Do you know what distinguishes you as human? Standing upright? Opposable thumbs? Language? The ability to speak?
These might seem like good answers, but there is an exception to all of them. In fact, in my opinion, the characteristic that truly separates us from animals is our ability to be creative. Some might argue with me on that point and say it’s our ability to reason.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t deny our ability to use logic and reasoning and all that left-brain stuff is unique, but I think what really makes us stand out is more our ability to use the right side of our brain–the creative side. Animals have reactionary minds; humans are born with creative minds, yet often function off of the basic reactionary mind of animals. If you can learn how to recognize what you’re using and switch to the more powerful, Creative Mind, it can make all the difference in living more joyfully.
What happens when you throw a ball to a dog or dangle a piece of string in front of a cat? They generally go after it, right? This is a classic example of stimulus-response. Something happens (a stimulus) and the animal responds (either through instinct or conditioned learning). There’s not a lot of thought going on with this type of situation.
As humans, we do this, too. Think of how many things you instinctually or conditionally respond to every day that you don’t give much thought to. Here are some examples:
- The alarm goes off in the morning and you reach over to hit “off” (or “snooze”)
- You go downstairs and automatically light up a cigarette or make a cup of coffee
- You look at the clock, notice it’s time to leave and your child is not ready yet, so you yell at her to hurry up “or else”
- On the ride to work you pass by Krispy Kreme and smell the donuts or see the “hot donuts” sign lit up and suddenly you are craving one
- You get to your desk at work and immediately turn on your computer
- Your coworker “Bob” walks by and you feel resentment build up again because he got the promotion you wanted
- You get a call from your new boyfriend and you get butterflies in your stomach and a smile on your face
- You walk by Cindy’s desk, see the candy dish, reach in to grab a piece, unwrap it, and stick it in your mouth
Get the idea? All of your actions in these examples were based on some type of external stimulus. There wasn’t any new or creative thoughts going on–you were simply reacting to your environment.
WHO’S STEERING THIS SHIP, ANYWAY?
Now, many of our “auto-pilot” activities can be useful, in that they save us time and mental energy by not having to “reinvent the wheel” for mundane and familiar things we do every day.
However, sometimes we get stuck in patterns that either harm us or stifle our growth.
Instead of living our lives, our lives are living us. We move through our days being so influenced by our environment that we are tossed about like a boat without a sail or rudder, at the mercy of the current and the wind. Before we know it, we’re cast upon the rocks or in a foreign, often hostile land and we don’t know how to get home.
There’s a saying I learned years ago that really struck me:
“First we form our habits, then our habits form us.”
How true is that? What habits have formed you?
Even better than that, was one I heard recently from a motivational speaker, Mike Littman:
“People form habits, and habits form futures.”
What future are your habits forming for you? Where will your current habits take you in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? Will you want to be there?
This is the result of becoming too reactionary in our daily lives and stifling our creativity. Doing things the same old way seems easier than thinking up new actions or responses to what
happens around us. Unfortunately, this starts to put us in “victim” mode, at the seeming mercy of other people or events that we have no control over.
But this is a dangerously false perception and belief that robs us of choice and power over our lives. And with choice and power goes our birthright–joy and passion!
IT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU, BUT WHAT YOU DO WITH IT
That’s right–a life of joy and passion is YOUR birthright. That’s why you were born with a creative mind. You are not bound to the simple stimulus-response of your instinctual nature, like an animal. You are a powerful being with a limitless mind! Yes, even you! Don’t sell yourself short.
Steven Covey wrote: “Between stimulus and response lies choice.”I just love this saying. When you allow yourself to stop for long enough after a stimulus occurs to engage your creative mind, you access the power of choice.
The reactionary mind cannot accomplish this–only the creative mind can.
BEYOND STIMULUS-RESPONSEAnd even beyond stimulus-response, the creative human mind can imagine things not yet manifested and bring them into being.
What were once only dreams–images and ideas in someone’s mind–have become fulfilled:
- Sailing across the ocean to a new land and proving the world was round
- Building a bridge across miles of water
- Making a vehicle to allow man to fly
- Creating a device to talk to one another over the air
- Inventing a machine to replace the horse and carriage
- Sending a man to the moon
- Freeing a group of enslaved people from bondage
- Building your own business
- Losing 50 pounds and living a more active and healthy lifestyle
Large or small, personal or public, it doesn’t matter. All it took was
dreaming. No animal could have pulled off any of these amazing feats.
“Some men look at what is and ask, ‘Why?’ I look at things not yet and ask, ‘Why not?'”–Robert F. Kennedy
This week we will be celebrating the anniversary of our country’s independence from a country that we felt was stifling our creativity and right to choose. I encourage you to make this YOUR Independence Day.
Step into your power. Claim your birthright. Think of where you are in your life. Are you living fully, with joy and passion? If not, what would allow you to do that?
Get out of the fog and resignation of “what is” and set your sights on “what could be.” Reconnect with forgotten or discarded dreams, rekindle the spark of desire, turn up the heat, and let that energy drive your daily actions. Shout out, “Look out world, here I come!