As I write this month’s topic, I feel the need to preface it with a caveat that reads: “These are my ten practices.” And even this doesn’t adequately express what I’m trying to say, for they are not ‘my practices’ in the sense that I have discovered something new, but rather they are the practices that have evolved in my life as I have endeavored to lead a fun, interesting and successful life.
Let’s be clear that there is no one formula, cut in stone, that guarantees happiness and success to each individual. Each person lives their life according to what they feel is important, and this is as it should be. However, as I approach my 58th birthday, after a two-year sabbatical of “listening,” I am feeling reflective, and looking back, I can safely say that I’ve had a very successful and happy life by all standard measurements, but most importantly by my own. So over the next couple of months I will share with you the ten practices that have allowed this to happen for me. For me it will be an interesting process of reflection and analysis as to what has brought me to where I am now; for you the reader it should be an intimate look at the thought process of a man who has loved life and lived it fully. If through this process you find ideas to adopt in your own life and they resonate as true and valuable, then so much the better.
Practice # 1 — Have a multidimensional, holistic view of your life:
In my early twenties, a close friend of mine and I invented a card game called the ‘Cosmic Life Game.’ I won’t go into the details of the game; suffice it to say that the process of playing the game forced the player to make decisions about what was important in their life. We played it with many friends and it was always quite revealing. Over a multi-year period we probably played it more than a hundred times. Through that process, five main themes revealed themselves as “important’ in life.
- Financial / career
- Fun / adventure
- Relationships: Family, friends, spouse, children
The key in life is to not let any one theme totally dominate the others. Be vigilant in finding balance, and respect the need to nourish all five. I am not suggesting that each should get equal time. Earning a living and raising a family obviously does not allow for this, but we should still seek balance. Is there any one of the five that is being totally ignored? Is there any one that totally dominates? If all five are important, what does ignoring one or more do to you as an individual? Too often we fall into routines and patterns where we find ourselves in unhealthy lifestyles without balance. It’s a good idea to take the time, several times a year, to look closely at our life choices. What do we need to do more of, less of? Always look for ways to nourish the parts of you that are being neglected. A balanced life that honours all five aspects will be much more fulfilling than one that is focused on just one or two, no matter how important they may seem.
Practice # 2 — Be Creative with Your Life:
Writer Somerset Maugham said, “It’s a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” It is one of my favourite quotes and I’ve lived my life by it. I can sincerely vouch for its authenticity. I would like to add a quote of my own, paraphrasing Maugham: “It’s a funny thing about life, but the more creative you are with it, the more fun and rewarding it becomes.”
Now by saying be creative I’m not suggesting you become a writer, poet, sculptor, painter, dancer, filmmaker or artist in some other art form, although you should if that’s what is in your heart. There is a great misconception held by many people that being creative means being artistic. While creativity is the cornerstone of all the arts, creativity is not limited to the arts. Far from it. Running a successful business requires creativity. Childrearing requires creativity. Developing and nurturing relationships requires creativity. So does living a happy and successful life. Here’s a bold and revolutionary thought: why not become an artist of life? Why not let your life be your ultimate creative act and devote yourself to it? What would happen in your life if you began to think of yourself as an artist, and your life as your art form? These are thoughts I had thirty-five years ago. What if your mantra became, as mine became: Be creative. Be bold. Try new things. Learn. Adapt. Move. Flow. Trust the process of creativity to lead you where you need to go.
Each morning I would think of myself as an artist of life, and my life as my art form. Each day became a different canvas to create with. Now I don’t want to give the illusion that each day was inspired and filled with creativity. Some days, weeks, months, I would have artist’s block and be stuck, but I would always eventually shift myself out of it by being creative. Today, after having lived this way for thirty-five years, this approach is no longer revolutionary, but as natural to me as breathing. It has served me well, as it will serve you well.
Here is my challenge to you: Change your perspective of yourself from being “ordinary” to being an “artist.” Change your perspective from your life being just something that happens, to it being a source of art and creativity by which you create and act. Let each day be a new, totally unique canvas, and the day after another canvas, and the day after that still another totally unique canvas to create with. Each unique. Each with incredible potential. Each fulfilling and complete in itself. Become inspired with the art of living life well. No matter what your present circumstances or financial situation you can do it if you choose. No one can choose it for you. You and you alone must hear the call to awaken the artist within you and to act creatively in your life. Not once in a while. Not when the occasion arises, but regularly and consistently, daily because you are an artist and an artist always creates. If this idea can find fertile ground in your imagination, and you can take up my challenge, you will be stunned at how quickly your life will change for the better. As philosopher James Allen said, “A new life is but a new mind.”