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Creative Self-Expression

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Download MP3: expression.mp3

Today's topic is: Creative Self-Expression

So, what is creative self-expression? Creative self-expression is simply expressing your own creativity in some form. Whether it be through art, through music, through writing, through a conversation with a friend, it's really what we would call, just being yourself. It's also what people refer to as that state of flow—that timeless state you're in where you are not really aware so much of what you're doing, it's more of a sense of being. You're right there in the moment—you're in the present moment, expressing naturally who you are. And what you're really expressing is a state of joy.

One person who described this state was Pablo Picasso, and I want to read a quote from him because I think it does a great job of describing the state of creative self-expression: He said:

"I don't know in advance what I am going to put on canvas, anymore than I decide before hand what colors I am going to use. While I am working, I am not conscious of what I am putting on the canvass. Each time I undertake to paint a picture, I have a sensation of leaping into space. I never know whether I shall fall on my feet. It is only later that I begin to estimate more exactly the effect of my work."

Now when he talks about not being conscious of what he is putting on the canvass, it's like his ego is getting out of the way. This is a state I experience often when I am writing as well—where you're not focusing on the effort of the task, it is just naturally flowing through you. Children naturally experience this state. To them, everything is a form of self-expression. They're just being themselves. They don't so much put their thoughts on the doing of a task. It's more of just being there in the moment.

Now let us explore how creative self-expression can help you achieve balance through your body, your mind, your heart, your spirit.

Let's start with the body. In this case, we are talking about your physical needs—like the income you generate, how to support yourself, paying your bills, and so on... Making your way in the world. What is the source of income or wealth? What is going to generate that income for you? Is not the best source of it your own creative self-expression? Whatever creativity you're putting out in the world, that is the source of the value you're giving to others and that is the means through which you can exchange value with others, such that you receive money or whatever you want in return. Well how is it that you are going to meet your physical needs by exchanging value with others through the medium of exchange which we commonly call money? But what is it that you are exchanging? What is that value? That value is what you're creating, what you're contributing to the world. If you're not creatively expressing anything of real value, you are going to have very difficult time making money in most cases. If you want to earn money honestly, you do that by contributing, you do that by giving. And what are you giving? You're giving yourself, essentially.

One way to think about this is what values you're expressing through your creativity. For example, I often find myself expressing values like growth, intelligence, honesty, joy. And if you deliver that value to an audience who appreciates it—whether it's in a corporate environment, being self-employed, some kind of artistic expression, doesn't really matter. If you're delivering that value to an audience who can appreciate it, it's fairly easy for them to want to share value with you in return. If you want to do something like create passive income—think of it in terms of passive contribution—how are you going to contribute to others while you're not there? And one way to do that is to put your self-expression in some kind of tangible medium, like a painting, a music composition, a book, an article, such that other people can receive that value even when you are not there. That's essentially in a nut shell, how you generate passive income. You provide passive value.

See, if you want to achieve abundance, say financial abundance in having all your needs met abundantly, then the real thing to do is focus on spending a lot of time in the state of creative self-expression. Create abundantly, express yourself abundantly. Put a lot of yourself out there into the world, and get it into the hands of people who resonate with it. People who find it valuable, people who have similar values or are on similar wavelengths to you, and who will pick up what you're putting out and say, "Ah, this resonates with me," focus on the giving side—and the getting side will take care of itself. Okay: if you are experiencing a state of financial lack right now, it simply means you are taking more value than you're giving. Spend more time in that state of creative expression, expressing who you really are, sharing that with others, and you will find it is fairly easy to meet your needs. This doesn't necessarily mean working harder. It doesn't necessarily mean working smarter either. It just means working with greater alignment, such that your career becomes an expression of who you are. And if your career is not an expression of the very best parts of yourself, you're going to have a hard time achieving abundance for yourself through honest means, because you're not sharing the very best of yourself with the world.

