In my non-fiction book Happiness Rehab: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life, my co-author Mary Schramski and I talk about the fact that far too many people live their lives in a state of semi-hypnosis. Often we take for granted all the simple wonders in our world such as shadows and light, colors, shapes and angles. As people "grow up" and have more responsibilities, creative observation and insight tend to decrease, and because of that so does a measure of our happiness.
It's a shame for this to happen to anyone, but if your work requires innovation -- for instance, if you're a writer or in some other type of artistic or creative field -- you cannot just sit back and do nothing. But what can help you if you've lost touch with your creative side or you're in a creative slump and you no longer notice the miraculous in everyday life? What if it seems impossible to you that you'll ever recapture that sense of fascination with the world?
It just so happens, I have a few solutions! I talked about a few of them in a previous post. But right now I want to discuss another one that I call the "magic of firsts." The following paragraphs from Happiness Rehab explain how it works:
In order to recapture the magic, it helps to remember a time when creativity was at work in your life and how it felt.
Try to recall the first time you met someone to whom you felt a strong attraction and write about it . . . What physical thing about this person stood out to you most at first sight? Where were you when you first saw this person? Were you at a party? At school? Standing on a street corner? How did you feel? Your heart might have raced at the sight of this person, and you knew you were experiencing something phenomenal. When remembering, most people think first of a romantic encounter, but parents can also describe the intense magnetism of seeing their child for the first time. As a parent, you probably focused completely on the new addition to your life, and the awe, love and sense of protectiveness that swept through you was so immediate and intense it felt all-consuming. Everything about that new being amazed you: tiny fingers and toes, downy skin, the tilt or curve of your baby’s nose.
Recall another time in your life when you were amazed at something, as if you were seeing or experiencing it for the first time. It may be something as simple as your first airline flight, or as glorious as your child’s first steps . . . . Now answer the following questions about this child-like fascination experience you had:
1. What was it?
2. Where were you?
3. What was the object or event?
4. How did you feel?
When I did the above exercise for the first time, I thought of my first trip to New York City when I was in my thirties. I had flown there for a conference, but what stands out in my mind the most is the cab ride from the airport to the hotel in Times Square. I felt excited and energized. I was tuned in completely to each scent and sight and sound. I was fascinated by everything and filled with enthusiastic anticipation for whatever experience was waiting for me around the next corner.
That particular memory has remained very vivid to me over the years because when I was in that cab, I was completely engrossed with the world around me and the event taking place. I was experiencing a "first" with child-like fascination. Although I was unaware of the fact, I was primed for creativity during that time, because child-like fascination is one of the keys to engaging imagination and releasing creative flow. And within that realm we experience a sense of happiness that seeps into our everyday life.
Creating new "firsts" in your life helps you to stay engaged and aware of the simple wonders around you that can, otherwise, be too easy to take for granted and miss. How can you "create" a first? Try the following, also from Happiness Rehab:
Start off by challenging yourself to try one new thing per month. Soon, you’ll discover you want to do more. Up the challenge to one new thing per week, then one per day. Don’t panic. These can be small, easy things:
- Drive a different route to work.
- Take your daily walk in a different neighborhood each day.
- Try a restaurant you’ve never gone to.
- Sample a food you’ve never tasted.
Once you’re comfortable, try more involved firsts:
- Attempt to start a new friendship by calling up an acquaintance and asking him or her to meet you for coffee.
- Sign up to take a class in a subject that interests you.
- Rearrange the furniture in your house in an unexpected way.
Of course, you can also attempt the bigger firsts, too:
- Plan a trip to someplace you’ve never been.
- Face a fear by doing something that frightens you – like public speaking or applying for a new job.
For more ideas to help you reconnect or stay connected to your creativity, check out the new Happiness Rehab website or download Happiness Rehab: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life free of charge to your Kindle this coming Saturday, Sunday and Monday (October 13, 14,15).