One day after having conducted a music-based training „Creativity Break 45“ in one multinational corporation, I was approached by an engineer who wanted to have a piece of advice. His dilemma was exactly what I witnessed in several companies. He is successful in his job, the job is secure, but it is unlikely that he would move to a next career step. He is 48, has teenager kids and has no financial problems, but there is something in his life that he thinks he is missing. He thought of moving to another town with another company, but decided against it at the end. So he is stuck in his comfortable position. What to do? Was his question. The first intuitive thought that came to my mind was a question back: Do you have a hobby that might give you an inspiration?
I remember once having read an interesting thought by Carl Jung who put into words exactly the situation this man was going through. He wrote of the psychological development that when we approach the middle of life, we have achieved a lot: had children, have gained some money, perhaps gained social status or even modest recognition in our field of activities. We have gained the confidence but there is a price for it. Carl Jung writes that at the same time “we overlook the essential fact that the social goal is attained only at the cost of a diminution of the personality”. It is possible that “many aspects of life which should have been experienced lie in the lumber-room among dusty memories”. “Moneymaking, social existence, family and posterity are nothing but plain nature – not culture. Culture lies beyond the purpose of nature. Could by any chance culture be the meaning and purpose of the second half of life?”
Some psychologists speak about the creative DNA that is hidden in all of us. As children, we started our life journey through creativity. We discovered the world gradually through the creative activities. Everything that we experienced was new and appeared as if from nowhere. Just take one minute of your time and do a little experiment with me: try to remember what your first creative act was. Did you draw? Or was it something you did with your hand with clay? Or perhaps dancing or singing? We all went through the process of creation to the moment where there were first obstacles for the achievement of creative idea and unless our talents were recognized early and pushed, we would have decided to work in the field of creativity professionally. But it does not mean that we are not creative.
Every job has periods of routine, and the mastery leads to the state where we do not think about what we are doing and replace the active thinking by routine processing. It is also part of the efficiency and it means that we can save the energy for other activities. In worst case, we do not make use of this extra energy. It was a big surprise for me to read a book by Arnold Bennett “How to live on 24 hours a day”. This book appeared in 1910 (!) and the idea of the book was to show why the employees are invariably “haunted by a suppressed dissatisfaction”. He says that this “springs from a fixed idea that we ought to do something in addition to those things which we are loyally and morally obliged to do”. His solution is to have a hobby. He believes that the period spent with one’s hobby or passion “will quicken the whole life of the week, add zest to it, and increase the interest which you feel in even the most banal occupations”.
Imagine my excitement when I read the book “Creativity, Inc” by Edwin Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, where he writes about the importance of offering the employees during the working hours the classes of “sculpting, painting, acting, meditation, belly dancing, live-action filmmaking, computer programming, design and color theory, ballet…” you name it. Surely, the class material does not directly enhance the employees’ job performance. It is a more a case of experiencing the creativity process that is valuable for any business activities like learning by doing, improvisation, testing our patience, experiencing the missteps and imperfections. Fun is also an important aspect of these classes. This way it puts employees into good spirits. The good mood does wonder at workplace!
Not every company or organisation offers these possibilities. We do not have to wait for our company to draw our attention to the wonderful opportunities. We could listen to ourselves and start a discovery journey full of curiosity, interest, passion and beauty. There is a new world of creativity that will open to us when we do things we never have done before: like going to classical concerts we considered boring, visiting museums that we ignored, starting a conversation with the creative people whom we thought so different from us and “strange”.
So ask yourself – what is your ideal creative activity – it does not matter how difficult it may sound. All you need to do is just start. If you are still not persuaded, I suggest you read the book “Play it again„ by Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the Guardian, who managed to re-start his piano playing in his 50s despite very full work schedule!