaxed, open, and patient. If we all worked on developing those three qualities, and putting them into practice more often, we could invite more creative energy into our lives, and really be able to make progress towards the happiness we’re all looking for.
Work on relaxation, openness, patience, and more, with Design.org.
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