Creativity Within Constraints

I don’t know a creative person or organization that doesn’t have constraints or limitations.  Those barriers might be internal, such as time and money, or external such as those imposed upon us by the world in which we live.

About a week ago, I was reading an article in the art and design section of the paper on artists who have found new ways to see after losing their vision to macular degeneration.   Afterward, I reflected on other artists and how they, with their own physical limitations, still created new work.

When it is my turn, I hope that I can embrace the koan or riddle of the “Goose in the Bottle,” and like these creatives, continue to express my visual vocabulary and share it with the world.

Nurturing Your Nature – A Subtractive Approach

Is it your nature or your environment that enables you to be creative? The answer might be “Yes,” meaning both. As we gain experiences and improve our creative potential there comes a point when we need to design an environment that will enable us to continue growing and developing. A useful analogy might be farmers tending their crops, who fertilize and water them as well as remove unwanted plants from the soil in order to be successful. We can also imagine the processes of a sculptor who either adds or removes material to reveal a work of art. From these perspectives, we can gain an understanding of the approaches we might take to create an environment that nurtures our creative self-expression.

Two books that I recently read relate to this concept. The first is Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and the second is “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki.

Mckeown’s book helps us to understand the importance of our actions and how they consume our most precious resource, our time.

The Way of the Essentialist involves doing less, but better, so you can make the highest possible contribution.

The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.

By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.

You can read the source article by clicking here.

From a different perspective, Sasaki also helps us understand how to eliminate the unnecessary so we can focus on what matters most.

It’s not about less for the sake of less, it’s about less for the sake of more: more time, more energy, and more freedom. It is about living with intention, choosing with care, and living as simply as possible to free up your resources for lasting purposes.

You can read the source article by clicking here.

For Sasaki, minimalism isn’t about how little you have, but how it makes you feel. Sasaki credits his minimalist lifestyle with helping him lose weight, become extroverted and proactive, and above all, feel happy and grateful for what he has. “Minimalism is just one of the many entries to a happier life, Sasaki says, “So if people have a lot of things in their home, but they’re still able to maintain relationships and feel happy, I think that’s awesome.”

You can read the source article by clicking here.

After reading both books, I took the time to reflect.  From my personal experience, I can relate to Sasaki’s perspective of minimalism and the benefits it can provide.  When we travel, and more so when my wife and I camp, we experience a sense of release that we attribute to having only those possessions needed to support our adventure.  It is akin to repurposing your life’s energy and not being encumbered by cleaning, organizing, and maintaining your “stuff.” From Mckeown’s focus on time or activities, I have found both Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix and Jim’s Collins’ concept of a “Stop Doing List” to be extremely useful for improving my time management abilities.

I leave you with a few examples of personal friends who have embraced the core concepts of essentialism / minimalism, along with a few additional resource links that you might find of interest.

As a young pharmacy student I met a pharmacist who was working part-time (today we would call him a “free-lancer”), and when he wasn’t working, he was either traveling or enjoying life. It was my first awareness of having a career structure that was different from working 40 hours a week for 40 years and then retiring before doing what you wanted to do.

Around the time of my college graduation, a friend was also finishing his education with a degree in journalism.  He also worked part-time and then traveled to Europe to gain life experiences so that he could pursue his vision of becoming a writer.  He is still pursuing that vision, but he works as a communications consultant, speaking three languages, and helping others across the globe share their thoughts and ideas.  I have always been impressed with his ability to cut his spending and focus his efforts to free up money so that he could travel.

Finally, there is a college classmate of my wife’s and her husband who were able to achieve Financial Independence and Early Retirement (FIRE – an acronym attributed to Vicki Robins and the late Joe Dominguez, the authors of “Your Money or Your Life”).  Our friends were able to live an active life, own a home, raise a family, and then unplug from the need to have a day job earlier than most.  When you chat with them, you gain an appreciation for one of their key approaches; they have a healthy ability to discriminate between their wants and their needs in order to sustain their lifestyle.

Additional Resource Links

Essentialism—A Better Way To Describe Minimalism?

21 Tips To Help You Say Goodbye To Your Things

Escaping Afflueneza