As I’ve been listening to The Power of Now on loop in my car and reading Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within before bed, I’ve noticed that many of the ideas overlap. I’d like to share one of those ideas with you. This idea has, just in the last few days, brought great joy into my life.
The idea, to put it simply, is to live creatively. We are all creative whether we know it or not. For example, without even trying, each of us grabs a sliver of the infinite, chaotic sea of physical stimuli and creates a beautiful reality from it. We each create an entire life experience from stimuli that are meaningless without our perception. No other person or being’s reality is the same. We are creative whether or not we want to be.
When most people hear the word “creative” they think of some type of artist. These people are certainly creative. But what most people don’t realize, and what I’ve been doing more and more over the past few days, is that we can be highly creative while doing mundane tasks such as cleaning dishes or doing laundry or driving.
Think of the time when you are most focused. The first thing that comes to mind for me is billiards. When I’m in the middle of an intense billiards match, my focus is at its peak. I hear nothing, I see nothing, I think of nothing other than the task of making the ball into the pocket and leaving the cue ball where I want it to be so it’s set up to run the rest of the table. But for you it will likely be something else, something you’ve very passionate about. When are you most focused?
Now imagine applying that level of focus to cleaning the dishes or to folding laundry. Odds are you’re like me: when you’re doing mundane tasks you’re thinking of other things. These tasks don’t really require focus to be executed, so that frees the mind and it wanders to other things. When this happens, the task usually becomes boring. It becomes something negative that we see as a chore.
But if we were to really focus on the task, let’s say cleaning the dishes, and apply the same high, laser-like level of focus we achieve when doing the things we love most, the tasks magically transform from mundane to exciting.
Look at the sink full of dishes and really make a conscious effort to focus 100% on the task ahead. These dishes are dirty and they need to be cleaned, and you’re there with your intense focus ready to do an amazing job at it, and in a creative way. Maybe try washing them in a way you’ve never tried before, like filling the sink with soap and water, or not, or using your fingers or a brush instead of a sponge, or drying them off completely instead of placing them in the drying rack. Then make a conscious effort to be 100% present and pay attention to all of the sensations.
It’s quite difficult to apply a high level of focus to something like washing the dishes. It takes practice because it’s not something most people are passionate about. But just give it your best shot and see for yourself what happens.
If you really think about it, an undesirable task like washing the dishes really is a beautiful concoction of sensations. You have warm water flowing over your hands, the sound of the faucet pouring the water, the sound of the sponge scrubbing the plates (or not as you please) and the sounds of the plates and silverware clinking against each other, the smell of the soap, the taste of the soap (kidding). Every single thing we do, no matter how boring or plain it seems, is filled, and I mean filled to the brim with hidden beauty.
When we learn to go about our days uncovering that beauty, when we can learn to go through life appreciating and immersing ourselves in that beauty, there is no other possibility than to live a beautiful, fulfilled life, regardless of how it matches up to society’s perception of success.
Exactly a week ago I went to an old-school Italian barber near me with my friend and the other groomsmen before his wedding. The man who cut my hair and shaved me, according to the younger guy I spoke with, has been cutting hair in a barber shop since he was nine years old in Italy. He is now, in my estimation, around sixty-five years old.
Other than saying hi and asking what I wanted, he didn’t say a single word to me during the cut and shave, which lasted over thirty minutes. I felt as if I were a block of marble being sculpted. His level of focus was astounding, as was his attention to detail. He is a true artist.
People don’t think of barbers or janitors or landscapers as artists, and usually they’re not. What makes an artist is how focused he is, how creative he is, and the amount of love he brings to his work. It doesn’t matter at all what the craft is. You can vacuum your carpet more creatively than someone paints a painting. You can do the laundry more artistically than someone writes a book.
Our society places great value on the wrong things, like fame, power, money, etc. Some of the greatest artists mankind has ever seen have gone completely unnoticed. The kicker is that these people lived deeply fulfilled lives. Many of them didn’t give a shit about fame or fortune, but only about their craft. By focusing and creating they achieved true happiness and fulfillment.
There’s nothing stopping us from doing the same, whether we’re writing the script for what will become the most lucrative movie in history, or doing the dishes.