Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” – Steve Pressfield, The War of Art
One of my favorite books hands down is “The War of Art” by Steve Pressfield. It’s actually the reason I started this site and writing in general. Along with it and Julien Smith’s “Flinch,” which my homeboy David Millar recommended to me after he told me he quit is job as an Engineer to teach and compete in Crossfit full-time.
At that point in my life I was looking for a creative outlet and I soon found that writing was a form of expression that allowed me to embrace personal weaknesses I was looking to push past.
Once writing became my creative outlet (I also like to refer to it as my shrink) it forced me to address some of my personal issues and insecurities. Then all of a sudden a funny thing started to happen.
Each day I slowly became more confident, secure, able to express myself, and to open up to people without being concerned about whether I appeared weak or emotional.
Then like a rain storm coming the consistent writing opened the door to form more personal connections. People I didn’t know would email me saying how they could relate to something I had written. A friend would shoot me a text saying they knew where I was coming from after reading something I had just wrote.
Turns out most of us have the same insecurities stashed away somewhere deep inside. It was pretty comforting and cool to connect with people thinking about the same things as I was.
It was also nice to know I’m not totally weird 🙂 Or maybe we’re all just weird.
Anyhow, this led to an obsession like persistence to learn as much as I could about why we do the things we do with regards to our personal relationships, money/wealth, and health.
It seems like most of us for the most part know what to do but for some reason just don’t do it.
As I keep reading and writing an underlining theme keeps popping up.
All of us are artists.
Some may play an instrument, some hold a brush, while others write or dance but the definition of an artists is someone who creates and that is something that all of us have the ability to do.
WHAT IS AN ARTIST?
An artist is someone who creates. In the traditional sense a musical score, painting, or a great novel.
However, I believe that this extends beyond the traditional sense of the word. You have the ability to create a new body for yourself, your own business, create better relationships, create more happiness and joy, create new experiences, and create a brand new life if you so choose.
Our entire lives are an original piece of art. No one before us and no one after us will do it the same. There may be some similarities but at the core what you are creating every day when you wake up is an original piece of art unique to you.
An artist integrates their personality, ego, spirit, passions, talents, skills, experience, and values to create these original works. Seeking nothing in return, wanting nothing in return, just creating for the sake of being able to express themselves.
YOUR LIFE AS AN ARTIST
This might ruffle some feathers but I’m not a huge fan of “Everything happens for a reason.” That statement just feels like giving up responsibility for our actions.
Everything we’ve ever done, experienced, or have not experienced has put each of us exactly where we are today. There is no one to thank or blame for our circumstances other than ourselves.
- Your health
- Your love life
- Your career
- Your wealth
- Your happiness
- Your insecurities
- Your confidence
- Your stresses and anxieties
All of these things and more starts with our thoughts and beliefs. Those then influence our intentions and choices. We then take action and begin to create and it is then when our destiny starts to take shape.
Like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel you and I are creating a mold. You have a choice, you can either put your hands on that clay and get involved in the process or you can take your hands off and let the clay spin around aimlessly, comfortable with the shape it has taken or you can allow someone else to put their hands on it and create a mold for you.
I prefer to be the one creating. How about you?
Why start a painting and pass the brush to someone else? They may just draw a mustache on it.
WHAT GETS IN THE WAY OF BEING AN ARTIST
Man, what a loaded question right? EVERYTHING! That might be the best answer.
However, it seems like our emotions, health, time, and personal finances are the main culprits.
Unfortunately as humans we tend to be very good at being more reactive and less conscious about what we’re doing on a daily basis.
WHAT MAKES US TICK
One of my favorite writers out there is David Cane over at Raptitude. A few months back he was gracious enough to answer some questions for me about what “getting better at being human” means to him.
David covered a few main concepts with me:
- The importance of becoming more conscious and aware of our actions and thus, being less reactive.
- Micro-level awareness: A specific feeling we’re after, actually need it, cost to ourself/others.
- Macro-level awareness: The need for security, gratification (usually instant), power, and control.
Developing more awareness can do a few things for us.
Preserving our freedom by avoiding common mistakes like getting ourselves into debt, bad finances, bad relationships, bad careers, and building or holding onto poor relationships.
By becoming more consciously aware and avoiding these common mistakes all of us can produce joy as a matter of routine as opposed to a random occurrence.
- Making a living that doesn’t drain the life out of you
- Holding on to fewer possession and commitments
- Devoting “regular” time and not “found” time to achieving your goals by focusing on the behaviors that lead to them.
