Help Wanted: Personal Creativity Required


in Creativity,Happiness,Personal Growth

In 1926, a twenty-something Marion Milner began an experiment in self-discovery. She didn’t know what she liked or why or what made her really happy. So she set out to find out – by asking questions, taking action, and recording her discoveries.

Her discoveries later became a book entitled, A Life of One’s Own.

Describing her experiment, Marion wrote:

The need for such a method in these days is obvious, a method for discovering one’s true likes and dislikes, for finding and setting up a standard of values that is truly one’s own and not a borrowed mass-produced ideal.  …[L]et no one think it is an easy way because it is concerned with moments of happiness rather than with stern duty or high moral endeavor. For what is really easy, as I found, is to blind one’s eyes to what one really likes, to drift into accepting one’s wants ready-made from other people, and to evade the continual day-to-day sifting of values.

In essence, Marion made it her job to explore her possibilities – the nuances of herself that were hidden or shoved aside in favor of following convention.

Reading of Marion’s experiment that took place some 85 years ago, I am struck by its relevance today.

Many of us, especially as we have gotten older and buried under seemingly endless obligations – the kids, the jobs, the mortgages, the relationships – have forgotten what matters to us anymore. What we like. What we’d like to do if we had the time. What we’d like to try.  What our possibilities are.

Others of us haven’t forgotten. In fact, we’ve got so many possibilities we don’t know where to start. We often end up not starting because some part of us thinks that such things just aren’t done. Or aren’t important. Or are flaky.

In either case, Marion’s experiment makes tremendous sense – even more so today, than it did 85 years ago.

Our most important job should be exploring our possibilities.


Because the world we used to know – that of widget producing greatness, where we all went to school to learn to be good employees – is rapidly disappearing if not gone already.

That world merely required us to show up and do our 9-5 best and, if we did so, we would be rewarded with steady employment for 30 years, a house that was paid off, and a reasonable retirement in which we played golf or cards until we arrived at our final resting place.

Most of us adopted these “mass-produced” ideals as our own – ideals that are rapidly disintegrating in the wake of economic upset and the birth of new way of doing things. Simply put, the world is headed in a new direction.

What will this new world require?

I don’t know for sure but it seems to me that it will require some modicum of personal creativity.

The kind of creativity that results from a deep knowing of who we are and what we want to contribute, from being able to build lives and livelihoods in varied ways, from having the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to changes and opportunities, and, from being interested in life-long learning and making contributions no matter how old we are.

The only way we will achieve this personal creativity is to actively embrace our possibilities – to identify them, seek them out, and act on them.

We do not need to become experts in all of our possibilities. The real value comes from the exploration itself which opens the door to new ways of thinking and being. The discoveries we make on the journey help remind us that we are rich, multidimensional beings and that we can thrive in any situation by tapping into those different parts of ourselves, as long as we know what they are.

I’m not saying this is easy. Forging a new path isn’t easy. Being different isn’t easy. Thinking creatively isn’t easy.

It can be insanely difficult at times.

But even harder, I think, is continuing to try to hang on to an old way of doing things when the world is going in a new direction.

What do you think?


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita November 14, 2011 at

Read an article this weekend that had me thinking of you:

As you say, the world is going in a new direction…
Rita recently posted..Merry Hallowgivingmas!


Andrea Olson November 14, 2011 at

So interesting, Rita. Love this quote … “Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.” Thanks for sharing the article!


Jackie Walker November 15, 2011 at

I love this lady! I’ve spent more time trying everything and anything to find what I didn’t want than focussing on something I inherently knew was right for me! The plus side of having had 27 jobs (lol, I know!) is that I’ve a very broad range of experience and one which most people never hear about, and even I forget!.
Jackie Walker recently posted..Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships – Tea n Blether


Andrea Olson November 15, 2011 at

Wow! You’ve got me beat, Jackie – 27 jobs! I love it. Having those experiences definitely broadens and deepens your understanding of yourself and what you have to offer.


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