Now, let's go onto Mind: Mind is the area of talents and skills. It's your knowledge, your education. This is the medium through which you express your creativity. Let's say you are a musician, your talents and skills would be the ability to compose music—or if you are a writer, your writing skill is in the area of mind. If you're a speaker, it is your speaking skill. If you are an accountant, it is your accounting skill. if you are a doctor, it is your medical knowledge. Your talents and skills becomes your medium for self-expression. This is not what you're expressing, it's how you are expressing it. Now, I would suggest that the real core message you are expressing to the world is already inside of you, and as you develop your talents and skills, you get better and better at releasing it, at sharing it with others.

One bad habit I think a lot of us have is that we identify ourselves. We identify our career almost completely in this area of mind, this area of talents and skills. When you ask somebody, "What do you do for a living?" they will tell you, usually, something that aligns in the talent and skills area. They may say something like, "I am a writer." Writing is just a medium—in the same medium, people can express very different things. But you can go from being a writer to being a speaker, to being a musician, to being a doctor, and still express those same parts of yourself that might have been with you your entire life. What you're expressing, the message has been a part of you your entire life. For example: I have always been very growth-oriented. Ever since I was a child, I can remember being very interested in growth. I always wanted to experience and learn new things. I expressed it as a computer programmer. I expressed it as an entrepreneur. I expressed it as a writer, as a speaker, as a blogger, and in the future there will be plenty of other ways to express it too. That's the unchangeable part, that's what my real career is. My career is not that I am a writer, or a speaker, or a blogger, those are just ways to get the message out, ways to share. I'd encourage you to think about your own career in the same vein. What is it that you are creatively expressing, not how you are expressing it.

Now, the key factor here is, is the medium you are currently using what you might traditionally think of as your career, that very best outlet for your creative self-expression? For example, for many years I was a game developer, which was a growth experience for me, but it was really not the best outlet for me to share my creative expression with other people. And one of the simple reasons is it was just too slow. I had so many ideas I wanted to share but the timeline for developing a complete computer game to express one or maybe a small amount of ideas I wanted to share with other people would take months and months and months. However, as a blogger, I loved the fact that I could get an idea one morning and have it posted later that same morning, and be provided that value so quickly. And then boom, on to the next idea. This aligns much better with me because I like to share a lot of different ideas.

Now, just as in the body area, when you're really in tune with creative expression you can achieve a state of abundance in the mind area. When you're really in tuned with your self-expression, you achieve your own form of genius.

Now, let's consider the Heart area: This is the area of your passion and your desires. Well, this is a pretty simple area when it comes to creative self-expression because creative self-expression is the means by which you feel good. You feel and experience joy. It feels absolutely wonderful when you're in that creative state. Watch a child when they're doing some art work. I was watching my daughter yesterday, who was drawing some pictures, and she just absolutely loved it. She was having a great time. She was totally in the zone with it, and afterwards, she was just beaming to show off her work.

I have the same experience when I'm writing or even just recording this podcast. I am having a good time, I enjoy it. I love being in that state of creatively expressing myself, that feeling of timeless creative energy flowing through me. Now, imagine what your life can be like if you could achieve this state very frequently,say, on a daily basis. See, when you're in this state of creative expression, it's not such much that you are focused on the doing, it just that you are naturally being yourself. You don't think of life so much in terms of a series of projects and tasks, and a to do list. All you are doing is really being.

Let me give you another quote from Pablo Picasso: He said, "It is not what the artist does that counts, but what he is." I think this is the essence of creative self-expression, that whether through art or some other medium, you are sharing yourself, and you are naturally creative. When you are being fully yourself, you are creating. You cannot help it. When you are out of tune with yourself, you are not creating, or you're not creating in a way that expresses the real you. A natural consequence of being in a state of creative expression is that you will attract people to who you share your passion for what you do. Most of my friends today, in some vein, enjoy speaking. Maybe they are members of Toastmasters International, or members of The National Speaker Association, but that is something that resonates with me. It takes a certain degree of courage, and growth orientation, to be even interested in public speaking in the first place, so I find a lot of friends in that field.

