The creative process is so much more than we believe it to be. It is a process of change, a process of growth, a process of transformation. And a process of becoming.
It is a process of reclamation of all of the strengths, capabilities, and resources that lie within us that we’ve somehow put away for fear they were too much, too big, and too powerful. When we are face-to-face with the creative unknown, with the uncertainty and ambiguity of life, we have the opportunity right in front of us to embody who we truly are. That is what this journey of change and becoming offers us. We become who we truly are and what we know deep down inside we are capable of.
A recent creative journey of mine…
I recently taught a new course with a new co-teacher at Stanford on creating and leading innovative teams. The entire process, from the beginning when we agreed to teach together last June to the moment when our third, and last, full day together ended, was a stretch for me. Not because it was completely new to me, but because it was new enough. There was enough newness for me to grow, yet enough self-awareness to support the journey and this growth.
Sometimes, completely new is exhilarating and exactly what is called for. Sometimes, what supports our growth is that which offers us room to stretch while not being too much to snap back into safety and complacency.
I’ve taught at Stanford Continuing Studies since 2007 and I’ve usually taught alongside a colleague. I think the students receive so much more when they have two different people to learn from and to grow with.
What was new?
The material — we created the course together.
My co-teacher — we’d never created anything together and had never taught together.
The format — over three weekend eight-hour days.
We worked together well, albeit with some bumps along the way, even though our styles are different, our backgrounds wildly different, even our views on creativity and innovation different.
We both had to learn to listen better to not only each other, but to ourselves while in this process. We had to learn to honor how each other works and what each other needed in order to do well what we did. We had to learn to own the ways we get in our own way as we journeyed through the process. We made mistakes. We did some wonderful things. All in all, the students seemed to get a lot from the course and really enjoy it.
I can’t speak for my colleague, but I can say for myself that I walked away from that third and final class with an expanded clarity of who I truly am and an expanded understanding of what I am capable of offering and doing in my life and work.
When we do anything new and we acknowledge it is new and that we don’t know yet what we need to know to accomplish what we’re doing, we enter into a creative process.
In the creative process, which can also be seen as a journey of change and transformation (also often called the hero’s journey), we must both travel within while we travel in the world. It’s a process of both inner and outer growth and understanding. Our awareness of both worlds grows larger. Our understanding — what has become conscious that wasn’t conscious before — expands, too.
On this journey, we meet obstacles. These obstacles aren’t there to work against us and make the way harder, but rather are there to expand our awareness of self and others. The obstacles are exactly fitting for the journey we decide to take because they are exactly fitting for who and what the journey is to grow us into.
On this journey, we need community, guides, resources to aid us as we navigate through it. We cannot do it alone. That is one reason there are obstacles. The journey is growing us into more conscious, connected, collaborative human beings who know ourselves to be less separate than we thought we were before we began.
On this journey, we also must consciously and clearly state to ourselves, and perhaps to others, that we do not know the answers the journey asks of us — that is why we are journeying. We must consciously and clearly step into the unknown and uncertain world that opens before us when we accept we do not know.
It is here, in the fertile unknown, that we come face to face with the reality of our human lives. That we live in a world that is inherently uncertain and unknowable. This is the reality we more often than not do not want to face.
Yet, it is in the facing of this reality that we discover something so completely powerful and important to realize — that we are in relationship with the uncertainty, the unknown, the mystery of life.
We are in direct relationship with this mysterious thing we call life. We can open to it. We can listen to it. We can feel it. We can ask to know it. We can relate to it. We are it. We are life.
Our transformation individually and as a species
We are facing a fantastically daunting creative process as a species right now. How do we evolve into a kinder, more compassionate, gentler species? How do we learn to work together, to heal our great divide, especially evident in America right now? How do we heal our own inner wounding that keeps us wounding others because we don’t want to feel what is festering within, the pain of so many moments when we were wounded and not able or shown how to feel?
How do we learn to grieve well?
How do we learn to live well?
How do we learn to love well and offer our joy to the world?
Through creativity. And I’m not talking art, although that can be a wonderful resource and practice for us.
Creativity as a process. Creativity as a journey of venturing into the unknown. Creativity as a transformational process that brings us into a deeper understanding of our own essential nature and capabilities.
Creativity in the larger sense is how we evolve, how we heal, how we learn to listen, how we become more compassionate, resilient, and resourceful human beings.
Creativity requires us to release what we think we know so we can open to something new that has an intelligence of its own, something new that is larger than anyone of us, something new that can then mirror back to us what we haven’t been able to see and know within ourselves.
The creative process is a transformational process. By entering into the unknown space where true creativity can emerge we must let go of what we think we know, acknowledge that we do not know, and be open to receiving that which will both carry us across the creative unknown and transform who we know ourselves to be and what we know we are capable of.
It is by facing the obstacles we meet, as well as being able to ask for and receive help along the way, that we become more aware of our essential capacities within that have been there, silently waiting for us to call upon them, all along.
We become aware of our essential strength and will, our compassionate presence, our intuitive and instinctive knowing, and our natural and organic joy. We truly are joyful creatures. It’s covered up in most of us by unexpressed grief and a deep sense of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and from life itself.
On the journey, we discover that our true power, our essential power to create, to effect change, to bring new things into this world, is a power from within that we’d all but forgotten. We knew it as kids. And now as adults, we can learn to live this power from within which is decidedly different than power over others.
When we live our power from within alongside our fellow human beings we are living power with, which is generative and life-affirming. It is infinite power rather than the finite, zero-sum game we’ve been conditioned to believe is the nature of power.
These essential capacities and resources within us have been here all along. It’s our willingness to embark on the journey and our openness to the unknown path that can awaken us to what is within us. This is what it means to transform and evolve as human beings, as leaders, and as a species.
While we fear transformation, it is what our souls long for. We are here to grow, to create, to evolve, to know what it is to be a human being fully alive, connected, resourceful, and whole.
What is the journey you are on or long to step into? What is the call or longing within you? And who is one person or what is one thing you can trust more deeply to hold you on this journey?
If you'd like support on your journey, check out my individual and leadership coaching packages, or the courses I teach. I am skilled and experienced in guiding you through this journey of transformation.