America Needs Better Creators, Not Consumers
People are happy when they’re creating something they care deeply about. And in doing such a thing, they get good at it. These two elements combine pleasure with involvement. Pleasure + involvement = joy. Joy is lasting, while pleasure is the momentary hit you get from doing what you love. Create what you love because you love doing it; this is the idea. Bring something into being, and focus what energies you draw forth toward what that thing/outcome/subject matter is.
So why are Americans so unhappy? The gross national happiness inventory is published every year, and America is toward the bottom of the list. Gross domestic product goes up, GNH goes down. Why?
The Love Affair with Speed
We’re hooked on a fast pace in life. Depth, intimacy, and reflection go by the wayside to skimming through our lives with partial attention to what’s important. To create what matters, we must carefully look at how to slow ourselves down. Americans take the fewest number of days off annually compared to any other nation on the planet. We’re simply so busy being busy to get to things that aren’t about being busy. We must plan time to create more quality of lifetime. How? We can choose to operate from our choices and priorities. We just do. Yet something has us stuck in the speed-zone like the undertow.
We don’t organize our lives around what matters to us. Substitutes such as entertainment, drugs, sex, and material things become interior fixes that don’t satisfy the hunger like the creative process does. We’re raised as consumers, not creators. Unhappy Americans do what they do because they have nothing more compelling to do with their life.
We go to school. We’re told what to do to be adequate, prepare for the workforce, get a shitty job, use money to offset our misery, watch TV, and live a life trapped like a slave to debt and materialism to imprison our soul. Then we watch a computer, a cell phone, this, and that, and our children learn to do the same. Everyone else has our attention except our own terms and desires.
Why doesn’t this change? Two belief systems get in the way:
- I don’t have the power to create what I want.
- I’m not worthy of what I want.
Human potential followers would prescribe positive thinking and loving oneself as the prerequisites to creating happiness. They suggest the power is in you that you’re not recognizing, and you should kick-start the engines by changing your attitude. Then you attempt to coax yourself out of negative thinking about yourself, others, and the world around you. Something is wrong with you, and you must fix it.
Then the worthlessness belief system trumps action. You think you’re this or that because you’re shameful. You then attempt to deserve what you desire and live up to your ideal of a person who qualifies for better things. The self-esteem movement chants that loving oneself attracts better conditions, yet if you look at the bios of most notorious people they didn’t have high self-esteem. You can have a high opinion of yourself and still not create what you want or have a lower opinion of yourself and create what you want.
The creative process doesn’t need self-esteem to work. Desire and self-worth don’t go together, unless you’re the one keeping score on your worth. The reason for this is that in the creative process the entire focus isn’t on you; it’s on what you’re creating. Your beliefs, concepts, assumptions, generalizations, and all the above aren’t relevant to the creative process nor is your relationship with yourself. Artists don’t fixate on themselves while they paint; their eyeballs are on the painting and bringing it into life. Feelings, bad thinking, good thinking, etc. are left out of the door of their creative process.
This news surprises self-esteem advocates who make a living off of convincing people who have bad relationships with themselves to turn it around someway. Perhaps they don’t realize that to have any sort of relationship with yourself requires you to separate and see yourself objectively. You have likes, dislikes, parts you don’t want, parts you do, fumbles, assets, quirks, biases, and non-biases. Indeed, it is helpful to recognize what these are, however changing them isn’t relevant or necessary to the creative process.
A good example is when you made a baby. Did you organize action toward the baby being born successfully, or were you caught up in your worth or power to create a baby? The baby consumed your focus. Your mind had good instructions. The baby changed you because of it. You chose where to put your attention, and everything you were doing was as if this keen awareness of your goal was listening. You were governed by the love of creating that baby. You could see what became essential within where the baby was in its development and where it was going to be – outside your tummy and alive. Certainly, you went through discomfort, pain, nausea; you name it – it was a sacrifice. But the baby mattered more.
When I remind people about making a child come into the world, they often respond with, “I forgot what I already know. I know how to create. I just don’t use this process in other areas of my life.”
For example, learning to play piano requires that you take stock of your current level of skill. This skill is not married to your identity as a person or worth. Pride has to go by the wayside during the building stages of the creative process. Creators know that it’s a temporary state, as learning brings skill levels up to the desired level. Fixing one’s quirks isn’t motivated by the creative process; it’s motivated by an ideal of oneself that must be lived up to. Once you begin working in the creative process, you’re not at issue with the ideal anymore. The creation you seek is more dominant and therefore substitutes the older patterning at play with a new, more adequate one that motivates learning to get better on behalf of the creation. By having bigger urges to attend to, your personal inadequacies alter through the process.