Now, the reason I am pointing this out is to say that, when you are in a state of creative self-expression, and you will very naturally attract other people who express themselves similarly, and this has the added benefit of helping you in the area of mind, and developing your talents and skills, because you will learn from those other people. And it will also help you in the area of body because this may be people you'll do business with someday. You'll benefit from the networking with people who share your values, who want to express something similar. Isn't this why people should come together to form a company or build a business, because they share similar values and by working together, they can provide something greater than they could do individually? It's that sense of synergy and alignment.

See, the reason for getting a job working for another company is not to make money—that's like the lowest form of desire we can come up with. The reason to get a job working for another company is because it will increase and expand your own outlet for creative expression. That company serves as a medium for you to creatively express the best parts of you. When you spend a lot of time in the state of creative expression, I think you will find your life just starts to work. That it feels effortless. It doesn't feel like hard work. It doesn't feel like an uphill struggle. It feels very much like you are flowing down stream. It's an almost childlike experience. You're just being yourself and things just seems to work out. But see, when we are out of alignment with our creative expression, that's when everything becomes a struggle. That's when financial abundance is just a fantasy. That's when we are doing work we are not all that good at, and we don't even care to get better at it. Why? Because we're getting no joy from it. It's not who we are. Again, by focusing on creative self expression, on sharing the best parts of yourself with the world, you will put yourself very naturally into a state of joy. You will enjoy what you're doing, and I'll tell you, you will probably enjoy what you are doing regardless of how much money you are making at it, and regardless of how good you are at it.

Now, let's cover the fourth and final area, which is Spirit: Now, don't get caught up too much on the word spirit. You may actually prefer to use that word in the area of Heart, where it's passion, and desire, and joy. I happen to like the word, spirit, but I don't want you to get hung up on that particular term. What this area really means is purpose and contribution. What difference are you making in the world? What is the very best contribution you can make to the world? Is it not to share the best parts of you with the world, the real you? Who are the people who have the greatest positive impact on the world? Aren't they the people who spend a great amount of time in the state of creative self-expression? Aren't they the people who give freely of themselves—scientifically, socially, artistically, and morally? And what effect does it have on other people?

First of all, there is the direct value they provide through their work, whatever it is they've created. But secondly, I think an even greater long-term contribution they make is that they inspire others to do the same. See, when you are in the state of creative self expression, you are naturally inspiring other people to do the same. You become an example for others and, in turn, those people you inspire will go on to contribute through their work as well as inspiring others. It has this massively, positively, rippling effect. Best of all, you‘re also in this state of inspiration, you are inspired. You see, when you focus your attention on creative self-expression, then in the area of body you achieve abundance. In the area of mind you achieve genius. In the area of heart you achieve joy. And in the area of spirit you achieve inspiration. This is what it means to be in balance.

Now that you're aware of these four areas, you can kind of do a diagnosis on each area and figure out whether you are in balance or not. And I'll bet you you will find that in the areas where you are most out of balance, that's where you're least using your creative self-expression. For example: In the area of body, okay, give yourself a rating on a scale of one to ten, where one is absolute scarcity and ten is total abundance. Okay, again, by ody we're talking mainly financially—your life as a physical human being. How well are you meeting your needs? I'll bet you you will find that if your creative self-expression is connected to your income, if you found a way to make it generate income, you'll be experiencing abundance already, or are well on your way there. If your creative expression is not connected with your income, then will probably be experiencing a state of scarcity—even if you're making a lot of money from an objective stand point.

Now, consider the area of mind. If you're creatively expressing yourself there, you will naturally develop greater talent and skill. But the question is, are the talents and skills you're developing cultivating the best medium for your own self-expression? What is the best outlet for that? Whether or not you're good at it right now, what would be the best outlet for it? How can you express yourself in tangible form? Would it be through music, through painting, through writing, through speaking, through personal relationships, through one-on-one coaching, through healing people, through inspiring people? What would it be? I am certain that you will find that when you creatively express yourself through a medium that is a good channel for that self-expression, you will naturally develop a high degree of talents and skill in that area. I will also say that it is unlikely you're going to develop much talent or skill—certainly not to the level of genius or anything close to that—in a field that is not well aligned with who you really are. That is not a good outlet for your creative self-expression.

