Finding the Courage to be Creative

By Shlomo Maital

         lion tamer

    In two days, on the evening of Wednesday Sept. 4, the Jewish New Year 5774  begins.   Many of us will use this time to ponder how to make our lives richer and more meaningful to ourselves and to others.

    Here is one small suggestion.

    My friend Arie Ruttenberg and I have written a small book on creativity, called The Imagination Elevator. Arie has invented a wonderful simple definition of creativity:  “widening the range of choices”.  We ALL have an infinite number of choices in our lives. But often we imprison ourselves, simply by believing we don’t, that we have no choice, that we have to live tomorrow as we lived today and yesterday. 

     I’ve been reflecting why so many of us are fearful of trying new things.  The answer is simple.  Old familiar choices are comfortable, even though they are boring, frustrating, or tiresome, precisely because they are familiar.  New choices are scary, BECAUSE they are new and unfamiliar.  So by definition, creativity requires some courage.   It requires us to move out of our safe, comfort zone and temporarily, move into the discomfort zone, into the zone of risk and uncertainty.

Many people never make it.  They never have the courage to try.  But if they had, they would learn that the discomfort associated with trying new things, with sawing through the bars of our self-made prisons and escaping to freedom, is very temporary.  Soon, the discomfort we associate with uncertainty becomes energizing novelty.  We learn to love trying new things, even when they don’t work out as we expected.  And our lives are richer,  more meaningful for ourselves and often for others too, who benefit from our creativity.

   As Nike says,  Just do it.  Try it.  Start with small things.  Food, clothing, hobbies, music, movies.   Expand to bigger things.  Use the New Year to break out of your self-imposed chains.  You DO have infinite choice.  But only if you believe you do. 

    Charles de Gaulle once said, we may well travel to the moon, but the greatest distance we have to travel lies within us.

    He was so right.  Let’s begin this journey now.