There is a 60-year old Los Angeles architect who has managed his thriving and successful creative journey for several decades. People have turned to him for years to have their living spaces designed and embellished.
How did he do it?
His could have been the tale that befalls so many creative children -
- Where schools lack interest and ability to recognise and harness the seeds of creativity in the chaotic, disorganised, distracted child in their care;
- Where parents’ fear overrides their deeper knowledge and faith in their child.
As I said, this could have happened. This child however, knew better. From a very young age he knew instinctively which external voices to internalise. It was the voice of an exceptional teacher who encouraged him at 9. “You can and you will!” was her refrain. She taught him to recognise his uniqueness against all odds. His artistic talents and ambitions were not acknowledged and at 18 he failed entry into Art College. The voice of his teacher from long ago, however, remained crystal clear in his head through the years: “You can and you will - in your very own way!”
Mental illness in children is soaring with research suggesting that 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time in the UK.
In my practice, I see more children with anxiety or depression in a month than I did in a year, a decade ago.
Adults live out the script of the internalized voices of perceived criticism and shortcomings from their childhood. These stories of ‘not good enough’ and a joyless, depleted sense of self have become the wobbly foundations upon which lives teeter.
Luckily, this does not have to be so. Let us recognize and take heart from the lasting impact we have on our children’s lives as parents, adults and educators. Let’s stop to consider that our creative children in particular, are the greatest resource and hope for a better world.
Every moment is an opportunity to effect the quality of their lives so that they can thrive and live up to the potential we see in them early on, before life has demotivated and discouraged them.
And if you are a creative adult, it is never too late to become conscious and alter your own neurobiology by changing your habits and attitude.
Here are 5 effective ways to help creatives thrive now, irrespective of their age:
1) “When you know better, you do better” - Maya Angelou
Educate yourself and raise your general awareness about creativity, what we need to grow and how we learn. Awareness creates freedom to choose and change. Enjoy the journey of discovery and as Oprah says, don’t judge yourself by the person you were but by the person you are trying to become.
2) Let yourself be inspired by Dr Shefali Tsabary on how to fully embrace your whole child, unconditionally - not just his achievements and grades. Examine whether you operate from fear and get swept along by external judgments and values which have nothing to do with who your child really is.
Keep the whole character of your child in mind; his fun, warmth, curiosity and so on. Let play and hobbies be just that, without them having to lead to achievement and measure.
3) Learn to develop an open mindset with your child.
Follow the inspiring advice of Dr Carol Dweck and make challenges, setbacks and each moment in itself an opportunity to learn, grow and expand.
4) Set time aside to mess around,explore and discover.
Call it drifting time, doodling time or refer to it as a place - a private domain, as Sarah Lewis calls it. She reminds us that: “Putting something into the world requires a temporary removal from it.”
Learn to disconnect in order to connect more fully.
5) Recognise which voice you have internalised yourself.
Wake up to the monotony of that repetitive script and write yourself new and more appropriate lines. Nurture an attitude of openness, kindness and generosity towards yourself and notice how the ripples will cascade outwards.
Consider the story of the architect - and remember what a difference that teacher made.
For practical advice on how to deal with the inner chaos and turbulence of having a creative mind I recommend my new CD - Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind, which is out now!
An audiobook that explores the creative mind and how you can flourish, I hope you’ll find it instructive, practical and that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did making it, and sharing with you what I’ve learned from countless Creative Minds over the years!