An example from my own life is that when I started creatively expressing myself after college, through the medium of computer game development, it was okay, but it was not a great alignment. And while I was really interested in learning to program better, it was just not the best outlet for me at the time. And I found that when I switch to writing instead—many years later, more than a decade later—I became much better at it, much more quickly, and I was much more prolific with it, and it was much, much easier for me. Now, I was a half-ways decent programmer. I started learning to program when I was ten-years-old. I was really taken with it. I double-majored in Computer Science and Mathematics in college. I read tons of programming books. I went to conferences. I even spoke at conferences on computer programming. However, the funny thing was, I found that the speaking and the writing about programming seemed a better outlet for my creative self-expression than actually doing the programming. And that was one of the things that lead me to switch careers, was realizing that, 'Ah, there's this other medium here and I never would have thought I would become a writer some day, or a speaker. It would have been the furthest thing from my mind. I thought, 'That's not a career for me.' But because of who I am, I eventually discovered that was a better outlet for my own creative self-expression. Consequently, it is so much easier for me to build my skills in that area. I'm making progress so much more quickly than I ever did as a Computer Programmer.

If it is not the best outlet for your creative self-expression, let it go. It doesn't matter how many years or how many decades you've poured into it, you will blast past all that progress so quickly. I probably learned more from three years of writing and speaking than I did of 20 years of computer programming, just in terms of the knowledge I internalized and the skill I internalized. It does not matter how much time you put in, if it is not aligned with your creative self-expression, if you're creatively self-expressing yourself through the best possible medium, or at least a very, very, good one, you should be so passionate about it that you are naturally drawn to develop your talents and skills. But it should not feel like effort to do it. Learning in that area should be absolutely fun. You should look forward to it.

Now, consider the area of heart, the passion and desire area. This is a big problem for a lot of people. So many people now are doing work that they don't like, that they are not passionate about. They don't look forward to going to work. Do you know what it is like to wake up each morning and think, I feel so lucky to get to do what I do. Why? because I am just being who I am. I mean, I actually look more forward to my work days than I do to my days off. Erin says this too. She's like, "I so look forward to Monday mornings because I get to do what I love." And that's not a fantasy, this is a reality for us, and I want this to be a reality for you pretty much too. So when you are not creatively expressing yourself, you're keeping yourself out of a state of joy. When you're creatively expressing yourself, joy is a natural state. It feels good. It feels incredible—wonderful. And realize that this is a choice. Nobody's forcing you to work for money in a job you hate. That is your choice. It only takes two words to end that: "I quit"That's all it takes. "I quit".

I'll tell you, if I was working in a job that was making me tons and tons of money—ten times the amount of money as I am making now, one hundred times as much of money—but I was not happy doing what I do, I would quit in a heartbeat. I mean, it would not even be a consideration. It would not even be a temptation to stay there. Even if I had to have a situation where in order to do what I love I had to be totally broke to do it, I had to give up all of my material possessions—no bank account, no house, no car, nothing, just me sitting on a park bench doing what I love—I would rather go through my days with an empty stomach than with an empty heart. There's just no comparison, not even close.

Lastly, the area of spirit: This was a tough one for me. This was probably the toughest one to get. See, when I was working doing computer game development at first—the first five years of running my company—I had some talent and skill. I felt like, 'Okay, I am developing myself. So the mind area seemed to be working okay. I was doing stuff I was good at and I was getting better at it gradually. It wasn't perfectly aligned, but it wasn't terrible at all. And in the area of heart, and passion and desire, I enjoyed what I did. I found the work rewarding. I intrinsically did it because I wanted to. However, the body area wasn't working. I wasn't really achieving financial abundance. I had a lot of financial scarcity throughout the first several years of doing that kind of work. And I didn't feel the spirit area was aligned, and I didn't feel I was making much of a meaningful contribution. I was developing entertainment software, which I thought, 'Okay, that's nice, it helps people a little bit, I guess.' But it didn't really resonate with who I was. It was not the contribution that I felt was me. So I had two out of four. Probably for the second five years of my business, I got a little better on the <>body side, to the point where I was financially meeting my needs, and doing okay, doing well enough. It didn't feel it was total abundance, but it certainly was not scarcity, and I also felt like I was doing a little more contribution. But it still wasn't quite all aligned. Those four areas were still kind of wrestling with each other, they weren't quite there yet. Everything was pretty good, but not great. I mean, if anybody else heard me complaining about it, they'd go, "What!? look at all the stuff you have! What do you have to complain about? Everything's working out okay for you." But I just wasn't feeling it. It wasn't the real me I was expressing through these areas.

