Allow Yourself to be Creative, Even with How you Create

I just listened to Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Brene Brown on Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast.

Gilbert talks about the martyrdom of creativity, a notion that “creativity is only born suffering, sacrifice, pain and torment. But when we open ourselves up to the idea that it can be done joyfully, collectively, lovingly, forgivingly, then that’s the work that can be done.”

I love how Brene speaks of how she wrote her book, Rising Strong as a collaborative, story-telling process. Brown wasn’t the martyr who forced herself to sit still for hours on end and churn it out. She was “mid-wifed”. Her book was born out of days and weeks of talking and discussing with beloved colleagues and champions of hers. She got creative even with her creative process and leveraged her gift of speaking aloud.

Gilbert names it: martyrdom. To me, it’s an old pattern, just one of many “legacy systems” passed down for generations, of people who never knew self-love.

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As a child I heard it from my martial arts teacher and athletic coaches: “No pain no gain!” Words that echoed in my head to the point that I wore stress fractures into my feet.
And from my grandmother who passed it along to my mother who whispered, “Beauty must suffer,” as she pulled my hair tight into perfect side pigtails.

I started to pull the plug on that particular legacy system encoded within me the day I wrote my values list. In my Top 3 is grace (& ease). I find so much joy in making things that much cleaner, that much clearer that any micro-movement is a powerful wingtip manuever midflight as I soar.

I’ve organized my life so differently now that when I went to the gym for the first time in years it felt odd to hear the voice and sadistic tone of the spin instructor, “feel the burn..if you aren’t in pain you aren’t working.” I knew how far I’d come, these words, this tone, once so familiar, now alien.

Navy Seals use it: a Quick and Powerful Practice to Decrease Stress

Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

We are living in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. Stress and falling off balance is inevitable. It can happen as quickly as an email that catches you off guard or an interaction that triggers you and makes you defensive. Wendy Palmer, a 6th degree black belt in Aikido describes a martial arts master who admits falling off center all the time. It’s not about whether or not you’ll lose center, but how quickly you can return to center once you’ve lost it. I first learned this practice as part of a yoga teacher training. I recently discovered that navy seals use it as well.
There may also be periods of time - seasons of stress - if you will, such as loss of a loved one, or birth of a new child, taking on a new job, undergoing surgery or facing a healing crisis that prolong this off-centered feeling. The recording below is a tool that can bring immediate relief in times of peak stress. You might listen before you have to have a difficult conversation or before you hit send on a super-charged email. Some like to listen during the morning or evening commute to be more intentional with the start of the day or to unwind and let it go when the day is done. This recording might also be used strengthen your resilience and self awareness when used over a longer period of time. Enjoy!

Success Stories

The executives I’ve coached who have had the most success are the ones who persistently incorporate a daily physical practice that helps them embody the person they wish to become.
Maya jokingly called herself a robot: "Coffee in, powerpoint out..." Eyes glazed, she overrode her fatigue with caffeine and anxiety-induced adrenalin to churn out data rich presentations. As she learned to listen to her body, she discovered that cold feet was her body’s warning sign that she was feeling stressed, and it became a trusted signal for her to set limits on her relentless workload. Though uncomfortable at first, putting her foot down and taking a stand garnered more respect from colleagues and clients, not less.

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In Stuart’s case, speaking clearly and succinctly was paramount. He didn't realize it, but his tendency to slouch was part of the problem. His intention to make others feel comfortable or less intimidated didn’t actually work - for them or for him. He discovered that sitting and standing in alignment felt more comfortable and helped him stay calm during high-stakes presentations. This new calmness helped him focus and as a result he became more clear and concise.

For Alek, a tightly wound CEO, clowning around and making silly sounds and faces helped him lighten up as a leader, husband and parent of two kids. For all of my clients, self-awareness is fundamental. Managing their bodies is a game changer because it instantly reduces stress and allows them to be strategic and deliberate rather than tense and reactive. It also helps them feel more energized, creative, happy and whole.

My Approach: Body Influences Mind

I live and work in Silicon Valley, immersed in a culture where thought leaders are changing the world with innovation and technology. I am sitting not in the heart of our country, but rather the head—in an increasingly digital age. Since the dawn of IBM, Intel and Apple, just a few miles away from my home, we’ve watched how Silicon Valley has transformed our daily lives. This laptop on which I type, the mobile phone on the desk beside me, the digital document on my screen, were all born right here.

I am an executive coach who has also been trained as a Bodytherapy® practitioner. This means that while my coaching is centered on improving people’s leadership, I can’t help but observe the posture, alignment and corresponding messages from their bodies.  I love working with my clients--leaders at exciting technology companies--but I’m alarmed by the patterns I see resulting from this always on, minds rule culture. We might as well be brains on sticks. The body and its intelligence are rarely considered in the success equation. Body hacks are more popular than body holism. My clients don’t realize that what they do physically—how they sit, stand and move - is constantly communicating messages to their whole self.

If you are leaning forward over the conference table with tight fists and a clenched jaw, while talking so fast that there’s no air for anyone else in the room, is it any wonder your colleagues feel intimidated, untrusting and even bullied? At a minimum they’re unappreciated and unvalued. But forget about them for a moment. More importantly, what are these behaviors saying to yourself? Your body is saying “I am impatient, intolerant and unyielding.” How can you possibly think creative thoughts and be engaging with others when your body is wound up and rigid? The fastest way to be truly open-minded or open-hearted is to is to embody these in your physical practice. When you cultivate openness and flexibility in your body, your structure naturally conveys that to your mind and heart.