If you’re reading this, chances are good that you are not new to the world of self-help. You have probably read other blogs and books, listened to podcasts, and maybe even taken classes on how to improve yourself and your life. That’s all great (I do those things, too!), but even as I have exposed myself to various self-help methods, I’ve come to realize one important thing: creativity is the best self-help tool.
The history of self-help
The self-help industry used to be victim to stigma and misunderstanding. While self-help has been around for a while (the book Self-Help by Samuel Smiles was published in 1859 and is considered a pioneer self-help text), the self-help world has seen massive growth in recent years. These days, you are hard-pressed to find someone that hasn’t seen, heard, or read something with the intent of self-improvement.
The problem is, because it has become so prevalent, it’s also become rather diluted and monotonous. Once you have checked out a few (or more) self-help sources, it’s easy for it to all run together a bit. Follow this routine, read this book, adopt this belief, and your life will change. It is easy to start to see self-help as more of an industry than a practical solution; you have to wade through an ocean of ideas that don’t help you in order to find the one that does.
What self-help really is
At its heart, self-help is really all about figuring out how to live your best life. It’s about becoming a version of yourself that you feel proud of, and doing things that push you toward your full potential. It’s about learning, growth, emotion, change, discovery, and love.
I still very much believe in self-help. Or rather, in the principles behind self-help. I believe in our ability, as humans, to make ourselves better, to push ourselves to new limits, and to expand our horizons. I believe that anyone can and should help themselves—with the right tools.
Which is why I think it’s time to step away from the self-help books and try the best tool of all: creativity.
Why creativity is the best self-help tool
A lot of people think of creativity as a quality: something you either have or you don’t. But that simply isn’t true. Creativity is inside all of us, and it’s up to us to use it, exercise it, and strengthen it. Creativity is a tool that we can use to help us design our lives.
Here’s why it works so well.
You get to know yourself.
Knowing yourself is a key step to self improvement. After all, how can you get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are now and what you have to work with?
If you are really going to practice self-help, you need to know who you are. You need to know your strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings, desires, fears, preferences, and so on. You need to know what makes you tick, and what makes you shut down. Learning these things about yourself will not only help you figure out where you want to go, but also help you create a plan for getting there.
Creativity is self-expression. It is pulling your emotions and personality out of yourself and putting them on display. It requires a willingness to share what you are thinking and feeling with yourself and with the world around you.
When you do this, you come to know yourself better. You understand what motivates you and what drives you, and you learn about your habits and skills that help you get things done on a daily basis.
I’ve found that there is nothing else that helps me know myself better than creative thinking and expression. This is where my true self comes out. And I believe that is true for all of us.
You can be flexible.
Raise your hand if you have read a self-help book that prescribes a regimen you have to follow every day or regularly (wake up at 5 am; exercise first thing in the morning; meditate before bed, etc.). Now, keep your hand raised if you tried that regimen…and eventually dropped it.
(Don’t worry—I’m raising both hands high into the air.)
Don’t get me wrong—I have routines that I follow and love. But I’ve found that the routines that work best for me are the ones I design to work for me. I may have started with a basic idea I picked up somewhere else, but then I eventually made it my own.
This process of “making things your own” is creativity. Creativity allows for flexibility, while many of the regimens you read about in self-help books simply don’t. And flexibility invites success.
Creativity isn’t a single prescribed routine or set of rules. It’s the principle behind designing a routine or set of rules that works for you. Using creative thinking, you can piece together daily, weekly, and/or monthly routines that fit into your life and work with your personality.
Learning to use your creativity will help you design a more productive, efficient, happy life—partly by helping you establish routines that take you where you want to go, regardless of what “experts” say.
You build self-esteem.
Self-help is nothing without self-esteem. Why would you even start trying to improve yourself and your life if you don’t believe you can do it? Why would you work hard to accomplish something you don’t think can actually be accomplished? And why would you put so much effort into something (or someone) you don’t even like?
I get that that sounds harsh. But most people I meet are severely lacking in self-esteem. They don’t see their true potential. They don’t like the choices they make or the habits they’ve developed. And they don’t think they’ll ever amount to anything better than what they already are.
If that’s your attitude, then reading a self-help book and trying to implement a rigid routine is, more likely than not, going to leave you feeling worse than you did before.
That’s another reason why creativity is the best self-help tool: because it helps you build self-esteem. Creativity encourages you to take risks, try new things, and expand your talents. It teaches you to listen to your intuition and trust yourself more fully. And it allows you to create things that are beautiful and that mean something to you.
In short, creativity shows you what you are capable of. It helps you see your potential and pushes you to your limits and beyond. More than anything else, it can help you to not only see yourself, but to like what you see.
How to use creativity as a self-help tool
All of this begs the question: how exactly do you use creativity as a self-help tool?
I have two answers to that question.
The first is practice. Using your creativity is the only way it can really get stronger.
You can practice on your own, or you can turn to my second answer: a creativity coach.
Creativity coaching is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it’s a personal trainer for your creativity.
Think of a tennis player. They can go to any court, any time, and just hit balls by themselves. They can play games with friends and get plenty of practice time. But a tennis coach would be able to take their game to the next level: helping them perfect their technique, incorporate strategy, stay in shape, and prepare for what’s next.
Creativity coaches are familiar with creativity on a deeper level. They know how to exercise it effectively, how to awaken and maintain it, how to use it to find yourself, and how to make it a part of your daily life. They take your creativity game to the next level, in a way that you wouldn’t be able to on your own.
As a creativity coach myself, I’ve seen firsthand how creativity changes lives—far more than any book or podcast can. I’ve come to realize that creativity is the best self-help tool there is, and that fine-tuning your creative skills is the ultimate way to help yourself succeed.
So that’s my challenge to you: try it. Step away from the self-help section and work on expanding your creativity instead. I promise you: you’ll be amazed at what you find.
Use creativity to design your life.
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