So, finally, in 2004, I decided, 'You know what? I'm not going to do this anymore. I'm not going to settle for having these four areas be, okay. That's just not good enough. I know I can do better than that, even if I have to start over from scratch, that's what I am going to do.' I realized that my true creative self-expression would have to be done through a different medium. And I just decided I would no longer settle for a partial solution. I wanted all four areas to be working, and even if I had to take many steps backwards in order to do that, which I kind of did, I stopped all work on my games business and I basically started something entirely new: I started And I'll tell you, all four of these areas are working really well now. I have all the financial abundance I could want. I'm sharing value with other people in a way that generates income for me very easily. I'm developing my talents and skills in this area very rapidly. I feel I'm really good at what I'm doing. I'm confident at what I'm doing in terms of the heart area. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I love the work I do. I look forward to it each day, especially when I'm creating something through writing or speaking. And in the area of spirit that I felt was the best area, this is the best contribution I can make. And I can see that I'm not only helping people through the work itself, but also just by being just who I am, I can see that I am serving as a model for other people to help encourage them to do the same, to demand the same of themselves in their lives and not to settle for lack of balance in these four areas. I'm not saying that to try and show off, I'm just saying that to show you that this is possible, that you can reach that point.

Now, it took some doing obviously to get to this area, but the key was starting with this four-quadrant model: Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. Assessing how I was doing in each of those areas now—and I am kind of envisioning and imagining how these four areas could eventually work, and then how could I move to that point—it was the envisioning of how these four areas could work that allowed me to get going, get moving in that direction, because I knew like if I start on this path and I kept doing what I'm doing for a number of years, I would eventually get there and all these areas would be balanced. See, when I started out, my website was not making any money. I had a lot to learn as a writer, as a blogger. There were things I didn't know. As a speaker I had a lot to learn. In the area of body I know if I came up with the right business model I could eventually make it work. In the area of mind I knew that if I was doing something I was passionate about I could eventually get good at it—that if it was really important to me, I could develop the skills, and I would want to develop the skills.

Now, while this four quadrant model might seem balanced, I will tell you that one quadrant is more important than all the others. One quadrant, I would say in fact, is more important than all the others combined. Which is it? Which do you think is the most important of these four quadrants? Is it the Body, the Mind, the Heart, or the Spirit? Think of your answer for a moment and I'll tell your mine. My answer is, that the most important quadrant, and feel free to disagree with me, is the heart quadrant. Why? Because if you can get that quadrant working, the other three will fall into place, almost automatically. That will take some time for that to happen, but they will eventually align themselves with that area. And also, if you're out of alignment in the heart area, if you are not in a state of joy, then no matter what you do, the other areas will just seem not to work. You'll have a very difficult time getting them to work. They will not be at peak efficiency, let's just say. You may get okay results in them, but you will always know you could be doing better in those other areas.

See, if I had to give up one of these four areas, which one would I give up first? The first thing I would give up would be the body area. That is the least important to me. The financial abundance I would give that up in a heartbeat. Why? Because if I'm doing what I enjoy, and I'm good at it, and I'm making a contribution, that's a lot more important to me than money. Secondly, if I'm doing what I enjoy, and I'm making a contribution, and I'm good at it, I will very easily recover the body area. I will very easily return to a state of financial abundance. It's that—that's what gets you there in the first place. Doing what you love in a way that you're good at it, and in a way that makes a great contribution to other people. That's what generates wealth in the first place.

Now, what would be the second area I would give up? The second area I would give up would be the mind area. Why? Because if I am doing what I love, and I'm making a contribution at it, that is the mechanism through which I will get better at it, and then as I get better at it, that will allow me to achieve financial abundance. So the first two areas I would give up would be the body and the ind.