It all boils down to a lack of awareness.
Most of us want something without ever even thinking about why we actually want it or the consequences, discipline, and commitment that achieving (getting) it may require, or if it even actually does us any good.
- More money
- A different job
- Six pack abs
- A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend
- A 6 minute mile
Simply asking ourselves why these things are important to us, how they contribute to our well-being, and how they benefit others is one way you can get some clarity on why you desire something.
If I catch myself desiring something I’ll quickly ask myself these five questions:
- What sacrifices will I need to make in order to achieve this?
- What habits/behaviors will I need to develop or display in order to achieve this?
- How does this desire to contribute to the development of my highest self?
- Does this contribute to the betterment of others?
- What then when I do achieve it? What if I don’t?
It’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t in fact, what you wanted all along.” -Alain de Botton
THINK ABOUT OUTCOMES BUT FOCUS ON BEHAVIORS
What happens every New Year?
- Fall in love
- Lose 20 lbs
- Make more money
- Etc.. Etc…
Wonderful accomplishments in their own right but they don’t really give you any direction. They’re basically just wishful thinking.
What do you need to do to fall in love? Meet people right? Go ahead and take part in more activities that you enjoy. Accept that you may get rejected, talk to more people… I think you get me.
What you want is great, outcomes are great. But what really will get you there is consistently acting out the behaviors that will get you there.
What is one big thing you are looking to accomplish? Write it down on a piece of paper and put a circle around it. Now start creating branches coming of the tree and attach the behaviors you will need to display in order to accomplish what it is you want to.
Key tip: Remember, behaviors are things you actually control. You can’t control whether you lose 20 pounds but you can control the behaviors (working out at home or gym, grocery shopping for more real food, getting to bed on time.)
Honor and commit to those behaviors.
99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze – Jack Canfield
SELF RELIANCE, SELF DISCIPLINE, AND PRESTIGE
There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself. -Miyamoto Mushashi, The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto is a big proponent of developing self-reliance and discipline and when trying to create your life they may just be two of the most important skills you can learn.
In “The Book of Five Rings” he outlined the 21 principles in which he lived his life.
- Do not stubbornly rebel against the ways of the world.
- Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
- Do not rely upon any half-hearted feelings.
- Think lightly of yourself and think deeply of the world.
- Remain detached from desire.
- Do not regret what you have done.
- Never be jealous of others.
- Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
- Abandon resentment and complaint.
- Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of love.
- Disregard your personal preferences.
- Accept your dwelling and living conditions.
- Do not pursue the taste of good food.
- Do not hoard ancient treasures intended for future generations.
- Do not mindlessly follow the ways of the world.
- Do not become obsessed with weapons or fighting.
- Do not run from death.
- Do not accumulate goods and riches for your old age.
- Respect the gods, without relying on their help.
- You can abandon your own body, but never let go of your honor.
- Never depart from the way of strategy.
Paul Graham reminds us that if we’re seeking prestige we may just in fact seeking the approval of others.
“What you should not do, I think is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world… do anything well enough and you become prestigious.” – Paul Graham
These two fellas give us a nice reminder that the ability to create our best life is possible if we just look inside ourselves first.
ACTUALLY BEING CREATIVE
There are some many areas of our lives that we can create.
- And health for instance
Getting creative within our lives represents our deepest desires, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and freely expressing them with the world.
Expression can be done in so many ways, painting, music, dance, words, graffiti, clothes, lifestyle, there’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to be creative.
I like to think of being creative as creating an identity for yourself that really represents who you are and what’s important to you. That takes us back to those values we’ve discussed before.
Being creative to me means creating more joy in my life. Simply having more fun.
Remember the scene in Top Gun where Tom Cruise sings “You’ve lost that loving feeling” to Charlie (Kelly McGillis)?
In high school I remember waking up one morning early before school to go on a run. I was dating a pretty sweet lady at the time and her favorite movie happened to be Top Gun.
“DING, DING, DING” I should totally do this for her at lunch time. So myself and a couple of good buddies borrowed a mic from school and got our Tom Cruise on that day.
One of the best experiences and memories of my life.
There is a point to the story I swear and that point is that creativity is often found when we least expect it and when we’re doing things that are relaxing, simple, and make us happy.
Ever wonder why all your good ideas seem to come when you’re in the shower, out on a casual walk, during a long drive, or when you’re just relaxing? It’s because the “creativity chemical” dopamine is released in larger amounts at these times. In fact any activity that makes us feel good or more relaxed will help to release more dopamine into our system, hence my morning run, the hot shower, a long scenic drive.
