Creative Discomfort

“Fatigue, discomfort, discouragement are merely symptoms of effort.”
― Morgan Freeman

Increasing discontent despite a comfortable quality of life — what’s up with that? Why would you seek discomfort?

You may have food on the table, a roof over your head, a loving family and a good job. Yet you may still feel a sense of unease, melancholy, distress, maybe even depression. I tell my husband at these times that I feel “weary”, with no rational reason why. I believe he does not react as empathetically as he used to, since it often coincides with dinner clean up (he makes dinner). Logically, your unease cannot be reconciled. You take the same route to work, order your coffee the same way, and follow the established rules and procedures of your organization. Life should be good, you’ve arrived.

Lifelong Learning

In her book “Rebel Talent”, Francesco Giro talks about the need for novelty — both personally and professionally. Humans have succeeded against all odds as a result of our burgeoning cortex, our higher brain that allows us to think about what we think. How meta. We’ve already seen over the past year, that those that can embrace ambiguity, tolerate change, and continue to learn, will outperform those who want to stand still. With a predicted loss of 85million jobs and a gain of 97million new jobs, change is the new status quo.

Hot skills by 2025 include analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility. The new demand is for the un-skilled — the ability to rapidly pivot (who doesn’t hate that word already?) or swivel in response to emerging skills needs from employers.

One of my favourite quotes from Norman Doidge “We must be learning if we are to feel fully alive, and when life, or love, becomes too predictable and it seems like there is little left to learn, we become restless — a protest, perhaps, of the plastic brain when it can no longer perform its essential task”.

In other words, you might be uneasy and discontent because you have achieved what we always thought was the goal: comfort. Mid career, feeling competent, waiting for the sweet dulcet tones of success to waft over your new easy life. Nothing comes. The hot air from the building exhaust that has been following you up the ladder has not cleared at the top. Where are the deck chairs and the pina coladas?

We need to keep learning to feel fully alive. Learning requires us to take chances, lean into uncertainty, and court failure. If you’re feeling a bit stuck, and a bit unsteady and don’t know why, you can court it without risk.

Anything creative helps you to face uncertainty, failure, and learn something new, like a new skill or something about yourself. Everyone is creative. Creativity is not just fingerpaints, art and musical theatre. Writing a pivot table, choosing an outfit, making muffins, writing an S.O.P. are all examples of everyday creativity, in addition to gardening, cooking, doodling and grooming your dog. In our connected world, it is easy to lose our creative edge.

Creativity is the skill you need today, and most definitely by 2025.

Luckily, it’s accessible to everyone, in their own unique way.

Quick ideas to add creativity to your day

Creativity is hard, because by sharing part of your deepest self leaves you open to judgement, the pain of rejection, and the fear of being outcast into the dark, cold and dangerous night.
  1. Turn off everything. Do nothing, think about nothing and be curious about where your mind goes. Let it go, but watch it from afar. Daydream.
  2. Turn off your Monkeys. Creativity works best without interference from our strict and bossy frontal cortex party pooper. Let it go. Find a safe space or safe group and embrace the eccentric.
  3. Creativity exercises — Random Word Association tests, Guildford’s Alternate Uses (what can we do with this doo dad?) doodling, singing, etc.
  4. Darken a room and brainstorm ideas with a friend, or play improv games like one word at a time.
  5. Discover your creative time — according to Leonard Mlodinow this is usually at the opposite time to your “getting things done” best productivity time. If you plow through to-do lists in the morning, try evening for your creativity time. Or check out Daniel Pink’s chronotype evaluation suggestion in his book “When”.
  6. Write drunk, edit sober (Hemingway). Well, you don’t have to get drunk, but get happy! Do something you enjoy. Divergent (a-ha!) thinking is most active when you are relaxed and happy. Practicing everyday creativity makes you feel better the next day. It’s like a rainbow loom of joy.

Stop making excuses

“You can’t use up creativity — The more you use, the more you have” — — Maya Angelou

You don’t have to be Picasso or DaVinci to benefit from everyday practices to make your life better. Don’t think you are creative? Well, that’s just what your pesky frontal cortex wants you to believe because it doesn’t like ambiguity, and creativity is always ambiguous. Science proves it, we are all creative in our own way, it’s our elemental human gift.

Need some prompts?
If your neuron partying skills are a bit rusty, try the Wreck This Journal or The Line books from Keri Smith. Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day is another of my faves.

And when you get in the habit of managing uncertainty and ambiguity with grace, through creativity? You get resilience. Take a stand against a “flat” life, with a side benefit of being prepared for the changing workforce. And, with only 18% of people reporting they can take risks at work to be creative, it’s low hanging fruit in the race for those 97 million new jobs.

Creativity might be the secret ingredient for you to live a more fulfilled —but not necessarily comfortable —life.

I’ll be hosting a short Linkedin Live at 12:45 MDT/2:45 EDT every day of World Creativity and Innovation Week, starting on April 15, 2021. Join me here — a calendar invite with the event URLs. Each day I will present in less than 10 minutes, a very short, creativity booster, based on the DANCE framework for my upcoming book. Join me!



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Dr. Caroline Brookfield

Dr. Caroline Brookfield

Motivational Speaker🌞Unapologetically Creative Veterinarian🩺Comedian🎭