This brings up an interesting point about where power originates. Power lives in the creation and not oneself. Picasso said that the power is in the painting; not him. His obedience to that power is what kept his attention. The urge to create the painting is drawn forth by the meaning of it. Context then drives learning to paint the painting. Creating is learning. This is why self-improvement is for the birds and a waste of time. Creators would rather spend time creating the creations that matter than attempting to clean up their baggage.
Perhaps this shift can become normalized by learning to choose how one wants to organize his/her life. You can choose to become the predominant creative force in your life. You can choose to be healthy, and you can choose to true to yourself. You can choose to be free. This doesn’t assume your chances of having it are there, or you’re entitled to it, it’s simply a desire for its own sake. Currently, it’s not a circumstance to rid; it’s a desired state that you love enough to bring into existence. Choice organizes action.
This choice doesn’t insinuate that you know how either. What matters to you is often separate from know-how. Creators don’t focus on what is practical, doable, or achievable. They focus on what they truly want, which is impossible. You can’t bring the past into creating what you want, because it doesn’t exist yet. If you’re to know whether it’s possible, you won’t know until you create it. Believing isn’t creating. In fact, you don’t need to believe to create. You’ll need to compare what you have now to what you want and begin taking action upon it. As you do this, more action reveals clarity, as ambiguity brings agility. You may or may not have a clear picture of your desired conditions. Nevertheless, you act from a broad scope into knowing how as you go – ready, aim, fire.
So is the goal to be happy? I don’t think so. The goal is to invest your life spirit into something that truly matters to you, and learn toward it as you create it. Both mystery and meaning bring you into clarity and right action. You’ll move and break things. What doesn’t work is just as equal to learning as what does. Experimentation and mutation become essential. Risks that are taken, through instant action, yields new information. Clarity follows action.
Americans lack the capacity to manage emotional tension. When raised to think and behave like a consumer, whose quality of life is dependent of the value creation from something or someone else, unfavorable conditions become the trap. Feeling good, coping, lowering stress, and emotional well-being are all balms to the discrepancies we consumers have. At the same time, they present a competing commitment to taking informed, goal-centric action. So reaction and response behaviors take over. Creating turns into something situational.
Americans think the incubation period to create something is abnormal and unacceptable. In a society that ministers to the good life, it’s a blow to their quality of life, comfort level, and pampered existence. So rather than become resourceful and working through stages of development over long periods during the creative process, their intestinal fortitude erodes. This often leads to swelling up the underlying beliefs around powerlessness and worthlessness. Foolish pride outlaws being bad at something to become better at it. Then the opposite direction becomes obvious: go with the flow, give up the strain, back off, stay in the present moment, and act as if you invited what you have. All this is self-medication.
The self-meds are a cloak over the underlying belief that one hasn’t the power to create what they want. Rather than live by a life plan, they roll with whatever shows up assuming that they’re a mouse caught in a maze that only has better responses in the cards to level down their stress amps.
The Standard of Easy
Because feeling better is the dominant standard of living, it inclines a consumer to find a quick fix. Whatever is easiest, do it. “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Copy someone else. You’ll get there quicker.” You’ve heard this before? Certainly, ease is fun and favorable when you’re creating, but it’s not always the case.
When I was learning how to sail-board, it was everything I thought it would be. It was tough. I had to take the level of difficulty out of organizing my actions. I realized that some parts are hard and others get easier, but that’s not what drives what you do or learn. You don’t mix your aims with the ease level of the process. The process is the process, because it serves the outcome.
I thought creating my first book would take 6 months. Three years later it was finished. During this period, I was struck with many moments of giving up, compromising, and rationalizing about what I was doing. I had to really learn the capacity to stay with current reality without interpretation and hold steady to my vision of the book. I realized that constraints are inherent and the trampoline to re-figure action and cause innovation.
Indeed, I’ve had a lot more bad days than good ones during this book-making process. But my goal wasn’t about satisfaction; it was to create a book that I loved. Had I been focused on satisfaction, I would have compromised and lowered my original goal. At the same time, I would have compromised the originality and authenticity of the book itself.
Where Creations Come From
They come from love. You begin with a generative love that won’t leave you alone. Your desires pursue you. Then you move into a picture of it. You internalize that picture. You take stock of where you are compared to that picture, the good and the bad, and you adjust your actions in accordance with these two points of reference, like point A towards point B.
Creations come from your ability to use current reality as a source for learning too. By knowing what you have now, it brings you into resourcefulness. You can’t argue with reality. It’s an acquired taste. So love is the kick-starter and armature, but honesty is the engine torque.
Rethinking your Life
You can rethink your life at any time. Everything is up for grabs. There are no disqualifications to create what you desire. It begins with a choice. What do you want to create? You fall in love without a chance of the outcome happening. It’s like taking a meaningful leap into uncertainty. This is why choice is essential. It brings you to originate separate from what you know. You let go and let come.
Here’s a suggestion: Create dreams for a living.