When you pair the release of dopamine with limited distractions around you you’ll have the perfect formula for heightened creativity.
This is why creating is not just for the artists, musician, or dancer but instead it’s for all of us. Any human can create and create any life they want for themselves.
- You can discover new approaches to familiar dilemmas
- Come up with amazing recipes
- Figure out how to balance work, family, and self
- Unique and productive solutions to work
- And so much more
You just need to set time aside every day, not found time, but dedicated time to relaxing without distractions in order to do so. A minimum of 20 minutes per day of meditation, quiet time alone, or just hanging out in the shower.
LIVING MORE ON PURPOSE
- Dream: “You must dream big dreams for only big dreams have the power to move the minds of men.” When you begin to dream big dreams, your level of self-esteem and self-confidence will increase immediately. Your self-image improves. You feel more positive about yourself and your ability to deal with whatever happens to you. The reason so many people accomplish so little is because they never allow themselves to let go and just imagine the kind of life that is possible for them.” -Brain Tracy
- Don’t overwhelm yourself: I realize this post as well as most of the posts on L365 are long and detailed with tones of info, links, and other resources. But focus on one thing at a time, is your nutrition out of whack? Need to exercise more consistently? Time for a career change? One thing at a time.
- Someone will always be looking at you like you’re a weirdo: When you’re different you’ll get stink eyes, people will ask questions. Just remember, you’re doing what you are destined to do.
- Don’t let things just happen to you: We live in a primarily reactive society. Most of us let things happen to us and then react to them. It’s important to remember that you always have a choice in how you respond to any event.
- Be honest and vulnerable. With yourself and with others: Asking for help, accepting possible rejection/failure, embracing negative emotions, and making decisions with no guarantees.
- Be consistent (most people are not): With so much going on one of the toughest things to do is to be consistent. We’re committed to so many things that it’s hard to be consistent. What are some things you can do every day that virtually make it impossible for you to have a bad day? Above all else be consistent with those and build daily rituals around them.
- Accept responsibility: Every decision we have made up until this point has helped to shape the person that we are today.
- Avoid binge living: Be careful not to get so wrapped up in one area of your life that other areas get neglected. I’ve been known to do this. Obsessing over work and forgetting about my family. Concentrating so hard on developing perfect health that my personal life gets neglected. I’m sure some of you can relate to this as well.
- Stretch your comfort zone: Some of you may prefer safety and security over uncertainty and that’s ok. However, the best version of ourself is often found just outside out comfort zones. The be human is to constantly be evolving and the best way to do that is to seek personal challenges that test yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The power of experiences.
- Emphasize human connection: The biggest gift any of us can give or receive is the love from another. To be socially connected through experiences, emotions, events and to share them with each other.
Connection: Long before there were any primates with a neocortex, mammals split off from other vertebrates and evolved the capacity to feel social pains and pleasures, forever linking our well-being to our social connectedness. Infants embody this deep need to stay connected, but it is present through our entire lives.
Mindreading: Primates have developed an unparalleled ability to understand the actions and thoughts of those around them, enhancing their ability to stay connected and interact strategically. In the toddler years, forms of social thinking develop that outstrip those seen in the adults of any other species. This capacity allows humans to create groups that can implement nearly any idea and to anticipate the needs and wants of those around us, keeping our groups moving smoothly.
Harmonizing: The sense of self is one of the most recent evolutionary gifts we have received. Although the self may appear to be a mechanism for distinguishing us from others and perhaps accentuating our selfishness, the self actually operates as a powerful force for social cohesiveness. During the preteen and teenage years, adolescent refers to the neural adaptations that allow group beliefs and values to influence our own.
MASTERING THE ART OF BEING HUMAN
Is there even such a thing as “mastering” the art of being human?
Probably not and that’s ok. Perfection isn’t the goal, the ideal should be to get infinitely better over time and that is something I guarantee will happen provided you are willing to get clear on what being a better human means to you and the behaviors you need to display to take you there.
Along the way there is a very good chance you’ll get hurt, fail, be stressed, deal with anxiety, feel confused, and uncertain.
All of that jazz is ok. The art of being human is about using those emotions as part of your color palate and mixing them in with joy, happiness, passion, love, and some of the other mojo that’s readily available to you.
So do me a favor would you?
Starting today believe in these things:
- You’re already awesome
- The importance of curiosity and experimentation
- That you always have a choice in every thing that you do
- Everything you do matters
But most importantly that you are an ARTIST… so go start creating.
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