I’ve taken some big leaps in my life, it’s true, and they’ve led to some amazing new experiences. My biggest gain, though, has been discovering my creative process along the way; a process that started out as a way to support myself through the anxiety of the unknown, and eventually evolved into a way of being in the world that gives me more joy and satisfaction than any role, job or project could. In working with others through leadership and career coaching, I’ve realized that each of us has the opportunity to discover and develop our own creative process – and that many of us are hungering to feel and be self-creating in our lives.
Well before I could understand what it meant to be self-creating, I was just looking to solve problems and reduce dissatisfaction, like when I left my first career without a really good idea of how I was going to make a living going forward.
I worked hard to establish my first career in finance; earning certifications, fighting my way up a wonky corporate ladder, and being bullied along the way. It took two years of intensive treatment for advanced stage cancer to wake me up, to shake me out of the fog I’d been living in, blindly doing the things I thought I had to – until a not-great prognosis for remission forced me to re-evaluate what was really important. “If I’ve only got 5 years left to live,” I recall thinking clearly, “it ain’t going to be doing this.” (Note: it’s been over 15 years since, and I’m cancer-free.)
“If I’ve only got 5 years left to live,” I recall thinking clearly, “it ain’t going to be doing this.”
I didn’t quit the next day, thankfully – that would have been too stressful and overwhelming. Instead, I sought support from a therapist, worked with a coach for several months, and looked for other jobs in my industry (in the fall of 2008 and winter of 2009, mind you, when there were hardly any jobs available in finance). I still wasn’t completely sure about what I would do next although I had put together a light plan – just enough to bridge the gap between one career and the big unknown of what would come next.
Then one day, while sitting at my desk at work, I started feeling sick, enough so that I needed to go home. Once I got to my house and tucked myself into bed, I started writing – I’m a big journaler so this wasn’t unusual. What came out on the page that day was, “I’m done.” Feeling remarkably better almost right away, I typed up my letter of resignation that night, skipped to work the next day, and handed it in.
A few weeks later, I stood up from my desk, pushed my chair in, and walked away from that phase of my life.
It wasn’t easy after that, but I did get the rest I desperately needed, having endured one traumatic experience after another in the preceding years. I got more sleep. I visited art galleries. I tried yoga (again) and didn’t stick with it (again). I participated in a meditation program and an art therapy class for people who have experienced cancer. I began healing.
I also began to panic because I had no income coming in and while I was on my way to getting certified as a professional coach, it would be a long time before I figured out how to make a living in my new career. Sensing that I had gone past the point of no return though, I turned to other ways to support myself when the panic struck, as it did at least once or twice a week.
I began healing. I also began to panic because I had no income coming in…
Some of my greatest discoveries have been borne out of my hardest moments, physical and/or emotional. I call these my life “awakenings”.
What was awakened during this paradoxical time of healing and panic was my creative process; a set of practices to help me manage my stress and still do the things needed to move me in a forwarding direction in my career. Journaling was the practice that started it all, and in the creative weeks and months to come, I identified several other practices. Planting seeds is a personal favourite: it consists simply of noticing and writing down the ideas that come to you, without judging them or thinking you have to figure them all out, and being prepared to let many of them go because they turn out to be seeds for another idea to develop (while trusting that as you continue to plant seeds, actionable goals and ideas do emerge).
Other people use different language to describe their own practices and habits, yet ultimately they serve the same purpose – self-support and forward movement in a desired direction. In a world that is constantly changing, what else do you really need to feel competent and confident about showing up to respond and influence the course of your life? Everything we are able to create for ourselves, and others, stems from our capacity to be self-creating and engage actively with our own creative process.
For your own reflection:
- Do you long to feel and be creative again, in your work and your life?
- What kind of courage is needed for you to choose a self-creating path?
- How are you being creative already, that you can build on with practice?
Download an overview of my approach to self-creating in your work and life here, an excerpt from my guide, “Listen, Sense, Grow: 7 Practices to Create the Work You Desire”
And to read more on harnessing the power of creativity in your work and life, check out these titles:
- Theory U: Leading From the Future As It Emerges, C. Otto Scharmer
- Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, Create and Thrive in a Frantic World, Dr. Danny Penman
- Creative is a Verb: If You’re Alive, You’re Creative, Patti Digh
Maggie DiStasi, PCC, helps people develop their leadership skills and career opportunities through mindfulness-based coaching and coach training. Please visit www.maggiedistasi.com to learn more, or connect with her here to arrange a consultation.