The third area I would give up would be the spirit. And again, try not to get hung up on the word spirit if you think that is somehow more valuable than heart. (It's really the concepts that matter, not the particular words.) But I would give up on the contribution I am making, and I would give up on being an inspiration to others. I would sacrifice that, such that all I am left with is doing what I love. All I am left with is being in a state of joy, but I'm not making any money at it, I am not very good at what I'm doing, and I'm certainly not making much of a contribution. Why? Because if I'm in that state of joy, all those other three areas will eventually fall into place, because if I do what I love, that alone will be enough to make a contribution. Just the mere fact that other people see me doing what I love will be an example to them and will help other people. Even if I cannot make a living it, even if I'm no good at it, even if I'm not making much of a contribution, but if they see me happy, just being happy, being who I am, that alone will be a source of contribution. And through that, I will get good at it eventually, and I will eventually achieve abundance. So if you just focus on that area of heart, that passion of doing what you enjoy, you will eventually align these other areas.

I am sure you have heard the expression, Do what you love and the money will follow. I think that is a gross over simplification, but it is kind of the same point. It's not so much about doing what you love, it's more about being who you are and accepting who you are so completely that you enjoy just being yourself. Unfortunately, weathered, most of us conditioned what to put first out of these four quadrants—probably the body, and then secondly the mind. We're told to go for the money first, right, and then maybe develop your talents and skills? You know, go for the money and then improve yourself. Get better at your job and make more money, get promotions. That is the absolute backwards way to do it. You're starting with the least important two areas. You can put as much effort as you want to in the money area and it will just be an uphill struggle if you're not in a state of joy. Okay, the money area, focusing more and more on that, is not going to get those other areas lined up automatically. Making more money is not going to make you happier. The more time that passes when you are not in a state of joy, probably the worse you'll feel about yourself. Okay, I will tell you, it is far better to be broke doing what you love then it is to be rich doing what you hate. There is no way I would sacrifice loving the work I do, and loving that sense of creativity self-expression, and enjoying it, for money. Not any amount, seriously—a billion dollars, ten billion, a hundred billion—does not matter, it's irrelevant. Why would you want the money anyway? Wouldn't it be better to be in a state of joy? If you start from the state of joy, what do you need the money for? See, the purpose of money is not to make you happy. The purpose of money is twofold. First of all, it is a reflection back to you, of your own creative self-expression, of the abundance that you naturally are. And secondly, it can help provide the means through which you expand your creative expression.

When I receive money, I just think, 'How I can funnel that back into the other three areas? How can I use it to further develop my talents and skills? I would be going to workshops, buying books, buying audio programs, and so on. 'What can I learn from other people? How can I use this to help me do even more of what I enjoy, to make my work even more fun, more enjoyable, and more creative? And how can I use it to make a bigger contribution?' And of course, by funneling the money in to those areas, that generates even more value and creates even more money. It's this kind of positive spiral. I tell you, that when all of these four areas are aligned, life becomes almost ridiculously easy. It is not a struggle, it does not feel like you're working hard and going uphill. It's just a very easy flow. But again, the most important component of that whole system is joy. It's to keep your self in a state of joy. It's to find that joy, and that joy is your natural state when you are simply being who you are. Just let go of all that other nonsense you've been taught, that money is important to the degree that it allows you to improve in those other three areas. It's really just the back flow of what happens when those other three areas, Mind, Heart and Spirit, are aligned and working well.

See, when I talk about living consciously, this is what I mean: having your body, mind, heart and spirit all aligned, all working synergistically in the same direction, and the direction that there aligning with is the direction of your own creative self-expression—sharing the best parts of yourself. When you get yourself into that state of creative self-expression, when that becomes the central focus of your life, you achieve financial abundance. You get better and better, you achieve your own form of genius. You enjoy your life, you love what you're doing. You love who you are and you're contributing, you're inspired, and you're inspiring others. What more could you want from life than that?

So until next time, live consciously.